Back to the Numbers: Finances and Budgeting for Polyam Folks

After a long break, I am finally ready to start writing new posts again. So moving forward, Sundays will be a new post each week while Thursdays will continue with the updates and revisions of old posts. Michon Neal will continue posting hir thoughts and writings on Tuesdays.

For new posts, I’m going back to an unfinished blog series—Finances and Budgeting.

Something I didn’t address when I started this series is that finance and budgeting needs vary depending on how much money you have. The choice to be financially entwined or not looks different for people with lots of disposable income vs people who can barely afford rent.

I’ve been on both sides of this. I grew up in a family with LOTS of disposable income. The McMansions of the 90s and 00s could have been modeled off the home my parents had custom built. And for nearly 10 years I’ve been keeping my family afloat on less than $10,000 a year. We’ve been homeless, lived without heat, and had our electric shut off more times than I can count.

Financial Advice is Not One-Size-Fits-All

The vast majority of that time, the financial advice I’ve seen was written for people who have more money than they need to survive. Budgeting is a wonderful tool when you have enough money and need to figure out how to stretch it. It is not so useful when you have more bills than income, and your only bills are rent and utilities.

So that is where I am coming from writing this series. Some posts and suggestions will be geared towards people who have disposable income. Others are more for folks who are scraping for rent. Sometimes I will talk about financial entwinement as a choice people make. Sometimes I will talk about it as a survival necessity. Because it can be both, depending on your situation and the situation of your partners.

This post is part of the Polyamory Finances blog series.

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Guest Post: How Separate Bank Accounts Helped Make Our Open Marriage Work

When my wife Jane and I got married, two years after we met, we chose to combine all of our money together. This worked for us because we were (relatively) young, we had no previous marriages or kids or significant assets, and we knew we wanted to entwine our lives in a way that would emphasize joint-decision making about the big questions in life. And almost all big questions ultimately involve financial decisions at some point.

Over time, we realized that we each wanted more financial freedom. Our one-account-fits-all plan required us to authorize every purchase with the other person. We were never quite sure when it was “OK” to spend money on ourselves – and how much money was OK to spend. Neither of us wanted to police the other’s expenditures. At the same time, we were just starting a family and had recently moved into a new house, and we were operating on a tight budget. We knew that joint decision making around money would be essential to making sure our lives worked.

Our solution was to create separate small bank accounts for each of us, into which a fixed allowance was directly deposited each month. These were our non-accountability accounts. They allowed us to spend money on whatever we wished, no matter how impetuous or frivolous, without having to answer to the other person. I used mine to buy a weekend trip with friends; Jane used hers to join a martial arts gym.

We settled on a monthly transfer that equaled about 5% of our take-home pay for each of us – enough to have a little fun, but not so much as to jeopardize our family’s finances. Our accounts provided a concrete figure about what was reasonable to spend personally. Dipping into the main account was forbidden; that was for family business. We could spend everything we had in our own accounts, but if they ran out of money, there would be no more nights out with friends or Vegas benders until we saved up.

What Happened When We Opened Our Marriage

Seven years into our marriage, we opened our relationship and began seeing other people. Our financial system hadn’t been designed with polyamory in mind, but it fit perfectly into our new adventure. I was the first to draw on my account, using it to splurge on a fancy hotel room with a new lover. Jane used hers to take a boyfriend out to dinner. All the while, our financial life together remained well protected even as we made small splurges on other partners.

Our system had another benefit: it meant that the gifts we gave to each other were more meaningful, because they were coming from us personally rather than from an abstract family bank account. When I took Jane out on a date, I was drawing from a limited supply of money I could have chosen to spend on something else.

We still use our financial system, and it’s an important part of the foundation for our open marriage. Even though we designed it while we were still monogamous, it incorporated the same values that drew us to polyamory. It provided a shared understanding with clear rules, but also gave us each freedom to create our own “space” within our shared life together. And to us, that’s what poly is all about.

About Zev Stone

Zev StoneZev Stone is a writer and researcher and the founder of His writing has been read aloud on NPR’s “This I Believe” and published in the Denver Post and other academic and popular publications. He loves hiking, running, uncomfortable travel experiences, and raising his two adorable daughters with his wife, Jane. He holds a Ph.D. in social science research methods from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

This guest post is part of the Polyamory Finances blog series.

Polyamory Finances Blog Series

This blog series will be mostly for poly folk living in entwined couples and entwined groups. Most solo and single poly folk will generally find their finances no different from any other single person. For the RAs, whether or not this blog series will be helpful will depend on your specific relationships and whether or not you are financially entwined with anyone.

Topics will include: multi-partner budgeting, budgeting for dates, emergency funds, house spouse salaries, retirement planning, and more.

Polyamory Finances Posts

  1. Financial Entwinement
  2. Polyamory: Who Pays for Dates?
  3. Budgeting for Dates
  4. Polyamory Budgeting
  5. Guest Post: How Separate Bank Accounts Helped Make Our Open Marriage Work
  6. Budgeting with a House Spouse
  7. Two Things a Poly Group Home Needs to Save For

Polyamory: Laws impacting our finances

Usual disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, everything here is for information purposes only. Consult a legal professional for legal advice.

Financial law is one of the most complex areas of legal systems. In addition to varying widely from one jurisdiction to another, financial law is also a wide-ranging area that affects just about every part of society. Which is another way of saying “I can only touch on the highlights. Here there be monsters.”

Tax Law

Taxes can be applied to all kinds of things. So can tax breaks. Depending on how the tax codes are written in your area, married folk may get tax breaks unavailable to single people, or single people may get tax breaks unavailable to married people, or both depending on the situation. No matter how the tax breaks fall, “married people” in much of the world applies only to couples, and in most of the rest of the world, only to couples or one man, several women. Both definitions exclude poly folk. The impact marriage has on finances extends to…

Inheritance Law

In many parts of the world, a spouse is assumed to inherit unless a will establishes other wise. A spouse may also have an advantage in challenging a will.

Property Law

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but in the US there are times and places where one person can own something or two people can own something but three people can’t. A car for instance can be registered as belonging to two people, but not to three or four people. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for a polycule to jointly own something. And no matter how in love you are or how committed you are, for many people it’s hard to completely erase the awareness that your partners OWN the home, but you just live there.

Some jurisdictions have a fun twist on property law where it is assumed that what is owned by one person is automatically jointly owed by their legal spouse. This means that is A is married to B, but A and C jointly own a car, if B leaves B can claim the car as being just as much their property and demand either the car or compensation in the divorce settlement. While I don’t know of this happening, I can easily see joint property laws also have an impact on inheritance law.

Corporate Law

Some polycules have gotten around the various headaches financial laws cause by forming corporations. A corporation can own property, manage money, etc. A corporation cannot be married and is thus not subject to joint property laws (though individual owners of a corporation may be).

Corporate law is a whole ‘nother headache partly within and partly separate from financial law. But it can be a very useful tool in getting around some of the problems financial laws cause poly folk. Just be prepared to talk with lawyers and make sure all your “i”s are dotted and “t”s are crossed.


Again, this is just a brief skim of some of the ways financial laws impact polyamory. Do what you can to learn about the way financial laws work in your part of the world, and if in doubt talk with a lawyer!