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Utilizing a Secondary Checking to Protect the Main Checking Account

My experience as a female personal finance blogger is that 90% of bloggers in the personal finance realm are men.  With that said, it’s interesting to note that my experience in the real world is quite the opposite.  It seems that in my real life world, men are not so brilliant when it comes to personal finance.

Perhaps the reality is that I attract women into my space that are the money handlers.  And it seems unusual in a marriage or partnership that both of the pair are financially savvy, just as it seems unusual for both to be completely clueless. Instead it seems more common for one partner to be good at money, and the other one sucks.

In the Accountability household, let’s just say I’m more experienced with handling money, while Mr. A is less experienced.

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This would make sense as during the years we have been together, I have always handled the money. It was easier that way and Mr. A has been fine with that. For many years, he didn’t even have a debit card on our checking account.

When he lived alone, he dealt with cash and when the cash was gone, he was broke.

To this day he has a habit of spending money until it’s gone.  This is fine when there is a set amount of cash, but not when you are spending money in a checking account which holds the money for upcoming bills.

As you know, we are trying to get out of debt. Unfortunately I often feel as if I am the only one interested in breaking free from debt because I get the impression that my husband doesn’t really care too much about it one way or the other.

I am not perfect by any means.   I sometimes procrastinate on paying the bills.  Because Mr. A has had a debit card on our main checking account, some of the bill money gets spent.  This causes a great deal of stress on me because then I have no other option but to pay bills using a credit card, thus incurring more debt.

I have a confession to make.  I am carrying a balance on my American Express card.  For a long time I was paying it off each month in full.  But then things went upside down for awhile.  There was the problem with Mr. A spending money earmarked for bills or gasoline for my vehicle. I have had to resort to using the American Express card.  I can’t just stay home.  I have to show up.  This happened a number of times.  When AJ moved out I put his $422 bed on the AMEX.  He reimbursed us, but a day or two after he did so, the tires on our only working truck had to be replaced.  They are 6 year old tires and the vehicle was sitting for two years so the tires were dry rotted.  And I was driving that vehicle 100 miles a day!   Two tires costing an insane $432, which meant I was unable to pay back American Express.

In addition, we have managed to overdraw our account several times in the last few months.  On some of those overdrafts I was able to move money from my sinking accounts savings into the checking account to avoid a transfer fee of $12.50 but several times we got dinged.

This is making me look bad. I’m a personal finance blogger but I can’t stop my checking account from being overdrawn?

Mr. A and I have been talking about this, on and off.   Mr. A has confessed on more than one occasion that he has a bad habit of not listening to people when they are talking to him, and apparently when we talk about money – or rather I’m sure it comes across to him – when I am lecturing him about money, he goes into his happy place in his head.  Because before I know it, he’s overspent from our checking account again.  That he regularly pulls all nighters has a direct impact, I am sure, since he’s not thinking clearly when he’s exhausted.  All he knows is the discounted *pretty* *shiny* wants to come home with him and he buys it.  ;-D

Mr. A has asked me in frustration, why does the debit card allow him to keep on buying when there is no money left in the account?  I explain to him that I have overdraft in place. That is to protect us so that our bills get paid in case there is no money in the account.  I like that protection.  Let’s not even get started on the fact that the money in the account is not there to be spent to the last penny!

And so it happened that I was talking on the phone to a young woman where I bank. I had a few questions, and one was why we get charged $12.50 sometimes for a transfer fee, but other times we do not.  We were talking about the option of removing overdraft protection. We were also discussing the fraudulent charge from of $19.95 which nearly caused our account to overdraft. It was at this time that, let’s call her Sandy, began to talk to me about a secondary checking account to protect my main account.

Sandy explained I was leaving myself open to fraud to use my main debit card to make purchases online.  She suggested I move only the amount I was planning to purchase online into that account and she suggested this would help me avoid those overdraft fees.

That’s when I had to set her straight.  “It’s not me, Sandy!” I yelped.  “It’s my husband!  He’s the one making me look bad. Me, a personal finance blogger who can’t keep my checking account from overdrafting!”

Sandy took a deep breath and started in on me again. This time she listed more reasons, more finely detailed to our particular situation.  I asked questions, she had answers. For every excuse I could offer, she had a response. Finally I decided to give in and try it out.

But first I had to get Mr. A on board.  I knew he was frustrated that his debit card would allow him to keep spending when there was no more money.  This was one of the things Sandy said she would set up on his checking account – that there would be no overdraft options.  We had discussed using cash only, but we have to get gasoline so often that is it a major hassle to buy gas.  You can’t just fill up, you have to walk in and hand them the amount you anticipate putting into your tank, and then go back in to get your change.  Mr. A agreed to try this secondary account, and relinquished his debit card to the main account.  We agreed he would use this card for gasoline purchases only.  Every Thursday, I remove cash from our main checking account for groceries, and I move $100 into Mr. A’s gasoline account.  I have also set up an application on Mr. A’s phone so that he can check his balance in his checking account.

Mr. A also reports that when he puts in his debit card at the gas pump, it tells him how much money he has available to spend!  I was stunned to learn this, and thought he was imagining things.  But time and time again, he goes to get gasoline and the pump tells him how much he can spend.  I asked at the bank and they told me so long as he uses the card as debit, having to put his pin in, it will tell him the balance.

We’ve been trying this new method for about one month now.

So far it seems to be working out.  The number one benefit to me is that I’m no longer constantly worrying that the account has been overdrawn.  The money for the bills is sitting in the account waiting for me to pay those bills. That is a huge relief.

I asked Mr. A how he feels it is going. He said the money seems to go really fast, but he did acknowledge that is partly because he is using the money to buy things other than gasoline sometimes.

I hope things continue going along smoothly.  I feel slightly more in control now that money isn’t being siphoned from the account on a daily basis. It is a great feeling to check with my account and find the money that I expect to see there, available.

Do you share finances with a significant other?  Do you handle the money?   Would you be willing to try a secondary account?




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3 thoughts on “Utilizing a Secondary Checking to Protect the Main Checking Account

  1. This is the biggest thing that led to the demise of my first marriage. After 16 years of trying to raise two kids and have groceries on the table for them, trying to pay bills when the money had been spent and ultimately losing our house, it was more than I could take.

    Any conversation about money was viewed as a lecture and the word ‘budget’ to him meant ‘allowance’ and that I was trying to control him. Thankful that Mr. A is more receptive to change than my Ex.


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