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7 Ways to Stay Open with Your Spouse About Finances

7 Ways to Stay Open with Your Spouse About Finances

By Rachel Meeks

Thank you to Equifax for underwriting this conversation about family finances.

Every now and then I think about if something were to happen to me or my husband, how the other would take care of our children. It’s a huge responsibility, and though I don’t like to think about worst-case scenarios, I feel better having a plan.

My husband and I fully share the responsibility for our finances, but we divide the day-to-day tasks. My husband earns most of the income and manages our investments. I manage the spending, saving, taxes, and keeping track of everything.

I want to keep our financial information open and organized so we can both access it anytime. I don’t want either of us to be in the dark when it comes to our finances.

These are the ways I’ve organized our finances so my husband can stay informed and step in for me if needed:

1. I made a budget based on the amounts we expect to spend so that we know how much we need for an average month. We use realistic amounts, not ideal or limited amounts. Then we can look back and see if our spending matched our expectations. We discuss and plan bigger purchases so that we’re both on the same page.

2. We consolidated our spending money into a joint checking account instead of maintaining separate personal accounts. It’s easier to keep track of just one account balance on a daily basis. (It works for us because we have similar spending habits and common goals, though I recognize it’s not the best solution for everyone.)

3. Not only did I minimize the number of accounts, I reduced the number of banks where those accounts are held. Sometimes I get an offer in the mail with an incentive to open a checking account at a new bank, and it’s tempting, but it’s extra work in the long run. We chose one bank with good online options and service so that we won’t need to keep up with multiple banks, phone numbers, and access codes.

4. I save statements and records in multiple places, mostly digital, so they can be accessed quickly. I have one file box for the important papers, and I also keep digital documents on my computer, a backup hard drive, and Dropbox. (Dropbox lets you sync your documents to the cloud, and you can access them securely through the internet. It’s great for sharing documents and for when we travel.) I wouldn’t want my husband to have to go through a pile of papers if he can do a quick search on the computer instead.

5. I planned for the majority of our bills to be paid online or automatically at the beginning of every month. I just made a couple of phone calls and requested the due dates that I wanted. Since I pay the bills, my husband doesn’t keep track of individual billing dates, but he can remember that we need money in our account ready to pay the bills at the beginning of the month. That helps us stay in a routine and avoid surprises when the account balance drops.

6. I check the credit reports annually for both of us, and let him know what, if anything, he needs to do. Sometimes it’s just reminding him to make a phone call to close an old store card that we might have otherwise forgotten.

7. At the end of the year I compile a financial snapshot to look at how we’re doing overall compared to last year. We think it’s important to review our progress together and see what else we can do.

Simplifying our finances so that we can access everything also made it easier for me to manage them on my own.

How do you and your spouse work on your finances together so that you both stay informed?


Thank you to Equifax for sponsoring this conversation on family finances. It’s not always a comfortable subject to discuss, but an important one.

About the Author

Rachel Meeks

Rachel Meeks is the voice behind the popular blog Small Notebook, a resource for simplifying and organizing your home. (Because it’s so much easier to b...

Rachel Meeks is the voice behind the popular blog Small Notebook, a resource for simplifying and organizing your home. (Because it’s so much easier to be a parent when you’re not surrounded by a ton of stuff.)

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  • Jenn

    April 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I would not recommend storing confidential data such as financial account information on Dropbox. Once you put information like that on the internet, it is far more vulnerable than on your home computer. Dropbox has already had a major security breach (… all it takes is one tiny programming or configuration mistake and your private data is out there for the world to see.

  • Steph

    April 12, 2012 at 7:05 am

    I do almost all of the financial heavy lifting in our house. But my husband knows where everything is if he should need to take over. And at the end of each month we go over our budget, bills and spending together so he’s up to date on where we are in achieving the financial goals we’ve set.

  • Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm

    April 12, 2012 at 10:12 am

    We’re pretty similar – except I’m not as good at telling Noel about everything. He’d have no idea how/when/where to pay bills. I at least recently made a master pass list (with websites and passwords for all our accounts) – but I guess I should make sure he knows when to pay things!

  • Lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life

    April 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

    This is one of those areas where regular conversations make all the difference! Thank you for the nuts and bolts suggestions to go with them.

  • Brie

    April 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I am a stay at home mom and wife so my husband provides all our income. I am more on top of the bills though. I make a budget, then sit down with him and show what I have done/or am doing. He adds his input or thoughts and we go from there. We each get a monthly cash allowance and we use mostly cash for other purchases. That way, most of what comes out of the bank is bills and it’s easier to track. We are in a heavy debt pay down mode so not a lot is being saved right now. We have similar financials goals though and that makes it easier during the lean times and we can get through it together. I am glad we are able to talk about it all though and he trusts me to take care of it without him.

  • Stephen

    April 12, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    You can create a TrueCrypt container in Dropbox and then sync your financial information there. This way it is encrypted.

  • Heather

    April 13, 2012 at 12:21 am

    I do the majority of the finances at my house and decided a few years ago to create an I.C.E (I Cared Enough) folder that has all of the information in it. It has bank account numbers, passwords, life insurance, homeowners insurance information, childrens doctors, etc. I keep all of this in the safe and update as needed. I have inculded a special note in the unfortunate circumstance that my husband would need this information. 🙂

  • Heidi @Adventures of a Thrifty Mom

    April 14, 2012 at 3:10 am

    I’m a single parent so there is no SO to keep in the loop BUT I have decided to put everything in order in case the worst happens. I’m compiling vital records, financial information, insurance policies etc. and storing them in a safe deposit box. Of course, it’s important that if the worst does happen, family will know where the information is stored…

  • Diana

    April 16, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    PLEASE encourage everyone to read this article. My husband [the bill payer] passed away at age 41. We had 4 boys ages 5 to 9 and I was a SAHM. Grief is difficult enough but adding unfamiliar money/budget issues on top of it is a nightmare!

    • MightyMighty

      April 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      Diana, I’m so sorry for your loss. What a difficult situation.