Couples Are Combining Their Finances Early On. Here’s How to Do It

A couple laugh as they do their finances together.
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Call it love at first sight. Call it pure pragmatism. Whatever the reason, a lot of new couples these days are sharing their finances relatively early in the relationship. By that, we mean they’re sharing a credit card or a bank account with a debit card.

We conducted a survey of 1,000 Americans a few weeks ago, and it found that 47% of couples who share their finances do so within six months after they started dating.

This donut chart shows the results from The Penny Hoarder Financial Habits Survey. It shows that 47 percent of couples who share finances start within 1 to 6 months of beginning the relationship, 18 percent begin within 7 to 12 months, and 35 percent longer than a year.

That’s nearly half of all couples who end up sharing their finances! After only half a year of dating, these couples decided they were ready to mingle their money.

Given that a lot of people are doing this, we got to wondering: What’s the best way to do this? What are some things you do when you’re merging your finances with your partner’s? We’ve got answers.

Pro Tip

Are you moving in together? Talk about these four things first.

A Breakdown of the Results

Our survey asked this question: “How long into your relationship did you start sharing a credit card/debit card/bank account with your romantic partner?”

Here are the results:

  • 1 to 6 months: 47%
  • 7 to 12 months: 18%
  • Longer than a year: 35%
Pro Tip

Here’s our “love and money” guide to what budgeting looks like at every stage of your relationship.

Talk About Money Early and Often

Here at The Penny Hoarder, we’ve got a whole article on how to budget as a couple and stop fighting about money. We’re going to boil down a few of that article’s points here.

It’s not news that most fights in a relationship have something to do with money. It happens when the people in the relationship aren’t on the same page and have different attitudes toward money.

Talking about money early and often in a relationship can help you make sure you’re working together, rather than against each other, and prevent future fights.

Here’s how to talk to your significant other about money:

  • Make sure you’re not tired, hungry or rushed. If you try to sit down and sort out money problems when you are, you’re doomed to fail.
  • Be honest. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve each been raised with certain attitudes toward money. The more honest you are with each other about your spending habits, the easier it’ll be to avoid hurt feelings, and the more realistically you’ll be able to craft a budget.
  • Discuss your goals. Decide what’s important to you: paying off a debt, taking that vacation or going to every rock concert within driving distance. Those goals will drive your decisions of how to spend your money — together.
Pro Tip

Here are 10 budgeting apps for couples that make it easy to share finances.

How to Budget as a Couple

Getting the discussion above started is the first step, but how does it really work on a day-to-day basis? How do you figure it all out together? Here are some practical strategies to help you start a budget with your significant other:

Take Stock of the Numbers

Gather your past few months of statements, bills, pay stubs and other financial documents. You’ll want to see where your money has been going to get an idea of where it needs to go in the future. Make sure to account for:

  • Your income: How much do you bring in each month? Note the combined total of your income from your jobs or businesses. If one person makes significantly more than the other, talk honestly about how to handle it.
  • Your obligations: List out things like rent, car payments, student loans, utilities, life insurance, phone bill, retirement contributions, even saving for a down payment.
  • Your living expenses: This is anything that doesn’t have a monthly payment but that you need to buy anyway, like groceries, gas and pet supplies. This can be tricky because you purchase gas and groceries several times a month. Figure out what you typically spend on these purchases and use that number as a starting point for your first month of budgeting.

Methodology: The Penny Hoarder used Pollfish to conduct a national survey of 1,000 people about Americans’ financial habits in late January 2023. Survey responses are weighted so that each response is representative of the U.S. population.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.