Moving in with someone is a milestone in your relationship. You’ve dated long enough to know the other person pretty well. You’re confident they’re the one with whom you want to share your life. And, let’s face it, you’re in love, and if possible, you’d like to see them every minute of every day. Of course, you’re not so blinded by love that you don’t think there will be a few disagreements. But did you know that the majority of arguments between new couples are about money? If you’re serious about this relationship, you need to get serious about money too.
You’re probably not going to be setting up a joint bank account yet, but it makes sense to have a joint budget. If you’re going to be splitting rent payments and household bills, then you’ll need to talk about what each of you is earning or spending. Sometimes your significant other’s expenditure can come as a surprise. You know that they go to watch football every weekend or visit the hairdresser once a month, but did you realize quite how much those things cost? One person’s essential expenditure can be another person’s waste of money, and you’ve got to agree on this. Failing to sort this out can lead to resentment or lack of honesty.
It’s a good idea to agree on a limit for how much each of you can spend without checking with the other first. That will depend on how much money you’ve got each month for discretionary spending. If things are tight, you’ll want to set a low limit. Of course, nobody’s expecting you to ask permission before buying an extra coffee, but if one person comes home with a whole new wardrobe on the day an unexpected bill arrives, the resulting argument is just going to make things worse. You can prevent blame and recriminations later by sending a quick message to say “I’ve seen an amazing coat that’s on sale. Is it OK to get it?”
Talk about how you’re going to split costs. Is one person going to pay the rent while the other pays the utility bills? Are you each going to pay your own mobile bills or will they come out of a shared budget? If one of you earns more than the other, you’ll need to decide before you move in together whether you’ll split the bills equally or in a way that reflects your incomes.
Things can be even more difficult if one person has lived alone, paying all the bills, and someone else moves in. The person who rents (or owns) the house may feel bad asking for contributions (after all, they’ve paid for everything themselves up to now), but not splitting expenditure between you will lead to awkwardness and can leave the person who’s moved in feeling like they’re not part of the household.
You’ll need to make contingency plans. What’s going happen if your income changes? If one of you gets a promotion and earns twice as much as before, are you still going to pay the same share of bills? Will one support the other, and how long (realistically) can they continue to do so? You’ll need to talk about savings too, not only in case your income drops, but also to deal with emergencies and unexpected repair bills for the house or car.
Moving in together is an exciting and positive time for a couple. But if you want to prevent problems in future, you should talk about money before you begin living together. Decide which expenses are essential, and how much is OK to spend without talking to each other first. Work out how you’re going to split the bills and how much you want to save, and plan for problems now instead of waiting until they happen. Talking about money doesn’t only help your budget, but it also prevents arguments and improves your relationship.