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How to Maintain Separate Bank Accounts as a Married Couple

When my husband and I were married in 2003, we transitioned to a joint bank account. It seemed like something we were supposed to do; plus, we had received a bunch of money as wedding gifts.

As it turns out, my husband and I have completely different spending and saving habits – something we neglected to realize during our long-distance dating relationship. Money become a huge sore spot, and it resulted in shenanigans like me hiding shopping bags, and him tucking away freelance income so I couldn’t get to it.

About three years into our marriage, I changed jobs and started receiving a larger paycheck. My husband opened a separate account for savings, and then it hit us: Why not just have separate checking accounts? As it was, I would spend money out of our joint account, which would stress out my husband. Then, I’d get upset that he wasn’t letting me spend what was essentially my money. So we sat down and divvied up our expenses against how much we’d each be earning, and our nearly six-year love affair with our separate bank accounts began.

Opening Separate Bank Accounts

I once read that having separate bank accounts only makes it easier for a couple to split up finances when they eventually divorce. But by arguing about money the way we were, my husband and I were headed directly to “Splitsville” anyway.

Having separate accounts eliminated all financial-related arguments and made it easier for us to save together. Now, we have no plans to go back to a joint account.

Here are the five steps we took to make our separate bank accounts fair, even, and drama-free:

1. Sit Down Together
My husband and I had to first recognize the problem in order to find a solution. When we finally admitted that sharing finances wasn’t working for us, we sat down and took a look at our current earnings and the way our budget was set up. Before we made the split, all of our money went into one communal account, from which bills, expenses, and spending money was withdrawn. As a natural spender, I stressed my husband out because he was worried about making ends meet each month, while I felt completely restricted by his concerns and the budget we had in place.

2. Divvy Up Expenses
Our solution to the problem was simple: We’d each have our own bank accounts and be responsible for different aspects of our budget. My husband, the natural saver and penny pincher, would be responsible for fixed bills like utilities, the mortgage, and car loans. Since he was in control of that account, he could relax knowing that my spending wouldn’t threaten what we had to cover our living expenses.

My account would cover day-to-day purchases, such as groceries, clothes, entertainment, and unexpected expenses like car repairs. And since those fluctuate from month to month, I am much more comfortable with having the “spender” account than my husband.

Divvy Up Expenses

3. Get New Cards
Next, we acquired new debit and credit cards for each account. Regardless, we still maintain full access to each other’s accounts, passwords, and money at all times. That way, my husband can easily withdraw the cost of lunch from my “spender” account, and I can use his account to pay bills at home. This is one way we stay honest with each other and always know where we stand financially. My husband can check the balance on my account anytime, and vice-versa.

4. Deposit Funds According to Need
My husband and I both do freelance work, but he also has a regular nine-to-five job as a home designer. This means we regularly have income, such as bonuses, we didn’t budget for.

When extra money comes in, we look together at both accounts and decide where the money would best be applied. Sometimes, we pay down a car loan to relieve some of the pressure on the “bill” account. Other times, we pad the “spender” account so we can do something fun. Regardless of who earned the windfall, we both decide whose account it goes into.

5. Save the Remaining Balances
When it comes to saving, we’re both responsible for our own accounts. As the administrator of the “spender” account, I like to zero out at the end of the month, which often means transferring any leftover cash into a savings account. My husband does the same with his account. When we need to use money that has been socked away in savings accounts, it’s a mutual decision, which means my husband can’t withdraw money from savings to feed his vintage car habit, and I can’t withdraw from mine to go on a shoe-shopping binge.

Final Word

Splitting up checking accounts might not be a good choice for every couple, but it has definitely relieved a ton of stress in my marriage. Since my husband and I are completely different when it comes to saving and spending, maintaining and contributing to our own accounts allows us to retain some financial independence and autonomy while still making the big decisions together.

Have you considered separate bank accounts with your spouse?

Jacqueline Curtis writes about edtech, finance, marketing, and small business strategy. With over 14 years of copywriting experience, she's created content and scripting for organizations such as GE, Walgreens, Overstock, and MasterCard. She lives in Utah with her husband, three kids, and an overzealous springer spaniel named Penelope.