If You’re Splitting Expenses With Your Partner, Here Are 8 Rules You Should Follow
There are lots of sexy and exciting milestones in every serious relationship. Your first kiss, your first hookup, your first night together in the home you share... you get the picture. But there is another milestone for any couple (especially one that's moving in together) that may not be as sexy, but is just as important: deciding to start splitting expenses. It's common for couples to fight and have struggles about money, so knowing how to split expenses with your partner can save you both some serious drama, and I think we can all appreciate that.
The first step is learning how to talk about money with your partner in a way that is constructive, but honest. It can sometimes feel awkward to get real about each other's finances, but communication is going to save you a lot of strife over the course of the relationship, so you might as well start with a good foundation. To get some advice on both how to talk about funds and what to discuss, I reached out to relationship and financial experts. Here are their suggestions for how to properly navigate splitting expenses in your relationship.
1. Be Honest With Your Partner (And With Yourself)
Getting real about your finances and asking someone else to do the same can feel awkward, but Alison Norris, a certified financial planner at SoFi, says it’s important to get over that. “Money shouldn't be a taboo subject,” Norris tells Elite Daily. “Share your thoughts on money openly and honestly from the start, well before you start to split expenses.” This means more than just being willing to be transparent about your resources, but also actually having a full picture of what they are. “Give yourself a financial check-up,” says Norris. “You can’t expect your partner to dish out where their dollars are going every month before you have awareness of your own financial vulnerabilities.”
2. Keep Your Conversations About Finances Positive And Goal-Based
Talking about money can be stressful and awkward, but a lot of that comes from the approach, which is why Norris suggests a different mindset. “We encourage couples to think big picture,” she says. “Discuss your values and goals. Jumping too early into numbers and figures erroneously puts focus on the dollars themselves. Instead, you should view money simply as a tool to achieve your shared goals. Be aspirational.” Just by broadening the goals of your conversation beyond the scope of bills and immediate responsibility, Norris says, “you can have an incredibly palatable discussion about finances when you start with what you’d like to accomplish in the future.”
3. Clarify Which Bills Are Split
Once you’ve talked big picture, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of what exact expenses the two of you will be sharing and which ones you're individually responsible for. While maybe not as fun as the big-picture conversation, NYC relationship expert Susan Winter tells Elite Daily that having this very clear mutual understanding of who is responsible for what will save you trouble down the road. Otherwise, Winter says you may find yourself in a situation where “you think you've agreed to split the cost of living in your home or apartment. Then, you discover there are additional fees that only pertain to your partner. This could become a point of concern.” Her advice is to “make sure you're on the same page from the start,” so you aren't blindsided later by unexpected expenses that could lead to fighting and resentment in the relationship.
Norris adds that when you’re discussing which expenses are to be shared, you should not expect to include each other's assets and debts. “Steer clear of doing this before marriage,” she says.
4. Come Up With A System Of Splitting Expenses Based On Fairness
In addition to deciding which bills to split, Norris says you should also consider how the expenses should be split up percentage-wise, based on what feels the most fair to both of you. “A commonly successful strategy for splitting bills is to prorate expenses based on each partner's income,” she explains. She adds that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and that “choosing the best money management strategy for you is a personal decision.”
5. Help Keep One Another Accountable
Once you’ve decided what and how expenses should be shared, it’s up to you both to keep to the plan. “Keep each other accountable to your agreed upon plan by regularly having money dates,” suggests Norris. If that sounds like it might be unpleasant or uncomfortable, she suggests that you treat these conversations as an opportunity to “reward yourselves for your wise financial decisions and iterate spending as necessary.”
6. Have A Back-Up Plan For Unanticipated Expenses
In addition to having regular check-ins, it’s also a good idea to look ahead and create a game plan for the unexpected expenses that life has a tendency to throw your way. “It's wise to have a separate savings or checking account for the unexpected," says Winter. "You'd both need to agreed [sic] that this money is 'special' and not to be touched for individual pursuits.” The purpose of this account would be for emergencies only, and “you both have to agree upon what is considered an emergency.” For instance, is an emergency when one of your cars breaks down, or the dog gets sick? These are the kinds of things you’ll want to lay out in advance to avoid painful conversations when you’re in the midst of an emergency.
7. Have A Plan If One Partner Can't Pay Up
Another unexpected future scenario to discuss is what the game plan would be if one of you is unable to pay your fair share one month, or for an extended period of time, if one of you lost your job. Winter says you should discuss the protocol because “anticipating a crisis before it happens allows you to think clearly and plan for the best course of action.”
8. Be Realistic About What You Can Afford
Last, but definitely not least, Winter says that before you move forward in fusing your finances, stop and take a moment to ask yourself, “Am I getting in over my head financially?” Stop to consider if you're getting so swept up in the excitement of moving forward in your relationship that you aren’t being realistic about your financial risks.
“Are we moving into an apartment that's so expensive we could never afford to live there?" Winter says, to ask yourself. "If so, the financial responsibility required is far beyond the reality of our income. If our mate falters, we're in peril.” This takes us all the way back to the first rule of being completely honest and transparent about both of your financial situations.
Ultimately, when it comes to sharing expenses with your partner, it really just comes down to honest, transparent communication. That means being real about what each of you can and can’t afford, creating a fair system for sharing those expenses, and keeping the lines of communication open. See, not all adulting has to be that hard.
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