{living in sin} The Joint Checking Account

by Rachel on March 27, 2012

After I wrote about splitting the cost of birth control with your male partner last week, a few people asked me to write about splitting the cost of everything else. It’s a post that I’ve been wanting to write; I’ve simply been waiting until I had a better idea if what we were doing was working for us. Since the one-year anniversary of our living in sin adventure is in a few weeks, I thought this was as good of a time as any. While I don’t think I have any business being within 50 feet of a conversation regarding financial planning, I’m willing to share my experiences from the past year. 

living in sinWhen Eric and I decided to move in together, we also decided to get a joint checking account. This was mainly out of convenience. We didn’t want to write to checks for rent or have to constantly keep track of who owed who money; we wanted a simple way for us to both contribute to a shared pot that we’d use be able to use for bills. Neither of us had plans to get rid of our main checking or savings accounts; we were simply going to have a portion of our checks deposited directly into the joint account.

While this was mostly a matter of convenience, I was glad we were doing it for a lot of deeper reasons. How you handle money as a couple is something that I felt was important to know before I planned to share my life with someone. I wanted to know if we could share money  before I got any more emotionally invested in the relationship. And, frankly, I wanted him to know too. Eric and I could not be more different when it comes to money and, to tell you the truth, those differences terrified me. I was really worried that my student loans, lack of a perfect credit score, and desire to have nice things would be a dealbreaker for him.

After opening the account, we calculated all of our joint monthly expenses (rent, bills, groceries) and came up with a total amount for the month, which we then divided by four (two people, two paychecks a month) to determine how much we’d contribute each paycheck. We decided that we’d use it for joint expenses but that if an unexpected joint expense came up that was going to cost more than $20, we’d check with the other person first (so neither of us could claim, “But this iPad is for both of us”). We set up direct deposit, got our new debit cards, ordered checks, and were off.

From the start, I loved having a joint checking account. First, it helped me budget my non-joint-checking account money a lot better. But it also provided from feelings of guilt and owing the other person/being owed. The biggest place we felt this relief was in dinners out. Eric and I eat out fairly often and it wasn’t fair for him to always pay, nor was it fair for me to always pay. Sure we could take turns, but what happens when we spend $15 on one meal and $50 on the next? Paying with our joint account solved this problem. We also started to talk about money more, asking “Can we afford this?” when talking about everything from going out to dinner to stuff for the apartment to taking a weekend trip. I liked that it made us part of the same team. I also liked that we were building trust with the joint account. Combining finances with someone is scary; there was definitely a part of me (and I’m sure him too) that wondered, Shit, this person isn’t going to run off with all my money, right?! I think it helped that we both had our own accounts, and, by extension, safety nets as we built up trust and felt confident that neither of us was going to run off with all the money.

So the joint account was going pretty well…until we hit a snag. See, we were contributing equal amounts to the joint account each month even though we make no where near equal incomes. Eric makes far more than I do, and after a few months, I started to get really resentful that he was giving me a hard time about my debt when I didn’t have a lot of extra money to contribute to my own bills based on what I was putting into the joint account. It finally occurred to me that while we were contributing equal amounts, we were contributing wildly different percentages of our incomes. I was putting about 50 percent of my monthly income into the joint account, while he was putting about 35 percent of his monthly income into it. No one had ever told either of us that a lot of couples in this situation contribute different amounts to the joint account, so we didn’t even consider that when we first got the joint account; we just did a 50-50 split. While the 50-50 split was what I agreed to, I couldn’t help but get pissed when he wanted to know why I wasn’t paying off my debt more aggressively.

So we fought. And it was really, really hard. I realized during those arguments just how much weight our culture puts in income, net worth, and financial contributions. It wasn’t just about my credit vs. his credit; it was also about our job choices, our successes, and, quite often, our shortcomings and failures. It was about our values, our parents’ values, our perception of men’s and women’s roles, our thoughts on childrearing, and, quite simply, it was about our maturity. (Or, really, our lack thereof. Because those fights? Were not our proudest moments.) It was everything you probably need to know before you decide you’re in it for the long haul and yet it was very awkward, confusing, and painful to go through it.

I’ve read a lot of articles about relationships and money in the past few months, including Marriage as Mini-Socialism and Prenups on A Practical Wedding (the posts are good but I found the comments were the most interesting/valuable) and the recent Time Magazine cover story about female breadwinners. In the articles, posts, and comments, I keep seeing people open up about how imbalanced incomes have affected their relationships. They talk about the resentment they sometimes feel as a breadwinner or the shame and guilt they feel as the non-breadwinner (breadloser?). Often it’s talked about as “Women are the new breadwinners — how is that affecting men’s sense of self?” but I’d argue that anyone who makes less than his or her partner has to deal with how that affects their sense of self. While neither of us is technically the breadwinner, I’ve certainly had to deal with feeling bad about making less money than my partner. It was — and is — humbling and unsettling to have those conversations with Eric and I feel so incredibly vulnerable every time we have them. But I’m learning that you’re going to have to have them at some point; even as I was struggling through them, I knew on some level that it was better to deal with it sooner rather than later.

Eventually, after talking to my married friends and doing some research, I felt comfortable asking Eric if we could adjust the amount we were each contributing to take my lower income into account. We talked about it over the course of a couple days; while it made perfect sense to me, I think we were both worried he was going to be very resentful, that he was going to judge how I spent money (which, from what I’ve read, is fairly common in these situations). But he agreed to at least try this as a solution. And I don’t know why exactly, but things have gotten so much better since we started contributing different dollar amounts. I’m not sure if it’s that this arrangement is so much better, or just that getting to this point forced us to grow up enough that we’re now both better equipped to handle any arrangement. Whatever the reason, though, it was a nice shift.

Now that we’ve been doing the joint account thing for a year, I feel like we’re in a really good place with it. I’m not sure what we’ll do in the long term — whether we’ll keep this setup, slowly combine our finances, or what. There are a lot of options out there and different experts (and couples) believe wholeheartedly in different strategies. Before too long, we’ll have to deal with things like debt, savings, retirement, etc. but for now, this is working really well for us.

Looking back at this past year, it feels like the joint checking account was a lot more than just a convenience. It was the catalyst for a lot of important discussions and, eventually, gave us the answer to a lot of very important questions.

I know it was the right decision for us, but I know that every couple is different and that money is a very loaded topic. I’d love to hear how you all feel about this and how you’ve handled it. Whether you’re single, dating, living in sin, married, or divorced, I’m sure you have an opinion on combining finances and money and power in relationships, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

{ 71 comments }

1 Jess March 27, 2012 at 8:58 am

Great post, Rachel. Loved reading this one! So interesting and I’ll definitely bookmark it to see others’ responses.

I’m also living in sin (and have been for about a year). Like you, we opened up a joint checking account for our shared expenses (rent, cable/TV, electricity, groceries—basically recurring, regular expenses). It also includes the cost of our CSA during the spring/summer months. What it does not include are things like restaurant/discretionary expenses. We contribute the same amount regardless of income.

I’ve had friends and family ask us about this. My boyfriend is 27—I’m 23—and he makes about a pretty significant amount more than I do (maybe a third more) and carries no student loan debt. Still, we both contribute the same amount. I’ve had friends who’ve done it your way (more income/debt-adjusted) and have done well with that too. For me it’s definitely a thing that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with, even if sometimes I feel a little stretched thin; I wouldn’t feel comfortable contributing less than our fair share—even though it disadvantages me more. Maybe it’s a pride thing.

I’m not sure what the right thing to do. Generally I don’t feel stressed about money, though sometimes I wish I could get a bit more aggressive with paying down what credit cards I have and especially with paying down student loan debt. I think that having very open and honest conversations about money are important, and thankfully my boyfriend and I are great in that area (now talking about the future, I freeze up).
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2 Nicole September 25, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Can anyone please provide me with examples of what they consider joint expenses? I am going through the whole conversation with my fiancé now and it seems as if we have different views.

3 Rachel September 26, 2012 at 8:20 am

For us, it’s the stuff you’d split with a roommate: rent/mortgage and utilities, as well as things we share (food) or purchased together for both of us (our dogs, home improvements). Things we don’t use the joint account for are things like our car payments, credit card bills, student loans, and gym memberships.

Hope that helps a bit!

4 Dori March 27, 2012 at 8:59 am

My boyfriend and I just opened a joint checking account and got a join credit card (with a photo of us, awwwww) to earn miles for our purchases. We’re both really excited about the whole thing, gave it a name (long before we even got the account) and it is something that really just makes us happy, to have this thing that is ours and we both benefit from. I guess we’ll see how it plays out over the coming months as we move in together, but I think we are pretty much on the same page about it all.
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5 Rachel March 27, 2012 at 9:45 am

Awww I’m so glad you guys are excited about it! That bodes well. I was dreading it!!

6 Justin Belcher March 27, 2012 at 9:06 am

My wife and I do joint checking, joint savings, and work within the same budget. It’s an easier argument to make when you’re married, but from our perspective we’re on the same “team” and it doesn’t do anyone good to get pedantic about the distribution of money or debt. It’s all the family’s income; it’s all the family’s debt. Even though I put significantly more into the pot, I could care less if my wife wants to buy something nice for herself if it’s done responsibly. That last point is key—we both know what our monthly expenses are, we both know what our monthly extras will be, and we both know what our common goals are (pay off a car, student loan, etc), so we can gauge whether purchases are reasonable or unreasonable and just trust each other to make the right call most of the time.

Money is obviously a contentious point in many relationships, but I think if the couple is relatively stable there’s absolutely no reason to make it an issue—just let things go, be a team, and trust each other. Save the stress for truly hard times.

7 Lindsay March 29, 2012 at 7:29 am

My husband and I have our finances the same way (joint) and my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents have all done it that way too. I think if you respect each other and work as a team that the joint checking works well. Good post, I agree with everything you said.

8 Nicole F March 27, 2012 at 9:15 am

My only combining experience was with an ex. It worked well for us at the time as far as joint expenses, we each kept our separate checking accounts as well (thankfully). My only advice is to look out for yourself, which I know sounds bad, Keep in mind that you’re not married, and the current relationships status is not set in stone. There are so many extenuating circumstances that lead to breakups. Just make sure you know what you would do if you needed to leave tomorrow – how you would handle that joint checking, the dogs, where you would go.

It’s just smart to protect yourself. Women tend to think about what’s good for the partnership and less about themselves. Let me tell you, when the proverbial shit hits the fan, many men have no problem thinking about themselves.

Wooo – can you tell I’ve been burned? I swear I’m not bitter. Well, except about losing my dog. THAT, I am bitter about.

9 Rachel March 27, 2012 at 9:47 am

“It’s just smart to protect yourself. Women tend to think about what’s good for the partnership and less about themselves. Let me tell you, when the proverbial shit hits the fan, many men have no problem thinking about themselves.” I COMPLETELY agree! That’s probably another post for another day but we’ve definitely discussed things like the dogs, the joint account, etc. if a break-up were to happen. I also really like what you said about women thinking about what’s good for the partnership and not for themselves. I think that’s sort of how I felt with the 50-50 split and asking that we go to percentages was my way of making sure I wasn’t stretching myself too thin and letting my personal finances get out of hand.

Very good advice!

10 Nicole F March 27, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Thanks! I hope I didn’t sound too negative there, but I’ve learned my lesson.

On the flips side, I do not live with my current bf, but the money situation is totally different. He makes about 5X what I make, so he never entertains me paying for dinner or splitting anything. It’s nice but really awkward for me because I’m not that kind of girl. Sometimes, he’ll offer to give me gas money or to buy me a dress and I can’t go through with it! It’s funny because my mom and other women I know in their 50′s are like, “Don’t tell a man no, or when you get married he’ll stop offering!”

Slippery slope between what’s “normal couple behavior” and feeling like a ‘kept woman’ lol

11 Lynn March 27, 2012 at 9:17 am

My husband and I… it’s been a long, bumpy ride, but the joint checking account was never anything we argued about. We’ve been together for over 16 years now (married for 14!) and even when he first moved in with me, things have been the same.

We opened a joint account together as soon as we had a shared apartment, and both of us closed our individual accounts. I don’t know how people balance/keep track of 2 or 3 or MORE different accounts that money comes out of regularly. For a while, when we were both working, all the money went into the one account, and all the bills, expenses, and fun money came out of that account. There wasn’t a his/hers/ and ours bills. I helped him pay off his student loans and he helped me with my medical bills. Heck, these days, we don’t even have 2 hairbrushes. We use the same sort of hairbrush, why on earth do we need 2 of them? (as a side note, even when we were “just dating” and had different living arrangements he paid ENTIRELY for my birth control as soon as we started sleeping together. As he said, he couldn’t take it for me, so he may as well share the responsibility in any way he could.)

When I was making more money than he was, it didn’t matter. That was OUR money and we share pretty well. We’re both into tech toys and we take turns getting new computers or devices. Now that he works full time and I’m a semi-professional writer, our incomes are wildly different, but it’s still OUR money. We’re a team, a unit, a household and we don’t hold anything back from that, or plan “just in case” of divorce/break up. We have friends we’ve considered “divorce ready” to the point that they keep their DVD collections separate. That’s not how we could ever manage it (altho admittedly, I did fight tooth and nail over combining our gaming dice into one container…)

That being said, I recognize that a LOT of people can’t/couldn’t/or shouldn’t do that. It takes an unbelievable amount of honest and trust to be so completely intertwined with another person. And there are certainly days when I don’t think I deserve it.
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12 Hannah March 27, 2012 at 9:34 am

Sounds like you have quite the catch, Lynn! That’s awesome.

13 Alie March 27, 2012 at 9:19 am

Great post! I’m single now but I was “living in sin” for four years. I had the same problem you did with the income. My bf made almost twice as much as me but he also had more debt than me. However we did not split things 50/50 or even by percentage and it “seemed” to work out ok. He paid our rent (which was pretty expensive and almost what I made with two paychecks) and I paid all the other bills like power, water, cable, groceries.

Money is something that I am fiercely posessive about and I think it would take a mediator to help me reach an agreement in my next relationship about who pays what.

14 madeline reoch March 27, 2012 at 12:21 pm

This is what my boyfriend and I do, as he makes double my income. It’s so much easier to be the one budgeting for the groceries (since, come on… we all know I am cooking :D ), utilities and the usual junk like toilet paper. We both are left with money in our own accounts to use freely, shopping when we want or having dinner with friends, while still checking in with the other about necessities for our home. I think that it really doesn’t matter how you figure finances out, or what your percentages are, if it works for you as a couple, it’s perfect!

15 Kristi M. March 27, 2012 at 9:33 am

This is a great post, as was the splitting birth control post. I’m about to be living in sin, so my boyfriend and I are dealing with all of these issues. I appreciate your candor and willingness to put your relationship on display for everyone!
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16 Rachel March 27, 2012 at 9:47 am

Thanks for that! I felt a little naked after writing this post, but if it’s helpful to other people, well, then I’m willing to get naked. Heh.

17 Kate March 27, 2012 at 9:34 am

I’m fiercely possessive about my money too.

I make more. Like, $10-15,000 a year more. But I also have more bills and debt.

But for now, we split the rent and utilities and groceries 50/50.. for the most part. What bugs me is he really can’t afford to split 50/50 AND pay for his own ish. So either I pay the gas bill, and he can buy his lunch for the week, or he pays half the bill and I end up spotting him some cash to get through til the next paycheck.

I HATE this. I’m resentful, he’s resentful. At this point, it’s not really working for us. Most conversations turn into an argument, or a non-resolved “talk.” I’m really not sure how to arrange things so that I don’t feel like I’m getting the short end of the stick. Every other part of our relationship is great. I guess we keep telling ourselves it won’t be this way forever, because I’m more established in my career and he is working his way up from an entry-level position in his company.

18 Rachel March 27, 2012 at 9:51 am

Kate — I’m so sorry you’re going through this! I read your comment below too, and it sounds really stressful. This shit is hard. Question — have you thought about moving to a less-expensive place or lowering your expenses in other ways? When we were trying to work through this, I suggested we consider moving or getting a third roommate to help with the bills. We eventually did the new percentages, but I would have been willing to try something like that if he felt very strongly about us each paying 50-50.

19 Kate March 28, 2012 at 7:54 am

That’s part of it – we just moved to a new city for my job and the cost of living and rent is double what it was – it was necessary, and we shopped around, but it was the only option. We’ll get through it – we just talked last night and rearranged the bills we’re each going to pay. Thanks for the post – it got a much-needed conversation going!

20 Rachel @ Healthy Chicks March 27, 2012 at 9:35 am

Rachel, I couldn’t thank you enough for writing this post! I’m moving in with my boyfriend in September, and while I’m thrilled beyond belief, the money factor freaks me out to say the least. I don’t want one person to end up resenting each other, I want to be fair, and I also don’t want money to be a big thing on the day-to-day because quite frankly, I dislike talking about money all. the. time.

I think this is a wonderful solution, and from coupled off friends, it seems to be like one of the more popular choices. Some people just “split it down the middle” but I find that can get foggy and all in all it’s better to be clear.

Thanks a lot, sending this article along to my boyfriend as we speak!
Rachel @ Healthy Chicks´s last post ..4 Ways to Feel Healthier, Happier & Altogether More Wholesome Right NowMy Profile

21 D March 27, 2012 at 9:35 am

I think paying a percentage is definitely fair. I’ve discussed this with my boyfriend and we’ve had conversations about what we will do when we move in together, and it’s pretty interesting what details come up when you talk about it! For example, neither of us want to live together until our careers are established. We both want to be completely financially stable and self-reliant (and making good money) before we move in.

As far as percentage vs. fixed amount, I think a fixed amount is difficult because what if your partner wanted to live in a more expensive apartment? He shouldn’t have to sacrifice because you can’t afford 1/2 of it, but you shouldn’t have to stretch yourself thin just to be ‘fair’.

My bf is very traditional and doesn’t like when I pay for things, so I think a joint account will be essential when we move in together. I think he would feel super uncomfortable if I ended up making significantly more money, so I have considered what that would do to our relationship if that happened. At the same time, I am definitely a saver/hoarder and if I made more money than him I know I would be resentful of his spending habits if we had a joint account.

None of my thoughts are coherent…just rambling! :)

22 Jessica March 27, 2012 at 9:36 am

I have to say that I love every single one of your blog posts, Rachel! I don’t always agree 100%, but you always get me to think about things in a different way with your intelligent and well-thought-out reasoning. I wish I had your foresight in many situations I’ve faced- trying to understand how you or Eric might psychologically feel about your various options before you decide is really smart. I make more than my husband and it never really occurred to me that there is a deep-seeded reason that I might judge what he chooses to spend money on more than I would judge my own choices. Ok, done gushing about how awesome you are! :)

Basically, you guys are setting a really smart example to set. I think the sooner you start talking about money in a relationship, the better. When my husband and I were dating we did the 50-50 split thing and it worked, but I hated the fact that we had to pay such close attention to make things “fair.” Shortly before our wedding we opened a joint account and put equal percentages into it- I actually read that suggestion in a Suze Orman book (“Young, Fabulous and Broke” I think). We still have personal accounts and a joint account to this day. The main difference is that a large percentage of our income goes into the joint account since that is our “primary” money- so we save for everything from vacations to retirement from that account, as well as pay bills. We recently discussed increasing our percentages because we want to start more aggressively working towards an emergency fund.

I’m definitely going to check out those articles you linked to!
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23 Anna March 27, 2012 at 9:37 am

My husband and I are a couple with quite a few bank accounts. We have a joint account, where we pay the bills from, and then he has a business account and a personal account of his own. I also have my own personal account as well as a savings account. My parents always are telling me that we should only have one account, but the system works for us–I pay my student loans out of my personal account, as I have always done, and he pays his, and everything else comes from the joint account. I actually prefer this because even though both of our names are on all the accounts, I can buy him a gift on the sly without him seeing it before he’s supposed to.

Our situation is that he makes a significant amount of the money in our marriage, but I still pay my loans. This really doesn’t bother me too much because as a result of this I have a really awesome life/job and we save up together for things we want to do, like trips and stuff. I’m sure as things progress our accounts will become more streamlined but for now it’s totally working.
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24 Kate March 27, 2012 at 9:41 am

Also, I have to add – his parents have a VERY dysfunctional financial relationship, and I have stated many times that I will never be like they are. They both make a substantial salary, but his mom is very irresponsible with money – shopping, gambling at the local casino for fun, etc. So now, she gets a very small biweekly “allowance” and the rest of her paycheck goes to their joint account, over which his father has control. Um, THAT will never happen! Because of this unfortunately my boyfriend has the attitude that our money will never completely be “OUR” money – we will never be completely “joint” everything. I’m unsure how I feel about this.. I do think I’d always want to have at least some small amount that’s MINE, but I don’t know. Sigh. I hate money.

25 Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie March 27, 2012 at 9:44 am

This is such an interesting and important topic, thanks for tackling! Money can be a stressful issue and embarrassing topic to discuss, and it can be really hard to get to a comfortable place, whether you’re just starting out or in it for the long haul.

I make roughly 5x what my boyfriend of over a year does so combining finances isn’t high on my list, we don’t have joint expenses because I automatically pay for everything. Is there resentment? Of course. Does it go beyond brief flashes? No. I have moments where I wonder if purchases would be made if he had to pay for them and there are definitely times when I miss having more disposible income… But I never feel taken advantage of, which is important. I think a key factor in this is the fact that my parents had a similar arrangement for most of my childhood, my father owned a bookstore & then became a teacher while my mother was the primary breadwinner.

But at the same time, I don’t think I’ll ever consider it “our money” regardless of whether we combine accounts, which worries me since I do want to be a long-term “us.”
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26 Carly March 27, 2012 at 10:09 am

Right now, I’m a student who works part time, and my boyfriend is a professional working 50 hour weeks. Our finances are nowhere near even. We split our rent, but he pretty much pays for everything else, and his mentality is he would have to pay for it whether or not I was around, so it’s fine. When I can afford to, I chip in.

Meanwhile, I pitch in where I can. I make lunches and dinner every day, because it’s the way I can contribute. I do the laundry and the cleaning. I know people who have gotten defensive saying I’m not conforming to gender roles, blah blah blah. But really? If I can’t contribute financially, and I have the time to do these things, it makes me feel proud to contribute in some way.

27 Andi March 27, 2012 at 10:13 am

My now husband (boyfriend at the time) and I opened a joint checking account when we relocated for my job. It made sense to give him access to some of the funds because he wasn’t working and could do some of the tasks I hated like paying bills and grocery shopping. I kept my own accounts but if I didn’t trust him with some of the money, I probably shouldn’t be living with him. After getting married, we still each have our own savings accounts, but we’re pretty fluid in how the funds are transferred between them.
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28 Caitlin @ This Bride's Joyride March 27, 2012 at 10:14 am

This was (and still kind of is) the hardest part of moving in together for my fiance and I! I am actually the “breadwinner” – I make about twice his salary, more than double if you count my yearly bonus. He’s a police officer so his lack of pay now will definitely be made up for with his amazing benefits and pension later in life but right now, he makes just enough working (with overtime) to cover all of our bills and have some spending money. We’re trying to save for our wedding this December so money has definitely be the cause of some stress and fights.

When we first moved in I was so set that we had to split everything equally. Not because I was going to be resentful if I was paying more because I make more but because I was so worried he would resent me for paying more as the woman. As indepenent, pro-feminist as I am, I am going to be honest, I worried about that, and still sometimes am!

After a few months I realized that I was contributing far more to the wedding fund than he was. It took quite a few talks and sit-downs to realize, he really couldn’t afford to put more in. And realistically, my money at some point is his money too! So instead, we’re thinking in percentages! We both can afford to put 20% of our paychecks into wedding/extra spending funds and it makes us both feel equal that we are contributing the same percentage (even if it totals different amounts).

I can see your point on why it’s hard to be the “breadloser” (what a horrible term haha!) but sometimes I really think it’d be easier as the woman to be the breadloser in the relationship. Ugh, I hate admitting that in 2012, but it’s the truth!
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29 Anne Weber-Falk March 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Thinking in percentages is a great way to go. I wish we had done this when we were young and LIS.

30 erin March 27, 2012 at 10:18 am

we started a joint checking account probably about the time we bought our place together. and at that time, we both made approximately the same amount of money so we contributed the same amount. However, he got laid off 2 years ago. so our savings which is in my name because i really have trouble trusting him with that much money, basically dwindled down to almost nothing because our monthly bills for those 7 months was about $800 more than my own income each month. It was so hard to go through that because we had essentially cut down to the bare minimum of everything, we had basic tv, cell phones – you can’t really cut down on them, etc.

then when he got a new job — he made significantly less, so I continued to contribute more than him, and still am. he still has debt he’s paying off. however I pay for our weekly groceries, and often when we go out. But i did set up a new joint credit card so he could start seeing how much i truly contribute. because i do have my moments where I am resentful towards him mostly because i see him spending his paycheck on random eating out (breakfast and lunch at work), etc. I’m pushing him to talk to them about a raise because his boss completely adores him and doesn’t want to lose him, but it depends on the contractor company. UGH. but we don’t fight about money as much as we did when we were first together. this is the amount you put into our joint. and that’s that. it works.

31 Jane March 27, 2012 at 10:26 am

My long-term boyfriend when I was in college and I didn’t have a joint account, although we almost did. We lived together and shared expenses– we also had a roommate– and that was all well and good until he decided he wasn’t going to work anymore. I ended up paying his share of the rent for a while because otherwise it wouldn’t be paid by anyone, and when he broke up with me (while we still had four months on our lease– that was awful), he wouldn’t give me my money back because I didn’t have anything in writing, and he tried to cheat me and our roommate out of our split of the security deposit when we all went our separate ways at the end of the lease.

I think the point here is that I need to stop dating deadbeats, actually. The secondary point, not elaborated as well, is that I think there’s merit to a paper trail in case things go awry.

32 Manon March 27, 2012 at 10:38 am

Since I’m about to join the world of “Living in Sin” in a couple of months, this post couldn’t have come at a better time…but I still have absolutely no idea what will work for us. We’re pretty much in the same boat–he’s Mr. financially responsible, $$ in the bank, no debt, makes more than me……..and I’m miss “Life is short, I want to buy things!” He doesn’t have kids (Thank you Baby Jesus) but has “spousal support”, you know, because when you have a bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, AND A F’ING LAW DEGREE, OBVIOUSLY there’s no way you could find a job, so why bother trying to find one when you can continue milking your ex-husband, right? Don’t even get me started on the court system….but anyway, great post! :) It gave me a lot to think about as well as ideas we can discuss!
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33 Stacy March 27, 2012 at 10:59 am

Great post, Rachel. I never had a joint account with my ex when we lived together, but we split the rent 50/50 despite the fact that I was still in school AND working full-time, and he made buckets of money compared to me. We also lived conveniently close to his work, so I had a much longer commute/gas costs/etc. There’s a huge difference between EQUAL and FAIR.

My husband and I started dating when I was a student, then I made more than him after our wedding. He got a promotion and I changed careers so he made more than me. We moved and I was unemployed for 10 months. I got a job and he was then unemployed for 10 months. That was fraught. We have a lot of joint assets, but we also have our own accounts.

Money is about security and providing and is so tied to our self-worth. It’s been tough at times, but being forced to deal with money makes us a stronger couple. Don’t get me started about saving for retirement, investing, inheriting money, qualifying for a mortgage, and setting up a trust account.
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34 Olivia March 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

Interesting. I’m in accounting and my boyfriend is not good with budgeting or math of any kind, so when we move in together I’m going to be the one in charge of our finances!
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35 Jessica March 27, 2012 at 11:18 am

Hi Rachel, new commenter here! I felt compelled to reply to this post for a variety of reasons — the main one being that I make a significantly lower salary than my fiance, who I live with, and it’s never mattered. I am a journalist and a yoga teacher; he is an engineer. While I work more hours than he does, I make nowhere NEAR the $$ he does. And that is okay — he has never once made me feel badly about this — and he should not. I would be very, very, very (x100) worried if he was making remarks about my inability to immediately or aggressively pay off debt when, frankly, that’s not possible at this time even though I’m working my ass off (as I’m sure you are, too — full-time job, blog, freelance — I can tell you’re a hard worker).

Obviously, you guys have to figure out what will work best for you, but not all careers pay the same (duh, right?) and I feel like Eric should be more understanding of that. Because my fiance and I make radically different sums of money, we split the bills in a VERY uneven way; he pays our mortgage, utilities, general bills, etc. while I usually take care of groceries, restaurant meals, movie tickets and other “extras.” It works for us and there is no resentment on either side… and I think that’s how it *should* be.

Long comment, sorry! Anyway, I wish you the best of luck on your journey. Please just don’t ever feel bad about not making the same amount of money as he does; you’re working hard both outside of the home AND in your relationship, and that’s so important.

36 Rachel March 27, 2012 at 11:29 am

Thanks for coming out of Lurkville! And THANK YOU for this comment; I felt like you were coming out to protect me (and anyone else reading who might be in the same situation).

I think you’re right about him needing to be understanding, and I should clarify: this problem has since been solved solved and I feel comfortable and confident with how it was solved. While his initial attitude was really upsetting to me, I have realized that we all think certain things about relationships and our future partners before we’re actually in the situations when it matters. Eric comes from a family of strong, independent women who all have high-earning jobs and I think he expected his partner to be an equal; I don’t think he expected to be with someone who makes so much less than he does. While that’s an obvious reality to so many of us, I think it was just a bit of a surprise for him. As you probably did reading this post, I got extremely defensive and basically said what you did — that I work my ass off, that I may never make as much as he does, and that he needed to understand where I was coming from and, well, STFU about my debt.

I was definitely concerned but I also gave him time to accept that I wasn’t his fairy tale woman in this way, and I knew, without a doubt, that I wouldn’t stay in the relationship if that attitude didn’t change. But it did. I’m a big believer in giving people an education and a chance to change their ways; in our case, I felt like he very quickly saw where I was coming from and we came to an understanding.

But yeah…that’s why this stuff is so hard.

37 Jessica March 27, 2012 at 11:40 am

Yes, yes, yes — I was definitely swooping in to offer a little protection because I am really passionate about this topic (clearly)! :] I am so glad you two have come to a happy place with this. And good point about “we all think certain things about relationships and our future partners before we’re actually in the situations when it matters” — that is 100% true. I get that his background made him see the situation a bit differently; ‘makes sense!

38 Parita @ myinnershakti March 27, 2012 at 11:40 am

So my perspective is completely different, as my fiance and I will never have lived together before marriage. And as far as eating out and going on trips before marriage, we always tried to split the cost equitably. But after marriage (this June!!), I will be the only one working because he’s currently in medical school. We knew it would be that way when we decided to get married, and we both understand that open communication about our finances will be key to our happiness as a couple. And I think that’s how it should be for any couple, married or not. Communicate and ovecommunicate. Money has been known to mess up a lot of relationships if you let it, so I would say be proactive, have the tough conversations, respect your partner’s views, and make decisions together. I know, I know…easier said then done. It’s a given that Vishnu and I will argue over money every now and then, but we’ve also both committed to working through our differences. That’s my 2 cents…
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39 Katrina @ 'Sota is Sexy March 27, 2012 at 11:41 am

When my husband and I were dating, we had our own separate accounts and simply took turns paying for things. Once we tied the knot, we merged every single one of our accounts. I don’t have one credit card, checking account, or savings account (aside from my personal IRAs) that doesn’t also have my husband’s name on it.

Initially, I thought this would be a great way to keep me accountable (I’m the “spender” in the relationship), but I don’t think he’s logged into any of our accounts in over a year and a half, so it really doesn’t matter if we have joint or separate accounts…(although if he had his own account, I don’t think he’d ever remember to pay bills on time, so joint is probably for the best.)

We both work full time and while he makes a little more than me, our salaries our *very* close, which does contribute to making us (or at least me) feel more equal.

Last year, he lost his job for six months. This was the one time in our relationship when I became the only breadwinner, and kind of lorded it over him in a not very nice way. I have to admit that I was pretty cranky when I would check our credit card statement to see all the expenses he had racked up, despite the fact that he wasn’t working.

And then he reminded me of my monthly clothing allowance, and I really didn’t have an argument anymore. Touche.

At the end of the day, I think it’s about doing what works for you, and allowing for some give and take. I love that you had the guts to suggest contributing the same percentage as opposed to the same dollar amount. Good for you!
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40 Brittney March 27, 2012 at 11:46 am

My husband and I have a very weird system for our money. Before we got married, we lived together for 4 years and we kept our accounts seperate. He was the bill payer of all household expenses, so I would write him a check every month for my half and he’d just take care of mortgage, utilities, etc… When we got married, I was all for getting a joint account and it was actually him that was more hesitant. Well, shortly after we got married, my husband lost his job and found a new job that was about a 1/3 of his prior income, which meant I was making more than him. At that point it was him that was happy with the joint account and I ended up HATING it, because with him paying the bills and all my income going in there, I never really knew how much we had in the account and was terrified to spend anything from it. This meant I was racking up debt on my credit card any time I wanted to spend money for fear of us not having money in the joint account to pay bills. Eventually I told him this wasn’t working for me, and we actually went back to the original system, sort of. The joint account is more my husband’s account (even though I can still access it), because he had gotten rid of his other account and I have my own seperate account. I write him a check every month for my half of things, like we did when we were dating. He actually makes more than I do again now, so I suppose we could revisit going back to the joint account, but I just like knowing what’s in my own account for when I’m out shopping so I know what I can spend and that it’s not affecting our base household expenses. I also pay my own credit card bills, Netflilx, and a couple other things from my account. Also, I usually pay for groceries, but dinner out, house stuff, and things like that is just kind of up in the air. We decide when we’re out who will get it. We’re weird, I know.
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41 D March 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm

I wanted to comment again because I had some questions!

Did you and Eric discuss this situation before you moved in? Like, did you know how you guys would handle it when one person made more money? Were the expectations different? And if you plan to have kids, do you know what you would do workwise? I’m very curious! Do you think you would have done anything differently in terms of moving in or any decisions?

42 Rachel March 27, 2012 at 1:58 pm

All good questions!

We discussed it ahead of time and that’s when we agreed on the 50-50 thing. The imbalances in our income never came up and that’s something I wish I had known to talk about…it felt like it came out of nowhere! If I had known all that, I would have suggested different amounts from the get-go and avoided a lot of these problems. I think that’s the only thing I’d do differently in terms of finances; there are some other things that I plan to post in the next few weeks when I talk about how we do chores and some other aspects of living in sin!

We don’t have a plan yet for kids/work. We’ve talked about it a lot, but the truth is, we just don’t know how we’ll feel in, say, five years. The biggest thing is that my job situation is very, very unpredictable. It could go in a million different directions, and those directions would have a huge impact on our finances, whether we could afford daycare, whether we could afford to have someone stay at home, who would be willing to stay home, etc. It’s also impossible to say how we’ll feel about work/family balance in a few years, when we actually know what jobs and family are in the picture. We have a few tentative plans based on those different scenarios, but I’m really uncomfortable making those decisions now. (I don’t want to get stuck into a path I choose now…like, how many times did I change my college major?! Yeah…same fear.) To me, the time to make those decisions is the day we decide to throw caution to the wind when it comes to BC.

For now, we just do a LOT of talking. As this stuff freaks me out a lot more (because women so often get screwed when it comes to work/family balance), I’ve been reading a LOT on the topic. (The A Practical Wedding blog has been AWESOME for this!) I’m a big fan of sharing good articles, whether it’s about relationships and money, kids, infertility (a big one), career, illness, or whatever, and asking him how he feels about them and also working out how I feel about them. It’s been really helpful. The biggest thing I’ve taken away from that, and from the money stuff, is that we’re both very open-minded. That’s huge for me, because I know we can’t predict our futures…I just want to feel confident that whatever happens, we can talk about it, be creative, and find a solution we can both live with.

43 Anne Weber-Falk March 27, 2012 at 1:35 pm

When my now husband and I started living in sin together our salaries were nearly the same. I had credit cards with balances, he had a college loan. One of the first things he suggested was to set up a joint account. He said that since we were living together what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine. I said NO WAY. All I could see was financial disaster in our future. But I was young and naive and also smitten so eventually I caved. I was also right. He was not good with his money and I felt guilty saying no to things. Credit cards were used with the promise of paying them off right away. Of course that promise was broken. I wish I had stuck to my guns and kept things separate. I wasn’t perfect either. We both over spent. It took us many years to pay off all the financial foolishness and mistakes we made. Our credit is still terrible but getting better. I remember hearing that my BIL and SIL had separate accounts even after marriage and thought it was terrible. I was wrong. They had it right and still do. They were able to retire well from the “rat race” in their 40′s. John and I should have kept things separate. We did not have many arguments over money and position in the family. We both felt at fault for all our decisions. I think we might have been smarter with our dollars and our financial future.

44 Amanda March 27, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Before my husband and I got married – we each had our own checking and savings accounts when we were “living in sin” and while engaged. We were both grad students but had different incomes and we split rent evenly. It’s obviously up to the couple to find something that works for them, but it’s not like the higher earner derives greater value from renting half of the same space, and should therefore pay more rent. For us, it seemed fair to split rent evenly as we were both using the space evenly. We took turns paying for groceries every other week. For a while, I earned less – and it made sense that therefore my discretionary money after paying bills should also be less. If I wanted to spend more money on “me” things, I would work more hours at my grad assistantship or by babysitting more. It would have been a mess if we ever split up though because he cosigned on my car loan, and contributed to the down payment, but I made the monthly payments. Good thing we got married! :)

Sounds like you two have already worked out your rent situation– but (using your situation as an example) hopefully if Eric was unhappy with the rate at which you were paying off your debt, he would be ok letting you reduce the amount you contribute to rent if you put that money toward paying down your debt. (That way it’s not like you’re asking to be relieved from rent…so you can buy designer bags & clothes with the money).

Money’s tricky. Everyone is raised with different ideas about spending and saving. Going into the relationship, my husband was definitely more of a saver and I’ve been the spender, but we’re on common ground now. We have joint accounts, and as long as we contribute X-amount to retirement and savings each month, the money left after bills is fair game for little splurges like going out to eat, skiing, etc. I was the “breadwinner” for the past 3 yrs while my husband was finishing grad school, but we just moved across the country for him to accept a job, which meant me giving up my job, so currently I am a non-earner, and I would definitely say it’s impacting my sense of self and perceived value (Hm, maybe my job played too big of a role in my sense of identity). He says I should not feel bad about not contributing to income, since I was the breadwinner the last few years. I am SO used to working and contributing that I’ve never felt a need to justify purchases, but now that I’m spending money that *I* am not earning, I feel I need to explain “I spent this much at Target because we needed x, y, z.” Ugh, hope I find a job soon!

45 Kaytee March 27, 2012 at 2:33 pm

My fiance (husband in 2.5 weeks!) makes a lot more money than I do. Because I don’t make any money at all. I never planned on being a housewife, but that was just how it happened when we got to Hawaii. I tried to find a job and couldn’t, but the plan was always that any income I made would just be extra. (Thank you, Army!) But despite the fact that he pays the bills and takes care of most of my expenses, we keep our accounts totally separate. Weird, I know. When we moved in together, I had a fat savings account from saving for months of anticipating unemployment & selling my car. Then when we got engaged, my dad transferred money to my bank account to pay for the wedding, so it made sense to keep our money separate. I’m not on his account, either. He will probably add me to his account so I can pay bills when he’s deployed, but even then I wouldn’t use his account for anything but paying bills. I get cash from every paycheck that I use for my own expenses (similar to the Dave Ramsey envelope system) and it’s easier for us that way because I never have to worry about if I’m dipping into our rent money when I go out to lunch or buy something. I know it’s not the same as what most commenters are talking about because only one of us is working, but the envelope system really works and I highly recommend it for setting aside grocery money or “going out” money. It makes us look at what we’re spending each month as a total amount instead of just purchase by purchase.
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46 MelissaNibbles March 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm

When my ex lived together we split rent and utilities 50/50 and had a joint savings account that we put whatever we could afford into (for vacations, etc…). He made more than me, but we paid 50/50 because we would’ve had to pay rent and utilities not matter where we were living and it was cheaper to live together than on our own. I guess that’s why the percentage thing is weird to me because if you had a roommate instead of living with Eric you would pay 50/50 right? I’m all about equality in things like this because I don’t want anyone being able to hold anything over my head.

As far as debt goes, it sucks, but I do understand his concern because credit scores are important when planning for future things like a house, cars, personal loans, etc… He cares about you and probably just wants to help you for your future. In my own experience, my ex made more but had a bad credit score from spending too much money in college. Mine was better (nothing to brag about though). We made it a priority to improve our spending habits and credit scores while we were together and even though we aren’t together now, I’m grateful we did that because it still improved my future.

These sort of things are VERY important and should be discussed thoroughly before living with a boyfriend or girlfriend. I have a couple of friends who’s relationships ended because of this. Talk to your man ladies!
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47 Kacy March 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I’ve had joint checking accounts with two previous boyfriends and, obviously, we broke up and it was a hot mess. It took SO long to close the accounts because we both had to be present and the breakups didn’t end well. I’m not sure I’ll even get a joint checking account if I get married, just because I was so scarred by those experiences. I was so worried about my finances during those periods. However, I see how it can work for some people.
I’m about to move in with my latest beau, and to avoid the JC situation we decided to open a credit card together, put all of our joint expenses on the card, and then pay it off in full every month. It’s working out great, because like you said, it makes eating out so much easier, and it makes us more conscious as a couple as to what we’re spending and what we can jointly afford. And we get pretty awesome cash back, which is fun. I’ve always abused credit cards in the past (sooo much debt, sigh) but this is teaching me the value of using credit wisely (to get the benefits, give yourself time to accumulate money instead of living paycheck to paycheck) and not building up a high balance and paying interest on it for years because he would kill me if I did that.
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48 Kacy March 27, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Oh and I forgot to add that even though I make more money than him, we still split 50/50 for now. After a few months of living together I plan to ask him if it’s something he’s comfortable with, or if we should adjust, as you raise a good point. However, I thihk the difference in income will be very short-lived. He has a lot more room for growth in his career than I do.
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49 Elizabeth March 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm

My husband and I combined all of our finances immediately after marrying. However, we still have our own (not joint) credit cards. Even thought it all gets paid out of the same pot, we still feel we have a little independence in our spending as we aren’t monitoring transaction by transaction. It also makes it easier to surprise each other with gifts!

We just started to really create and set a budget in the past couple of months. I use Quicken and will download all of our bank information and my own credit card transactions so we can see where our expenses are going. My husband will send me his summary of his credit card payments by the expense categories we have set up in Quicken for me to enter each month. If something is high we can figure out what it was we did that cost so much. And it helps us realize where we can/should be saving more.

On a different note, I agree completely with you contributing an equal percentage. It’s easy to think of splitting in terms of amounts, but that is not necessarily the “fair” thing to do.

I will say that once married, if something were to happen it is a lot easier on the surviving spouse if they are a joint owner on the others accounts. My mother’s friend had to go through so many hoops to gain access to her husband’s account when he died, and it’s not something you want to have to do on top of everything else.

50 Liz March 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm

My boyfriend of 6 years moved into the house I own 3.5 years ago when the company he was working for failed. We’ve split all utilities 50/50 (I pay them and track the expenses) from the beginning. I tend to pay for groceries more often because I do all the cooking, but he pays for most of our meals out, so I think that about evens out as well. I didn’t charge him any type of “rent” while he was out of work (about 2 yrs) because I knew he was strugling financially.

Once he began working again making the same amount as me, I asked him to pay $200/mo toward housing expenses like insurance, taxes, and interest – half of the money I was “throwing away” every month to live in the house. I specifically didn’t want him paying anything toward my mortgage principle, repairs, or upgrades because I worried that if things didn’t work out, I would feel like he owned part of my house.

At first he was totally against it. His point of view was that I would have to pay those expenses on my own regardless of whether or not he was living with me so he didn’t feel like it should be his burden. My point of view was that he’d be paying $500+/mo for a 1 bedroom apartment on his own, so me charging him $200/mo out of my total expenses of $800+/mo to maintain a roof over our heads seemed fair. He eventually came around and hasn’t made another complaint in the 1.5 years since, but the whole experience really irked me and I’m still slightly self-concious about it. I don’t really know anyone else in that type of situation, so although I think I was being reasonable, I’m not sure if there was a better way to handle it.

51 deva at deva by definition March 27, 2012 at 5:04 pm

We opened our joint accounts when we got serious about buying our house. I also sat down with my bank statements and pointed out just how much of my monthly income was going toward “us” expenses, and it was eye-opening for both of us. Me, because I finally realized why my spending money and savings was so small, and him, because he realized the same. We were both nervous opening the accounts, but I put my foot down and said “no joint account, no house hunting,” and it’s turned out to be a really really great thing for us. We were able to build our savings up quickly, and now that we have our house and mortgage, it makes paying the mortgage a cinch!

Of course, wedding planning entering the picture means we’re discussing how to manage wedding costs, but that’s a story for another time. Or WWF.
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52 Mel March 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm

My mom is getting her PhD in Financial Planning (after working as a certified divorce financial analyst for years (talk about hearing some client horror stories!)) and my bf is an investment banker so I’ve slowly gotten to be more comfortable talking about money..with pretty much anyone.

One of my mom’s classes was called the Psychology of Money and I am currently reading a book from her course called Mind Over Money (http://www.amazon.com/Mind-over-Money-Overcoming-Disorders/dp/038553101X). The book studies how the events in our life influence our spending/saving habits and perspectives on moneys. It is a pretty interesting read and worth checking out since you are interested in non-fiction and self-reflection. (NOT saying you have a money disorder!!) LOL.

This topic and discussion has my mind spinning and I really appreciate everyone’s honesty here. Money seems to cause a lot of judgement and critical opinions within people but I think we all benefit by hearing honest accounts. (See again: My mom’s divorce clients’ horror stories.) Thank you Rachel! Looking forward to more nitty gritty scenes from the Sin life :)

53 Jessica F March 27, 2012 at 8:44 pm

It’s so interesting to hear other couple’s take on this situation. My boyfriend and I moved in together not too long after you two did. We did not open a joint checking account, but came up with our own plan that has worked wonderfully so far.

From the start, our rent was not equal. I’m still in school and have an big expenditure every several months. He does not have this. What we ended up doing was balancing the rent in relation to what our previous rents were. I was spending less on my place, as I could afford less. Moving in created a smaller budget for rent, so we each got a proportional amount of rent reduction (so both of us were happy!). I also do all of the grocery shopping (I really enjoy it, I’m good about saving, and I do pretty much all of the cooking). I save all of my receipts (as we do if we go out to eat, pick up some beer, get gas, etc.). At the end of the month we add up who spent what amount, figure out what the 50% mark is, and balance it out by whoever paid less throughout the month making up the difference in the rent total (pretty much always him by a bit). The 50% works out well since there are some expenses that he doesn’t add into the budget (things I wouldn’t purchase but he wants and can afford and purchased with the intent of us both using it, like his car). Neither of us have felt taken advantage of and it’s easy for us to both budget appropriately. There are times when I feel like I can’t afford to go out and he will then specifically state that it’s his treat.

I’ve loved our approach, it worked well from the very beginning. I will have to admit, however, that we are both naturally savers that don’t make many purchases, so there is less potential for disagreements.

54 Ashleigh March 27, 2012 at 8:44 pm

My live-in boyfriend and I have shared a joint credit card for the last year to pay for all joint expenses (which are split 50/50). This post actually came at an interesting time in my own life – the whole ‘joint account when you aren’t married’ bit doesn’t seem to be working out for us after all. I make nearly twice as much as my boyfriend, and half the debt (thanks to working full-time my last 2 years of college) – two reasons he’s come to feel that I should pay the majority of our living expenses.

To be honest, I’m actually insulted by the whole thing. Yes, I make more money and have less debt, but I worked my ass off in college to pay my way through after the recession bankrupted my parents (who could then no longer cosign my loans). I hold a hard science degree, and drive 40 miles each way to work every day at a job I have because of said degree. What isn’t taken into account is that my commute is so long because we had to move to an area closer to my boyfriend’s job — which pays for his car, gas (I won’t even get into how resentful I get when I’m filling my tank at $4+ a gallon!), insurance, phone, and daily lunches. I get the privilege of a car loan and car maintenance, gas, and paying my own insurance and cell phone bill. I also get to be away from home for nearly 12 hours a day, then come home each night to make dinner and clean, while he works 6 hours a day schmoozing clients over lunch on his company’s dime and then comes home to take a nap. At the end of the day, I think my boyfriend has a pretty damn cushy living situation, and I’m furious that he doesn’t see that.

Really, I could deal with the commute and the cooking/cleaning and being jealous that his gas is free, haha, but the argument that I should pay more because I make more has put our relationship on the brink. I never thought that we’d end up here, but who knows, maybe we’ll figure it out.

I guess the take away from my story echoes a few other comments already posted: just be careful on the financial front. It’s fantastic that you and Eric had this discussion, and I’m so glad that it’s working out for the two of you. (And thank you for sharing it with us! Really, I’m loving the content you’ve been putting out the last few months.) I feel like an asshole even suggesting this like I’m some wise woman, when you and I are the same age, but please make sure you have a safety net.

55 Rachel March 27, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Thank you for sharing your story! I really appreciated hearing such an honest account of another side of this.

What I found really interesting reading your story is that while you and I are in different positions here, we both experienced the same feelings of resentment. And to me, resentment means there probably needs to be a conversation (and probably a change). In all honesty, I don’t blame you for feeling resentful; it sounds like things aren’t fair or equal in your relationship.

Out of curiosity…why are you still responsible for cooking and cleaning? I don’t think that the person who pays less should have to do this automatically, but I think that the person who works less — as in hours spent at work/commuting/doing housework/etc. — probably needs to step up and contribute in other ways to help offset those feelings of resentment (and the feelings of guilt and insecurity on their end). While I don’t like the idea of keeping score, I think we all just want to make sure our needs are being met, you know?

In any case, I really feel for you…please keep in touch as you work out this situation.

56 lea March 31, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I never comment, but I am in the same position as Ashleigh, and I totally resent paying more (I pay almost all the bills) and working more (12 hrs daily plus a 1-2 hr drive each way depending on the day). But part of the reason I have I hard time discussing it with my husband is he makes about 70% less than I do, and I know he doesn’t feel good about it. I don’t want to immasculate him (I already have a typically “male” job) so I don’t know how to talk about it.

57 Nicki March 27, 2012 at 9:13 pm

I’m single and have never lived in sin. When I’m dating someone, we tend to split things once we’re serious – though I will admit the guys usually make more than I do so the balance tilts slightly more towards them. As a lot of other commenters, I’m also VERY fiercely possessive of my money, which I attribute towards being single for the majority of the 4 years since I graduated from college and have learned to budget/save/invest all on my own. However, I’m also very open about money and actually like talking to anyone and everyone about the topic! I have zero debt which is a huge relief. One day, when I do eventually live in sin with someone – money talks will probably occur sooner than they do in most relationships because I realize this can be a HUGE deal breaker/issue depending on how people deal with their own finances. It was great to read about you dealt with this with Eric – and I say good for you for standing up for yourself to make things more even! Because yes, you do need to protect yourself no matter what. :)

58 Becca March 27, 2012 at 11:53 pm

What a great post! Thanks so much for sharing. My boyfriend and I have been dating for a long time but we’ve never actually lived together. Since we’re both just out of college finances tend to be up and down. Luckily it’s worked out so far that when one of us is down the other is usually up, but that’s not a for certain situation. In general we try to make things even, but it does get tricky when you factor in things like one dinner out might be cheap but the next might be expensive. It also gets uncomfortable when someone (usually me) remembers paying for something but the other doesn’t… Resentment rears it’s ugly head. Good for you guys though for working something out. It’s definitely one of those things that has no right answer, you just need to go with something that works for you.

59 Alexia (Dimple Snatcher) March 28, 2012 at 1:37 am

certainly, your best post. thank you.

60 Lisa March 28, 2012 at 9:12 am

I’m always interested to hear how people handle $ stuff. When I was married, I made more $ but we considered everything to be “our” money and “our” expenses because both our parents were that way. I also handled the finances and that probably caused more angst than sharing. My ex was convinced that I was squirreling away a ton of savings when telling him we could t afford things while he wanted to spend spend spend beyond our means. I think he was shocked to find out that I wasn’t lying to him (during the divorce, he saw how little savings we had). This wasn’t the single reason we divorced, but he’d had some resentment that I was “controlling” the money.

I think it’s important to find something that works for both people and make sure it’s still working as time goes on. I’m hesitant to jump into a 100% shared situation again because I know the rug can come out from under the relationship and I want to be sure I can support myself if it does. One word of advise – even if everything is shared, make sure at least one credit card is in your name. On joint accounts, usually one person is the primary account holder. If you are only a secondary card holder, you risk not having “credit” and that could be detrimental if anything happens (breakup, divorce or death). I never thought I’d get divorced, but was smart enough that my ex and I each had our own credit cards (with the other person having access). We each maintained good credit and it made separation a *little* easier on the financial front.

61 diana@mymarblerye March 28, 2012 at 9:27 am

Call me an idiot but I paid for almost everything while my husband was in school (he was my boyfriend at the time). I rather spend more of my income on our bills then have him take out student loans which would make us both suffer in years to come. Now that he done with the first part of his education and is making SOME money he is paying all of the rent, and I pay the rest of the bills and eating out, groceries, etc. it comes out pretty evenly. We have separate bank accounts and I don’t anticipate having a joint one until we have kids. We are just too lazy to deal with that right now but it works out great for us. No fight, just “hey it’s the end of the month, remember to pay rent” is all we really talk about. I could have held a grudge when he was a student but I hate loans and it ended up working out well.
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62 Heather March 28, 2012 at 9:36 am

My ex and I lived together for almost 2 years, and had a joint account most of that time. We also both drove cars that were in his name, which (as you can imagine) led to quite a messy breakup. I worked full time and took 5 classes for my English degree, and he worked part time. I had no financial support from my family, and he had all he could ever want. He had amazing credit (thanks to his mom and step-dad), and mine was still being built, since I was still in college and, you know, 19. We usually split things 75/25, with him getting stuck with the smaller portion. Looking back, I know that whole relationship was a poor life decision. But it taught me how things SHOULDN’T be.

Now that I’m married, we have seperate accounts, but we’re about to merge them after a year of doing things seperately. My husband makes enough money that I don’t have to work (big shout out to the Air Force), so I do a job I love with little regard for how much I make. As a result, up until now, he’s paid for everything and my money has been for fun things and my personal “play money.” I’m not really feeling it though, so I suggested we put everything in one account so I feel like I”m contributing a little more. That way, he has a little more play money and I don’t have to worry about bills. Since the one bill I’m responsible for (my car payment) usually gets forgotten about. Maybe this new way of doing things will fix some minor issues.

63 RAIN March 28, 2012 at 12:13 pm

My husband and I have joint everything and make about the same amount of $. So we have never really had an issue. But it’s interesting that you took the amount of $ you make in to consideration when you two decided who would be contributing what. I think that’s very smart.

Sounds like you and Eric really work at your relationship and issues. I think that’s great!
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64 Alyssa @ Don't Look Down March 29, 2012 at 11:13 am

This is such an interesting conversation. I just started reading your blog but I must join in! My boyfriend and I have been together 7 years (we’ve been dating since high school) and because of that our finances and sharing expenses has seen many different seasons. We’ve never lived together and are living in different states. Because of this we don’t have any joint expenses but when we are together we generally take turns paying for things and always evenly split the cost of larger trips. We have very similar incomes but my cost of living is much higher than his and sometimes I feel a little resentful about the amount of money he has been able to save or the things he is able to buy, but I also now that I am more fortunate to have much less student loan debt (due to working part-time throughout college). The good news is I feel like we are definitely on the same page as far as finances go-saving up before bigger purchases, paying down extra on student loans, already putting money away for retirement, and having a rainy day fund. This does give me a lot of confidence in our relationship in that sense, but we do have a lot of other issues related to living in an area where he can get a good job vs. living in an area where I can get a good job (and for us, they are mutually exclusive). Hence why we live in different states. I do think that if we ever move into a place together a lot of these issues about who is paying for what and income discrepancies will come up and hopefully this post will help then!
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65 Meghan March 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Thank you for writing this! I have been so interested to hear how other couples handle this. I have been living with my boyfriend for almost a yr now and we have yet to get a joint account. I have been wanting one so he can see how much I truly contribute. I make about twice what he does so I pay more than half. We split rent in half but I pay all utilities except cable (bc he wants more channels than I do) and I pay for most of the groceries since his work pays for most of his meals. Ok one hand I think all of these expenses would be the same if he did not live with me so I’m fine paying more but on the other hand he wouldn’t be able to live this cheap on his own. I work a stressful job and I work more hours than him I think it would be only fair for him to do more than half the housework but he disagrees. I hate coming home from a long day to him on the couch with dishes in the sink bc its “my turn” to do the dishes. I don’t want him to feel like my maid but I’m working hard so in turn his rent is cheaper. I wish he would help me lighten my load too

66 Nadine March 29, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I love “lining in sin” posts! definitely an enjoyable read and about completely relatable topics that I never see anywhere else! Love the blog- I have been reading for over a year now!

67 kate April 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Wow, so many comments! I was only able to make it about half way through.

When Matt and I had our budget conversation, partially assisted by your original post, thanks!, we sat down with our two paychecks for a month each and all of our bills (student loans, cell phones, car insurance/payments), plus adding to our savings. With that information we were able to figure out what we each were able to contribute towards the monthly bills (mortgage, utilities, cable, house taxes and insurance.) Because what we spend each month on groceries fluxuates we decided Matt would save receipts when he bought groceries and we’d total that up with what I spent* and we’d split the percentage.

One of the things that makes a joint checking account a hard sell for me is I use a Rewards credit card that I really like, I’ve had it for a while and racked up quite a few point. I can’t imagine changing from accumulating rewards to just using a debit account. (I’ve never not paid of my credit card in full at the end of a month.) Matt’s not as sold on the credit card rewards as I am, plus he likes the credit union he uses. I can’t change banks because of the mortgage, I received a discount when I purchased my (our) house.

I also learned that while I love playing with numbers and budgeting it can make Matt a bit uncomfortable. I was excited to sit down and budget last year, this year I’ll be more reserved and make less of a geeky deal about it.

Thank you for this post. It kickstarted a couple of questions for Matt and I as we enter our second year of living together and will be revisiting our budget again soon. This budget conversation will bring practical discussion of traveling, starting a family, wedding costs, possible business ventures we’re dreaming of, really where we want our money to go in the future and how to start that now.

One more thing, reading the Practical Wedding post this statement caught my attention, “Second, marriage is about pulling together. It’s about building a life together, through thick and thin. When we don’t let our partners pay down our debt with us, not only are we not letting them love us and support us, but we’re also not letting them help-us-pay-off-the-damn-debt-so-we-can-save-for-a-downpayment-together (practical considerations, says the woman working hard to pay down her husband’s law school loans).” http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/03/combining-finances-marriage-wedding/#ixzz1qqQ9lDqs While we’re working to individually pay down our debt now I can definitely see our conversation next year moving towards the joint checking account and working together to chip away a debt to make those plans above become reality.
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68 [SMASH] April 2, 2012 at 8:17 am

Joel and I moved in together almost immediately after meeting and starting dating. Once we got our own place [I'd been living with a roommate for awhile and our lease was almost up], he started to write me a check or give cash for his part of things. He has his own checking/savings and I do, too… But my bank is closer to where we live and if we’re being totally honest, I’m more responsible with money. So he gives me a portion of his checks each pay period and we work out of my account to pay our joint bills [rent, cable, etc]. While it is still uneven since I make significantly more than him, it seems to workout okay.

69 Erica April 3, 2012 at 9:02 am

Oh my goodness, thank you for this post! My boyfriend and I have been living together for about seven months. For the first four or so months I was unemployed. Now I have a job, but it is part time and I make a fraction of the amount he does. Things were really difficult at first, then got a lot better when I got a job, but the tension has been building up again. It feels like he (and/or society) expects me to contribute an equal amount to our expenses, which I simply cannot do with my current income. So I’m left with this guilt of not contributing my fair share, and I can feel his resentment building towards me for having most of the responsibility on his shoulders. We talk about it, but it’s such a hard thing to talk about objectively without getting into way deeper issues (being financially responsible, having debt, and ultimately power/control in the relationship). My point is, thank you for writing about this and showing me that I’m not alone! I actually hadn’t though of opening a joint account, but after reading about your situation, I think it would be a great idea for us as well. Thanks!
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70 Nina April 4, 2012 at 11:09 pm

I dealt with that last year, except I was floating my boyfriend for several months. He felt like you about it, and sometimes I’d pick lame fights about how he could at least do the dishes (haha!) but we just kept track of everything I paid for and he eventually paid me back once he got a job. I offered to let some of his debt go, but in the end I’m glad he paid me back everything,

71 Nina April 4, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Boyfriend and I split everything 50/50 even though he makes more than me. He has debt and I don’t. The way we tackle the resentment issue is by cutting our expenses. Our monthly expenses are somewhere around $550-600 each, which is way more attainable than what it would be if we had every costly thing we might have wanted.

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