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Monday, October 21, 2013

Money Question Monday: Joint Checking Accounts

Every Monday, I'm going to answer your money questions. Email your questions to charlottewoodwind at gmail dot com, and I'll change your name to something unusual so no one knows who you are. David will help out like he has today when there is a disagreement/discussion between spouses about how to manage or spend money.

Real, live people have asked questions, so I don't have to make any up!

Hi Charlotte! It's Dot. I think most people agree that when you get married, part of that is joining bank accounts to have just one. For some reason this really bothers me even after three years. Herbert admits that he is really bad at managing money, therefore I pay all the bills. Right now we have a joint account and each have a separate one. 70% of Herbert 's pay checks go into the shared account and I use it to pay all the major bills. The other 30% he can spend as he wants...gas, fast food, whatever. So my paycheck goes into my own account which I use for everything else that comes up like groceries, doctor bills, vacation, school clothes, etc. I try to use my account as a backup/emergency/savings. I feel kind of guilty since Herbert never knows what's in my account. However (and he will admit this) money burns a hole in his pocket! So I guess my question is, as a married couple is this technique just avoiding the problem or should we stick with what works? Also what percent of money should we or do most people spend on bills? I feel like even when Herbert got a raise we were still paycheck to paycheck for the most part.
Thanks for your advice,
Many more questions to come

Dot and Herbert,

Thanks for the question! We feel honored that you have asked our opinions. 

Is it a good idea to share a checking account?

Charlotte says: I think it's a great idea to share one checking account. Matthew 6:21 says "wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart also be." When a married couple doesn't share all of their money together, it's almost like they are keeping a little bit of their hearts back. When you share a checking account, it is vital to sit down together and plan your budget and goals. Discuss what you need to spend each month in each category. Discuss what you want to save up for. Each person has an equal say in the budget. This process might even draw you closer together. Here's a great form from Joe Sangl's website to use. Click on "monthly budget" and download it. You will need to have Excel to use this form. Or you can use this link to the Google Drive version. Just click on "file" and "make a copy" in order to be able to fill in your own information.

David says: It may seem tempting to keep separate checking accounts, but it's not healthy financially, or for your relationship.  When we are married, two become one (1 Corinthians 6:15-17).  While this primarily has to do with sex, it also has to do with the joining of the souls together.  Financially is one way in which we do this.  

Having a joint checking account is one way to truly become one.  Over time, communication will improve because it's important to talk regularly about money and your budget.  Also, it makes you more careful about your purchases and not going over the budget because you have someone else working together with you on that same account.  Resulting in....more money, and abilities to bless others!

Normally one person is the spender and one the saver (who enjoys budgeting).  Let the saver do most of the work regarding the budget, but the spender should have a vote too.
Charlotte says: We use the envelope system. This means that we take out cash and decide how much goes in each category. This is practical to use for categories such as groceries, personal spending money, eating out, home improvement, and gift giving. Depending on what you spend money on, you might have different categories. For me, personal spending money includes any time I buy clothes, or a special coffee, or materials for some craft. David has his own personal money, and this has given us the freedom to not worry that the other might be spending too much on any particular area. 

David says: The envelope system is like a governor on a go cart.  It keeps it from going out of control and crashing. It's so easy to just use a credit card freely, but that also frees you up to make unnecessary and impulse purchases.  

Earlier we talked about a joint checking account.  That, combined with a budget and envelope system result in success because you are then in control of your money and not overspending.
Treating yourself to a $3 coffee each weekday sounds like a small  thing, but it results in $780 less at the end of the year.  Dave Ramsey puts it best when he says, "sacrifice now...to WIN later."

Charlotte has a nice Dave Ramsey wallet (they have red and black)for our envelope money and basically we just used each divider for each category (food, Charlotte spend money, David spend money, home improvement, etc.)  When we get paid, we go to ATM and get the set amount needed, and I get my spending money and put in my wallet.

Charlotte interjects: Dave Ramsey is no longer selling the accordion style wallet that also has room for cards and a checkbook. His have either paper envelopes, or no place for cards, so I don't like them. Other companies are making good wallets. Just search for "envelope system wallet".

David continues: So, the first step is to do the budget, then to agree how much should be taken out each paycheck for envelopes, and then to live within those means.

We aren't perfect here either.  Sometimes, we do pull from one category to another, and once in a while, yes we'll use the check card within reason.  But, in our budget we have a line item for "miscellaneous/blow money" to allow some wiggle room.

And don't forget to have fun during all this, but in moderation.
 What percent of money should we spend on bills?
 David says: Here is a good guideline from Dave Ramsey:

FOOD 5-15
 Charlotte says: If you decide to combine your checking accounts and start the envelope system, it will be a difficult transition, but I know you will be happy with the results!


  1. I really liked both of your responses to this questions, but I do see a kinda big Christan issue here. The lady states that her husband tends to spend a lot of money ("money burns a hole in my pocket") here. And you suggest they just combine bank accounts? This makes no sense to me because, A) spending a lot of money like that is a sin (I do it to) and B) if its a sin, (think of having a Porn addiction) how is letting him have full access to the money with no safeguards (I.E. separate accounts) a good idea? If someone I love has a problem, I work towards healing by counseling, praying, and by setting up boundaries, not by just saying oh, I'm going to just let him/her have access to all this when I know there is a problem. I don't just let my husband have full unsupervised access to the computer at night while I'm sleeping if I know he is struggling with porn.

    So while I do think having one bank account is good for a healthy couple, I don't think its for everyone when there are issues.

    What do you think?

    1. If he is on board with the budget, and he agrees to stick with the envelope system then I think it will work. There might be bumps in the road, but I believe he can do it. Unless he doesn't want to. If he doesn't want to stick with the budget, if he would actually spend more just because their accounts were combined... Well. It's part of being a grown up that every one needs to learn. And sometimes in order to learn, you first need to be given the chance to fail. And if you fail and there are consequences, you learn the lesson extra well.

    2. If a person has a psychological problem with spending, they should see a counselor, and I agree that they should not be given free reign over all the money. But I don't think that's a problem for "Herbert".