Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Poll: How Do You Split Finances With Your Significant Other?

Much money 07I’ve been getting a lot of letters recently about finances in relationships and how money is handled in general, so I thought it would make a great poll topic. If you’re currently in a relationship, or have been in one in the past, how do/did you deal with everything from the check at the end of a meal to covering living expenses (if you lived together)? And in the comments, I’d love to hear whether you are happy with your current arrangement and/or whether you expect/want it to change. Have you had a relationship end over money issues?

[polldaddy poll=”8061937″]

47 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Jane63 August 24, 2015, 12:51 pm

    When I was married we simply put both of our checks into one joint checking account. It was our money, not yours or mine. Our retirement accounts were separate and equal. Any investment accounts were joint. This worked for us at the time.

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    • avatar

      Gwen Soul August 24, 2015, 1:50 pm

      That is us, not sure where that comes in the poll above since it really isn’t tracking, but is still joint.

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    • avatar

      _s_ August 25, 2015, 8:45 am

      Yeah, same here. We don’t “track” whose money does what. All our paychecks go into one joint checking account, which we use to pay for everything. Separate retirement accounts that we contribute to equally from the joint checking account (though I do have an additional retirement account through my work). Joint savings that we contribute to from the joint checking account (a set amount each month). I should add this works because 1) we are married, 2) we make roughly the same amount of money (I make a little more, but probably spend a little more on leisure activities, so I figure it balances out), and 3) we are reasonable people who can be trusted not to make larger purchases without running it by each other/the budget first.

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  • Crochet.Ninja

    Crochet.Ninja August 24, 2015, 12:59 pm

    Like Jane63, it’s all the same for us. one chequing account, and it just all goes into the pot. we don’t keep track of who bought something last etc. it all works for us. retirement accounts are separate, but that’s because it goes through our work. we’re a team, we treat it like that.

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  • avatar

    Jennylou August 24, 2015, 1:04 pm

    I’d love it if we could just pool our money in the same account, but my husband has some complicated family financial stuff, which neither of us want my income involved in. We’re newlyweds, and currently setting up a joint checking account to cover our household and baby expenses, to which he’ll be contributing more (he makes ~50% more than I do). We plan to keep our finances separate until his family’s situation changes – probably a good 10-15 years down the road.

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  • redessa

    redessa August 24, 2015, 1:09 pm

    I’m a stay-home mom so our only income is from my husband. When I have worked, the money went into a joint account. We’ve always looked at any income as being for the household and never tried to parse out who was responsible for which bills. Fortunately neither of us irresponsible with money so it works.
    .

    My sister-in-law’s husband sees money in their checking account and thinks it’s fine to spend without considering that the mortgage is due or groceries need to be bought. She’s had to basically put him on an allowance of either cash or a small account of his own to keep him from overspending.

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  • avatar

    Ms. Simba August 24, 2015, 1:13 pm

    We live together but are not married. We put whatever on whichever credit card and have a spreadsheet that tracks stuff monthly. One person pays the rent and then we do the math to figure out who owes the other. We aren’t nit picky about it but it keeps everything pretty evenly split. Makes it easier if only one person goes to the grocery store, etc. We’re both still saving and paying for school but make approximately the same so splitting it this way works well for us.

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  • avatar

    K August 24, 2015, 1:16 pm

    We don’t live together but spend every night and weekend together. I usually buy groceries, and he tends to pay when we go out to eat. If we go out to eat a lot in a short period of time then I offer to chip in or pay. We don’t keep track of things.

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  • avatar

    MissDre August 24, 2015, 1:23 pm

    In my previous relationship, we did not live together but we split absolutely everything 50/50 (like when we went out to a restaurant, we’d just ask the server to split the bill evenly in half).

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  • Ika

    Ika August 24, 2015, 1:24 pm

    We don’t keep track of who earns what. My husband earns waaaay more than I do, but everything is pooled, whoever needs money in their account gets what they needs and deposits it.
    When we first started living together I was adamant I would pay 50% of stuff, but it was impossible, given I was getting paid very sporadically.

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  • avatar

    Ale August 24, 2015, 1:26 pm

    Answer: We don’t live together, but when we go out, I usually pay.

    My boyfriend earns a lot less than me and has double as many responsibilities. He is still in college and works a full time job and has to help his mom, grandmother and sister. So, many times he has no money to take me out, so I end up paying.
    Sometimes I am very stressed by all of this, because I think about our future and how we have nothing saved together. I don’t care about me paying because he has wonderful details with me that don’t involve spending a lot of money, it’s the savings thing and future that I stress about. However, it lasts like 5 minutes because I am hopeful that his situation will change once he’s out of school. He is aware of all of this and is very grateful for everything.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna August 24, 2015, 1:40 pm

    We don’t live together and we usually take turns paying. However, since my boyfriend currently makes quite a bit more money than I do, he contributes more to vacations , special outings and the like. So it’s a ‘mixed system’ of sorts.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 24, 2015, 1:44 pm

    We have joint accounts. Everything from both of us goes into checking and then savings is transferred to the savings account and my income is transferred to a stock account. We don’t worry about what either of us spends.

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  • avatar

    memboard August 24, 2015, 1:45 pm

    Missing poll option: “We no longer live together and I took the lightly used copper pots back”
    .
    running away and ducking.
    .
    (either that or Cowboy Neil)

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  • othy

    othy August 24, 2015, 1:51 pm

    I’m the sole earner in my house while my husband is in school. We have one account that we both spend from (and he used to deposit to when he was working). We’re a team, and have similar spending/saving patterns, so this works for us. I do think he worries that it’s “my” money, but that will change when he finishes school in December and gets a job.

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  • avatar

    girltuesday August 24, 2015, 2:04 pm

    It’s on a case-by-case basis. We’ve been together a year. Sometimes, he will treat me to breakfast, then I’ll get the bar tab that night. The pattern usually is – if someone pays for an activity during the day, the other person will cover dinner at night, for example. We make almost the same exact amount of money. Oops – forgot to add that we don’t live together.

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  • Miel

    Miel August 24, 2015, 2:24 pm

    Our current strategy is “keeping the communication lines open”. We used to be two poor students and we would split everything 50/50, but now he works and I’m doing my PhD, so he earns double of what I do. We kinda alternate who pays for what, but I usually have to speak up about “this is too expensive” or “It’s my turn to pay now”. Like this weekend, I paid for the grocery and he paid when we ate out. The weekend before that I paid for the afternoon outing and he paid for the nice restaurant afterward. He tries to give me money sometimes but I have to hold on and say no, because we aren’t married and I want to manage my own money. I know our situation will change in 3-4 years when I graduate and get a job. It’s likely that I will make a bit more than him in the future. So yeah, the strategy is really “let’s keep talking about this”. We have good communication.

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  • coconot

    coconot August 24, 2015, 2:51 pm

    Married, and like the majority here we just pool all money and try to spend about equally. We figured it’s too unpredictable to know how salaries will fluctuate in the future and come whatever increases or decreases we are a financial partnership. I am starting to feel a bit guilty about spending equally as our income gap has been growing a lot recently and probably will still be 1:3 even when I finish grad school :-/ My husband says he makes money for me though, so I guess he doesn’t feel that way.

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  • avatar

    Cherlyn August 24, 2015, 3:13 pm

    I don’t see a comment here yet with a relationship ending over financial issues so I’ll be the first.

    My last relationship ended over financial issues. It wasn’t that we were quarrelling about it, it’s just that he felt so inapt after a failed client deal (the clients refused to pay what was owed by citing their own money issues) that he thought that I would be better off with someone else. His ego/identity was based on his financial situation and no amount of reassurance from me would change his mind.. in his words: “I need to feel good about myself before I can feel good about the relationship.”

    Ouch.

    For 2 years we were watching our cash flow, with me paying for a lot of things, because I had a job and he was bootstrapping his business with his savings. That got to him as well.

    This isn’t exactly a “relationship ended because of disagreements over expenses” comment, but just goes to show that money can end a relationship in all kinds of ways.

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    • kmtthat

      kmentothat August 24, 2015, 3:52 pm

      Wow, that really sucks. I do think there are often layers of gender roles that play in to financial dynamics, and a lot of men feel external pressure to be this breadwinner type, even if that’s not what you want/need.

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      • avatar

        Cherlyn August 25, 2015, 4:52 am

        Thanks for your comment!

        Yes, it really did.. I can’t say that the amount of money I had spent on the relationship (he flew back to his home country for his business and I constantly had to pay for the plane tickets) didn’t add on to the hurt. It was like I had wasted so much money, effort and emotion to have it all end up in nothing.

        I know it wasn’t exactly “nothing”, but that’s now I feel for now.

        Yes, you are definitely right. Men are just expected to be the providers, and many take it seriously.

        Lesson learnt; I guess I will need to assess the financial situation of the next guy I get into a relationship with. I still don’t really care about how much money he earns, only if it’s enough to provide him with the lifestyle he is satisfied with.

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    • avatar

      Anonymous August 24, 2015, 8:47 pm

      Yeah, that sucks. Hopefully you can find someone who isn’t willing to let his ego get in the way of a good relationship. Bullet dodged.

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  • kmtthat

    kmentothat August 24, 2015, 3:51 pm

    I’m the higher earner, and when we moved in together we decided to base the main living expenses (moving costs, rent, parking, utilities) on percentage of our combined income. So since I make X% of our income, I will pay % of rent.
    .
    We do groceries, eating out, furniture, gifts for family, etc. 50/50 with one of us using Chase QuickPay to send the other money. Sometimes one of us will offer to pick up things so we sitll feel treated. Or I offered to pay for half of his therapy as he has no insurance and it was my request that he go after a big fight.
    .
    I would say I am mostly happy with the arrangement, but it makes me feel really vulnerable to be investing more financially in our relationship when we aren’t even engaged. I would feel differently if we were married. I know my bf sometimes feels I hold it over his head I pay more, I think sometimes he lets his insecurity about still building up his career get to him. It’s definitely not a daily struggle, but money stuff does rear up during fights occasionally.
    .
    I am most concerend that I not only pay more for rent, etc. but I am the only one saving in a 401k (and a pension) and for a down payment for a condo/house (which he will ultimately benefit from). It’s like the ant and the grasshopper, where I have been working hard at a career and made moves and sacrifices while he kind of partied and didn’t buckle down till after we met. I know no partnership is 100% equal, but I do want to feel like we are both putting in equal effort. Always a work in progress, and part of why we wanted to live together before we got married – to work through all of this and find what works.

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    • avatar

      RedRoverRedRover August 24, 2015, 4:10 pm

      This is a major reason why I never wanted to live with someone until we were married. I don’t feel comfortable being a “team” with someone financially unless there is a major commitment, which for me means marriage. Before I was married, I didn’t share money with boyfriends. We always split everything completely evenly.
      .
      Now that I’m married, we each kept our individual accounts because we already had so many automatic withdrawals/deposits set up and it was a pain to change it. We have a joint account for household expenses which we both contribute to, and then if one of us builds up a big balance in our bank account, we’ll transfer it over to invest or put a lump sum on our mortgage. I like it better this way, I was almost 35 when I got married and I’m used to having my own account and my own money. We both just spend what we want out of our own accounts, after we’ve moved over what’s needed for monthly bills.

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      • kmtthat

        kmentothat August 24, 2015, 5:01 pm

        Yeah, our plan would be to keep the individual accounts and have one main joint account and oe main savings where a certain percentage of our paychecks auto deposited. I agree part of that happens when you don’t get married till your 30s.
        .
        But yeah, the vulnerable feeling is the hard thing to shake.

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  • Portia

    Portia August 24, 2015, 4:11 pm

    We have kind of a mixed system… We split most living expenses 50-50, except for groceries: he pays for grocery store groceries and I pay for farmers market groceries. We kind of take turns paying when we go out, but don’t keep track. If I had to guess, he pays more on restaurants, but he’s more often the one who would rather go out than make dinner.
    .
    Bassanio tends to fall into a cycle of offering to pay when we’re out because he has a card that he gets X% back on, then he’ll pay more, then his bills are big, then bring it up and talk about why he’s offering to pay more and we’ll reconcile this. No matter what I say the cycle repeats itself like every few months. But our plan is to combine all future income once we’re married and pay the bills out of one account, so we’ll both pay for everything together.

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  • avatar

    Rel422 August 24, 2015, 4:18 pm

    I would say we’re “working towards” a joint account. We live together and recently got engaged. The home mortgage is in my fiancé’s name, as are all of the home bills. When I moved in we decided on an amount that I would give her on a monthly basis towards the house/bills. It’s not a 50/50 split but since she makes more than I do it feels comfortable to us. We did end up having some frustration when one person ended up going to the grocery store more often than the other depending on who had time. To solve this for the time being we got a credit card together that each of us will pay half of at the end of the month. The thought of someone else having full visibility to my spending habits is a little anxiety inducing to me. Not even sure why since I’m not in some huge debt hole and I pay everything off.

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  • avatar

    Lovelygirl August 24, 2015, 4:58 pm

    We have both paychecks going into joint accounts after we got married so now it’s one big pot of money. Before we got married we split the bills by percentage based on how much we each made (the split was 70/30). I think it depends on where you are in the relationship as to what’s right for you. If you are looking to split the bills equally, then make sure the person who makes less can actually afford the way you split. I made a lot more than my husband at first so our split made sense to us. He offered 50/50 but it would have left him penniless which is just cruel. Now everything is OUR money and it works well for us.

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  • vixky89

    vixky89 August 24, 2015, 6:00 pm

    We don’t live together, and he has a fairly decent career whereas I am a recently graduated university student with an entry level job, so when we go out we tend to split things 60/40 ish. It’s rarely more than a $5-$10 difference though.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray August 24, 2015, 6:34 pm

    We did pour everything into one pot and go from there, but now that my husband has a better job, we live off of my income, and put his into savings, but it still feels like ours. Kind of the same deal anyway. It was so important for me to find someone who had similar financial goals and habits and I don’t think it would have mattered for us how we split our money regardless.

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  • Lianne

    Lianne August 24, 2015, 6:41 pm

    I checked that we share 50/50, but it’s more complex than that. We both put ~ half of our paychecks in a joint account and use that to pay all household bills and for date nights (unless one of use decides to treat the other), groceries, home decor, etc. But we’re not nitpicky at all about it. It works for us!

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    • avatar

      Anonymous August 25, 2015, 6:29 am

      That sounds more like a “% of income” system with respect to household bills, groceries, etc., unless you two make about the same and so 50% of your income is the same as 50% of your husband’s, no? A “% of income system and leftover pay is separate and you do what you want” system. So people who do this, does this mean, when you grocery shop, you pull out the joint credit card, but use your own for personal purchases? I could see myself forgetting and just putting all on the wrong card.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray August 25, 2015, 8:04 am

        Whoops, this is AP. I’m not sure why it says anonymous. I think on my phone it never keeps me logged in as AP. And whoa, old pic!

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      • avatar

        SasLinna August 25, 2015, 9:22 am

        With the separation between joint and individual accounts I guess it has to be possible to at least use the joint account for small personal purchases (IDK, like shampoo). Otherwise I’d find it too complicated to implement.

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      • Lianne

        Lianne August 25, 2015, 9:37 am

        Yeah no one is getting upset about using the joint account for miscellaneous once in a while. I also get bonuses and since a fixed dollar amount from all paychecks goes to the joint account first, I tend to put more into it. I guess we’re more like a “it will all come out in the wash” kind of family. Neither of us is worried. He came into the relationship with a lot more savings than I did and we’ve gotten some significant cash gifts from family, as well. We’re a team and treat our money as such.

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      • Lianne

        Lianne August 25, 2015, 9:34 am

        Haha. That happens to me sometimes too. Then Wendy has to approve it so I think my comment didn’t post then do it again. It’s a vicious cycle.
        .
        I do make slightly more than him, but when I got my raise, I didn’t change how much I put in the joint account since I have to do a dollar amount. So technically he puts in slightly more than me right now – but it’s only like $100 per month.
        .
        That’s exactly what we do…joint account for groceries, dinners out, etc. but I use my personal debt card for personal expenses, like manis/pedis, haircuts, makeup, clothes, etc. I never forget which card to use; it’s two different banks so they don’t look alike.

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  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki August 24, 2015, 7:56 pm

    We’re married and have 2 separate accounts. I make a good chunk more than he does and he has child support while I have student loans. Basically, I pay all the bills and he transfers me most of his check each payday. He keeps enough for gas, food for work, and a few other things and then gives me the rest to pay bills. I usually pay when we go out. Really it doesn’t matter to us as long as the bills get paid. He didn’t like having a joint account with his ex because money was tight and the little costs added up and suddenly they’d be overdrawing.

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  • Nookie

    Nookie August 25, 2015, 5:38 am

    We recently bought our house and put money into a shared account for bills, and we keep the rest separate (with the exception of a secondary savings account we both put money into for spending money on trips). We usually split everything else 50/50 or close enough.

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  • avatar

    snoopy128 August 25, 2015, 6:15 am

    Not married. Moving in together but with a weird system since I just finished my Masters and don’t have a job yet. Right now, he’s taking on utilities. We split groceries 50:50. He pays for dinners out since he likes to eat out more and eat out more expensively. I pay for the smaller things (icecream, brunch, lunch, when I want to treat him). House stuff (new freezer, art, etc) split 50:50.
    Once I have a job, we will re-evaluate and will probably move to split all things except eating out either 50:50 or based on %income contributing to the household. It was actually really hard to me to acquiesce and let him pay for utilities and 100% dinners out right now, but I don’t have the money right now and he does. And he offered, knowing I would have a hard time accepting if I did.

    There’s really no move right now to join finances or bank accounts. That sort of thing I’m not comfortable with until marriage. Unless it was like a small chequings account we put money into to pay for joint things (trips, house stuff, utilities, rent, groceries).

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray August 25, 2015, 6:23 am

    Ahh, how couples handle finances – one of my favorite topics! I always thought I’d do what my parents did – share everything, one joint acct, etc. But now that I’m older, with substantial savings and stuff of my own and a kid (soon!), if I were to ever get married, I’m not sure that would be my approach.

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh August 25, 2015, 8:22 am

      I think if I had married later than I did we would have done things differently too. Other than my retirement account I didn’t really have anything big. I didn’t even have a car loan, etc. So it did make it much easier to just lump everything together.

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      • avatar

        Kate August 25, 2015, 8:38 am

        Agree with this. The first time I got married, at 21, I had nothing of my own. I did the whole name change and merged bank / finances stuff because it seemed like a necessary part of being married. When I got married again at 38 I was more in your position, AP, with a substantial income and savings and investments of my own, and I haven’t done those things like change names and merge accounts. We do more of a % contribution thing and it works well.

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      • avatar

        K August 25, 2015, 9:28 am

        Even though I don’t make much money, I can’t picture just putting everything into a joint account. I’m 31 and if I get married I’d want to keep my own account with at least something in it, even if I put the majority of my income into a joint one.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna August 25, 2015, 9:18 am

      Yeah, there are lots of reasons not to merge everything. I also think you can share money to a significant extent without merging ALL the accounts. Basically how you manage the money is separate from the degree of sharing involved.

      If I were married, or living together longterm with my bf, I’d probably suggest a joint account for household expenses that would receive a set amount of our respective salaries each month, and we’d each have our own accounts besides that, for stuff like hobbies, clothes etc. where we differ in how much we spend. This would also help with sticking to a budget for household expenses.

      If we had some sort of division of labor with one of us working a lot more and the other being mostly a homemaker then I would try to come up with an agreement for how the homemaker should be compensated.

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  • avatar

    Mary August 25, 2015, 8:38 am

    Question: Do any of you have kids from a previous relationship and your SO doesn’t? How do you factor the cost of kids into your finances? Kids can’t pay mortgage/rent, or food, or utilities, and if the Dad is contributing with child support, how do you divide everything up? Is it 50/50 on rent and a different agreement for food and bills? Would appreciate some advice with this.

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  • avatar

    SLS August 25, 2015, 9:05 am

    I agree with AP – how couples handle finances is super interesting!

    Ours is sort of evolving at the moment. When we lived together pre-engagement we set up a joint account and we each put in “x” amount every month to cover rent, bills, groceries, and going out with friends (dates were still paid for by the person taking the other out). It worked well because while my BF made significantly more, I have zero debt (he has student loans and a car payment) so it probably ended up being a 50/50 split.

    Now that we are getting married in a couple of months we are considering consolidating into a single joint account. Originally, I was adamantly against combining our incomes 100%, but I am softening to the idea and actually think it could help us better budget and save. We are working through how we would maintain our savings acounts.

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  • Mr. Cellophane

    Mr. Cellophane August 25, 2015, 10:00 am

    I make 3x what she does. Some years she has made next to nothing. Some years her income is negative (hello Grad School…twice) There is one “pile” of funds, always has been. Funny thing is, she is a much better “accountant” than I am so she “holds the purse strings”, even when she is putting nothing into it!

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