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How We Pay Our Joint Bills as a Couple

I’ve informally spoken with a dozen or so couples regarding how they pay their bills. The two main responses I’ve gotten are as follows:

  • The couple has a joint account in which a percent (i.e. 90%) of income is deposited and all bills are paid from this account. The remaining percent for each individual goes into an account of their own.

  • The couple divide bills between them, and each individual pays the bills they’re responsible for, for example, one person is responsible for utilities and groceries, while the other pays the mortgage and meals out.

My husband and I do not pay our bills using either one of these popular approaches. Instead, we split everything 50-50 by completing the following steps:

1. We know how much we spend every month.

As I’ve stated before, we use a version of the balanced money formula in our house. We have a budget for what we spend (or save, in the case of vacations) on each line item each month (see below). This adds up to $6,000 per month.

  • Mortgage

  • Electricity

  • Cable/internet

  • Cell phone

  • Water

  • Garbage

  • Groceries

  • Meal delivery service (we’ve started outsourcing some of our meal prep)

  • Eating out

  • Entertainment

  • Gym membership

  • Gas

  • Household supplies (Amazon, basically)

  • Massages (we both have chronic injuries)

  • Cleaning service (every other month, again because of injuries)

  • Vacation savings ($1,000)

  • Miscellaneous

  • Not listed:

    • Car payments (we don’t have them)

    • Car insurance (paid annually)

    • Other savings: I contribute $1,000 per month to a real estate fund and my husband contributes $1,000 per month to our brokerage account. We also have separate 401(k) and IRA contributions. We have an emergency fund already.

2. We fill out a spreadsheet at the beginning of every month.

We pay for most of our expenses (listed above) on a joint credit card. Our spreadsheet starts with $3,000 under each of our names, which is the amount we each contribute to fund the $6,000 needed. We subtract any joint expenses we paid individually from our contribution. For example, I use online bill pay to pay our mortgage and utilities. During the month, one of us may write a check for our massages or our cleaning service. We add anything put on a joint card in error (for example, if my husband goes to Chipotle by himself). Once our adjustments are made to our $3,000 contribution responsibility, we’re left with the amount of money we transfer into our joint account.

3. Pay the credit card and transfer travel funds.

My husband pays our joint credit card using the money we transferred into our checking. He then moves $1,000 into our joint savings account. This savings account is our vacation fund. We will transfer money from savings back into checking to pay for any vacation-related expenses we put on our joint credit card.

This method of bill pay allows us to focus for a short time each month on our finances. We spot trends and hold ourselves accountable. Periodically, we make changes to our budget and contribution.

Would this method of paying bills work for you? Which method do you use?

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