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How To Talk About Finances With Your Significant Other

If you’ve already made the big step of deciding to move in with your significant other, congratulations! I can tell you that living with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner is one of the best things in the entire world. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be smoothly sailing into Bed Bath & Beyond together just yet. Before you move in together, you need to discuss your finances. Which, according to every advice column ever created, should be 100 percent transparent (!), easy (!), and totally NBD! Well, that’s bullsh*t. Money is a big deal, and you should treat it accordingly. You don’t have to make a ton of money in order to feel empowered and in control of your wallet, but you do need to be strategic. 

Moving in together, right next to getting engaged, is one of the biggest commitments you can make in your relationship. Don’t do it unless you’ve flushed out the logistics. Super romantic? Not so much. But necessary? Absolutely. You have the most leverage and the best opportunity to set the tone for your new living situation before you move in together. Here are the best ways to go about talking about your finances with your significant other: 

Set Aside A Specific Time To Have The Conversation

Most people, no matter how much money they make, get a little uncomfortable discussing it. Try to coordinate a time with your partner when you know the both of you won’t be as stressed out (read: avoid doing this Sunday night before the work week) so you can be entirely focused on the conversation at hand. Set aside a good 30-minute window to really review everything about your new arrangement. Make an agenda and sample expense list of what the both of you anticipate to spend month to month. Treat it just as you would a work meeting. If you don’t come up with an exact cost or answer for something, be sure to follow up. 

You should also decide on who will be listed on contracts or leases as the person responsible for each expense and how/if you’ll go about splitting certain costs. Will one of you cover cable while the other handles internet? Is Venmo your go-to? Or will you open a joint credit card to share expenses?

Figure out your money personalities. Is one of you more into going tit for tat? Or is one of you a Virgo and needs to split everything down the middle by the penny? Decide now and be clear with what you choose. It pays, literally, to be meticulous now versus later when one of you starts holding a grudge for being the sole purchaser of your apartment’s toilet paper.

You Don’t Have To Tell Your Partner Exactly What You Make Or Go Into Details About Unrelated Spending

Unless you two are tying the knot and have decided to share 100 percent of your finances, you actually don’t need to divulge exactly how much you make or exactly how you spend your money. Realistically, you two have been together for a long enough time where you have some idea about the other’s paychecks. If you’re clear with what you can afford or are willing to contribute with your monthly expenses, then whatever you have left over is your business. It may seem like a great idea to be super transparent because it comes off more trustworthy or open about your relationship, but it’s not required. In fact, you may even be a little relieved to have more independence over how you spend your money. Your boyfriend need not know that you accidentally spent $250 at Sephora when you were tipsy after happy hour. (Heh, sorry babe.) If you want to, that’s cool too. But if you’re not into that idea, don’t feel like you have to.

Be Prepared To Negotiate 

As any couple who lasts longer than two weeks can attest to, relationships are all about compromise. You exclusively watch reruns of Law & Order: SVU on Hulu. He needs every single sports channel known to man. All of a sudden your single girl binge watching expenses have blossomed from a cool $11.99 to $100. Find the middle ground. There will be some expenses on both sides that one of you won’t want to cough up for. (I mean, do we really need 20 different channels of ESPN?) And if you can’t reach an agreement for something the other person wants, then be prepared to pay for it on your own. 

What If Your Salaries Are Completely Lopsided?

Whether you make a lot more (I love living in 2019) or your partner does, I’m a big believer in paying your portion. If your partner is making a quarter of what you do, or vice versa, again, negotiate. Just because you’re sharing a space does not mean you have to share expenses 50/50. There are also other factors to consider outside of just income. Is one of you more inclined to clean? Is one of you the dedicated pet parent? While some of these things aren’t factorable into an Excel spreadsheet, they do matter when it comes to sharing a space. 

Bottom line, the most important thing to do when talking to your partner about sharing your living expenses is to be honest and realistic. The more you can stay in front of your finances and any additional expenses or problems that might arise, the less likely money will ever cause a problem in your relationship.

Images: Joshua Ness / Unsplash; @ashh_olmsted/Twitter;@LaLaDessie/Twitter; @natatruthh/Twitter