There are two main ways that I see couples work with their money: joint everything, or some joint accounts and individual accounts. No way is the right way, so it’s entirely up to the couple how they want to do this. Either way, how do you pull off a budget as a couple?
No matter the way you structure your money, you should still budget together as a couple. There will guaranteed be shared goals that you have, like buying your first home together, saving for your child(ren)’s education, or paying off debt. For this reason, budgeting should be seen as a team effort.
For couples that have a joint account to pay for shared expenses but keep individual accounts for individual purposes, I would recommend mirroring that with corresponding budgets: one shared budget and two individual budgets.
One way to consolidate this process is using software like You Need A Budget (or YNAB). I’ve been a longtime YNABer ever since I was single and working to pay off my student loans. When I married my Connie back in 2018, we decided to join our finances together fully, using one budget for everything. But I can see that if we had individual accounts, it would be simple to make separate budgets in YNAB and track joint and individual accounts seamlessly.
(Full disclosure: I’m not a YNAB salesperson, but I love it so much, I’ll spread the word about it wherever I can. Use my referral code to try it out for a month. If you end up liking it, it’s $84/year and very much worth every penny!)
After selecting the budget software you want to use together, set at least once monthly meetings to go over spending and plan for the following month. This is important because a regular check-in with your partner will keep lines of communication open and will set a good habit that will follow you into old age together. It’s also a good time to check in on how you’re doing as a team and what progress you’re making together on your shared goals. If you overspend in one month, don’t sweat it – talk it out and figure out a game plan instead of dwelling on the issue or blaming your partner or yourself.
Having this regular meeting time will allow you the mental space to think about money in the 1 hour or so you allot, then move on and enjoy your life in between. The budget is there as a visual tool to help you both see where you money is going and where you should adjust in order to keep on track with your goals.
After all, you and your partner are a team. You are together in this life, which can be full of financial ups and downs. Budgeting should be one of the most used tools in your joint toolbox to get through those downs and celebrate those ups together.