Home > Budgeting and Saving Money > How to Budget With Multiple Bank Accounts

Comments 1 Comment
Advertiser Disclosure


If there’s anything to know about budgets, it’s that everyone does them differently. First, it’s important to have one — many Americans do not — and second, it’s crucial that it suits your needs.

Budgets differ from person to person because they reflect personalities, which are unique. Yes, differences in financial situations contribute to budget differences, but one budgeting method may not work for two people, even if they have similar incomes and expenses.

The other night, I was introduced to a new budgeting approach, and it made me want to explore the different ways people manage their money.

Credit.com will present a series of personal budgeting stories, starting with the one I heard recently: The Courtney Method.

Courtney Method Budget

Courtney’s budgeting spreadsheet

Who is Courtney?

Courtney is a twenty-something college graduate with a full-time job and a wedding to plan. Before merging finances with her fiance, Courtney used a budgeting system involving multiple accounts with the same bank. Her fiance, Nick, transitioned to the Courtney Method before they combined their money, and they now have eight accounts between them.

The Courtney Method

The eight bank accounts between Courtney and Nick are as follows: Courtney checking, Courtney savings, Nick checking, Nick savings, joint checking for bills, joint checking for spending, joint savings and joint checking for the mortgage.

They don’t have a debit card for the bills account so they don’t spend it on other things. The joint savings serves as a wedding fund for now, and they pay extra into their mortgage account to build up for emergency home expenses. They each have a debit card for the joint spending account for things they do together, and after the wedding, the joint savings will be for vacations and other life events.

“It was important for us to each maintain a personal checking and savings account,” she said. “I just didn’t feel right about taking money out of a joint account to get a pedicure. I also wanted the freedom to save for trips with my girlfriends or Christmas gifts for Nick.”

When she and Nick combined finances, they each brought three accounts to the table and have since started the wedding fund and bought a house. They split their paychecks across multiple accounts, and since all but the mortgage checking account are with one institution, they have automatic transfers set up to keep everything balanced.

Why She Does It

When she first took sole responsibility for her finances, Courtney tried keeping track of her budget mentally, but didn’t like calculating everything out of one checking account. That’s when she switched to two accounts, one for bills and one for spending — and found it was the best way for her to keep things organized.

She has never been late on a bill or overdrawn an account, and she said Nick’s credit score went up 70 points in the year he changed to her budgeting method.

Things to Note

That’s a lot to manage, and it takes an exceptionally organized person to stay on top of it. Personality aside, there are many financial factors to consider here.

It isn’t easy to get a free checking account these days, so if having multiple accounts opens you up to more expenses, it’s not a practical choice. Fees can be waived under some conditions, like keeping a minimum balance or having direct deposit, but it’s important to know the terms of every account you have.

When Courtney started figuring her budgets out, she just had a checking and a savings. She was penalized for making too many withdrawals from her savings account (there are restrictions on that sort of thing), and that prompted her to change to two checking and one savings account. She has since avoided fees, but this highlights the importance of knowing the rules of banking. It can be frustrating (and costly) to learn those things the hard way.

If you have an effective budgeting system you’d like to share, we’d love to hear it and maybe present your method on the blog. Tell us a bit about your strategy in the comments.

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • Rose

    The same thing could easily be achieved with sub-accounts at one bank. I have several savings accounts for different things like taxes, vacation, etc. The only downfall is that the interest in each account is low while it would be higher if they were combined into just one but interest is so low it is really not a factor

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team