How To Track Shared Expenses Without Sharing Accounts

How people are using a spreadsheet to manage shared expenses with Tiller Money. The Tiller service is built on Google Sheets, which is inherently collaborative.  

Every couple deals with money in their own unique way

Early in our marriage, we decided to share everything. For several years that meant I was the sole income earner and Shannon was largely focused on raising our young boys. But I never had more claim to our money because I earned it.

It was our money, and it was our decision together where to spend, where to give to charities, and what to save.

Now Shannon is working again and makes more. The same guiding principles are true. It’s still our money just as it’s our house and our kids. For us, we found it simpler if the origin of a given dollar didn’t shape how we spend it.

Some couples prefer not to mingle accounts

I was recently talking with a couple that handles their money very differently than we do in our home. For the purpose of this blog let’s call them Jack and Diane.

In their case, each person works, keeps separate accounts, and divvies up the big expenses. He pays for the mortgage. She pays for the groceries and child care. It roughly works out, but they’re both in the dark about each other’s money.

Then one day she mentioned she was waiting to fill the car with gas until she had more money, and he realized she really didn’t have much of a reserve. So he suggested she try budgeting, which she is doing with success, but they are still very independent with their money.

How track shared expenses without sharing accounts

5 Tips for Collaborating on a Budget in Google Sheets

We’ve thought a lot about this at Tiller because the workflow this couple embraces (separate accounts with some shared expenses) is both common but hard to pull off with most tools.

The flexibility of Tiller and spreadsheets, however, makes this much easier. Today there are many ways couples are using Tiller to track their individual expenses versus their shared expenses.

One way couples can do this is to create a single spreadsheet with all of their spending.

Tools like Mint are frustrating because they come prepackaged with over 100 categories and it’s impossible to delete those categories. But a spreadsheet allows you to set your own categories, nothing more, nothing less.

For example, a couple could have a shared sheet with six category groups:

  • Jack Income
  • Diane Income
  • Jack Expenses
  • Diane Expenses
  • Jack Shared Expenses
  • Diane Shared Expenses

Whether you automate it with daily data feeds and prebuilt templates from Tiller, or build your own and manually add the data to your spreadsheet, the results are the same. Both partners see everything. When they talk about money periodically, they can focus on the shared expenses.

  • Are we making the right shared expenses?
  • Is the balance right between the two of us?

The spreadsheet also keeps both aware of the larger money trends, and over time they may decide they want to further consolidate their accounts (or go the opposite way). But this is a shared sheet. Both couples can see it anytime, on any device. It grounds all the conversations. It creates transparency. It facilitates communication. And it supports separate accounts.

Who are Jack and Diane?

Jack and Diane are representative of many couples out there today who are living life, having fun, and doing the best they can. They aren’t too concerned with their finances and maybe it’s because they use a spreadsheet to keep track of their shared expenses.

In either case we built this sample spreadsheet to help you visualize how you might use Tiller (or any Google Sheet) to track and manage your shared expenses.

You can see they both have a couple income sources. They also both have their own discretionary and living expenses they pay for with their income. And then there are the shared expenses that come from their shared household and kids.

You can see that they have plenty of cash flow ($4,734 in the black) and have only spent 32% of their monthly budget.

shared monthly budget spreadsheet

Because they can customize their spreadsheet to reflect the way they want to track their money, Jack and Diane went a bit further than the standard budget view.

They wanted to see the patterns over time, so Diane added a Monthly Analysis sheet to visualize month-over-month shared expenses and see if they’re generally on track.

shared expenses chart

Jack and Diane’s Spreadsheet to Manage Shared Expenses

Tiller Money feeds this spreadsheet with new transaction and balance data every day. Diane shared the spreadsheet she created from her Tiller Console with Jack’s Gmail account so they can both go in and categorize transactions.

With each edit, a revision is added to the version history. Over time there will be a full version history that shows what Tiller, Jack, and Diane have each done to the sheet.

Jack and Diane can do it their own way, but share one automated Google Sheet that’s powered by Tiller, and they keep their accounts separate.

Click here to learn how to set up Tiller for managing shared expenses.

This post was inspired by a question featured on Lifehacker, “How Two-Income Couples Should Manage Their Cashflow

Peter Polson

Peter Polson

Peter loves designing great products and creating tools and systems that help people live better lives. He was a founder and president of Junxion (acquired by Sierra Wireless) and later CEO at Dashwire (acquired by HTC). He enjoys most activities around mountains and water, especially skiing and hiking with his family.

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