Getting a Joint Bank Account and Making it Work
I’ve mentioned before that M and I are getting married pretty soon (two and a half weeks!) and one of the things that we’ll be doing that is relevant to this site and to personal finance is joining our bank accounts. We’ve already created a joint ING account that simply shows up via both of our existing accounts, so that’s about as painless as it gets. But for the bank account it’s a whole different animal.
First of all, I like my bank (Bank of America) and have had my account there since I was in college (nine years) so I’d like to keep it. Besides, have you seen their new ATM machines that take checks and cash without an envelope? You don’t even need to count the money before giving it to the machine in one big was — it does the rest of the work.
There are a whole bunch of other considerations too:
- Convenience: M doesn’t have direct deposit so right now she has to go to the bank every Friday and deposit her checks. Not convenient. Luckily, there’s a Bank of America in her building so it’s actually more convenient if she comes over to the dark side (We already opened a joint account with them).
- Fees: This has been a real nightmare because some accounts are fee free as long as you promise to direct deposit consistently into the account. Which is fine, I’ll do that, but not until after we get married. And then I’ll have to worry about the existing account I have.
- Minimums: A good thing that has come of this is that I realized BofA has checking accounts with minimums of up to $25 (which is what we opened). My current account has a minimum of $750 in checking and $300 in savings. That’s $1000 I can drop into my ING account when we make the switch. Nice move!
- Free Checking: This is pretty standard at most banks so that’s a good thing. BofA came through with that too, so no worries.
But I still need some help from people that have done this in the past: what’s the best way of combining our budgets now that we will have a joint account, our own individual accounts, and one budget for the both of us?
I was going to write a clever post about my solution and how great it would be, but honestly, we haven’t even started so I don’t know what to expect. My only suggestion so far was to wing it for a month and take notes, pretending that we were a “new person” that didn’t have a budget previously.
The idea was to jot down what we spend our money on, how much we spend on both of us, on our own, etc. That shouldn’t be a problem because bills and stuff are easy. What might get a little sticky is the saving. I’m pushing for a huge amount of savings per month (for our down payment) and it might make things a little weird.
“Oh, you’re going out with your friends to dinner? Again? Oh… Well I guess we’ll live in a studio then…”
You know what I mean? So my idea was to just keep living the way we’re living in terms of spending (we are pretty frugal, so not going over the budget should be easy, especially once the wedding bruhaha is over). Then analyze our habits for a month to see how much we’ll need to dump into our individual accounts for discretionary, “I have my own money” spending, which I think is important.
Any tips out there for people who’ve done this before? M’s budgeting is all cash based (something like the envelope system) and mine is card based — I put everything on my credit card, pay it off in full at the end of the month, and rack up the points. This is what works for both of us and I don’t think we should have to give it up.
Help us out people.
As for my alternative income, I don’t even want to think about how we’ll deal with that.