Budgeting with Partner w/out joint account

Hello Everyone,

My partner is going to be moving in with me soon.  I am YNAB-obsessed and he currently doesn't budget.  He knows YNAB is important to me so we are trying to figure out how to keep Household spending (rent, utilities, groceries, etc) equitable.  I've read a ton of articles on budgeting with a partner to prepare for life living together, there's just one problem:

We do not have a joint account together and we do not plan to make one.   That is just too much entanglement too fast.

Is there anyone else out there in a similar situation?  How do you make it make sense?  

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  • Welcome! I definitely want to hear more about the work of an Assistant Winemaker. 🍷

    I think a lot of people will chime in, but the key here is to come up with the simplest system you can that's consistent with each partner having the financial autonomy and safety they need.

    I mention this because I've worked with couples in the same situation, and often what they've ended up doing is devising a complex system of reimbursements and chore-charting who pays which bill, just in order to avoid opening a joint account. And it ends up making everyone miserable.

    I'm not saying this is you! But it's something to be on the lookout for, and I would keep in mind that a joint account isn't an all-or-nothing thing. Having one doesn't mean you have to deposit your paycheck into it, and it doesn't mean you have to close your personal account. It can just be a handy place to store money that's designated for your joint goals, whether that's each partner's share of the monthly bills, or a vacation you're planning together.

    Now, having said that, there are lots of approaches that work for lots of different people, and I'm hoping forum users will jump in with ideas!

  • Caveat:  All that follows is just my opinion 🙂


    Clearly a joint account would probably simplify things a little in the long term, but I can see why you might not be ready to jump in yet, and if it’s like here in the UK (not sure where you are?) joint accounts can link you financially on credit reports etc which is a big step.

    My first suggestion would be that one of you opens a sole account for your shared (fixed) expenses, and the other pays into it monthly for paying agreed shared bills.  Initially this would be for just bills, but in time if you trust each other you could put modest ‘sinking funds’ into it for your smaller goals to get into the habit of goal-setting and sharing ideas about how to spend your shared income.   When you’re both ready, a joint account would give you shared control of the funds but you can both keep your own accounts too and just use the joint account for the ‘pooled’ money.

    In terms of YNAB, if you’re comfortable sharing you could just put both accounts into the budget and keep them both updated, with stuff either lumped into one ‘<partner’s spending> category or split into more detailed categories if you so desire... but it sounds like your partner may initially prefer just to do the bills/shared goals bit with you. 

    If you’re the one into YNAB, I’d be inclined to try and take it slow... I do YNAB with my wife, and she *hates* budgeting.  But somehow over time I’ve managed to persuade her to do a 30-minute monthly ‘budget meeting’ with me (wine is mostly involved) and it’s really helped get us onto the same wavelength.  She doesn’t care about categories/TBB/buffers/age of money/whatever - but she knows we have ‘envelopes’ we agree to put our money in to pay for commitments and then work towards shared goals/projects.  Our joint account covers the YNAB stuff and she has her own bank account for her own ‘spending money’ which I don’t see or track.  Often she’ll use this to buy stuff for the kids/house/etc but it’s her decision how to spend it.  I track my own spending via YNAB.


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  • If you really don't want any joint account, probably the simplest would be to see this as a roommate situation. Not very romantic I know. But there are plenty of forum discussions about budgeting in a roommate situation. You may want to consider the use of Splitwise at the same time as YNAB. It will probably mean you'll have to enter a lot of split transactions. As Matthew pointed in another thread, YNAB has updated their documentation on using Splitwise with YNAB.

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  • I think there's a difference between a joint account and joint budgeting. DH and I have never had a joint account and decided we never will. We can, however, joint budget easily within YNAB without complex reimbursements, etc.

    However, I guess the OP and partner don't want to completely joint budget either and that's a different situation that others have already commented on.

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      • Frugal Dragon
      • Assistant Winemaker
      • Frugal_Dragon
      • 6 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      monkeyhanger We are going to try to joint budget. How do you and your partner do it? 

      • monkeyhanger
      • No animals were harmed
      • monkeyhanger.1
      • 6 mths ago
      • 4
      • Reported - view

      Frugal Dragon The mechanics of how it works in YNAB are really very simple. All accounts are in the same budget and then it largely works in the same way as it does for anyone who has multiple accounts in YNAB. I'll add the extra layers of complexity later.

      The first step for anyone using multiple accounts within YNAB, whether they are current or saving accounts.

      (1) Don't try and match budget categories to specific accounts. Therein lies madness and overly complicated and unnecessary 'correcting' transactions. 

      (2) When you buy something there are 2 key questions:

      • Is there enough money in the category to buy it? 
      • Is there enough money in the account I want to use?

      If the answer to both questions is YES, go ahead and buy it. If the answer to the first question is NO then you need to look at the other categories to see if there is a lower priority one that you are prepared to move money from or are you prepared to take on debt to buy it?. If the answer to that is also NO, then you don't buy it. If the answer is YES, move the money and buy it.

      If the answer to the second question is NO then you need to move money between accounts before you buy it. 

      With joint budgeting, you may need to discuss the decisions re the first question with your partner but this is the same whether there is a joint account or not. With the second question and separate accounts, you may also require money to be moved from one person's account to another so it's not something you might be able to do on the spot.

      We got around this by (a) using PIF credit cards for a lot of our spending so any requirement movement of money could happen once a month and (b) keeping a decent cushion in each of our current accounts.

      This is all much easier if you're not close to the wire. Because we don't link bank accounts to categories, all decisions about moving money between accounts are based purely on cashflow requirements. Again this is the same for anyone with multiple accounts and is discussed elsewhere. 

      The other decisions about joint budgeting without any joint accounts are not YNAB-specific i.e. how you are going to split funds, which account a payment comes out of, etc. We joint budgeted with separate accounts for a good while before we started YNAB for historical reasons. For the same historical reasons most of our monthly, direct payments e.g. rent, utilities, etc come from DH's account and the more variable payments come from mine.  We worked these out so that they were roughly equal before spending money because it lessened the need for multiple cash transfers each month but it can work whatever you decide.

      Does joint budgeting for your situation mean that you merge both incomes and split everything 50:50 so that you both pay 50% of the bills and get equal fun money regardless of what you're earning? Does it mean splitting the bills equitably so that it's 70:30 if that's what your salaries are and then you keep the rest as personal spends? What counts as personal spends and what comes out of joint funds? You will get a lot of different opinions on this but there is no right or wrong answer, whatever stage your relationship is at, as long as you both agree. That's the hard bit and that's outside of YNAB. You just then to make YNAB reflect your reality.

      Like 4
      • monkeyhanger
      • No animals were harmed
      • monkeyhanger.1
      • 6 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

       In a separate post so as not to confuse things too much, I'm now going to say that we still joint budget but in separate budgets; definitely not one for the purists. We had several years of joint YNAB history before we did this so we had really good numbers for what we spend to support a sensible discussion about how to operate it. 

      So why did we do this? It doesn't sound very married and we're both in this together at first sight but I can safely say it reduced our money arguments to practically nil overnight and ironically, considering we set it up so that he didn't have to use YNAB at all, increased his engagement with YNAB!

      Edited: I wrote a really long post but have deleted it as it feels too personal and revealing too much about DH who isn't choosing what I might disclose. It came down to individual money psychologies and histories. It 100% works for us and we still have a joint budget and goals without the arguments. There are a couple of more £ transfers between us but I wish we'd done it ages ago.

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