Living Together Means Splitting Everything
However we may like to think about it, living with a Significant Other is different from living with a roommate. Oftentimes, roommates are brought together by common denominators, such as being students or working jobs with salaries that prevent them from living alone. With a partner, though, we have (or think we have) more say over how things around the house should go—it is not “your room” and “my room,” “your space” and “my space,” everything is “ours.”
Ours. Our couch, our room, our swelling door frames, our sink full of dirty dishes, and our bills. Where with roommates rent and bills are often split evenly, things become more complicated in those “our” scenarios.
Maybe one of you has a higher paying job. Maybe someone stays home with kids while the other works. There are a number of factors that make sharing expenses with a Significant Other much harder than sharing them with a roommate.
Tricky Does Not Mean Disastrous
So while it is true that it is tricky, do not let it be disastrous! Talk with your loved one and come to an arrangement that you both support, then decide not to let finances come between you. Here are five options:
1. Take turns paying for things as they come up. I think this may be one of the more popular methods simply because nobody wants to have the tough “money talk.” But I also think this is the method that leads to the most issues. In this way, every time you get a bill, one of you randomly offers to pay for it, the idea being that you are both chipping in without obligation, because you want to give your life together a chance. Peachy keen. The problem is, it is all too easy for one party to feel that they are paying for more than their share and start feeling resentful, which is the last thing any relationship needs
2. Take turns paying for things. Perhaps the next logical step up from the “grab bag” approach is to take turns bearing the financial burden. This month, you pay rent and bills and let your SO cover groceries and miscellaneous things. Next month, switch roles. This method can be difficult if one or both of you does not make enough to cover an entire month’s worth of expenses. It can be especially difficult if one of you can and the other is barely making it. Be sure the one who is paying the bills for the month is actually able to do so, lest you end up begging from each other.
3. Split the bills 50/50. This is the easiest option on paper. Both of you pay half of everything and just be done with the mess. What this method does not take into account is the income variation that may well exist between the two of you—just be sure you are both able to bear your half. Remember that fair does not always mean equal. Just as taking turns with the bills does, the 50/50 split will affect more heavily whomever makes less money. So if there is significant variation in your incomes…
4. Income-based bill pay is your friend. If you make $4000 a month and your SO makes $2000, maybe you opt to pay for rent and the more expensive bills and he or she can pick up two or three of the lesser ones. Again, be sure no one feels taken advantage of. Furthermore, if one of you takes incredibly long showers and drives the water bill up, perhaps they should be the one covering the water bill.
5. Consider having a joint bank account. This can get ugly if the relationship ends, but let us try to think positively. It is not necessary that you pool ALL your earned income together, but maybe you both contribute the same portion of your paycheck to an account each month from which bills are automatically withdrawn. You both pay for half of your life together, but you may not both pay equally for the same things.
In The End…
There are a dozen different ways to organize a bill paying system. The important thing to remember is that bills are a necessary evil, something you can combat together. Saving toward joint goals is more motivating than bickering about who should pick up the grocery tab, so try to have a supportive, team-oriented attitude. Also keep in mind that you both have your own expenses—student loans or other debt, phone bills, car payments, insurance—which have to also be accounted for.
You can choose to pay for everything together, as with a joint account, to pay for only bills which you share and pay for your own expenses separately, or to pay for things based on income. Choose what makes you both most comfortable. Wouldn’t you rather argue about where to go to dinner than who’s going to pay for it?
Katelyn Roth is a student the Pittsburgh State University where she is pursuing a Masters in Poetry. She also teaches freshman composition and has served on the staff of the campus literary magazine for several years. Katelyn resides in Pittsburg with her boyfriend and their husky mix, Inara. Check out her most recent post, “10 Crazy Easy Way To Wellness,” and Subscribe to receive updates of her articles and that of the other Contributors.
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