Moving In Together? See How These 7 Couples Split Their Expenses

Thinking of taking the next step and moving in with your boo? It’s great that you’re loved up and committing and all that, but we’re here to talk about something way more important. And that’s the unromantic, pretty awkward yet totally necessary issue of what you’re going to do about money.

Let’s be real here – money can often be a factor in moving in together: halving your rent is a very attractive proposition in a housing bubble. Buying food for two usually ends up cheaper than buying food for one; heating a room that one person is in costs the same as heating that room with two people in it, so your electricity bills are consolidated as well.

But it can get messy if you don’t cover the basics prior to moving in. Maybe one of you earns more while the other’s studying, so who picks up the bills? If you have cash saved for a house deposit, how do you manage mortgage repayments? And what if your partner has fancy tastes, while you’re happy being more frugal? And for the love of all that is holy, what if you’re always the only one buying toilet paper?

We spoke to seven cohabiting couples in their 20s and early 30s to find out how they manage their finances, together.

#1 The proportional split

When Sam (29) and Lana (26) moved in together, Lana was still studying, while Sam was in a well-paid job. They decided it wouldn’t be fair for Lana to take on a 50% split, so they figured out a more equitable way of dividing outgoings, but they make sure they talk about it continually. “Every time one of us has a change in our financial situation, we re-work out the split,” says Sam.

They believe that if one partner earns more than the other, you shouldn’t be too proud to ask for bills to be split in a way that isn’t unfairly disadvantaging you. It’s a hard conversation but it avoids resentment. And resentment will test any relationship to its limit.

Similarly, Nancy (30) and David (27) realised that Nancy – currently training as a teacher – is unlikely to match David’s income as a solicitor, so they allocate their contributions accordingly. They think communication is key, and you need to talk about everything. “There’s no use staying quiet and living beyond your means to please your partner, this just leads to stress and tension down the line,” explains Nancy. Seems reasonable.

#2 50/50 to the letter

Angela, a doctor, and Richard, a lawyer (28), are high school sweethearts who have been living together for five years (although they started dating nine years before that). They’re super structured with their spending: “I make a budget at the start of the year for all expenses. We each have ‘discretionary’ accounts that we pay for leisure stuff or clothes. We put a fixed amount into them at the start of each year. Anything we don’t spend goes into a savings account.”

Tanya and Tom (29), are both teachers and earn the same amount of money to the cent, so for them, splitting everything comes naturally. When they first moved in they were paying off both Tanya’s mortgage and Tom’s loan on international student fees, so things were tight. They also knew they’d get married at some point and made the decision to split everything evenly.

#3 We take it in turns and go by feeling

Jenny (32) and Alex (30) moved in together for the first time when they relocated to Berlin. They expected that Alex would find work easily, but as it turned out, Jenny got a job immediately, while Alex struggled for a few months to get regular work. Jenny took on the bulk of their living expenses, and then when Alex found work, he picked up the tab for a while. In other words, organically occurring teamwork: (5)

“Now, we tend to take it day by day instead of figuring it out ahead of time. If I think I’ve been letting him pay for too much I make a point of picking up a few bills and say that I’m doing it. Equally, if either of us feels we’ve been paying for the other one too much, we’ve got no problems saying, ‘OK, it’s your turn to pay now’.”

#4 A word on housework

One thing that people frequently don’t consider is the unpaid labour of housework. A few of our couples explained that, in times of underemployment, the partner with more time picked up more of the chores. However, many cited it as a cause of friction – more so than money issues. Tanya and Tom came up with a way of avoiding tension: “We used to argue about cleaning, so we got a cleaner and everything is fine now!”

Caitlin and Roman also give some sound advice around changing attitudes. They say to make sure the person you’re moving in with is going to take an interest. If you’re both working (or studying), it’s not fair for one of you to be essentially administrating the household budget whilst the other person just lives in it. Think of dealing with rent/bills/insurance/leases as part of the housework.

Communication sorts out expectation

Most of the couples we spoke to gradually found common ground regarding spending, but Jenny shared a cautionary tale from a previous relationship: “We used to have arguments about money all the time – I was hugely paranoid and used to make (and keep) incredibly strict budgets, particularly on holidays. I often didn’t share these mental budgets, so he’d be in the position of having a stressed, suddenly furious girlfriend exclaiming that there was no way he was allowed to buy a hot chocolate because it was €2 and we’d already spent too much money on food that day.”

Money is a deeply personal topic and many factors affect our beliefs around them, and when it comes to shacking up, holding your own beliefs without understanding your partner’s can cause major friction because beliefs beget actions.

To combat this, Angela and Richard recommend discussing everything before moving in together because you don’t want to be stuck in an awkward situation where you each have different expectations about money. It also pays to be organised, set realistic budgets and stick to them.

Tanya and Tom have some parting wisdom: “Make financial decisions before anyone moves in, especially if you own. Everyone has to look out for themselves financially even if the end decision is to merge funds.”

Vivienne is a travelling freelance writer/editor, feminist, Harry Potter nerd and co-founder of Taylor Hermione & Co, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes safe relationships, consent and gender issues to teenagers in Australia. Find her on Twitter @VivEgan41 and Instagram @vivalogue