Some Ideas About Sharing Expenses in a Relationship
I saw an interesting guest post at Budgets Are Sexy today about how a couple that lives together but isn’t formerly committed could financially work. The post discusses splitting things 50/50 and not combining accounts for shared expenses.
As a non-married person, this made me uneasy for several reasons. (Note: I am in a committed relationship and we don’t live together.)
In my relationships, I’m usually the lower earner, and this is not uncommon. According to Women Employed, 60% of low wage earners are women and 1/3 of the female workforce in the United States is a low wage earner (compared to 1/5 of the male workforce). If you want to look at a bunch of depressing/infuriating graphs about income disparity between the sexes, check out this study. And as my blood starts boiling, here’s me stepping off my feminist soapbox…
Regardless of which partner has less take home pay, splitting things 50-50 seems unfair to whoever is making less money. For example, I lived with a boyfriend who owned his own house and could not have afforded half his mortgage if I wanted to. That said, he had bought the house before me, and was unable to sell it, so if I had a shared role in the decision, I wouldn’t have chosen to live there. What we decided to do was have me pay the equivalent of 25% of my salary towards the mortgage, split the grocery bill, and have him cover the additional expenses with home ownership. Since my name wasn’t on the paperwork, this made me comfortable and he continued to get the equivalent of what his former roommate had paid in rent.
Some of my friends were appauled but the thing is, it was our relationship. We both agreed to the terms and this arrangement kept me out of the poorhouse.
Also another issue to consider is that most women do more household chores than their male counterparts, and these tasks are not compensated. To earn my keep when I lived with my exboyfriend, I did the dishes, cooking, and laundry as regular chores. We both spent an hour once a week cleaning the house together. So while I paid less as far as rent, I think I made up for it in other aspects.
In short, a 50/50 finacial split isn’t necessarily an equal relationship. Sure, having a rule like this avoids having to have the uncomfortable money discussion but discussing what you need and want sounds like a good opportunity to set some terms, financial and otherwise, that both people in the relationship can agree with.
While my current boyfriend and I don’t live together, he is at my house a lot. (He lives with other people and I live alone so it’s easier.) We don’t go out much because neither of us make a lot money. We mostly end up going for hikes, cooking dinner, or watching movies. So he chips in $10-$20 a week to help with household expenses like groceries and helps me with some chores like dishes and cooking. If we ever move in together or when things get more serious, we’ll re-evaluate but for now, we both think it’s equitable. He is also clear that I won’t live with a boyfriend again unless we’re at least engaged. If you like it, put a ring on it indeed!
This is, of course, my unique experience. I think living together can work if everyone is clear on the communication.
And not until I am married will I ever combine my finances. As the Budgets Are Sexy post fantastically put it:
“If he can’t commit and sign on the dotted line for our happily ever after, then he can’t be allowed to sign on the back of my credit card.” (You can see the Budgets Are Sexy post here.)
I’d love to keep the discussion going about this. So money when you aren’t married: Should finances be combined? And do you think 50-50 is fair?