Managing the household finances can be one of the most stressful aspects of any relationship, especially if the two participants have different spending habits.
Many of us have a strong view about whether we would share a bank account with our partners, but according to financial coach Rebecca Pritchard of Wealth Enhancers, there’s no right way to do it.
In fact, stress around finances can often result from a couple trying to fit their financial situation into what they think they should be doing.
Pritchard says people need to understand that every relationship is different, so just because a method works for one couple, doesn’t mean it will work for you.
“‘Should’ is a really, really dangerous word and it puts so much pressure on [the relationship] which makes the conversation even more awkward, so let’s scrap the ‘shoulds,'” Pritchard told Your Money Live.
Instead, she advises couples to focus on the musts. For example, you must have a conversation about your basic financial hygiene and how to deal with it, and then you must act on it so that it’s implemented.
And if you find one method doesn’t work well for the two of you, try a different approach.
“It’s not about who gets more or less. Think really, really pragmatically, as a household, about how you spend your money. Particularly relevant when there are kids in the equation,” she explains.
If one person tends to spend more on household expenses, then that will need to be taken into account when deciding what money approach to take.
Although there’s no ‘one shoe fits all’ scenario here, Pritchard says there are three common ways couples can approach handling money, by having one, two or three bank accounts.
One account approach
Sharing is caring, but only if you’re on the same page when it comes to spending.
Following this approach, a couple’s income jointly goes into the one account and both people share expenses and spending as they go.
While this might work for some couples, Pritchard says it will require plenty of communication about how much each person is spending week-to-week and plenty of teamwork about savings goals.
“This approach works great for some couples. Others are going to have heart palpitations at the idea of sharing money,” says Pritchard.
Two account approach
The ‘your money, my money’ approach means each person maintains their own individual account and income is divided as the couple decides.
Pritchard says communication is still key here because the amount spent on household expenditure is rarely equal.
If one partner tends to pay more of the household expenses, then a higher proportion of the lump income can go into that person’s account.
“It’s not he gets more I get less, it’s being really practical about how money is used in our household,” says Pritchard, who prefers to use this approach in her own household.
“This really works well for people who really value a sense of independence, potentially privacy. I really like it in that there’s an element of things that I can do just for myself without a sense of guilt.”
Three account approach
Your money, my money, our money.
In this approach, income is split into individual accounts while an automatic amount goes into a third joint account for shared expenses.
This is a combination of approach one and two, where expenses and some spending is shared but both parties maintain a sense of independence over their spending habits.
The third shared account will cover things like groceries, bills and date nights or other shared entertainment costs.
Here a couple will need to decide how much of the money is being divided into each account which means that communication is vital.
Pritchard says the trick to this approach is to automate the cash flow between the three accounts so that it doesn’t need to be navigated every month.
“It really comes down to personal preference. Some people find this is just a bit messy… others swear by it.”
Watch the full discussion in the video above for more top tips.
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