How my Wife and I Handle our Cash Flow: Our 3 Step Method

Matt Corthell |

It’s a classic problem for married couples. I don’t profess to claim this will work for everyone, but it has worked for us. Check out below how we have done it:

Establish the Framework

To accomplish this, you need 6 accounts and 3 spending methods:

  • For our Family

    • Checking – All bills you agree are family related (mortgage, groceries, utilities, insurance, etc.).

    • Savings – For family related savings (emergency funds, vacations, home projects, etc.).

    • Agree on the spending method for family expenses.

  • Dana’s Accounts

    • Checking – For guilt free spending on anything she desires.

    • Savings – Savings for bigger ticket items.

    • She has her own spending method for her personal spending.

  • My Accounts

    • Checking – For guilt free spending on anything I desire.

    • Savings – Savings for bigger ticket personal items.

    • I have my own personal spending method for my expenses.

The separate accounts and spending methods make sure you do not co-mingle each account’s purpose. The above assumes you have the proper investment and/or retirement accounts in place separate from your regular spending accounts mentioned above.

Agree on Contributions

We sit down every couple of months and determine our saving goals. What needs to go to cash and what needs to go to investments for retirement. We then agree on an equitable split for us and set up automatic funding of the family, personal and retirement accounts.

Rules of Engagement

We follow a few rules together:

  • Credit cards both personally and for the family are paid off each paycheck and no balances are carried over.

  • We understand from time to time that we will need to dip into our personal cash for the good of the family.

  • Equal contributions to our family accounts does not necessarily mean 50/50 contributions from both of us, and that’s okay.

  • Discuss “large” family spending items together.

Why this Works for Us

By structuring our accounts using this method, we accomplish a few things:

  1. We prioritize our family goals first to make sure we are funding what we need to advance our financial life before we start looking into how much to spend.

  2. By designating money for each of us we can spend money on personal items as we see fit. If I want to buy snowshoes for $400 that I have only used once, she can roll her eyes but it’s not something we need to discuss.

  3. Conversely it forces us to discuss larger family purchases and gives us the opportunity to make sure we are in agreement on those bigger ticket items.


This is for informational purposes only. Each individual circumstance or family dynamic is different, and this example is shared only to encourage thought on how a household can implement a process to manage cash flow. Just because this works for us does not mean it will necessarily work for you. The above represents my own opinions and should not be construed as individualized financial advice for your specific situation. I highly encourage you meet with one of our financial advisors to discuss what makes sense for your situation.

Thanks for reading!


Matt Corthell, President and CEO

Wooster Corthell Wealth Management, Inc.