Although we tend to think of living with our significant others as completely different from living with a non-romantic roommate, there are many areas where both experiences are very alike. First of all, there will be times when you and your live-in boyfriend/girlfriend have arguments and disagreements. Oh, and you’ll definitely discover some of his/her habits that make you want to rip your hair out. (I quickly learned that my boyfriend and I had very different ideas about where wet towels should go — ehem, not the floor — and what it means to “clean” something.) And, of course, keeping your finances separate and splitting the bills is still as important as it is when living with a regular ole roomie, regardless of how long you’ve been dating (trust me). Today, I’m tackling this last one and sharing some of my best (and hardest learned) tips for splitting finances when you live with your significant other… so stick around and you just might save yourself from a few fights and some no-so-sweet moments with your sweetie.
Rule 1: Split All The Apartment Bills 50/50 (Or By Percentages That Work For You Both)
Normally, the guideline is to split the apartment rent and bills with your significant other 50/50. But, when you and your boyfriend/girlfriend have vastly different incomes and financial situations, 50/50 may not always be the best option for your both. My advice to sit down with your partner before moving in together to talk about where you’re both at financially, how much you make, what you can each afford to pay every month, etc. Then, decide together what kind of split works for you both in the current situation. If you make twice as much as your significant other and you’re okay paying more, then perhaps a 60/40 split is better for the two of you. If he/she makes slightly more and has less debt than you, then perhaps a 45/55 split works best for you guys. Whatever percentages you decide on, stick to them until your situations change e.g., job loss, car breakdown, illness, etc. and it’ll make your lives so much easier.
Rule 2: Take Turns Paying for Dates/Weekend Fun
Because the costs of dates and fun things to do together aren’t set in stone, it can be a lot harder to figure out a plan for how you’ll share the burden financially. So, to make things easy, my boyfriend and I just simply take turns paying for our dates and the fun things we end up going to together. If he gets dinner one weekend, I’ll grab it the next. If he pays for expensive concert tickets one month, I pay for the next expensive thing that comes along. You don’t have to keep a running tab of every dollar spent or worry about how the dinner you paid for cost more than the one he purchased (it usually all evens out over time anyway). Offering to take turns will show your partner that you aren’t taking advantage and will help you both build a partnership that’s focused on teamwork.
But, it’s important that neither partner pushes the other to do or purchase things they cannot afford. You may want to go on a cruise, but that doesn’t mean your significant other can afford a luxury like that. To avoid conflict, set a budget together (including how much you’ll spend eating out, on dates, fun, etc.) and have open conversations about money before you decide to do something together. This will make sure that you aren’t pushing your boyfriend/girlfriend into debt and it’ll ensure that you both get a say about what’s worth spending money on/saving for and what’s just not worth it/possible this month.
Rule 3: Don’t Ask To Borrow Money (Except In Emergency Situations)
Don’t misunderstand me here. Sure, if you need $20 in cash to pay the pizza guy, it’s totally okay to ask your live-in boyfriend/girlfriend to spot you until you can get to the ATM. And, yes, it’s not taboo to ask your significant other for a loan when you’re facing an emergency situation. My point is simply that you shouldn’t make borrowing money for your significant other a habit — only ask when you know you can and will return their money or when circumstances out of your control arise.
If you do ask to borrow money for your boyfriend/girlfriend, it’s also important to not get mad or upset if they tell you no. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t trust you or don’t care about you — often, it’s because they can’t. When a “I need to borrow money” situation does come up, sit down and talk it out and figure out a plan together that makes you both comfortable and you’re relationship will be much better off in the long run.
Rule 4: Have Regular Money Check-Ins
When you’re living with someone, it’s really important to have regular money check-ins. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to talk about money and it can be awkward to admit that you aren’t the best with managing your money (I know), but it’s essential that you keep your partner informed about what’s going on with you financially. Knowing where you’re both at in terms of financials will help you work together to plan for any surprise expenses and know when/where you need to work on budgeting better as a couple. The last thing your significant others wants is to be surprised that you can’t pay your portion of the bills this month, especially when they’re not prepared/able to cover for you.
Rule 5: Save For Unforeseeable Life Changes (Both Of You)
Saving for a rainy day (or a disaster) is never a bad idea, but when you’re sharing an apartment — and your life — with someone it’s important that you save for your future together. Doing so will make sure that you don’t put any extra burden on your significant other should a life crisis or change reduce your ability to pay your portion of the rent/bills and it will help you learn to work together to save for things you want together in the years to come, whether it be a fun trip around the globe, a wedding, a house, or even kids.
Readers living with a significant other: what tips have worked best for you? Share in the comment section below!