Friends & Family: 4 Ways to Use a Joint Account

How does a joint checking account work when you’re just friends with financial benefits? You don’t need to be in a romantic relationship to get the benefits of a joint checking account. Here are a few types of joint checking account uses that will help you manage shared money better.
Joint Account Use Cases

Constantly Venmo-ing your roomie for their half of the cable bill? Mailing checks to your kid off at college? Wrestling with your ex over who pays for your child’s karate classes? It might be time to re-think your definition of a joint checking account.

Many people assume there’s only one type of joint checking account: the kind you open when you get married or move in with your partner. But the fact is, the benefits of a joint checking account aren’t limited to romantic couples. After all, our lives are intertwined with many people—and our finances often wind up overlapping with those close to us too (and nobody loves trying to divy up later or chase down the inevitable IOUs).

How does a joint checking account work for pairs who aren’t paired up?

The ways you can use a shared account are as varied as human relationships—from cohabitation, to co-parenting, to college-kid-support, and beyond! Anyone who has shared living costs can open a joint checking account to:

  • Combine money for your shared expenses while keeping your individual finances separate
  • Get on the same page about what costs you’re both responsible for—and how much you each contribute
  • Budget, plan ahead, and even save up together with less hassle and confusion
  • Get the bills paid easily and on time (without nagging or arguments)

When you have a joint checking account with someone else, you both have equal ownership of (and right to spend) the money in that account. This makes it easier for you to collaborate on managing your shared expenses (though be aware that either party can take the money out of a shared account—you might want to read up on the legal ins and outs of joint checking before you dive in).

To help you figure out if banking as a pair is right for you, here are a few situations where a joint checking account (like a Simple Shared Account) can make managing your overlapping finances easier and less stressful.

Co-parents

When two people parent a child, their lives are connected even if they aren’t a couple or they don’t live together. There are all sorts of co-parenting relationships: ex-partners, family members, adoptive and birth parents—whenever two people are invested in raising a child, they have to work out how they both contribute financially to their kid’s needs.

Successful co-parenting calls for communication and mutual understanding—especially when it comes to money. Having a joint account with a built-in budget can help co-parents manage how they contribute to the costs they both cover, while keeping the rest of their financial lives separate. A few ways co-parents can use a shared account:

  • Put the funds you’ve each agreed to contribute into one place that’s easy for you both to access for your child’s needs
  • Make a budget for recurring costs, like lunch money, doctor’s appointments, or extra-curricular activities
  • Set aside money a bit at a time for seasonal or occasional expenses, such as summer camp or new clothes
  • Open a Shared Protected Goals Account to save up longer-term (and earn interest!)—so you’ll have the funds for your kid’s big milestones

Roommates

Keeping a roof over your head costs money—and bunking with a buddy can make it more affordable (and maybe even more fun!). But sharing the cost of living can get complicated and awkward, even if your roommate is your bestie. That’s where a joint account can help: an easy way for each person to contribute their portion, pay the bills, and avoid the awkwardness of “You owe me for the electric bill” conversations.

And if you and your roommate make a budget together, all the better! Using Expenses in your Simple Shared Account helps you have a clear understanding of what you’re both responsible for—and makes managing those costs less of a hassle. Keep your individual money separate, and use a shared account to do things like:

  • Pool contributions for your bills and set up automatic payments from one easy place (you can even direct deposit part of your paycheck every month)
  • Plan for the monthly expenses you agree to cover together—and automatically set aside the funds you’ll need for them
  • Save up together for living-space upgrades, like repainting that ugly wall or getting an air conditioner
  • Stash cash for something down the road (and earn interest with a Shared Protected Goals Account)—like a security deposit on a bigger apartment!

Relatives and dependents

If someone depends on you to a large extent for their wellness—like an elderly parent or a relative with a health condition—you might find that your financial lives overlap with them too. When you and your relative both contribute to certain expenses, setting up a joint account can make it easier to keep track of money and manage how you spend it.

Every situation is unique, and you can use your shared account to manage joint expenses however you need to—while keeping each person’s individual finances totally separate. If you regularly help care for a relative or dependent, you might want to open a shared account to:

  • Help the person you care for manage their budget and keep an eye out for potential issues, like fraudulent activity they might not be aware of
  • Jointly contribute to healthcare and living costs, and make sure the bills get paid (with recurring Expenses) if they aren’t always up for the task
  • Set aside funds for larger expenses that only come around occasionally—a Goal can automatically tuck away the money a bit at a time
  • Create an Emergency Fund in a Shared Protected Goals Account (where money earns interest and won’t be spent on accident) so you’re prepared for the unexpected

Parents and college students

When your little one is suddenly all grown up and off to college, they want to spread their wings—and they might need a little ongoing support from you as they learn to fly (even if you started their smart-money education early). A joint account is an easy way for parents and their newly adult kids (18 years or older!) to manage expenses as those freshly-minted grown-ups find their financial footing.

When your kid goes off to college, you might want to set up a shared account that makes it easier to:

  • Transfer funds for the expenses you’re helping with—like textbooks or their cell phone bill—into a convenient place you can both access
  • Help them learn to budget and manage their money by using Expenses to plan for and track spending
  • Help them develop a saving habit by creating a Goal that you match their contributions to
  • Put aside money for future costs (like next semester’s lab fees) in a Shared Protected Goals Account, where it can’t be inadvertently spent

Save and spend better together—with whomever

You don’t need to be coupled up to share a financial life—or to enjoy the benefits of a joint checking account. (If you are combining money with your sweetie, these tips can help.)

Simple Shared Accounts are built to help you set the boundaries that make sense for you by keeping “mine,” “yours,” and “ours” separate. You share as much or as little of your finances as makes sense for your situation. So you can focus your energy on the kind of sharing—quality time, meaningful conversations, having fun together—that matters the most.

Ready to get started? Learn more about Simple Shared Accounts!
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