Before You Start Splitting Expenses With Your Partner, Ask Yourself These 6 Questions
Deciding to fuse lives with your SO is an exciting milestone, but definitely one that requires plenty of forethought. Part of figuring out the best way to navigate life once you've moved in with your partner is having a game plan for how to approach shared finances. While it may seem like a no-brainer to split things evenly, there are some things you might want to consider before splitting expenses with your partner.
According to research published in the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, about 30 percent of couples said finances caused the most stress in their relationships. Even more shocking is that 91 percent of the people surveyed said they find reasons to avoid talking about money with their partners. Not a good look, and while moving in together isn't quite as intense as getting married, the lifestyle implications are certainly in the same ballpark.
It's particularly important to thoroughly think things through if it's already apparent that you and your partner might not be on the same page when it comes to spending. And while there's no need to be all up in their grill by regularly monitoring every penny that leaves their personal savings account, combining finances can affect the dynamic of your relationship. So, to ensure you and your SO are ready to tackle the next phase, here are some questions to ask yourself prior to pooling your resources.
1. Am I Prepared To Be Transparent About My Financial Situation?
Chances are, if you're at the point in your relationship where you're considering splitting expenses, then your SO probably knows where you're at financially. But if for some reason you think they may not have an accurate picture of the situation, then honesty is really important.
"When you're in love, it's so easy to go into fear of judgment around money stuff," says Diana Dorell, dating coach and author of The Dating Mirror: Trust Again, Love Again. "What will [they] think of me if [they] find out I have all this debt? What if [they think] I'll be bad with managing money? What if [they] blow all my money?"
According to Dorell, having fears is totally normal, but one of the best things you can do is come to conversations prepared to be completely honest.
2. What's An Affordable Cost Of Rent For The Both Of Us?
If you're thinking of moving in together, then being realistic about finding a place you can both afford is key.
"Ideally, rent should be at a price that's divisible by two," relationship expert Susan Winter tells Elite Daily. "Far too often, one partner will 'assume' the other should pick up the slack (especially if they earn more money)."
So, if your partner lives in a gorgeous loft and they've suggested you move in with them, it's important to consider the fact that their current place may be out of your budget. And if you're hoping that they will pay more, since it was technically their place first, then this is definitely something that should be discussed before hand.
3. Am I Willing To Compromise On Indulgences?
"What's seems like a necessity to you may be an unnecessary expense to your partner," notes Winter.
For example, if being able to blast the AC in the summer — electric bill be damned — is something you absolutely can't live without, then this is something that's definitely worth bringing up when discussing utilities.
If your partner isn't so pumped about the idea of spending an exuberant amount of money on utilities come July, then this may be an area where they feel it's fair for you to contribute more.
"It is unlikely that each partner will have the same spending and savings habits than the other, which can cause anger [and] resentment," explains Benjamin Ritter, financial adviser and founder of Live For Yourself Consulting. "Conflict arises in a relationship when expectations aren't met or a partner feels he or she is doing more."
So when it comes to money, try to avoid making assumptions and get down to the nitty gritty.
4. What About Debt?
For many people, getting an education means walking away with thousands of dollars of debt. While it may seem awkward to ask, this is something that may need to be taken into consideration when it comes to credit score and signing a lease.
"If your partner has a heavy credit card burden, are you expected to pick up the slack?" asks Winter. "What about your school loan? Though one's personal debt is individual, it becomes a shared problem when shared finances enter the relationship."
If you suspect your SO has a low-key retail addiction, it might not sound fun, but sussing out if they are capable of following through with financial commitments is something that's best done sooner rather than later.
"The worst thing you can do is expect an individual's spending habits to change," says Ritter.
5. How Exactly Do We Plan On Organizing Our Shared Finances?
"Will you both have a shared credit card account, debit card account, savings account, or only pay for shared expenses through a joint account?" asks Ritter. "The way your finances will be shared needs to be considered."
Ritter also says it's important to be extremely clear on what sharing expenses means to the both of you. If you're thinking that your SO would be totally cool with you using shared money to pick up the after-work happy hour tab, and that's not the case, then you could run into problems.
And if you don't make anywhere near the same amount of money, are you expecting your partner to pick up the slack in another area?
"Does taking on more of the relationship to-do's, [like] shopping, cleaning, taking care of kids or a pet if applicable, also count as earnings?" Ritter asks.
6. How Do We Avoid A Power Struggle?
"So often with money, it can turn into a power struggle," says Dorell. "But if you recognize that each person brings their unique gifts and strengths to the relationship, including your relationship with money, you can delegate certain aspects of your finances to help each other grow."
According to Dorell, instead of trying to pressure each other to handle money in a certain way, it could be a good idea to come up with a strategy that works for both of you.
If one of you likes to spend and the other is a saver, the solution could be opening up two different accounts.
Dorrell suggests "a 'spend/play' account, where a percentage of your income goes to literally blow on whatever you want, and another 'savings' where you don't touch it unless you decide together."
Asking yourself these many questions may seem daunting, but taking a step towards pooling some of your resources is a pretty big deal. And while it may seem easier to just wing it, this could set the stage for financially fueled drama later down the line. Plus, being able to have mature conversations with your partner is a skill that is going to continue to be more and more important as time goes on. Being on the same page financially is a great place to start if you want your relationship to progress steadily and drama-free. Asking the tough questions is the first step.
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