One of the most frequent questions I’ve heard since we got married is “How do you manage your money now that you’re married?”
Truly, it’s been the second-most-asked question after “How much did you spend on the wedding?” because on both counts, there aren’t many people who are willing to be completely open about it.
So while the answer to how much we spent on the wedding is easy—about $17,000, all in—how we manage our money and why we do it this way needs a bit more of a breakdown.
Without further ado, here’s a full pulled-back curtain on what combining our money after marriage has meant for us. (And PS. The links to services we use are affiliate links, so if you sign up via them I’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you!)
We have a joint account
The first thing everyone tends to ask is whether or not we have a joint account, because this is like, The Big Kahuna of Sharing Finances. Joint account or bust!
I hate to disappoint you, but we actually got our joint account well before we were married—we signed up for a joint account with Tangerine, where we both do our day-to-day banking, as soon as we started handling shared expenses when we bought our house.It turns out, having a joint account is not the end-all, be-all of sharing finances.Click To Tweet
Here’s the real trick to making “get a joint account” seem like no big deal, a la us: You can actually use a joint account for whatever you want. Just because you get one doesn’t mean it’s automatically the default account, or that you need to use it to pay for everything. You can use it to handle the shared grocery budget if that’s where you’re at!
We also have separate chequing accounts
That’s why when we signed up for our joint account, we both kept our separate chequing accounts completely intact in our respective Tangerine accounts. We didn’t bother switching where our paycheques get deposited, or doing anything beyond adding an extra account we could both access.
Since we get paid into our individual chequing accounts, they’re really the centre of gravity for our finances. That’s where our savings, RRSP contributions, and personal spending comes out of—but crucially, it’s also the account from which we fund our joint account every time we get paid.
We have shared goals, priorities, and a budget
When it comes to figuring out how much we each send to our joint account, we rely on the one key tool that makes the rest of the system work: our shared budget.
Before we started this system, we sat down and looked at our expenses. How much did we need to cover our housing expenses, since that was the primary reason we got the joint account? That’s everything from our mortgage to our hydro bill to a line item for “essentials” to cover stuff like light bulbs and dish soap.
At that point, we were also sharing grocery expenses, so we added in a line for food—and it opened up a great conversation about what we considered a joint expense as a home-owning, (at the time) engaged couple. From there, we built out a budget to account for those shared costs, including new lines like “restaurants” and “the dog,” both of which had previously been handled separately.
Once we had a monthly total—including monthly amounts to cover annual expenses—we knew how much needed to go into the joint account to cover all of the joint expenses. From there, we decided on what percentage split made the most sense for us based on our respective incomes, and accounted for our different pay schedules. He gets paid biweekly, and I get paid twice a month, so on a per-paycheque schedule he contributes a bit less, and contributes twice more per year.
If anything major changes, like an additional expense, or a drastic change in income, all we need to do is update the “budget” tab in our joint spreadsheet to figure out how it impacts our contributions to the joint account—and update our automated transfers in Tangerine to reflect the changes.
We have a joint spreadsheet
Our joint spreadsheet is the nerve centre of our day-to-day money management, second only to the joint budget (which uhhhhh lives in the spreadsheet, so let’s ignore that chicken-and-egg problem).
See, we don’t have a shared credit card or debit cards for our joint account, so with the exception of payments that come directly out of that account, most of our purchases are made from our individual accounts and cards.
To keep track of our joint spending, every few days we’ll pop open the joint spreadsheet and our personal credit cards and chequing accounts in a different tab. We’ll record the spending we did in joint categories in the spreadsheet with a few details, so we each have full visibility into what’s already been spent each month, and on what.
Additionally, when it’s time to pay off our credit cards (every month, like clockwork!) all we have to do is look at the joint spreadsheet to figure out how much we’re “owed” from the joint account. Because our joint account and credit cards are with Tangerine, we can pay our cards directly from the joint account, and we make a note in the spreadsheet about how much we’ve reimbursed ourselves each time.
We keep separate savings accounts
The one moderately tricky part of our financial setup is that we use and love our digital tools—and many of them don’t yet offer joint accounts for saving.
We keep all of our bigger savings with EQ Bank, because they pay 2.3% interest, but since we can’t set up joint savings accounts, we just update each other periodically on what we have saved for each goal. Since we’re aligned on how much we’re each saving per month for the goals, it’s only important to check in when we’re coming up to spending money out of those accounts.
We also keep our investments separate, since we each have a Wealthsimple and a Questrade account. Combining them is just frankly far more work than we need to tackle, and since we do monthly net worth updates in a tab of our shared spreadsheet, we can see roughly what’s in each account anyways.
This is just one system
I wrote this out to share how we manage our money, because while it might sound a bit complicated at first glance, it feels so easy for us—and honestly, it’s been one of the most frequent questions I get asked since we got married. There aren’t many people who are willing to be this open about how they do their money stuff, and since my husband married me knowing full well I’d eventually write something like this, we are those people!
However, the one thing I want you to take away as a recommendation here is that it is entirely possible to start small when you’re combining your finances—and you can stop at whatever point feels comfortable to you. You don’t need to uproot your entire financial life in one fell swoop, and you can start baby-stepping into sharing just specific expenses whenever you feel ready.