Moving in with, or getting married to, your significant other is a big step in lots of different ways. There are many things to figure out and talk about. What to do about finances is one of the most important topics to cover, and there are several things to consider. Even if you are in a current arrangement, you might want to read on and see if another idea seems to fit your comfort level a bit better.
1 - Better together.
This arrangement works best for the couple who are not married where each has already been smart with their money. You are on equal footing and debt is low. Each person has a purposeful plan for the future. It works best if you set up a joint checking account for shared expenses like the rent, household bills, groceries, etc., and each of you contributes equal amounts each month.
2 - It’s only fair.
A solution for the married couple where one of you makes significantly more money than the other, or live-in couples where the person making the most money wants to live a more lavish lifestyle. Open a joint account where each person contributes a percentage of their income to pay for the essential household bills. Make sure the percentage is fair for both parties.
3 - It’s on me.
If one person in the relationship makes most of the money it’s almost a given they will take care of all the household expenses. This could be a situation where one person is still in school, or maybe working part-time. The most important detail to pay attention to hear is the up-front convo you need to have. What will happen if you break up? Would the person paying the bills want to be paid back? What happens if/when the other partner either enters the workforce or significantly increases their wages? Good communication regarding financial matters are essential to good relationships. There’s a reason finances are one of the highest reasons for breakups and divorce. It might be uncomfortable at first, but the payoff is big.
4 - I’ll take this one you take that one.
What if you don’t want to combine finances at all? Or maybe you make different incomes? Does one person own the mortgage? No biggie. Make a list of the household bills and divvy them up fairly. If he’s paying the mortgage, maybe you take the power bill and yard guy. Try to avoid resentment when assigning the bill. If he wants the NFL cable package but you don’t watch television, let him have that bill and you pay more for the other utilities.
5 - All in.
That’s right. Throw all the money in one pot. This a great solution for newly married folks who don’t have separate assets. There are a couple of ways to do this. Open a joint account and deposit all of your income, from which you pay all your bills and set aside savings. Or, open a joint account for all of your shared bills (and a savings for your savings goals) and also a separate checking account for each of you to keep your own discretionary “spending” money. The latter option should include a no-guilt agreement so you each feel free to spend your money on what you want.
Whichever way you decide to go, the most important thing is communication. As things change, it will be wise to revisit your financial plans and adjust as needed.