My husband and I share finances, but I'll never give up my solo checking account because it's essential for my mental health

  • When my husband and I married 23 years ago, we combined finances in many ways — we share some bank accounts, and have access to each other's investment accounts.
  • But I still keep my own separate checking account, the one I've had since college.
  • Having my own checking account ensures I can make purchases without asking for permission, and that autonomy is essential for my mental health.
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Last week I wanted to enroll in a writing class that cost $350. I didn't check with my husband before adding the course to my shopping cart; I clicked the buttons, and now I have a Zoom meeting every Thursday at 4:00 PM for the next 20 weeks. 

If I had asked my husband if I could spend the money on a class to benefit my career, he would have said yes, but what is important to me — and has been important to me my whole adult life — is to have the freedom to make purchases without checking with someone first. That is why I have a checking account separate from my husband. 

We share finances, but I still keep a separate account

Of course, we talk about our monthly spending, discuss purchases like computers and beds, and other things we need to run our house and be comfortable and efficient. In our 23 years of marriage, neither of us has made what I would consider a "large" purchase without first talking it over with the other person. But the reality is both of us could choose to buy something significant without running it by the other. It just hasn't happened for us that way. 

I opened my checking account in college, and it has been an active account ever since. Even though my husband and I combined our finances (both of our names are on our mortgage, we have a joint account, we have access to each other's retirement accounts, etc.) I held onto my original checking account and kept at least a portion of every paycheck in it for my discretionary spending. 

As partners, my husband and I are compatible with finances. We both prioritize saving and are equally frugal (much more so than all of our friends). I don't keep my checking account active or separate from our other finances because I have different short- or long-term goals from my husband, and I never keep what I buy out of my account a secret. Hence, it isn't a privacy issue (unless it is a gift for him). 

My checking account is important for my mental health

Having access to money that I consider my own has always been something that I consider necessary for my well-being. I love having a husband with whom I can share the good and bad times and build a future together. But even though we see eye to eye on almost every critical or significant issue in our lives, our relationship doesn't mean I don't want some independence and autonomy. I consider both of those things essential to self-care and mental health.

Asking for permission to register in a class, buy brunch for a friend, splurge on books, or buy a new outfit, has never been a position I want to find myself in. To me, having a healthy marriage means working as a team and trusting one another. I trust him to make financially responsible decisions with the money he has available to him, and I want him to trust me to do the same. 

Money can be a sticky issue between couples, no matter how little or how much they have. Having the freedom to spend some of it without seeking permission or having a discussion where one party can state their objections can relieve some of the tension many people experience when combining finances.

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