Guide to Budgeting as Couples

By Julia Califano · August 21, 2023 · 8 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Guide to Budgeting as Couples

When you partner up, it’s likely that you are focused on building a home together and merging lifestyles: morning person vs. night owl, how to accommodate both of your vinyl and book collections, and so forth.

But there’s another important consideration: setting up a budget for two. You may choose to combine some, all, or none of your funds, But many people do want to mix at least some of their money and get on track for shared budgeting, spending, and saving.

This guide can help you explore your options and make the right decisions. You’ll learn such points as:

•   Why to budget as a couple

•   How to budget as a couple

•   Pros and cons of budgeting as a couple.

How to Budget as a Couple

Here are some steps to take when you budget as a couple.

Decide How Much You Want to Combine Your Money

Depending on how much you want to combine finances as a couple is a key part of budgeting as a couple. Each of you will have your own money style and potentially money issues, so a frank discussion on how comfortable you are merging your money and sharing, say, your spending habits is a wise first step.

Calculate Your Combined Income

If you have decided on merging at least some of your funds, take a look at your shared income to know what amount you are working with. Consider if you are on salary, freelance, have side hustle income, or dividends/passive income to come up with the right number.

Determine Shared Expenses

Next, look at where that income will go. You likely have shared housing, food, utilities, transportation, insurance, and healthcare expenses in terms of necessities. You may have varying debt payments to make as well.

Perhaps one of you has more in the way of student loans or credit card debt than the other. Discuss what feels fair in terms of paying that down.

You will also probably want to take a look at your usual discretionary spending, such as what you pay towards dining out, travel, entertainment, yoga classes, clothing, and the like.

You may decide you are more comfortable keeping some of your money separate rather than have full transparency regarding every dollar spent. It’s your call.

Figure out Future Goals

Then, turn your attention towards saving. Perhaps you two want to buy a home in a couple of years, start a family, begin a business, or pad out your retirement account. Or all of the above. You’ll want to factor in those savings for tomorrow.

Make Your Budget

With this information in hand, you’re ready to create a budget. It can be wise to review a few different types together, such as the popular 50/30/20 budget rule, the envelope budget system, and the zero-dollar method.

Recommended: Check out the 50/30/20 budget calculator to see the breakdown of your money.

Create Joint Accounts

At this point, if you have decided to merge some of your money, you may want to open shared accounts, such as a joint checking and savings.

💡 Quick Tip: Bank fees eat away at your hard-earned money. To protect your cash, open a checking account with no fees online — and earn up to 0.50% APY, too.

7 Reasons to Budget as a Couple

Budgeting as a couple vs. budgeting as two individuals can have its pros. Consider the following.

1. Controlling Your Spending as a Team

One of the basics of budgeting is to prioritize your spending. Once you, as a couple budgeting, have decided where your money must go every month — toward groceries, utility bills, car payments, rent, and other essential expenses — you’ll have a better idea of how much will be left for discretionary expenses.

And instead of being restrictive, your budget could give you some spending flexibility. You’ll know if you need to cut back and when you can loosen up a little, and you’ll be accountable to each other.

Sometimes, one person in a couple budgeting is better at finances or just enjoys it more. It might be a good fit for that person to be in charge of managing the bills. But it’s also a good plan to come together for regular budget reviews so both of you know where the money is going and there will be some balance in the financial decision making.

Leave room for some splurges, or the spender in the family probably won’t be too happy. And be proactive about big purchases: Identify a threshold for how much each of you can spend so there are no surprises. Or, of course, you can keep some discretionary spending separate if this feels too stressful for the two of you.

2. Being Honest About Money Problems

This can be the time to talk about any hidden debts, bad habits that cost money, or if you can’t trust yourself not to overspend when there’s a credit card in your wallet.

Then you can start tackling those issues by setting spending limits, cutting up some of those credit cards, perhaps getting financial therapy, and, of course, incorporating those looming debt payments into your budget.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


3. Being Prepared for Emergencies

A common recommendation is to have three months’ worth of living expenses set aside in emergency savings in case you lose your job or are sick or injured and can’t work. An emergency fund can also be used for unexpected costs such as home or car repairs or a medical procedure.

Not only can a couple budgeting determine how much to set aside each month to build that emergency fund, you can also choose which expenses to put off or do without if you don’t have enough in your fund when a crisis strikes.

Some budget ideas for couples who need to cut back on spending are reducing the number of date nights you had planned or putting your tax refund toward a bill instead of taking a spring vacation.

Having a budget can help you replace panic with a plan, and having a financial tool like SoFi can help you keep tabs on your cash flow and spending habits.

Recommended: How Much Should You Keep in an Emergency Fund?

4. Creating Goals

If there’s a “fun” part of working together as a couple budgeting, this is it: deciding your priorities for the future.

Whether it’s saving for a home, having children, taking a cruise, starting your own business, or all of the above and more, your budget will help you focus on the things that are most meaningful to you as a couple.

Your strategy can help you set aside the money to reach those goals, aka turning the dreaming into doing. And you’re more likely to stay on track if you’re checking in on your spending each month.

5. Deciding How Much to Combine Finances

You will likely want to tackle the question of whether to have joint bank accounts vs. separate bank accounts or even a little of both. Making the right call can strengthen your bond financially and holistically.

You may decide to completely merge your bills and bank accounts, or you might want to keep your own accounts and divvy up the bills. There are pros and cons to each approach in budgeting for married couples or cohabiting couples.

Combining accounts can simplify your finances and build trust. But if you feel strongly about financial independence — or you’ve been burned in the past — you may feel more secure if you have your own money. Negotiating an agreement that’s comfortable for both parties can be a real win-win.

6. Reducing Financial Stress

Here’s a solid upside to merging your money: Once you get the numbers down on paper instead of just swirling around in your head, you may feel more in control of your finances. Even if the situation is shaky, you can take steps to do something about it. What’s more, you are likely on a path to making your money work harder for you.

7. Having Something to Talk About

Here’s another benefit: Once you create your couples budget, you’re going to want to revisit it on a regular basis. You can discuss how your various budget categories are holding up and if you need to make adjustments. Or how to tweak your budget so you can afford that destination wedding. You’ll be able to sync up as a team.

It’s a good idea to go over any upcoming expenses that aren’t in the budget or only come up occasionally. And you can talk about how you’re doing with your short-term financial goals as well as your long-term ones.

An example of longer-term money aspirations? You can take a closer look at how college expenses for your future kids are trending. Or what might be a good monthly retirement income for a couple.

Are There Any Downsides to Budgeting as a Couple?

Now that you know the positives, consider these potential negatives whether you are marking a married couple budget or budgeting as a couple living together:

•   A partner could feel as if they have less control over their money, which could be uncomfortable.

•   A person could feel as if their partner’s spending habits are challenging.

•   The full transparency of merging finances could be a problem for some people who don’t like sharing their financial life.

•   There could be more time and effort and potentially banking fees involved as you set up joint accounts and find a new way to operate as a team.

Budgeting and Saving with SoFi

The good news, especially for those who dig technology, is that there are plenty of online tools and apps that can help you put together a budget and manage your money as a couple.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

What is the best way to budget as a couple?

A key decision will be how much of your money to merge, looking at shared income and expenses, determining goals, and then finding a budget that works for both of you. Regular check-ins to see how you are managing your money are important too.

How do you split finances as a couple?

This will vary from couple to couple. Some will want to pool all of their resources and pay everything 50-50. Others may have circumstances (such as one partner having considerable credit card debt) that indicate a different arrangement may be necessary.

How much should a couple save per month?

How much a couple should save per month will depend on a variety of factors such as income, cost of living, and debt. However, many financial experts suggest saving 20% of one’s income is a good guideline.


SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

SOBK0723032

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender