While moving in with your significant other can often result in saving some cash, there are also other unique considerations to think about when your roomie is also your partner.
When did you know it was the right time to move in together? Do you split groceries or shop individually? Whose responsibility is it to pick up the toilet paper? Should you split your rent even-stevens if one person has a lot more money or if someone has more debt? Most importantly: is it okay to get petty if your partner eats all your peanut butter? Here, three couples in very different financial situations get real about their living expenses and what they wished they knew before moving in together.
1. How old are you and your partner? How long have you dated?
Woman A: My boyfriend and I are both 30 years old. We have been dating for almost nine years. It will be nine years next month.
Woman B: I am 23 and my partner is 22. We’ve been dating since June of 2015 (about two years). We met freshman year of college, started “pursuing” each other in fall of 2014, and then got together at a friend’s wedding.
Man A: I’m 28 and my girlfriend is 27. We’ve dated for seven years, since she was a junior in college and I was a senior.
2. How long have you lived together?
Woman A: We have officially lived together for about eight and a half years.
Woman B: We’ve officially lived together with a signed lease since May of 2016, when we graduated college. However, starting in August of 2015 we essentially lived together. We lived in the same apartment building and he never bought a bed. He used his room to store his stuff and do his homework but we shared groceries and a bed from August 2015 on.
Man A: We’ve lived together for three years.
3. How far into this relationship did you move in together?
Woman A: We moved in together approximately six months after we started dating.
Woman B: We officially signed a lease 11 months into the relationship.
Man A: We got an apartment together after almost four full years of a long distance relationship. She spent the first four months of the relationship studying abroad in Europe (bad timing on our part). Then we lived four hours apart for a year since I graduated and she still had a year left. Then we lived two hours apart for another two years while we both lived with our parents.
4. Prior to this relationship, had you ever lived with another partner?
Woman A: Yes, I lived with both of my previous ex-boyfriends. And my boyfriend lived with his ex-girlfriend as well.
Woman B: Not to this extent, no. I’d spent a summer living with a boyfriend, but it went very poorly. He had never lived with a girlfriend.
Man A: No. This was my first “real” relationship that lasted longer than a couple months.
5. What was your primary reason for moving in together? i.e.) to save money on rent, you lived too far away, etc
Woman A: It just made sense. We already slept over at each other’s houses every night so we figured we may as well live together. I was going to be moving in to my parents basement to save up money to buy my own house so it was good timing for us to move in there together.
Woman B: We needed to save money on rent. We’re also both EXTREMELY busy, and we’d never see each other if we didn’t live together. I firmly believe that our relationship would not have lasted the last year if we were not living together. We chose to move to Denver after graduation and stay together.
Man A: We had been talking about moving in together for a long time, since our relationship consisted mostly of talking on the phone, Skype dates and visiting each other once or twice a month. I had moved to the New York City area for graduate school and decided it was the opportune time for us to follow through on moving in together.
6. How much do you and your partner make?
Woman A: Collectively we make approximately $50-55,000 per year, after taxes.
Woman B: He makes about $50,000 per year as a digital marketer. I make $35,000 per year as a dog trainer and animal behavior consultant.
Man A: She makes $50,000 per year. I make $40,000 per year.
7. How much is your rent?
Woman A: Our current rent for our apartment in Manhattan is $1895 per month.
Woman B: $1555 per month, plus $35 per month in pet rent.
Man A: Rent for our one-bedroom apartment in Westchester County (just north of NYC) is $1,395. That includes heat and hot water.
8. Do you split rent down the middle? If not, why not?
Woman A: Yes, we split rent down the middle.
Woman B: We do, although we’ve been discussing having him pay more because he makes more money and I do more around the house. I have more free time, so the household chores often fall to me. Currently, he “pays” me for that work by paying for dinner. It’s a bit traditional for me — I’m a pretty big feminist — but also very practical.
Man A: We split rent evenly. I’m lucky enough not to have student loans while she does.
9. Do you have any other roommates or do you and your partner live alone?
Woman A: We did have two roommates when we first moved to NYC but we couldn’t stand it so after our one year lease was up, we got our own apartment and we are much happier living together alone.
Woman B: We live alone, although from May 2016-February 2017 we had a roommate.
Man A: We’re loners. We’ve talked about the possibility of getting a two-bedroom and splitting with a roommate to cut costs, but we prefer to not have to deal with someone else’s quirks.
10. Do you split other expenses evenly down the middle, or does one of you cover certain things like cable, while the other does electricity, household supplies like toilet paper, etc?
Woman A: We split rent, utilities, cable and phone bill directly down the middle. My boyfriend transfers his half to me monthly via Venmo. As far as groceries and other household necessities go, we usually take turns purchasing those things. We’ve never really set rules when it comes to that.
Woman B: We almost always even split things evenly using Venmo. As stated above, He will pay for dinner and drinks more often because I do dishes, clean, and laundry much more than he does. As a general rule, if one asks the other on a date, they pay unless the other offers to split. We split car and gas expenses 2/3-1/3 (I pay more) because I commute to work more and we only have 1 car. We split groceries, utilities, and other expenses evenly.
Man A: We pretty much split everything down the middle — cable/internet, electricity, groceries, eating out, entertainment, etc. As much as I think she should have to buy toilet paper, we split all of the necessities. The only costs we don’t really split are decorations. If one of us wants to add something to the apartment, we pay for what we want. But when splitting costs, it’s generally done at the register directly or payback through PayPal.
11. When it came to furnishing your home, did you split most costs down the middle, or did one person do most of the purchasing?
Woman A: When it came to furnishing our apt in NYC, I mainly purchased everything because I had extra money from selling my home in Salt Lake City, UT which is where we moved from. I also purchased the furniture for our home in SLC because I had saved up for it while living with my parents.
Woman B: We split furnishings evenly and paid using Venmo. We mostly use thrift stores and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore to keep costs lower.
Man A: When it comes to furniture, we usually trade back and forth who pays. She bought the bed frame, I bought the bar stools. She bought the coffee table, I bought the TV stand. As long as the total costs are relatively close in the end, we don’t really care in the moment because we know it’ll even out.
12. Are the bills and leases and other paperwork set up in both your names or one person’s? If it’s just in one person’s name, does the other person also see the bill and understand what’s owed, or do they wait for the other person to tell them how much is due?
Woman A: The apartment lease is in both our names but I pay the rent from my account. All the other bills including utilities, cable and phone bill are in my name only. I’m just better at taking care of those kinds of things so he doesn’t care to see the bills and knows that I will let him know if the amount on anything ever changes. Even the home I owned in Salt Lake City was only in my name but we still considered it our home, especially because my boyfriend paid half the mortgage and I couldn’t have done it without him.
Woman B: We split all of this evenly — we signed the lease and it’s in both of our names.
Man A: We both have our name on the lease, but other bills are in one person’s name. Cable/internet is in her name and electric is in my name. We both have seen the bills at one time or another, but will usually just ask the other person what’s owed.
13. Does the person who makes more often end up covering costs for the other person? If so, in what spending categories?
Woman A: Yes, I have usually been the one to make more therefore I will cover costs more often but never with bills. Bills are always split down the middle no matter what. But I am usually the one to buy groceries and household items more often. And also to get the check when we go out.
Woman B: Yes, dinner and drinks (see above).
Man A: We’re actually pretty good about covering costs for one another if one us isn’t doing so well financially. I know sometimes her student loans can be a burden, so I’ll pay her half of a bill without telling her and hopefully it slips her mind. She’s covered my costs when my funds are getting low for one reason or another.
14. Have you had any disagreements over finances? If so, about what? How did you come to an agreement after?
Woman A: Yes, we have had disagreements about finances. For example, my boyfriend tends to be more erratic with his spending such as concert tickets, t-shirts, nice dinners and bottles of wine where as I am always more worried about the bills and saving money for emergencies and/or vacations. We
always come to agreement in the end because even with his erratic spending, the bills still always get paid.
Woman B: We haven’t fought about finances yet. We’ve been working through an ongoing discussion regarding whether or not he should be paying more for some necessities.
Man A: The only disagreements we’ve had are if one person is volunteering to pay for more than they should to cover for the other person. It’s totally corny, but we’re generous people (only with each other).
15. Have you considered opening a joint account you both have access to for house/apartment needs?
Woman A: We have never considered opening a joint account that we both have access to because I am more responsible with money therefore it is best to have separate accounts so that I can make sure the bills will be taken care of.
Woman B: Yes, but we’ve decided that we’re not ready for that step yet. I think that will likely happen within the next year or so.
Man A: We’ve never considered having a joint account before marriage. There’s no reason to open that headache if something were to happen to the relationship. Even if we were to get married, we’re not 100% sure we would have a joint account.
16. If you were married, would that change your outlook on finances at all? How so?
Woman A: I don’t think getting married would change our outlook on finances much. The only difference would be filing joint taxes. We may consider getting a joint account at that point but I think I would still manage it and we would still keep separate accounts in addition to the joint one.
Woman B: I think we’d be more “official” on “policies” and/or have a joint account to make things easier and smoother.
Man A: The only thing that might change if we were married is a joint account where a portion of our paychecks go. We have a perfect setup and understand at the moment, so there’s no reason to change what we’re doing.
17. What do you wish you knew before moving in with your partner? What financial advice would you give to couples about to move in together?
Woman A: My boyfriend says that he wishes he knew how many times I push the snooze button. But in all seriousness, I honestly can’t think of anything. We have practically lived with each other from the very beginning and we have never had any major issues. You learn and grow together and communication is key. I could say that I wish I knew that he likes to spend his money somewhat irresponsibly but at the same time, I don’t think it would have changed anything. And besides, he has made me appreciate the finer things in life and to not take life so seriously and I am very grateful for that. As far as advice goes for couples moving in together, splitting everything down the middle works really well for us and we would recommend it. It doesn’t allow either partner to feel superior or inferior. A relationship should be a partnership with each person contributing equally.
Woman B: I wish we’d done more of a discussion and agreement. When we started out, it was assumed that everything was 50/50. That’s evolved slowly to be more reasonable for both of us, but a real discussion and plan could have relieved some of my financial stress.
Man A: I wish I knew she had an affinity for knick knacks. Who needs a “pretty color” rock on the shelf? I inherited my dad’s frugalness. But my girlfriend has eased my tension with spending on things that makes me happy and I do spend money on non-essentials now. My advice for couples about to move in together is to be open with each other about your finances. My girlfriend and I were very open with each other about any financial struggles before we moved in. The worst thing you can do is hide a problem and it arises after you’ve moved in. That will put a strain on other parts of the relationship and then you have more issues to deal with.