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Separate Accounts, Shared Budget

It’s becoming more and more common for partners partners prefer budgeting together for shared expenses and separately for others. While we here at YNAB tend to nudge budgeters to simplify their finances as much as possible, if you would like to keep both separate and shared accounts but still share the same budget, it can be done! Here’s how to do it:

  • 1 budget
  • 3 checking accounts* (Mine, Theirs, Shared)
  • 3 category groups (Mine, Theirs, Shared)
A budget showing two separate checking accounts and category groups along with one shared checking account and one category group.

*I say ‘3 checking accounts’ for simplicity, but it’s more accurate to say three types of accounts. Each of us could have credit card and savings accounts in addition to checking. But again…we’re also shooting for simplicity here, folks.

Applying the Basic Budgeting Workflow to this Framework

In YNAB, it all comes down to:

  • Entering income
  • Budgeting income
  • Following the budget

In our separate finances, shared budget example, it could work like this:

Entering Income

My paycheck and my partner’s paycheck would land in our individual checking accounts. We’d record the transaction in the account register, and the money would become available to budget.

But wait — we’ve separated our personal categories, so I would need to record and budget my entire paycheck before my partner recorded theirs. If we record our paychecks at the same time, the ‘To be Budgeted’ number will reflect both amounts, and neither I nor my partner will know what’s available for our personal categories.

In other words, both partners would have to budget new money immediately to stay out of the way of their partner’s next inflow.

Budgeting Income

After recording my income, I would work through my budgeting process, making sure my money does all it needs to before I get paid again.

Within the ‘Shared’ category group, my partner and I can maintain a category called “Shared To be Budgeted.” I could put whatever percentage of my paycheck (or flat amount that I and my partner had agreed on) into the “Shared To be Budgeted” category, then wait for my partner to work through their personal budgeting process before we work through a joint budget session to allocate shared money to shared categories.

Following the Budget (and Handling Overspending)

We use our personal debit/credit cards to spend inside our personal categories, and the joint debit or credit card for their shared bills. Simple enough.

But what about overspending? Well, we at YNAB always encourage you to cover overspending as soon as possible by moving money from another category. But if one partner overspends on their personal fun money category, it wouldn’t really be right to cover that overspending with money from the shared grocery category. So, unless you talk about it first, be sure to only move money from within the same category group.

To summarize, in this situation, we each have a personal checking account as well as one we share.

  • We maintain one budget with three category groups: Mine, Theirs, and Shared.
  • We each record and budget our own income individually, including funding the Shared categories.
  • When we overspend, we only take money from a category within the same category group where the overspending occurred.

Looking for even more relationship and budgeting advice? Check out “Budgeting as a Couple Without Driving Your Other Half Bananas.

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