Money Talks, So Should You

Q&A: How do my significant other and I split finances when we move in together?

Deborah Frazier
by Deborah Frazier, NAPFA

Congratulations, you are finally taking the next step and moving in together! But, before deciding where to put his dragon statues and her baby dolls (no, I don’t mean PJs), it is important to face one of the more mundane issues of life together: How do we pay the bills? 

It makes sense to me that each partner keeps his or her own checking accounts, but also that the two of you open a joint or household account for common bills. The individual accounts can be used for personal expenses, hair, clothing and the like.

READ: Having the money talk: Why you need to go bare about finances

The household accounts should probably pay at least rent, utilities, cable, phone, internet service and food, though you are the only ones that can decide what is a joint expense or an individual one.

So how do you decide how much each roommate deposits into the household account?

If there is only one working person in the relationship, it is easier to calculate but challenging emotionally. If both of you make roughly the same income, again, easy: deposit the same amount.

READ: When should I tell my significant other about my credit score?

The more difficult scenario is unequal income. Many couples solve this by each depositing a percentage of the household expenses based on their income difference.  One may deposit $750 each month while the roommate with the larger income may have to belly up $1,000 each month.

If you have had this conversation BEFORE signing the lease, many potential financial headaches can be resolved or avoided. How one handles their money says volumes about the character of the person with whom you've decided to share your space.


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Deborah Frazier has been a fee-only financial adviser since 1986. Frazier is a member of the National Association of Personal Finance Advisors (NAPFA), a fee-only professional association and a Dimespring knowledge partner.