Money touches almost everything we do, from our basic living expenses to vacations and outings with friends to planning for the future—whether that includes a house, kids, or some other long-term goal. And yet, it can sometimes be hard to make space for important financial conversations with a spouse or partner.
Discussions about money can sometimes be awkward and unpleasant. Whether it’s figuring out how to breach the topic of who should pay the bills in a relationship or which partner is responsible for which expenses—whether based on earnings or some other criteria—these conversations aren’t always easy to start. But prioritizing them can be the key to a strong and sustainable partnership.
Take a look at some of the ways that couples might start having these discussions regularly. This article will also explore some possible strategies for divvying up financial responsibilities in a way that feels manageable and fair so the next time the topic of splitting bills in a relationship comes up in your life, you may feel more prepared.
No matter your financial situation, it can be important to find ways to have open money discussions in your relationship so that you can focus on making memories and building a strong foundation with the person you love.
Talking About Money in Your Relationship
When you’re in a long-term relationship, whether you’re married or cohabitating, talking about finances can be a worthwhile investment into your life together.
Living together often means splitting costs for day-to-day things, such as rent, utilities, groceries, and other costs.
So, it can be wise to start these conversations early, although it’s up to you to decide when makes the most sense in your relationship.
For many married couples, combining finances is the logical approach, so the question of who should pay the bills in a marriage isn’t as pressing as it can be for others.
But, there are couples—married or otherwise—that still like to have a sense of financial independence and who prefer to split shared expenses in a way that makes sense for them.
Every couple is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to talking about money and splitting costs. Though, for some, marriage means enmeshing accounts and finances, other couples choose to keep their accounts separate.
Additionally, some partners earn similar salaries and prefer to split things evenly, while others earn drastically different incomes and adjust their financial responsibilities accordingly. What’s more, sometimes one person is carrying a substantial debt while the other is debt-free.
There are many factors that can impact the way that a couple chooses to split bills and other financial responsibilities in a relationship, and it may be helpful to keep in mind that there isn’t a single right way to do it.
A strategy that can potentially help to avoid financial elephants in the room is to find a time to establish a budget as a couple or other financial guidelines with your partner.
You may also want to a set time check in with your partner about finances, whether that’s once a week or once a quarter. It can also be helpful to come together to identify your shared goals and financial weaknesses so that you can support one another.
Some couples may opt to work with a financial advisor or another professional, while others prefer to manage things on their own. Regardless of your approach to splitting finances, consistent communication can be crucial.
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Splitting Bills Evenly
For some couples, splitting bills evenly makes the most sense. This could mean keeping track of all of the monthly receipts for groceries and other shared living expenses along with rent, utilities, gas, or other common expenses you and your partner share.
At the end of each month, both partners can calculate the total expenses and settle them evenly. Of course, this strategy isn’t for everyone, and sometimes splitting bills and living expenses equally doesn’t make sense, especially, for instance, if both partners are making drastically different incomes.
If splitting things evenly doesn’t make sense for your relationship, there are other strategies that could be a better fit.
Splitting Bills Individually
In some cases, it may be preferable for each partner to be responsible for specific bills. This could look like one partner taking responsibility for the gas and electric bill, while the other covers water and internet.
Though this type of set-up can be great in terms of distributing responsibility, it’s highly unlikely that each partner will end up paying the same amount each month. For some couples, this may make sense and be an ideal set up. For others, partners may want to decide on a way to reconcile the bills at the end of the month.
Paying Bills Proportionally
Many couples, both married and unmarried, prefer keeping separate bank accounts for their own personal expenditures and having a joint bank account from which to pay for big household expenses.
Opening a joint account may make bill pay a bit easier every month and can make sense for recurring expenses, like utility bills, rent, and other shared costs. Joint accounts can also make it easier for each partner to transfer the money they are responsible for into the account before the bills are due.
Of course, the question of how to split up the money for these expenses will depend on the discussions you have had with your partner. If you both decide to split the costs evenly, then both of you can transfer the same amount into the shared account once a month or before the bills are due, otherwise you can decide to reconcile things in a way that makes sense for you.
Regardless, having one central location from which to pay for all shared bills can take a lot of the guesswork out of your financial big picture and could also make it simpler to look back at what you’ve spent and analyze your shared spending habits over time.
Keep in mind that when you open a joint account each person has equal rights to the account. This means that one of the account owners could make withdrawals or close the account without the consent of the other. Opening a joint account requires a certain level of trust and commitment.
Splitting Bills in a Way That Works for You
Though many married couples have traditionally merged their finances, this is not the automatic course of action for all couples.
As such, it’s important to consider what strategies make the most sense based on your unique situation.
Ultimately, prioritizing open, honest, and regular conversations about money may help you to avoid money arguments, ensure you and your partner are on the same page, and help you both feel more in control of how you’re approaching your financial life together.
Whether you decide to open a shared bank account, split bills up based on your income, or simply combine your bank accounts and pay everything together, know that there is no right or wrong decision.
Consider giving yourself the freedom to try a few different approaches to find the one that best suits you and your partner, and remember that communication is often the key to success.
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