“You bought what? And it cost how much?”

Be honest: Have you ever been called out by your spouse for spending too much? Or maybe you’ve been the one to bristle at a fresh batch of shopping bags brought home by your better half?

Bankrate’s latest financial infidelity survey revealed that 30 percent of U.S. adults who are married or living with a romantic partner have spent more than their spouse/partner would be okay with. That makes secret spending the most common form of financial infidelity, a broader category that also includes secret debt (23 percent), secret savings accounts (19 percent), secret credit cards (18 percent) and secret checking accounts (17 percent).

The most common explanation among those who have committed financial infidelity is “privacy/a desire to control my own finances.” But even this well-intentioned explanation can drive a wedge into relationships, making it important to find a way to maintain some financial independence, while also working toward shared financial goals. The “yours, mine and ours” approach could be the answer.

How “yours, mine and ours” works

The concept is pretty simple: “Yours, mine and ours” budgets are made up of a mix of joint and separate financial accounts. Each member of the couple gets an agreed-upon amount of money that they can spend as they wish, while the rest of the funds — usually the majority — are combined into one account to pay joint household expenses.

The key is to agree upon the specific parameters ahead of time. For instance, you might designate a certain sum, such as $100 per pay period, for individual spending outside of your shared account. Or maybe it’s a percentage. Whatever you decide, it’s crucial to be on the same page. When one person squirrels money away without the other’s knowledge, that’s financial infidelity.

Agreeing that you each have some money that’s yours and yours alone can be a healthy way to foster independence and nip financial squabbles in the bud. You no longer have your spouse or partner looking over your shoulder and questioning how much you spent on nights out with friends, video games, new shoes … you get the idea.

How different generations view money and relationships

Our survey found that “yours, mine and ours” is the most common arrangement among Gen Xers (ages 44 to 59) and millennials (ages 28 to 43) who are married or living with a romantic partner, at 40 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

In comparison, 36 percent of Gen Xers and 33 percent of millennials completely combine their finances with their spouse or partner, while 24 percent and 32 percent, respectively, keep their finances completely separate. So although financial arrangements are a pretty mixed bag, the “yours, mine and ours” approach leads the way.

Baby boomers (ages 60 to 78) are the most likely generation to fully combine their finances with their spouse or partner (44 percent). A mix of joint and separate accounts is close behind (40 percent), with only 16 percent opting for the completely separate approach.

Gen Zers (ages 18 to 27), by contrast, are the most likely to keep their money completely separate from their spouse or partner (38 percent). Some 34 percent of Gen Zers in live-in romantic relationships fully combine their finances, while 28 percent have a mix of joint and separate accounts.

Adding all of the generations together, 39 percent of U.S. adults who are married or living with a partner completely combine their finances, 38 percent have a mix of joint and separate accounts and 24 percent keep their finances entirely separate.

Does how much you make affect how you manage your money?

Slicing by income, “yours, mine and ours” is the most common approach for couples in all but the lowest income bracket (those earning less than $50,000 per year). Among that group, “yours, mine and ours” is a distant third, but in every other income range ($50,000 to $79,999, $80,000 to $99,999 and $100,000+), “yours, mine and ours” came in slightly ahead of fully joint accounts, with complete financial separation a distant third.

The bottom line

While every couple should make its own decisions, I think there’s a lot to like about the “yours, mine and ours” approach. Money is one of the biggest sources of conflict in relationships, and carving out some funds that are entirely yours can give you a greater sense of autonomy and limit resentment.

Whatever you decide, make sure you and your partner agree upon the framework. Aim to schedule occasional money dates to check in on your progress toward short- and long-term financial goals.

Methodology

Bankrate commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,233 U.S. adults, of whom 1,124 were married or living with a partner at the time of the survey. The fieldwork was undertaken December 18-20, 2023. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. The figures have been weighted to be representative of the entire U.S adult population 18 years and older.

Have a question about credit cards? Email me at ted.rossman@bankrate.com and I’d be happy to help.