5 Ways to Share Money With Your Partner and Still Keep Your Financial Independence

Stick it all in one place.

I always hated the idea of a joint checking account. My mother had her credit ruined by sharing several accounts with my father. One extra mortgage here, a secret motorcycle and boat… it didn’t end well. Those financial issues on Jon & Kate happen in real life too.

Then my boyfriend and I had The Financial Talk. We’re both money-obsessed, and it just made sense to have The Money Talk before The Marriage Talk. Money affects us much more in the here and now. Frankly, we’re also both terrible at sharing it.

Why should I share my money with anyone, after all I’ve done to earn it? All the hours I’ve worked building my business? My boyfriend, on the other hand, works in a conventional industry. Is it fair for him to be forced to pool his money with mercurial, inconsistent-paycheck me?

But pooling money can help keep couples feel equal financially. You didn’t pay for X or Y, we paid for it. A joint account can also encourage transparency about how much money both people make, and it practically forces us to discuss what we want in terms of lifestyle, career goals, and day-to-day spending.

So we decided to get a joint bank account, but one on our own terms. Not everything goes in the bank account, and the stuff we put in there is for a set of specific, shared expenses:

1. Date fund.

After three hours of negotiation…

No one likes having the conversation over who’s going to pick up the check on a date. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard my grandparents groan at having to have that conversation. Save yourself some time and have a joint Date Fund. You can both get gummy bears or another cocktail without feeling like a spoiled brat.

2. Pet care.

The scarf is publicly traded.

Who’s going to pay for the dog’s surgery, or the cat’s grain-free food? Both of you. If it lives in a space you share with someone, you shouldn’t be fighting over who pays to take care of it. This is also a good option post-breakup where two people “share custody” of an animal.

This was the number one reason for us to consider getting a joint savings account: We’re adopting a dog. A very expensive breed of dog, to boot. So part of planning ahead for having that dog was deciding who was going to pay for what. The best answer? Both of us.

3. Travel/retirement fund.

The very definition of Zero Drama.

If you’re committed or fully hitched, why not plan for retirement together? A few dollars in there every month and you’re already on the way to living out your Paradise Falls fantasies. We all need more accountability with that retirement stuff anyway.

If you’re not ready to think about growing old with the smoking hot person living in your apartment, think short-term instead. Vacations are awesome. Saving up for one together is an excellent way to see if you share the same money habits. Plus you get a fun time with no weird should-I-pay-for-this conversations through it all.

Not that I’ve ever had shouting arguments over who’s going to pay for the hotel room vs. Uber vs. food. Never.

4. Medical emergencies.

“Feeling a little parched, honey?”

No one wants to think about the horrifying possibility of something happening to them and insurance flaking out at the last minute. But it happens all the time. A joint emergency fund could mean the difference between an X-ray and going home with a broken rib.

Even sick days are important enough to have a joint checking account a great deal of the time. When you’re lying on the couch sick as a dog and your honey is running off to work, you can dip into the kitty and order Chinese food and an Amazon Video. No bugging them for help. Dignity restored.

5. Wedding expenses.

Straight pimpin.’

Yes, I know this one is super monogamous and is in the 1950s spirit of classic joint accounts. Bear with me.

Once you get engaged with someone and start planning a wedding, it becomes all about money very quickly. Who’s paying for the flowers? How can we get a better deal on food? You paid how much for that tux rental?

By having one account to worry about, there’s no more issues about where the majority of the funding will come from. You both pay in. You both take out. And if a vendor doubles back and takes your money, you can both complain to the bank and get an equal refund.

I don’t feel like having a joint account threatens my financial independence at all. It’s a targeted account feeding into a very specific goal that affects both of us, and we’re each paying into the fund that helps us get there. That’s a great perk of being a couple: having twice the energy and motivation to accomplish something. Frankly, I feel better because we’ve both agreed to pay in. I’d be much more nervous about my independence if it was just me feeding into the Pet Food Fund.

Brit McGinnis is a copywriter and author of several books. Her work has appeared on XOJane, SparkNotes and anywhere fine stories are sold. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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