Reader Question: How to Split Bills Without Resentment

Reader Question: How to Split Bills Without ResentmentThe other day I received an awesome reader question, and I really wanted to share it all with you since I’m not sure what the best way to approach this situation would/should be. They were wondering how to split bills with their boyfriend.

W and I have joint finances. We have a mortgage together, cars in both of our names, and all of our money goes into one pot. We’ve been doing this for years now and haven’t had a problem with it ever.

However, different couples do different things. Some split everything their whole lives. Some split expenses according to income. Some just throw everything into one pot. There’s no one right way that fits all couples.

This couple does things a little differently from us in that they split their bills. Not evenly though, and that’s where this reader question comes in.  I’ll let her question take it away now.

 

Hello! I enjoy reading your blog and have a question I hope you can
help me out with!

My boyfriend and I are moving in together and likely our first move is
going to be him into my small condo. We decided this is a good
temporary option for us (for as long as we can make it work) because
our ultimate goal is to buy a new house, hopefully while keeping my
condo as a rental and we are starting to think about saving for our
wedding as well.

I bought my condo almost two years ago to be comfortable financially.
I never saw myself getting into mortgage payments I couldn’t afford on
my own, so it’s totally manageable. I think the stubborn part of me
still doesn’t want someone to pay my mortgage for me, so in initial
talks with my boyfriend, I said if he just paid all the bills, I’d be
fine with it. I’m not a fan of nickel and diming to split everything
down the middle and the idea of him writing me a check for rent and
his share of the bills weirds me out!

Obviously I’m still saving money if we go with the original plan and I
get an awesome new roommate, but I don’t want to end up resenting the
arrangement.  The difference is about $450 a month and he makes 25%
more than me.

What are other options without ending up leaving passive aggressive
notes around asking for payment? Thanks!

 

So what would you do if you were her?

Let us know in the comments below. All help is appreciated! Also, please be kind. Keep in mind that this is a reader question.

 

Comments

  1. Katie C. says

    When my husband moved in with me (while we were dating), we decided to split everything straight down the middle. This made the most sense to us because we had our own cell phone plans, car insurance, etc. So I paid all of the bills like I did before. Then I’d split the figure in two and text David to let him know what his half came out to. He’d give me his half in cash, and I deposited it.

    After we got married and moved into a house, bills got trickier. We combined cell phone plans, but I kept a dumb phone with no data while David upgraded to an iPhone. We also added Netflix to our budget. Because David’s name was on the cell phone plan, it would have been really weird/complicated to divide the bills I paid in half and divide the bill he paid in half. So, we decided to do things more like my parents (who also have separate finances). David continued paying the cell phone bill, while I paid our cable/Internet and Netflix bills. Working out the math, the numbers were just about equal. After that, we each paid 50% of rent and utilities.

    An idea I’ve always liked but never implemented (because we’re lazy and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it) is the idea of having one joint account for bills. In this arrangement, you and your boyfriend could set up automatic deposits into this joint account each month and have the bills auto drafted from that account. I like this idea for numerous reasons. 1) No one feels like a landlord asking for half the rent payment from their significant other. 2) Because the bills are auto drafted, no one person in the relationship feels burdened by the responsibility of making the bill payments. (We fell prey to this during our first arrangement because all David did was withdraw cash from the bank while I kept up with due dates and actually paid the bills. It felt like we weren’t equally involved in our household finances.) I really think that’d be a good option for you and your boyfriend.
    Katie C. recently posted..Why the focus on no spend days?My Profile

  2. Emily @ evolvingPF says

    If you’re dead set on cohabiting and not splitting things equitably (it’s not too late to change your mind!), I think that your BF should contribute $450 extra per month to a joint savings account that is designated for your house downpayment and/or wedding. That is above the rate that each of you will be contributing to that account. That way you can feel like he’s investing in your future together while you’re still paying your own mortgage and there’s no money passing between you directly. But just realize that if you break up there’s nothing stopping him legally from taking all the money in that account.
    Emily @ evolvingPF recently posted..Blog Statistics Update May – June 2013My Profile

  3. Debt Blag says

    Having roommates now and having co-habitated in the past, I find it’s easiest to take as much emotion out of it as possible. With my roommates, we just keep a Google Spreadsheet going and add rent and each utility bill to it, then setting a Google Calendar alert on the same day each month where we plug the gap on the differences. Easy.

    Groceries can be more complicated, since males eat more. What I’ve done is to set a ratio early on and stick to it, again without emotion. For me, it’s been that I pay double my female roommates for groceries…which works out, because I’m a runner… and a fat guy…
    Debt Blag recently posted..Friday Link Love actually for June 21, 2013, and a casino that refunds gambling losses?My Profile

  4. Lindsey @ Cents & Sensibility says

    Hey Michelle,
    It’s is a really good question! My husband and I used to split everything in a 60 /40 split. He makes quite a bit more as an engineer so we look at the ratio of what we bring in together and then divided accordingly. But that didn’t seem to work out totally for us. Now we put everything into a big pot and make sure that we have the same amount of spending money each month – everything else get’s divvied up. It probably works out to be more of a 70/30 split at the moment.
    I don’t think this current system is going to the end all/be all. It’s going to evolve more as we drill down and learn more about how to split things in a way that works for us.

  5. Jennifer @ Budgeting in Baby says

    I like the suggestions of both Katie and Emily. I also wanted to add that maybe that $450 difference could go towards things such as repairs that the condo may need or towards groceries. It sounds like the reader may become frustrated if that $450 difference isn’t dealt with. I had a roommate who made more money, paid the same amount as I did but had her boyfriend over all the time eating our food, feeling taken advantage of financially was one of the reasons I moved out. This is definitely something they should discuss more because money issues between a couple or roommates can definitely lead to some serious problems.

  6. Catherine says

    Like Michelle, we also have everything joint. I’ve been with my husband since we were kids so our finances matured together. For us the money we make is for our family, there is no his and mine, we just combine everything and use our money how we/our family needs. I like it this way for transparency and ease of account management. Having said all this, if I was to NOW get into a relationship with someone (being somewhat established in my life) I would likely keep things separate until we were married. I like the idea of maybe contributing a percentage of wages (rather than a dollar amount) into a shared account for all shared expenses (housing/bills/food etc). While maintaining own responsibilities for debt/savings/personal monies.

  7. a lawyer says

    He makes 25% more than you and you pay more than $450/month than he does? Did I get that right? If your girlfriend was your roommate, would you do that? If not, don’t do it with him. Unless and until you’re married, don’t join your finances. There are legal ramifications that can kill you in the event of a break up. If you were my daughter, I’d ask you why you are so willing to let him get by with paying so little – relatively speaking. If he was my son, I’d ask him why he’s paying so much on a condo he has no legal right to. This has all the signs of being a disaster. Do things in the right order. Have him move into his own apartment, get married and then join your finances. Best of luck.

  8. Thomas | Your Daily Finance says

    I think you have to find the right balance between the both of you. For some 50/50 works in other households its who makes the most pays more, in others I have heard they split 50/50 on the things they want together but if the other wants a 500$ car payment they pay for it themself. My wife and I split everything in half and get them same amount of extra spending money each month. It just works for us.
    Thomas | Your Daily Finance recently posted..Blogging to Make It More Personal – Maybe Maybe NotMy Profile

  9. Jen says

    When my husband and I moved in together, he was still a student (but worked on the weekends so he made some money), so I was a little bit easier on him on the bills (as I was working). Basically, he gave me half the rent each month and I paid all the bills.

    The best part about this arrangement is that I could have paid everything myself so I put his half of the rent straight into savings each month. When it came to planning out wedding & my husband going back to school again, we were so glad we had that money put away.

    In my opinion, if you are really planning to marry this guy, this is a great arrangement for you too. The one caveat I’d make is that your boyfriend actually makes more than you – so you shouldn’t hesitate to just ask him to split everything down the middle (and not just the mortgage). Think about how much money you guys will be able to save if you put everything he gives you (other than the $450 you sound like you need for your place) into savings. You say you’re planning a wedding soon and want to buy a house – that money will be there to pay for those things down the road. Trust me, it’s a great arrangement to help you save money!

    Good luck with your decision and the moving in!

  10. Peter says

    I would strongly advise that you don’t move in with your boyfriend and mix your finances together on big things like mortgage and savings. It’s not too late to do that after you guys tie the knot. Recent research shows that co-inhabiting before marriage is a huge mistake and it could bleed through you marriage.

  11. Rich Uncle EL says

    I would recommend that you divide the household bills evenly from a joint checking account. Then divide the surplus into two accounts evenly. 1st account is earmarked for future house down payment, ( joint) 2nd account for misc spending (separate).
    Rich Uncle EL recently posted..How Much Savings is EnoughMy Profile

  12. Ree Klein says

    This is such a personal decision and one that will likely evolve over time. I like the idea of each contributing to common expenses as a percentage of overall income. Just because one person makes less doesn’t mean they don’t work as hard.

    I like transparency above all. However you choose to manage the accounts (joint vs separate) you should have one document that summarizes all the money/assets in the relationship and that should be reviewed at least quarterly. This ensures the document gets updated and a conversation is had about how things are going and whether changes are needed.

    There’s my 2 cents!
    Ree Klein recently posted..References Available Upon Request…Really?My Profile

  13. anna says

    For now since my bf and I aren’t married and live together, we first pro-rated everything according to our income. We gave it about a 3 month period, assessed if it worked for us and, if not, we recalculated (which we did). I think openly communicating something before reaching the point of being resentful is helpful in avoiding huge blowouts so things can be addressed/resolved calmly and rationally (and not just in finances, but chores, schedules, etc.). Best wishes in figuring out what works for both of you!
    anna recently posted..My Journaling/Tracking HabitsMy Profile

  14. Renee s says

    I’m not married, but I do have a roommate and one thing that has really worked for us is to both get ING accounts…it allows us to transfer money really fast and it goes right into the correct account. That way there is no dealing with checks or cash. I agree with a lot of the comments above—you gotta have communication. This is the test run for marriage! Good luck with it all…im sure it will work out!

  15. Tanner says

    I agree, it’s very tricky and highly specialized and individual to each couple. My personal preference would be to tally all the bills, and they are covered at an equal % vs an equal $. With incomes all over the place, putting pressure on the lesser earner may not seem to be fair, or easy. But if you two have common goals, then just throw all the money in a pot and budget it as a single income, giving space for individual spending money and individual savings.
    Tanner recently posted..Happy Friday! Time for a quick resetMy Profile

  16. Christine says

    So I’m a little late to the party but I still wanted to share. It’s definitely a couple by couple issue but I’ll just share what we’ve done over the last couple years. As a dating and living together couple, we made comparable amounts of money so we split our bills 50/50. This was at my insistence because I wanted to feel like I was pulling my weight. After we were married and ended up moving, I switched careers and now make significantly less than my husband. So what we do now is put a predetermined amount of “bills” money from each paycheck into a joint account to pay our bills from. Our rule is that as long as you contribute your bills money, you can do what you want with the rest (within reason). We still consult each other on larger purchases but no one has to ask for $5 if they want to go out to lunch at work.
    Christine recently posted..Summer Self Love Link Up: June 21My Profile

  17. Jennifer says

    Please Help Me,
    My boyfriend lives with me, I pay all rent and utilities. He thinks I am crazy to want him to pay half rent & utilities. How do I tell him couples splitting these expenses are normal. I am tired of having a zero or negative balance in my bank accounts while he has money?! I am thinking about ending our relationship if he refuses again. We can’t buy furniture, or needed clothes, food or move forward in this relationship if he won’t help or meet me half way. He makes more than me, and there is no reason he should live with me when I can get a roommate that will pay half those expenses with me. I love him but, I can’t keep living this way.

      • Jennifer says

        HE said that it’s unheard of and that I need to stop listening to my friends and family’s advice. I told him that my last boyfriend and I for 5 years split rent and utilities. I know that he told me that everything is balanced in this relationship, but I know this is not right. He has addictions that he wants to spend his money on, maybe he’s afraid he won’t be able to afford his addiction s. He and I can’t move his young son into our home at all and can’t move forward healthily if he can’t help me. I have told him that we would each have a savings, desperately actually saving money. Only if he helps me can we be successful together. I am older than he is and he’s learning, but his inexperience is wearing on my patience. I have a counselor lined up, and books and we can talk to rental agencies if he still doesn’t believe me. This is my last attempt to save our relationship. He gets angry when I bring this up.
        Jessica

        • Jennifer says

          There is a typo, I said actually have a savings account seperately building up money. Not desperately.

      • Jennifer says

        I had resigned from a great job, saved $10,000 on my own from that job and moved to another state to begin a new life with him. We have been in a relationship together for 3 years. I have discovered that he is immature. I have sold my personal belongings when he wanted money and, I have depleted all my saved money due to his influence. He says that I am all about money but I feel like a nun, I have given away all my money to him and I don’t have much in material possessions. I just was hoping he’d see reason… But, I keep waiting that he’ll understand. How can I make one last effort to talk to him, explain things in a non-profitthreatening way?

        • Michelle S. says

          Hmm this is very difficult. I think a counselor for this situation is desperately needed. I just found it extremely odd that he thinks he shouldn’t help pay. That is the weirdest thing I think I have ever heard.

          • Jennifer says

            Yes, I too find it strange that he refuses to help out at all. He said that that’s not the way reality works. I am in disbelief. I have a possible job being offered soon. I have to move forward with this opportunity it will change things for the better financially. I want to progress with him.

  18. Jennifer says

    I hope that he will go to the counselor or at least sit down with his father and I and talk about this. I don’t want to.feel like I traded my established life for nothing. I respect your advice. I have talked with counselors and people with experience. I just am going to be heart broken to let him go, if.it comes.to that.

  19. Furie says

    A joint account to take care of things like mortgage and bills is a must for all cohabitees. If you both want to keep your finances separate then each should have a standing order set up to offload a set amount of money into the joint account every month.

    I’d use an amount higher than expected expenses, based on what is expected for your most expensive billing period (usually the winter bills). At the end of each year (after those winter bills come along) clear out the account and agree together on a treat to buy with whatever was left.

    Sit down with him and explain the plan and you can figure out how much would be needed together.

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