I moved in with my partner of two years about seven months ago. It’s my first time living with someone, at the not-so-tender age of in-my-thirties. The problem is that I have a Very Important need to pay my fair share of things we buy. Let’s call it a guilt complex stemming from who the hell knows what. Either way, when we started to share rent and utilities responsibilities, we had to figure out a way to make things equitable (with very different incomes), while also easing into the whole finance sharing idea in general.
This was, in all honesty, very scary for me. It’s scary to be helping to manage someone else’s money and attempting to be frugal when you’re the one using it (like for groceries, in my case — I do most of the food shopping). We decided on a “three pot” system of one shared account plus our own individual accounts. Here’s how we do it…
Our own accounts for non-shared items
Non-shared items such as clothing, toiletries, hobbies, etc. remain as paid from our own personal accounts. This means I’m not paying for his computer toys and he’s not paying for my tampons. It also means we can buy gifts for each other without anything suspicious hitting a shared account that the other could see.
Since we both have different incomes, we spend differently when it comes to things like meals. So we decided to keep dining out separately as a personal expense. That way if I’m being thrifty and living off of leftovers, he can grab a bite at work without having to worry about me paying for it. If we eat out together, we share the cost from the shared account.
One shared account for household expenses
We opened a joint bank account for shared household items, groceries, shared vacations, rent, split utilities, etc. We divided the rent according what we could pay and split the other utilities down the middle. Then we padded the number out for shared gift buying and other non-planned expenses.
We have to keep an eye out for overdrafts since we’re both pulling from this account, but otherwise it’s transparent and as equitable as it can be considering our income differences. There is some risk in having a shared account, especially when you’re not married. Don’t forget to learn what the risks entail in a joint account such as debt collection, credit damages, and tax issues.
The big ol’ spreadsheet
Anyone at the Empire knows my love for a good spreadsheet (I made these for your wedding planning needs!), so naturally, we decided to keep track of the expenses with a monthly spreadsheet. We plug in the bills we pay, and it tallies up what we both owe (with different totals depending on your setup — say, if you pay a smaller percentage of the rent). It’s simple, but it gives us an overview of where we’re spending and on what.
It’s still scary to be putting money into a shared pot that becomes a nebulous thing, but it’s helping me (the worrier) to ease into the idea of sharing a life. It’s totally NOT mandatory to share any accounts with your partner, married or otherwise, but for us, this seems to be what works.
Next we’ll tackle how to manage the cats liking one of you over the other… just kidding.