A strong indicator of a happy relationship is when both partners talk about money and feel aligned around shared resources, expenses, and long-term financial goals.
However, even otherwise happy relationships occasionally experience financial tensions. A 2021 AICPA survey of married or cohabitating adults found 69% have disagreed over financial decisions in the last year, with 26% stating that happens at least once a month.
The survey notes “most of the rifts came down to needs vs. wants, spending priorities, making purchases without discussing them with a partner first, and paying off debt.”
(An earlier survey found 82% of “happy couples” work to quickly resolve their differences.)
It’s easy to understand why couples experience financial friction
Even people raised in the same communities, with the same backgrounds and cultural references can have wildly different values, expectations, and ideas around money.
In theory, many money issues can be solved by a simple conversation. But in practice, many people simply loathe talking about money. This despite knowing how important it is for the health of their finances and relationships.
Also, expectations around managing shared finances have changed greatly over the past few decades.
This is especially true today, with many types of living arrangements, family structures, and financial situations. Some couples pool everything. Others prefer to keep their finances separate. Many are in between.
Traditionally, one person has taken charge of budgeting and finances, but a Time Magazine survey found a joint approach is typically better:
“…when it comes to money, a joint approach typically trumps managing solo. Besides the fairness factor (income power shouldn’t automatically confer decision-making power), there’s a practical reason: Men and women, it’s been well documented, often have different but complementary financial skills that work better together than separately.”Time.com/money
Of course, regardless of the makeup of your financial relationship, it’s always better if both parties have clarity about their finances.
Read: Here are 36 fun questions to spark a conversation about money with your partner.
Collaborative budgeting is easier with a tool that keeps you both in sync
When it comes to tracking money, couples have more complicated needs than individuals. Just as every person has their own way of thinking about their finances, so does every couple.
But overall, managing shared finances isn’t that different from tracking personal finances – provided you’re aligned on what you want expenses you want to track together vs what you want to keep separate.
These might include:
- rent or mortgage payment
- shared subscription payments
- bills, credit card payments, loan installments
- funding a household emergency account
- shared household budget
- savings accounts for big goals like a vacation, home downpayment, college fund
- debt payoff goals including credit cards and student loans
- retirement contributions and goals
- combined net worth, including savings, investments, and real estate
What budgeting tools are available for couples?
Many personal finance tools such as YNAB allow for multiple account access. Both couples can log in to review recent activities.
For a dedicated smartphone app, Honeydue is the most popular. Top features include bill tracking and a new shared cash bank account. (This might be a good replacement for couples who used to share accounts with Simple bank.)
However (perhaps unsurprisingly) at Tiller we think the most flexible, powerful budgeting app for couples isn’t an app – it’s a modern cloud-based spreadsheet like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
Google Sheets is the most flexible and collaborative budgeting tool for couples
Only spreadsheets are flexible enough to track the many ways modern couples want to manage their money together and/or separately.
Because spreadsheets are incredibly customizable, you can easily track your joint and separate finances in a way that’s exactly right for you as a couple.
But wait – aren’t spreadsheets for numbers nerds?
Yes! But they’re not just for numbers nerds. Spreadsheets are an incredibly popular and effective personal finance tool.
Indeed, in the US, spreadsheets are the most popular and trusted digital tool for tracking finances. Additionally, when it comes to couples, a 2019 poll found the happiest couples budgeted together with a spreadsheet.
The majority of respondents said they were very satisfied with spreadsheets as a tracking tool.
89% of people say they feel more in control of their money when tracked with a spreadsheet vs other apps and tools. – Inc Magazine
How to get your finances into Google Sheets?
There are a couple of ways to get your bank and credit card transactions into your spreadsheets.
Automated workflow: Tiller is designed to make managing money in a spreadsheet painless. Each day Tiller automatically updates your spreadsheets with your latest spending, account balances, and other transactions. No more data entry, CSV files, or logging into multiple accounts.
- With Tiller, your shared finances are always ready to review in your shared spreadsheets.
- One Tiller subscription can import data from all your accounts
- Link up to five different spreadsheets with a single Tiller subscription.
- You always have complete control of the accounts you choose to link and update
- Tiller works with joint and individual accounts.
Manual workflow: Log into your bank website. Then you can either cut and paste your transactions into your spreadsheet, or export a CSV file that you can then either import directly into your sheets or again cut and paste data.
- Read: Getting your financial data into your spreadsheets
Why Google Sheets is the Best Tool for Collaborating on Shared Finances
- Easy sharing
- Real-time collaboration
- Accessible anywhere for both of you at the same time
- Version control and built-in backups
- Business-grade security and strict privacy
- Flexible, easy expense tracking
- Track shared expenses without sharing bank logins or account access
- Use any budgeting approach
- Track shared savings accounts and goals
- Payoff debt as a team
Google Sheets supports many options for sharing your spreadsheets. The easiest way is simply to invite them via email.
You can also easily restrict how people access, view, and interact with your Google spreadsheet. Click here for a complete overview of sharing Google Sheets.
Modern spreadsheets aren’t just easy to share, they support live, real-time collaboration. You can chat and share your screen. You can also collaborate asynchronously by assigning tasks, sending emails, and leaving comments directly in the spreadsheet.
Accessible anywhere for both of you at the same time
Multiple people can edit Google Sheets online and save changes from multiple devices at the same time.
For example, if you’re in the office and your partner is at home, you can both access the same spreadsheet to see if a payment has cleared, or what’s safe to spend.
By using a spreadsheet system that’s accessible via the cloud, you can budget, save, and invest. Together.
Version control and built-in backups
Google Sheets has robust features for seeing who made changes to a file. You can:
- See all changes to a file or revert to a previous version.
- See what’s changed since you last opened a file
- See who’s viewed your file or who you’ve shared it with
- See who commented, edited, moved, or shared a file
Business-grade security and strict privacy
With Google Sheets, you’re always in control of sharing and permissions. Your spreadsheets are private unless you explicitly choose to share them. Millions of people and businesses trust Google Docs with their most sensitive financial data.
Flexible, easy expense tracking
Spreadsheets are the ultimate tool for tracking expenses – including any scenario of shared finances.
For example, let’s say you have separate finances and plan on splitting the entertainment budget 50/50. Intentions are great, but tracking is better. You can create custom tags in your spreadsheet and add tags to your debits and credits.
This allows you to easily see how much each partner contributed to those concert tickets or meals out throughout the month, and discuss any necessary adjustments to the budget as needed.
Read: Stay on top of your shared bills with this free Bill Payment Tracker spreadsheet.
Track shared expenses without sharing bank logins or account access
Maybe you’re reading this thinking, “I don’t want my partner having any idea how much I spent on meals out for the month. I mean, we live together and split the rent, but I don’t want them seeing my bank statements.”
While combining finances with a partner can lead to a happier relationship, young couples increasingly prefer to keep things separate.
Spreadsheets are also ideal for couples with multiple accounts, including some to track together and some to track solo.
In these instances, spreadsheets yet again provide a powerful solution. With Tiller, you set the permissions for each one of your accounts, picking and choosing who can see what information.
Use any budgeting approach
It’s a great idea to make a budget together, even if you don’t intend to refer to it often. A budget is the best way to know what you can safely spend, save, invest, and how fast you can pay off debt.
With a spreadsheet, you can choose any budgeting system. And you don’t need to know complex formulae to budget with a spreadsheet as a couple. You can get started with a free template or one automated by Tiller.
Many couples prefer envelope budgeting, where you allocate funds in advance to all your budget categories. If you already use Tiller, you have access to one of the best digital envelope budgeting apps available. Simply add the free Envelope Savings Budget template to your Foundation Template.
When you’re on the same page with your finances, you’re more likely to reach your goals as a couple. And once you’ve created a shared budget, you can focus on other goals like building a solid emergency fund, paying off debt, and investing for your future.
Track shared savings accounts and goals
A spreadsheet isn’t just the best budget app for couples; it can also help couples get a view of their finances from a higher vantage point, looking out over the long term.
This includes saving together for a big expense like a home purchase, car, or even your retirement or a child’s college fund.
Payoff debt as a team
Just as every couple wants to track expenses in their own way, every couple takes a unique approach to dealing with debt.
Some couples pool their individual debt and choose to pay it off together. This is most common for a mortgage or shared credit card, but may also a car loan or even student loans.
There are many debt snowball spreadsheets that can help you organize your shared debt and strategize the best way to pay it off.
You can also use the Debt Payoff Planner from Tiller Community Solutions.