How To Manage A Joint Chequing Account

27 Comments

My boyfriend and I opened a joint chequing account the day we moved in together. It’s made managing our household finances a total breeze instead of a war zone, and we have yet to have a money squabble. There’s no right way to do couples finances, but this is what is working for us!

We set up our joint account with Tangerine, which is the bank both of us use for our everyday chequing and saving. If you don’t have an account with Tangerine, you can set one up using my Orange Key (32251507S1) and receive a $50 bonus. Free money is the perfect way to start out a shared bank account!

 How My Boyfriend & I Manage Our Joint Chequing Account

couple-holding-hands

  1. Each of us contributes $1,250 per month ($625 per paycheque) to the joint chequing account for a total of $2,500 per month.
  2. From that account, we pay for our shared expenses such as rent, utilities, internet, laundry, and groceries.
  3. Sometimes we also pay shared costs such as dinners out, vacation expenses, gifts for weddings we’re attending, etc.
  4. Each of us has the joint chequing account linked to our debit cards so it can be accessed any time, but usually we don’t make purchases without the other partner present.
  5. Individual purchases less than $10, such as picking up a treat at the grocery store or some other needed item with our regular purchases, don’t count. We’ve found it’s too much of a hassle to remember to “pay back” the joint account small sums withdrawn on a regular outing.
  6. Any extra or left over cash in the joint chequing will be used towards joint “fun” purchases like more furniture/decor for our place or weekends in the mountains, but thus far we’ve found our $1,250/mo each has been right on the money (ha!) for our living expenses.

Truthfully, going forward it might make sense for us to contribute more to the joint chequing account. The $1,250 each was what I calculated based on our fixed expenses and our regular grocery shopping, but what I didn’t account for is how much we spend on things we do together. Whenever I go out to dinner or to an event or concert, my boyfriend is usually right there with me. Since so much of our discretionary spending happens together, increasing our contributions to and our spending from the joint account makes sense, but for now we’re sticking with the $1,250 each.

Why this is the best system ever

Easiest Emergency Fund Balance calculation ever: need to save up 3 months of expenses? 3 x $1,250 = $3,750 required.

After I transfer my $625 to the joint account, I know that my living expenses and food are taken care of and the rest of my paycheque is entirely “mine”. This makes it budgeting simpler than ever because I don’t have to think “I better leave $60 in my account for food..”

Each partner is paying the exact same amount, so there’s no feelings of resentment about expenses being distributed unevenly. Because my boyfriend earns a higher salary than me and has less expenses, we discussed splitting bills proportionately to our incomes. However, because my income isn’t that much less and my student status is temporary, it wasn’t worth the hassle. Furthermore, $1,250 actually works out to less living expenses for me than before we lived together thanks to the reduced costs in splitting rent, internet, utilities, and groceries.

This is the first time I’ve shared finances with a partner and I can’t believe how easy it is — it’s even less of a headache than managing it all myself! How do you manage your finances with a partner, or plan to do so when you live with someone?


27 Comments

  1. Jade

    How did you start the conversation about the joint account? My boyfriend and I have been living together a little over a year and we split the bills 50/50 but instead of a joint account I pay the bills and he pays me back. It works for bills but not so much for eating out, groceries and entertainment so I think a joint account for us would make sense but we don’t really discuss money that often… I know.

    • Bridget (Author)

      It was part of our moving-in discussion. When we talked about splitting bills, I suggested the joint account and he was on board right away. We’ve always been very open about money (he reads this blog!) so it was an easy conversation. Maybe you can suggest setting up a joint account to manage all your fixed expenses first, and after a 2-3 months of that working successfully you can suggest including your variable expenses such as groceries. Sharing a join account can be scary but you have to trust your partner to manage your money, so easing him into it might be the best route.

  2. In our household, my partner and I send separate rent checks. For bills, I pay everything up front, track it with Splitwise, and my partner pays me back at the end of the month. We tend to trade who pays for dates or go dutch if neither of us is feeling particularly spendy, and as far as travel’s concerned, we each focus on an area we’re willing to pay for (he might pay for gas on a road trip, and I may pay for food and use hotel points to get us free rooms) .

    However, I will say I’m hoping we move to a joint system once we get engaged or married. Rather than a fixed amount, though, I think I like the pour-everything-into-the-joint system, plus setting aside a monthly allowance ($250? $500) which will go into our own private bank accounts for personal recreational purchases.

    • Bridget (Author)

      I like the “all-in” and then withdraw personal amounts system too, but we both found we weren’t quite ready for that level of sharing finances yet — mostly because I don’t feel right having him pay my MBA tuition and I don’t really want the effort of building up his RRSPs as well as my own, etc. but it might change in the future!

  3. This is exactly what my husband and I do, except we also save jointly for retirement, emergency fund, and travel. It’s super easy and works great. Congrats on taking the plunge!

    • Bridget (Author)

      How do you save jointly for retirement? Is it within or outside of RRSPs?

      We def need to start saving jointly for travel because I want to go on a trip right now haha

  4. We’re an odd mixture, and are probably overly complicated to what it could be. But the trouble is my fiancé is a little spendy when he sees a balance in the 4 digits or more… so, it’s easier to shelter from that if he can’t “see” the money.

    So what we do for expenses: I pay the bills, etc and he pays his share back. That also worked well for us until last year because I was eligible for student discounts on things such as internet/cable. I think we’re moving to a joint account in the near future for expenses, but we’re not quite there. It’s a work in progress, but I think it’d make things a bit easier for those joint responsibilities like rent/cable/insurance/food/entertainment, etc.

    It might also make it more tangible for him with him being in control and managing the money… but I’m scared to “lose” the money in the test phase.

    • Bridget (Author)

      I’m still racking up the student discounts for us as best I can. Our regular bills are charged to my credit card, but then the payment is set to come out of the joint account on the same day so it balances out. This way it’s still jointly paid, but we get credit card points which I have been using to reimburse our hotel expenses when we travel together.

      In my relationship I’m way more spendy than my boyfriend so he’s the one that has to worry that I’ll “lose” the money haha

  5. I make about the double that my boyfriend makes, so going 50/50 on joint expenses seemed unfair. Even now, after splitting expenses proportionally, I end up with more money to save and invest than he does. We found out that splitting expenses in proportion of revenue is not perfect because expenses and revenues are rarely equal in a month.

    At the moment we have a joint chequing account (rent, utilities, car loan, etc.) and a joint savings account (vacation and entertainment). Most expenses go on the same credit card and I split the bill at the end of the month. The rest stays in personal accounts.

    • Bridget (Author)

      That sounds like a system that works well!! I definitely know what makes our joint account work at 50/50 is our incomes are so close. His salary is higher than mine, but because I have side income from this website and my freelance writing, my income is boosted a bit. Unfortunately I also have a huge tuition bill so that’s my burden =\ Nevertheless, splitting it 50/50 is just right for us right now, but I can definitely see it changing in the future as our incomes change!

  6. Sounds easy as pie! Glad you two are on the same page with your common spending. I like the idea of having all the leftover money as “yours”….definitely makes things easier! I’m single so this doesn’t apply to me but I’ll keep it in mind 🙂

  7. Sounds like a good system for you guys but not one that would work in all situations like the case of a stay at home parent or very unequal wages. Of course, with slight modifications, it would work fine in those situations too.

    My wife and I have always done joint everything. We have one joint account where all the money goes and we share all of our credit cards, which comes in handy for maximizing points.

    However, it can get a little dicey when it comes to personal spending because we are in effect spending the other person’s money. I think it helps us spend less though because you have to really want something before you try and justify the purchase to the other person.

  8. Awesome!! I’m glad it’s so easy for you! It’s been pretty easy for my boyfriend and I too 😀 I would love to have a joint checking account, but I’m not sure it makes sense at the moment for our situation. Sometimes I wish we were renting so that we could just split everything 50/50. Since I have so much equity though, we want to arrange expenses so that I’m paying the entire mortgage (so the asset is mine) and then we’re splitting the non-asset expenses 50/50.

    I need to pay the property taxes in order to itemize them, so I’m paying the property taxes (woo property taxes going up 20% two years in a row…) and then he’ll pay the HOA dues since they’re about equal, and we’ll split everything else equally. That just leaves groceries, electricity, and internet, which is only about $500/month total, so it seems silly to get a joint checking account for that. We started out splitting groceries by one person paying for the whole month and then the other person paying back half (we have our checking accounts at the same credit union, so we can instantly transfer money to each other), but then we switched to alternating months entirely, which is so much easier. We added up our joint living expenses and they were only $1,200/month, which is pretty cool! Now I just need to finish eliminating the mortgage so that it doesn’t feel unequal…

    I’m super excited that he is moving in soon! I’ve never lived with someone I was dating before.

    • Melanie

      Just to clarify – you are paying the mortgage (and I understand why), but then you are also splitting the non-asset expenses 50/50? Wouldn’t he have to pay the non-asset expenses to the same amount of your mortgage payment and then split the rest 50/50? Seems like you are paying a lot more per month.

      • I’ve been aggressively paying off my mortgage, so sure my required payment is about $1,000, but 70% of that goes to principal and the entire thing should be paid off by the end of 2015. So really, I’m only paying about $200 more than him once you take into account the income tax savings I get from owning the place. That seems fair to me since this will give him a chance to build his wealth faster with his rent savings, especially since I’ve saved so much money at 26 (~$500k).

  9. Melanie

    My husband and I have joint everything, except for retirement accounts. Both of our paycheques are deposited into shared chequing accounts, and all expenses are paid from that account. We also have shared vacation accounts, and planned spending accounts. He contributes separately to his RRSP and I have a pension through work. We did this right from the time we were married and it has worked well. We share a credit card to maximize the travel rewards points we can earn. This has worked out remarkably well throughout the course of our marriage 🙂

  10. We do pretty much exactly what you guys are doing but propotional to our incomes which makes more sense for us than 50/50 because he makes almost 2x what I do! Instead of just upping your contributions to the joint chequing, why not open a joint savings and put money in there that’s earmarked for joint purchases/vacations? Both of you feeding money into one account would help reach goals sooner and earn a bit more interest.

    • Bridget (Author)

      The reason we’d up contributions to the joint chequing is just for more joint spending, not necessarily goals. For example I just bought concert tickets for us on Saturday, and now my boyfriend owes me $100 for his ticket — if we had just each put an extra $100 into the joint account, it could have come from there.

      We’re actually starting a joint savings account next week to begin saving for a winter vacation, so that will be nice!!

  11. Dayle

    Hopefully this doesn’t end up sounding complicated: bf and I have plans to move in together in the spring (I will move into his house)… I’m going to sell my house and put most of the money into a 3 year GIC. In my current house, my fixed expenses are around $1800 including the mortgage, which I am paying off $800 of principal each month. So when I move in with him, I am going to be giving him $1000 a month and saving an extra $800 in addition to my current savings. So in fact my living expenses will break even. He is going to use the extra money towards paying his mortgage off faster. We will split groceries, and he will probably pay for things required for the house. Our long term plan is to jointly pay off the mortgage, but since we haven’t been together all that long, I want to protect my own financial picture just in case. At this point, I can’t see that we would need to have a joint account. I can have $500 from each pay cheque deposited into his account, and then he will pay all the utilities, his mortgage, and property tax. I will pay own my car insurance and discretionary spending and half of groceries. Whew! Sorry, long winded! I should add that we make approx the same amount of money. The longer term plan is that in 3 years his mortgage is up, so we can make a lump sum payment and be done with the mortgage (with the money from my house) or possibly sell the house and move.

  12. Jill

    I really like your system! My husband and I have a similar system (we’ve had it this way since before we got married) as far as sharing bills and having our own “fun” money. In my opinion I think it’s the best way to do it so each partner contributes but each person gets money to spend without having to ask the other for permission or worry that it’s going to effect the other negatively. Right now our whole income goes to the joint checking and a specified amount goes to our “discretionary” spending accounts. We do this because we are trying to pay off my student loans and his car as fast as possible so we don’t use extra money as “fun” money.

  13. I know some people are strictly about keeping finances separate in a relationship, and I can’t judge, but combining our finances has made things so much more efficient. It takes a lot of love and trust to mingle finances because it takes a lot of integrity from both partners to use the money wisely. But it’s a great place to be when you get there – congrats on joining the joint account couples club!

    • Jaye

      I’m in a relationship at the moment although we do not have combined finances as of yet. Just out of curiosity how long should one have been in a relationship before combining finances? Ie 6 months or a year?
      I’ll definitely be adapting your method of joint finances when we do, Bridget. It makes sense.

      • Bridget (Author)

        I don’t think there’s a right answer as far as time goes — my current boyfriend & I have been dating just less than a year and we combined finances as soon as we moved in. I dated my ex boyfriend for 4 years, lived with him for 3, and we never mixed money.

        I think it makes sense to share finances when you have shared costs, but you also have to trust your partner enough to put your money in their hands, and that can take some time!

        • Bridget nailed the answer. It will really all depend on how you both feel together about money before mixing finances together.

  14. Alex

    Hi Bridget!

    Your Blog is great, I find it very helpful and inspiring. My wife and I are contemplating a joint chequing account to streamline our expenses. We bank at different institutions, so we’d be looking to start a separate joint account, but I was curious if you guys were using an account from a Big 5 bank, or something from PC Financial or Tangerine. We’re trying to find the best balance of fees vs access to our funds in a timely fashion. Thanks!

    • Bridget (Author)

      SWe have our joint account with Tangerine! We both use big banks too, but I’ve had savings with Tangerine for years and I got my boyfriend to switch back in January. I love having our joint account there because it’s easy to transfer money to & from it from our other accounts. The interest rates are better than most of the big five too!

  15. This is such a cool idea! My husband and I never combined finances until we were engaged and then it was in one pool. I think it’s smart to do it this way if you’re always forgetting to pay the other person back for bills or groceries.