By Stephanie Miller


5 Min. To Read

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Do you wish you could save more, spend less, and improve your finances overall? Well, if you and your significant other currently manage your money separately, the solution to your woes could be as simple as opening a joint bank account.

According to a new study by the Journal of Consumer Psychology, maintaining a shared bank account with your partner has a significant impact on your financial habits. Not only does it curb unnecessary spending, but it can also encourage better habits, improve saving, and even reduce financial-related conflict in your relationship.

But how can something as simple as opening an account together have such a profound impact on your overall financial picture? According to the study, it all comes down to accountability.

Do Joint Accounts Mean More Guilt?

The participants surveyed who maintain joint bank accounts with their significant others seem to be more careful and considerate in their purchase habits, compared to their solo account counterparts. In fact, couples who share one account tend to avoid making frivolous purchases, or spending money unnecessarily.

By contrast, those with their own, separate bank accounts are more likely to not only make impractical purchases, but to also feel that they are free to do so. The element of guilt seems to be absent (or simply present in a lesser quantity) when compared to the joint account group.

Why is this? Well, the reason is likely multifaceted.

First, there’s the simple fact of being held accountable for your purchases. When sharing an account with your partner, you know that the likelihood of them seeing each of your purchases is high. If you are consistently spending unnecessarily – or make a large purchase without consulting your spouse – you’ll probably have to answer for it. That fact alone might be enough to deter the purchase(s) altogether.

Then there’s the element of ownership. When couples share a joint bank account, the funds are typically thought of as “our money” or “family money.” This may subconsciously impact one person’s ability, or likelihood, of spending that money without just cause. Conversely, when each partner maintains their own account, it’s more of a “my money” thought process, which makes it easier to spend without justification.

Is Guilt a Bad Thing?

If you’re considering combining finances with your partner, the thought of asking permission (or feeling guilty) for your purchases can be off-putting. However, the study’s authors say that these feelings – as uncomfortable as they may be – can be the difference between marital happiness and constant discord, or financial success and failure.

Money is one of the biggest sources of contention in marriages today. The root cause varies from one couple to the next, but the key components are typically overspending, debt, and lack of saving.

By sharing funds in a joint account, couples can maintain financial accountability as well as know where each person stands at all times. It allows (and requires) each partner to justify their actions, and heads off many problems by subconsciously stopping some overspending in its tracks.

The study’s co-author, Emily Garbinsky, says that, “being able to justify our actions allows people to avoid conflicts, which is important given the fact that money is such a pervasive source of conflict in relationships.” She goes on to say that couples with joint bank accounts tend to spend more responsibly, just to avoid having to ask permission (or forgiveness) for frivolous spending.

Are Joint Accounts Required?

For some couples, the idea of pooling all funds in a joint account simply won’t work. This is especially true for previously-married or older couples, or partnerships where there are two very different spending styles in play.

In this case, a compromise might be best. For example, a joint account can be established for the bulk of each partner’s income. This shared account will be used to cover monthly household expenses, add to savings, and the like. Additionally, each person could also have his or her own bank account for “fun money.”

A pre-determined amount could be transferred to these accounts each month, almost like an allowance. The money can be spent however each partner desires, without guilt or permission. Such an arrangement allows everyone to retain a sense of freedom, without being detrimental to the overall household finances.

Joint bank accounts seem to be the best way to rein in spending, maintain accountability, head off conflict, and manage a couple’s finances. Whether it’s the right choice for you and your partner, though, depends on your own household dynamics… and how well you’re already managing your shared funds.

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