How Do Couples Use Joint Accounts?

I’m going nuts. My husband and I share a joint bank account in addition to us each having separate accounts.

The problem is how to use the joint account. Just bills? Groceries? Do groceries include beer from the liquor store?

I’d appreciate any suggestions, including those of the commentariat. I know that my husband and I need to work on our communication about money, but a starting place for a conversation would be helpful. — C.

I haven’t been in a position to need a joint account, but the topic has been covered on our site a few times.

Here’s E.A. Mann on the “limited joint account,” which one of the things that helped stop them from fighting about money.

If she was meeting all of her financial obligations and goals, why should I have cared if she spent $90 on makeup and hair goop? The answer is that I shouldn’t have. I know this, but human nature is hard to change. Even when I was good and brought up purchases in a neutral way, my wife still felt she had to explain herself. Not good. Better, we found, was to open a joint account for joint obligations only, like mortgage and utility bills. Now we both pay in to cover expenses, and the rest goes into our solo accounts away from the prying eyes of the other person.

Here’s Bowen Close on her joint accounts:

We opened a joint checking account, a joint savings account (which we immediately split into savings sub-accounts for travel, education, and general savings), and two joint credit cards. Our paychecks went into our joint account. Once or twice each month, each savings account received an automatic transfer of money from the checking account.

We each retained the personal bank accounts we had before the merge. Birthday gifts and academic awards also went into our personal accounts, and each month we each received an automatic transfer from our joint checking account. Our personal accounts were ours to do with as we liked, with no oversight from the other person.

And Katie Wilson on joint expenses:

It took me a long time to work up to it, but I have to say, joint checking account is THE BEST. It is just so nice and comforting to not worry about keeping track — or cashing each other’s checks. We only have joint accounts at this point, actually. All paychecks are direct deposited to the joint checking, all bills get paid out of it (including credit cards, which are also joint), and there’s a twice monthly transfer to savings (also joint). Retirement plan contributions are withheld pre-tax.

Have any advice for C.? Let her know below.

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