Should Spouses Have Separate Spending Accounts

torndollarAfter much discussion my wife and I have decided to go our separate ways. She has been unhappy with my increasingly frugal nature just as I have been unhappy with her increasingly flippant spending of money.

Our solution is not what it sounds like.

We have decided to eliminate all discretionary spending from our main bank account. We are going to use our main joint checking account for necessary purchases like groceries, and bills. We will use our separate accounts for everything else, haircuts, trips to the nail salon, domain name purchases, forays into peer to peer lending, eating out, etc etc. You get the idea.

It is not that she is spending excessively it is just that she is spending more than I thought was needed. The way we have arranged it, we will get a set amount, $200.00 each, every two weeks. That money is for everything outside of regular expenses. For instance: she wants some new furniture for the bathroom, I want to build a garden. Neither of these are “necessary” expenses and therefore we will fund them from our separate accounts. Same goes for dinners and lunches out one of us will have to pick it up from discretionary funding. We were easily spending close to $400.00 a month eating out, I know not very frugal, but this should reduce that because we will both be more accountable for our funds.

Keep in mind when I say separate I don’t mean individual accounts they are physically separate but still joint accounts, we each have full access to the others “Spending” account. This helps to make sure in the even something happens to one of us access to the money won’t be held up.

One of the biggest problem I have had with a joint account was my inability to “Surprise” my spouse. You can’t surprise someone with a purchase when they monitor the bank account daily.  We will not be allowed to question or criticize what the other is doing with their funds nor will we monitor it daily. I will update our GNUCash tracking at the end of each month to accurately account for our spending, but that is all.

I think it is healthy for everyone in a relationship to feel they have control and the ability to buy what they want, to an extent.

I started a Poll yesterday and had little response, so instead of talking about it here I have included the poll, so vote and be heard and show me some love.

[poll id=”2″]


1 The Personal Finance Playbook March 6, 2009 at 2:47 pm

We do it almost exactly the way your thinking of switching over to.

2 Mike March 6, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I bet people who stick solely to joint accounts are more likely to get divorced. However, I would also want to talk about our separate spending. It’s not cool to buy something that will annoy your spouse despite it being your own spending money.

3 Dollar Power March 7, 2009 at 9:41 am

I think that people who have different accounts are setting themselves up for divorce. I think that if you can’t come to terms with the spending then you might as well give the ring back. You said your already put on a 200 buck “frugal” allowance each. Then why “hide” the money. You already know that that 200 bucks is free spending. Who cares if it’s on nails or gardens. You already ok’d the money so why does it matter where it goes?

4 Kyle March 7, 2009 at 9:54 am

@Dollar Power
I don’t necessarily agree that you would be setting yourself up for divorce. No one is trying to Hide anything it is just a different method of addressing our money. Not sure how it will work out yet but it is kinda like the Envelope system using actual accounts instead of envelopes.

5 The Weakonomist March 7, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Kyle, I was going to say I didn’t agree with you until I read the details of the post. I think what you’re doing sounds fair. My fiancé doesn’t have a spending problem but you never know if one of us might develop one.

Let us know how it works.

6 Scott @ The Passive Dad March 8, 2009 at 4:01 am

Tough subject. I have friends who’ve made this work, but it’s hard not to keep tabs of what each other spend the money on. If you decide to save your $200 each month, would you expect your wife to do the same? Please keep us posted on how your budget discussion goes next month.

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