So you’ve finally found The One (or at least The One For The Foreseeable Future) and you’ve committed to a serious relationship. Now what? In our weekly column, Life After Dating, women discuss the unique joys and challenges of coupledom.
My boyfriend Nick and I have been together for nearly 10 years, lived together for 8 of those, and still keep completely separate bank accounts. We’ve been sharing expenses — rent, groceries, gas, car insurance, etc — for a long time, but whenever we talk about actually pooling our finances, it just doesn’t feel right. Not sharing a bank account works for us, but that’s not to say it doesn’t come with some drawbacks. Here are some of the pros and cons of keeping your money separate when you’re building a life together…
Freedom. This is the biggest reason that we keep our money separate. I don’t like the idea of having to justify or explain my purchases to anyone other than myself. Is this a bit selfish? Maybe. And while I’m sure Nick would never question my need to spend $100 on vintage cowboy boots if we did share money, I prefer to not even let it be a question. His quest to buy out the expensive butter section at Whole Foods and my Etsy hair accessory habit never affect each other’s financial situation, and we like it that way.
Better spontaneous gifting. What’s the name of that love language where you enjoy showering your partner with gifts for no reason? Whatever it is, I speak that language. I get so excited to buy random things for Nick, from fancy shoes to Opry tickets to artisan salts. I’m not sure these surprise “just because” gifts would feel quite as special (just in my own mind) if I was buying them with a shared pool of money, and he could see the charge on our shared bank statement.
Personal responsibility. Nick and I both know exactly how much money we make, exactly how much we owe for our share of the bills, and it’s each of our responsibility to make sure we can pay that. Beyond that, if there’s anything big we want to save for, either separately or as a couple, we each figure out which personal expenses we can cut to reach our goals. This puts both of us in charge of our own financial decisions in a way that really appeals to us.
We become each other’s safety nets. As much as we like being in charge of our own financial destinies, if either of those destinies ever encounter a crisis or hiccup, we can provide a safety net for each other. When one of us was making less money or is between jobs, we always cover for each other. Just knowing the other is feeling a little stressed about money can be enough to spark one of us to pay for an extra couple grocery trips or offer to pay the heating bill.
Less fighting. Finances are a tricky subject, littered with emotional landmines. I’ve seen so many couple friends succumb to major fights about money. Keeping our bank accounts has separated has allowed Nick and I to avoid many money-based conflicts.
Sometimes this arrangement makes us feel like roommates. Trying to figure out who paid more for groceries last month, or writing your boyfriend a check for your share of the rent? Not romantic.
It keeps our money issues separate. Honestly, this could be a pro or a con, depending on how you look at it, but both Nick and I have some emotional issues tied to financial stuff. He grew up never having enough money, and I grew up being told by various family members (mostly the older Italian aunts and grannies) that I was terrible with money simply because I was a woman. While keeping our money separate allows Nick and I to keep our money issues separate, and avoid any fights they might bring up, it also lets us avoid confronting those issues, together or separately.
It’s harder to plan our financial future. Planning for retirement, buying a house, car, or other major purchases is significantly more complicated when we’re dealing with two different bank accounts. Even when our financial goals are the same, not having our money in the same place can make it tough to create a united front when it comes to long-term financial goals.