Need Help Trying to Save our Marriage with Separate Accounts and YNAB

I have read all the guides, participated in the workshops, and searched the forums, and I still need some help. In an effort to prevent Divorce, my husband and I are separating our finances. We now have separate checking, saving, and credit cards, in addition to a joint credit card (which we use to get cash back because we pay for most of our expenses jointly), checking, and saving. We also have our separate  retirement and investment accounts and joint kids college saving accounts.

The plan is we will pay for all joint expenses (which is most of our expenses including rent, groceries, family outings etc.) with the joint credit card or checking account, and we want to split those expenses 50/50. There will be things we save for jointly such as the down payment on a house, family vacation, gifts, annual memberships, etc.

My husband wants the rest of his money, that's not needed for joint expenses, to be "off the books" and is not linking his personal accounts or credit card to YNAB. That's fine with me as long as our joint expenses and savings are being addressed, but I would like to link my accounts so I can keep track of my own spending and make sure my personal savings are allocated appropriately (like for a dream trip).

We each get paid biweekly on alternating weeks. We have a young child and an infant and I work 80 hour weeks, so we can't depend on our ability to assign a job to dollars the minute it lands in our accounts (to ensure that we're splitting things equally) or the system will fail. Realistically that just isn't going to happen.

We're both invested in the budget and want to make it work but I'm really struggling with finding the best way to ensure we're splitting the joint expenses 50/50, when many of those expenses are variable every month, and we are paid biweekly rather than monthly or semi-monthly, and on alternating weeks. Thank you so much for any and all advice you may have, or how you made this work for you.

14replies Oldest first
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Active threads
  • Popular
  • We split the management of our finances but still make joint decisions. We had used YNAB together for several years so I had plenty of data to go on. Rather than setting up a joint account or credit card, we decided which categories were joint and split them equally. I don't mean that we each pay 50% of each expenses. Instead we each took responsibility for different categories but the total we each pay to joint expenses is equal. Any remaining money is ours to do what we want with. This stopped a lot of arguments about updating YNAB, what was this expense for and the like. It also lets me choose to work a day less a week if I want to because it's only my personal funds that are affected by that decision. It also has stopped either of us judging what the other person spends money on. If they have it in their budget, that's fine. We do have a rule that if either of us want to take on any debt, even just float, we  discuss it with the other first. The other rule, in my budget at least, is that I can don't WAM between joint and personal categories. I used emojis, category groups and ordering to identify which are joint categories and which are personal and, as I have variable income, I always fund the joint categories to the agreed amount before anything goes in personal.

    We had always kept separate bank accounts so this was relatively simple to do. My husband kept most of the regular expenses which were direct debited out of his bank account anyway for historical reasons and I mainly do the true expenses because I'm the YNAB nerd. Initially, we thought that only I would continue with YNAB. My husband could simply pay his direct debits and then manage the rest as he saw fit. Yes we'd lose the YNAB data on utilities, rent/mortgage, etc but it wouldn't have been hard for me to compile a few DDs into useful data if I'd needed to. 

    The irony is my husband now uses YNAB almost as avidly as I do. We maintain separate budgets (with the same login though so we can both see each budget and do discuss them) but all we need to do is occasionally transfer money to each other to cover something from the other's budget. I tend to move money immediately to him because he doesn't have as much float because I have the true expenses building up. I just let him know at month end if he owes me for anything. It is a bit more palaver BUT it has rescued the way we talk about money.

    This might sound draconian to some people but for us its just a management issue. I may need to have surgery soon and he wouldn't leave me hanging because I couldn't work for a month or anything like that.

    Like 2
      • Cup Cake
      • cupcake
      • 8 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      monkeyhanger Much needed encouragement thank you!! So basically you guys add up how much you anticipate everything costing, and then divide who pays for what category until it comes out basically even? So what do you guys do if there's a big jump in the gas bill one month, maybe your husband has enough money to pay for it but it would take a big chunk out of his personal spending? What do you do for unanticipated expenses that don't necessarily have a category where you've decided who's paying for it ahead of time?  What are the kind of things he could owe you for at the end of the month?
      Sorry for the all the questions :( I just need this to work so I really want to understand.

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 8 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Cup Cake Since you've gone all the way to setting up joint accounts and CC, then I suggest a separate budget for joint expenses. Joint bills are paid out of a joint account (or CC). You (or spouse) should not pay any bills directly out of a personal account.

      That said, it's not uncommon to make a mistake and put a joint expense on a personal CC or a personal expense on the joint CC. Look into reimbursement approaches to track this type of thing. You'll need to track this in both the joint and the relevant personal budget.

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

      Cup Cake We had a fairly normalised budget by the time we decided to do things this way so I used our template budget amounts. I'm pretty sure that he's chosen to pay a standardised monthly payment for utilities so he doesn't have massive variations but if he hasn't we had reached that point in the budget anyway that we did that ourselves within YNAB.  If any of the bills he has taken responsibility increase massively then we would reassess how much we each put into joint spends. We've left it currently that if he finds a better deal on things, then he gets to keep the difference. We do have a regular dialogue so it's not set it and leave and we will readjust going forward. 

      I realise your question wasn't only about utilities though. If there's an overspend in a joint category then we discuss where the money is going to come from. That could be that we both cover 50% from our personal spends or we cover it from a different joint category. In reality, that usually means I transfer the cash to him as I have all the longer term stuff in my budget.

      Unanticipated expenses without a category - after years in YNAB we don't really have any of them. Yes, we might have situations where there isn't enough in the category but that is the same issue as above. There are things like eating out which might get taken from our joint spending money or might get split between our individual eating out budgets where we just decide between us at the time. Holidays is something I'm not 100% satisfied with. Our compulsory saving is lower than we usually end up spending so we both have individual categories too. It works for saving the money up but recording is a bit of a mess. We don't want to increase the compulsory monthly levels at this point though because of variable income.

      What does he reimburse me for? - Straight reimbursements are just for subscriptions he has on iTunes because we have a family account that comes from my card. I also have a 'should come out in the wash' category for small things that one person paid for the other and that gets settled up at the end of the month if required. He doesn't keep tabs on these at all. I reimburse him for a lot more because I have all the categories like car maintenance. I also have the joint spending money category in my budget and he has a tendency to pay for things in restaurants.

      We have two categories that we pretty much spend equally on - groceries and fuel. Our solution was to each budget half of the previous budget amount in our budgets. If one of us ends up spending more, then we true up at month end but we've rarely needed to. This shouldn't be an issue for you if you have a joint credit card and joint checking account.

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 8 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view
      Cup Cake said:
      So what do you guys do if there's a big jump in the gas bill one month, maybe your husband has enough money to pay for it but it would take a big chunk out of his personal spending?

       I'd be trying to set aside a surplus in my personal Joint Expenses category so you can cover your half. That said, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, and you track the "extra" as a reimbursement between the two of you. If you're keeping track, in your personal budget there's probably going to be two reimbursement categories: one between you and "joint" and one between you and husband. I don't know if husband is using YNAB, but if so then the same applies to him.

      Let's change the example to one where you pay more than your husband. You already transferred the normal $2000 to the joint account, which was recorded against Joint Expenses category. Along comes another bill for $600, so the joint account needs another $600. Your portions are $300 each, but say your husband only can contribute $100 (leaving $500 for you).

      Record this in your personal budget with a split transaction

      Net: Outflow $500 (all of this is transferred to the joint account in real life)
      Split 1: Outflow $300 categorized to Joint Expenses (your portion)
      Split 2: Outflow $200 categorized to Husband Reimbursement

      (A negative balance in Husband Reimbursement means you are owed.)

      --

      Hopefully the above is all clear. The reverse of this situation gets a little complicated, so the following might require a couple read-throughs.

      Consider, now, that you are the one who is short and husband pays more on your behalf, you still need to reflect this happened in your budget. Again, you can come up with $100, so you record this money leaving your budget as:

      Net: Outflow $100
      Split 1: Outflow $300 categorized to Joint Expenses (your portion)
      Split 2: Inflow $200 categorized to Husband Reimbursement

      In this case, you didn't have $300 in the Joint Expenses category (otherwise you'd have just moved your entire portion). Consequently, Joint Expenses goes overspent (red) and must be covered. Normally you'd cover from some other category -- but again, if you could do that, you would have had enough to pay your full share. So your only real choice in this case is to employ credit. Unfortunately, there's no credit transaction involved.

      You therefore must take on -- or have previously taken on -- CC debt for some other personal budgeted purchase. You can then temporarily move money from the CC Payment category to cover the overspent Joint Expenses category. When you get more money, budget some of that to the CC Payment category to enable you to pay off that debt.

      --

      To be honest, if you're in the above situation, it's probably cleaner to try to pay your portion of the joint bill directly with your personal CC. Then you have a reimbursement scenario directly with the Joint Budget. Less moving parts.

      Like 1
  • Sorry, I realise my last post doesn't help you work out how you set the budget up for the way you want to do things just an encouragement that splitting the YNAB management of finances doesn't have to be doom and gloom. For us it works brilliantly.

    Like 1
  • Bearing in mind I do not share my finances, here's what I would do if I were you:

    Create two budgets. One is joint, one is your own.

    Link your personal accounts to your personal budget. Create your categories and then create a line "joint expenses" where you put money towards those.

    Link the joint accounts to the joint budget. Create goals for every category on there - overestimate where needed - and then see how much you should each allocate every month (e.g. joint expenses are 2k/mo based on your goals so you each need to fund the joint expenses with 1k/mo). That's now your goal for your personal "joint expenses" line.

    When you do your personal budget, fund your own categories and don't forget to fund the "joint expenses" category. Then monthly or bi-monthly transfer the money to the joint account. On your personal budget, that would be an "expense" categorized as "joint expenses", and on the joint account that would be "income" categorized as TBB and your name as Payee.

    Does this make sense?

    Like 2
      • Cup Cake
      • cupcake
      • 8 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Simeon Thank you! Yes that does make sense. But the expenses just seem too variable to decide on a set monthly/bimonthly amount for payments to the joint account. We retroactively went through and tracked spending on joint expenses for January through March and it ranged from $4300 to $7300, and of course I imagine as we start budgeting there will be plenty of surprises that we didn't account for.

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 8 mths ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Cup Cake My Water bill ranges from $20 to $400, but the monthly demand on my budget is a constant $40/month.  I've insulated myself from the fluctuations by budgeting the average and covering the overspending when necessary. (Now that I've been through a seasonal cycle, overspending doesn't usually happen because I build up a surplus during the "low" months.)

      The same principle (Rule 2 / True Expenses) applies to your joint expenses when seen from the point of view of your personal budget. I suggest you take a stab at an average value for your joint expenses. You can always adjust later.

      Like 1
      • Cup Cake
      • cupcake
      • 8 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      dakinemaui Unfortunately we're moving to a new city in 2 weeks so anticipating an average is difficult :/ How do you cover the overspending?

      Like
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 8 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Cup Cake It's not difficult. It might not be accurate to the penny, but I guarantee just about anything will be better than assuming $0. The more you can spread out the impact of the "high" months, the better, IMO.

      Cover overspending by reallocating from lower priority categories. Yes, perhaps easier said than done, but that's absolutely what needs to happen.  You will develop a sense of relative importance between your categories, bearing in mind this does change as "life happens" or your interests changes. Use this to guide your choice of category from which you steal. If you chronically steal from something, consider funding it less to start with (and put the difference toward what chronically gets that money).

      Like
      • Lev
      • vagabond_collarbone
      • 8 mths ago
      • 2
      • Reported - view

      Cup Cake hmmm. My personal go-to would be to assume the worst (~7.5k joint expenses) and budgeting for that (~3.75k). The money stays budgeted on your "joint expenses line", but you only move the money (to the joint account, I.e. "spend" in your budget) that you need to cover the actual expenses. If after several months you're constantly over budgeting (I.e. have a very high amount budgeted in that line that you never need!)... you now have a lovely cushion of fun money!

      Like 2
  • Hi everyone! I just wanted to post an update to say thank you for everyone's help.

    We've been rolling with a joint budget for a few weeks now and it's going very well. We took the advice to create 3 separate budgets (one for his account, one for our joint account, and one for my account) and then when he gets paid we both contribute equal amounts into the joint budget and assign the dollars jobs from there.
    Before this one person was responsible for handling all the bills (my partner) because of my busy work schedule although I don't think either of us really knew where money was going. Now I'm paying the bills but YNAB makes it much less overwhelming as I know whether or not we're going to have enough money to cover them. I feel amazingly more in control and I think we both feel like neither of us is being taken advantage of with this system with separate accounts.
    I'm sure the marriage counseling isn't hurting either 😉

    So thank you so much for the advice and trouble shooting. You (hopefully) saved a marriage   ❤️

    Like 5
    • Cup Cake Thank you for sharing this update - it has made my morning! I love hearing that things are working out, especially with the separate accounts. We usually advise to share a budget, but we made a blog post earlier this year about why that approach isn't necessarily for everyone.

      I hope things keep moving in the right direction for you and your spouse! :)

      Like
Like Follow
  • 5 mths agoLast active
  • 14Replies
  • 326Views
  • 5 Following