So you are thinking about moving in. You’re in love and can’t spend enough time together, the relationship feels ready to go to the next level and since you are together every night anyway, why not save on the double rent? It makes perfect rational sense. What could possibly go wrong?
Hopefully nothing. But if something does go wrong, there is a 1 in 3 chance it will be about money, so here are some suggested finance conversations to have before you start looking for somewhere to live. These discussions can reduce the stress, resentment and confusion of having money expectations and needs that aren’t met.
What is your experience of money in relationships?
We all have a few stories of how money worked, or didn’t work, in our previous relationships. Perhaps one of you had a partner who never paid you back. Or an ex who made a lot more money and had extravagant tastes but expected a 50/50 split in expenses. Or maybe you ran a daily budget and settled with each other at the end of the month?
Talking about what worked and what didn’t around money in your previous relationships will help you understand each other’s money stories – and know what lessons you have learned and want to bring into this relationship. With this as a foundation you can dive into the details of living together with the next four conversations:
What do you consider a shared expense?
It’s likely that rent, utilities, internet and groceries will immediately go on this list. But the detail will reveal what each of you thinks falls under these categories. Groceries for instance. Does this include personal care items like moisturizer and hair products? Does it automatically include special food treats? Or would these be considered a personal expense?
This conversation sets up the principles for what is shared, and what is an individual expense. We can sometimes make huge assumptions about this and it’s better to get the confusion and disagreements out as soon as possible.
Where else do you spend your money and what is your budget?
What else do you generally spend your money on, and how much? Monthly expenses like gym memberships, yoga retreats, haircuts, petrol and pet insurance add up. Getting clarity on your partner’s day-to-day money reality will help create a shared understanding of what is and isn’t affordable and how to budget for a life together.
What does fair look like?
This is the big one. Does fair mean ‘same’? Is a 50/50 split fair or are there other factors that need to be considered to give each of you a feeling of fairness? One thing to keep note of is the difference between sharing the cost of ongoing monthly expenses like rent versus once-off necessary items like a washing machine or a microwave. There is no right or wrong way to do money in a relationship. The most important thing is that you both have the same idea of what you are doing.
How will you keep track?
Relying on memory to keep track of who paid how much for what, and when, will mean costs fall through the cracks and it will be difficult to get clarity on what is happening financially. A lack of clarity can lead to all kinds of uncomfortable feelings so it’s better to keep track from the beginning.
There are many methods to choose between, from the very low tech – chalkboard in the kitchen – to the high tech – a shared Google sheet. Or a mobile app like Kin.
And finally, not a conversation, but a good idea:
Make it fun
This is a great way to learn more about each other, what you think and what really matters to you. This can be a period of discovery rather than conflict. But if there is one thing most of us struggle with, it’s hard, confronting conversations. Our team loves Brene Brown’s work on this and we use her Lets Rumble shortcuts to good conversations.
These conversations can deepen and strengthen your relationship. Money doesn’t have to be heavy, scary or uncomfortable – because in the end it’s not really about the money. It’s about creating a life, and home, that your relationship can thrive in.