Money Talks, So Should You

Q&A: 5 questions to answer before moving in together

Steve Doster
by Steve Doster, The Garrett Network  (@dosterfinancial)

Don’t be too quick about shacking up with your boyfriend or girlfriend. It could do more damage than good if you don’t clear up some financial ground rules first. A lot of money fights can be avoided if a couple will have the courage to talk about finances, even just a few basics. Most couples don’t discuss money, so instead they argue, bicker, and silently stew.

Here are my top five questions every couple should ask each other before moving in together. This will help get those money discussions started and keep the romance alive.

READ: Having the money talk: Should you merge your finances?

1. How much rent can we afford?
This is the biggie that can blow the budget and set the relationship up for disaster. Know how much each of you pays for housing. Don’t go over the combined rent payments you’re making now and even try to find a place where you both lower housing costs.

2. What stuff do we have for our new place?
Take an inventory of what each of you are bringing to the household. Don’t keep two of anything. Post extra items on Craigslist and use the money to buy things neither of you have but need. Be sure to speak up if something is important to you and want to keep. Definitely avoid buying a bunch of stuff you can’t afford and taking on credit card debt.

READ: The wacky world of blended family finances

3. What’s our b*****?
Ok, so budget isn’t a cussword that has to be blocked out. But it doesn’t have to be complex either. What I really want couples to do is talk about their income, retirement savings (this better not be $0), and debt payments like car and student loans. You’ve already shared intimate details of your life. Bearing your financial soul is part of being in a relationship. Track your expenses for a few months. Then build a budget together to set common spending and saving goals, identify problems, and work together to fix them.  

4. Who’s paying the bills?
Decide how the two of you will do this. It can be whatever works for you. Have one person be in charge of paying the bills on time. Or each you take on certain bills. The other partner can write one check to pay their half or open a joint account with each of you contributing your portion of the household expenses. Definitely do not combine any other assets or debts at this stage of the relationship.

READ: Having the money talk: Uh oh, you’ve got debt

5. What happens if this doesn’t work out?
I can hear the uncomfortable sighs out there. You’re probably thinking “Why talk about breaking up? It’ll just sabotage the relationship to even consider us not living happily ever after.”

Well it’s simple. If you break up, both of you will probably be feeling hurt and maybe even resentful. It’s not the best mental state to be figuring out who gets to stay and who’s moving out.

Figure it out while things are good.

Talking about money isn’t easy. But if you can talk through these five questions, your relationship will be set up for success and continue to grow.


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Steve is president and founder of Doster Financial Planning, a commission-free firm based on San Diego, CA. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional with an MBA fom Arizona State University and a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Arizona. Steve is proud to say he doesn’t sell financial products or earn commissions on the advice he provides to clients. His primary goal is to educate people to understand and select the best ways to achieve their unique financial future.