Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Splitting Expenses With Your Significant Other

Before RD and I moved in together, we had a talk about how we wanted to take care of our household expenses. It was an interesting conversation as we chatted about what did and didn’t work in past relationships when it came to money.

In relationships, there are generally three ways that couples split costs:

  1. Split evenly – expenses are split down the middle, or you take turns paying.
  2. Split according to income – expenses are split proportionately, based on income.
  3. One person pays for the majority – well, self-explanatory.

Prepping veggies for dinnerWhile I’ve lived with boyfriends before, there was always a pretty significant difference in income. In college, I lived with someone who was already established in a career. He paid for most things because he knew I couldn’t really afford to. But once I started working, our incomes aligned a lot better, and we started splitting things evenly (to the point where we had a very detailed spreadsheet of expenses).

Then there was an ex-boyfriend who I financially supported during the last year of our relationship when he quit his job to go back to school. And Nic, who was a student – I paid for most of our dates, and while we lived in Germany, he paid for a bigger portion of our rent. We probably ended up pretty even in terms of splitting expenses over the course of the relationship – it just fluctuated based on each other’s income level at the time.

My relationship with RD is unique to me because I’ve never lived with someone where we’ve been in the same place financially (he makes more at his full-time job, but I make up the difference with my freelance income). Not only that, but we have the same sorts of spending habits. So it seemed logical that we split our expenses evenly, right?

Kind of.

What I didn’t want was to have a spreadsheet going and track expenses down to the penny. I’ve done it before and it really seemed to take the romance out of “treating” your partner to something. But I still wanted our expenses to be fair since we have no plans to combine our finances anytime soon (I like the idea of combining certain aspects of your finances together, but always want to keep some things separate – even after marriage).

Here’s what we’ve come up with:

  • We split rent 50/50 ($1,650/month)
  • I pay for the internet bill ($65/month)
  • RD pays for the hydro bill ($50/month)
  • We take turns paying for groceries, and reconcile our receipts once a month
  • We take turns treating each other to meals out

We don’t track every dollar we spend and I like it that way. Our day-to-day spending is quite relaxed. If we need something for the house, I’ll pick it up on my lunch break – or he’ll grab it on his flex day. We don’t keep track of the little things. It also means I don’t feel bad if I put a $10 bottle of kombucha in the shopping cart, he doesn’t mind picking up our bar tab when we’re out with his co-workers, and I can feel good treating him to a dinner out with my friends.

Being able to contribute equally makes me feel empowered. In 2006, I had to borrow bus fare from my then-boyfriend because I didn’t have enough in cash or credit to pay for it on my own. That was nearly 10 years ago, and seeing how far I’ve come makes me feel really good. I like that I don’t need someone to support me financially, and I like knowing that I’m financially equal to the person I want to be with.

That being said, I know that what works for us might not work for another couple – and it might not work for us forever. But for now, I’m happy with how things have been working out so far. :)

How do you split shared expenses with your significant other?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


Comments

  1. Michelle says:

    Great post! We have a system where we each have our own accounts (checking, savings, credit cards) and we share one checking account from which we pay the mortgage, utility bills, groceries, etc. We each contribute the same amount each month to that shared account; some months there is leftover, but we still contribute the same every month. It works really well: we always know there is money in that account, when we go out for supper we just use that account to pay for it.

  2. DC says:

    When I first moved in with my now husband we kept out money totally separate. He basically paid for all of our living expenses while I paid for my student loan, car loan, and saved for our wedding. At the time he made almost double what I did. We did combine finances before we were married though. It made sense for us as he is in the military and was deploying. He didn’t feel safe accessing online banking where he was. I still have my own credit card, line of credit, and RRSP but all of our “daily money” is combined.

  3. I really like this post. My fiance and I have from day one split everything evenly, except for saving for travel. Because in the beginning I was making more money than him I would supplement where he was lacking so we could be sure to have regular and amazing vacations. Even know my base salary is a little higher than is but he gets commission so I save more when I can and when the commission comes in he puts as much as he can in as well. We both still have our own credit card and have the same amount of allocated ‘free money’ spend on whatever we want. So far it’s worked best for us :)

  4. Zach says:

    For the past 6 years or so, my partner and I have shared expenses equally. I was in school, so I paid for my education and related expenses. Our living and travel expenses were split down the middle. In recent years, most expenses became “shared”, but we still each paid for our own clothes or meals out when we weren’t eating together – anything that didn’t involve or benefit the other individual.

    2016 is the year of combining income. I got so tired of tracking everything in Excel, which was really a waste of time. Given that we are trying to buy our first home in Vancouver, all extra pennies will go towards that purchase, even if one of us ends up contributing more. Whether I personally pay for a new pair of jeans, or we split that cost, the reality is we would (jointly) have the same amount LESS to contribute to our first home purchase. Instead, we are focusing on not buying the jeans in the first place, as opposed to tracking every expenditure we do make.

    The plan is to pool our resources to buy a home, and thereafter contribute all maximums to our RRSP/TFSA accounts, and keep sufficient savings for other goals (kids, travel, etc). We will maintain personal “fun money” accounts, funded monthly from our joint account, to be used for guilt-free purchases or gifts for the other person. It was important to me to have this aspect, because I witnessed my parents fight about the purchases each other made.

    This is not too sudden a change from what we were doing, individually. It has just been re-framed. Still, I expect some hiccups. We will re-evaluate in 2017.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Hmm that’s an interesting way of doing things – pooling all your money together, then giving each other an allowance from the joint account to your own personal accounts. I always thought of doing things the opposite way (keeping all money back in personal accounts besides what was needed for joint expenses/savings), but perhaps your way makes sense in terms of saving for a long-term goal. We’ve discussed buying a home down the road, and I assume at some point we will join at least a couple aspects of our finances together – so maybe that might work for us too. Thanks for sharing! :)

      • That’s what Joran an I did when we first combined our money significantly. The ‘workhorse’ account that receives both paycheques pays all the bills and then also gave us each an ‘allowance’ to do with as we please. We wound up transitioning from individual allowance accounts to a joint day-to-day spending account which is for gas, groceries, clothes and all variable spending. The rule (at first) was gas and groceries were bought for the week, and to check in if we were spending more than $50. We’ve been doing it for so many years now that it’s no biggy if gas/groceries doesn’t happen first.

  5. My spouse and I split the bills evenly. It works for us and then we don’t have to discuss purchases that we make with our “fun” money. We also put a certain amount into savings as if it is a bill.

  6. Cass says:

    We make roughly the same amount of money, but with bonuses I may make more. We have a joint account for mortgage and car payment. Other than that we just split bills randomly when we bought (me Gas and Net/Cable) him Hydro and Insurance etc…) The bills probably aren’t even but neither of us is concerned. Everything else is separate. For groceries and dinners etc.. again it’s just kind of I pay sometimes and he pays sometimes. The only time we give money to the other is that I usually book travel so he’ll give me his share, but when we’re on the trip if there are other expenses (dinners, etc..) we again just each take turns paying. Also, big purchases (furnace recently, we split). We discussed if we had kids putting more pooled money in the joint account, but only if that happened. Otherwise we’re happy knowing we both save and the rest of our money is for whatever we want. It’s nice because we are never annoyed at what the other buys. In addition we do birthday gifts, but not xmas. Because we have a lot of disposable income we don’t need “things” so we instead plan on taking trips.

  7. Amy says:

    Finally! Been waiting for you to post this. :)

    We split everything 50/50, but paid for it separately, for the first 4-6 months, keeping track of what we spent. During that time, we opened a joint bank account. Once we knew what our “averages” were (rent, utilities, groceries and such), we starting putting 50% of our share into the joint account each pay day. That way, if he’s out and we need milk, he can buy it without a lot of math at the end of the month. Every 3-4 months, we sit down together and see if we need to adjust the spending or money transfers. We’ve slowly added auto payments for the utilities from this joint account, which makes it so much easier to manage! We’ve also bumped our transfer amount up, so we can start saving for the wedding in one account. The ‘buffer’ also helps if we over spend (which happens…I’ll be honest!)

    You have to find what works for you. Since the fiancee and I are planning a life together, having a joint bank account isn’t that much of a stretch, and it emulates our lives – we get what we put in!

  8. Catwoman73 says:

    When hubby and I first started living together, we split things according to income. But I would pay the bills (he was too disorganized to keep track of everything… what can I say? He’s a free spirit!), and he would write me a cheque for everything at the end of the month. Once we got married, however, we consolidated everything. Now there’s just one chequing account that all the bills come out of, no matter what our incomes are. I definitely find this to be an easier arrangement for us. I still take care of all the finances in the household- the paying of the bills, transferring money between accounts and so on, and he trusts that I’m making good decisions (I haven’t always, but I’ve certainly gotten better at it lately!).

  9. Peter says:

    Great article. Very thoughtful and insightful. My wife does not work as I am the only income in our family. You did not talk about that situation. Your thoughts on that would be helpful also.

  10. My partner moved into my house which I had owned for a while. I had tracked the household expenses for some years before, and the utility bills were already in my name. So I told him what the typical annual expenses were, he transfers half that amount (in monthly installments) into my bank account, and I continue to pay the bills. Works for us. If he ever wanted to transfer any bills to his name or pay them (just for the experience? credit rating?) then I would transfer the same amount to him. I also review the amount every year and we make an adjustment (usually down, because we try to improve living frugally!) We also pay equally for travel and big household repairs/purchases, but we keep the remainder of our funds separate and have our own spending and savings goals. We each have jobs with retirement contributions taken off the pay cheque, and we save different amounts to supplement that.

  11. Chris says:

    For anyone splitting costs 50/50 there’s a great app called Settle Up http://www.settleup7.com. Each person enters whatever they paid for and at the end of the month (or whenever) you can see who spent what and how much is owed. It’s also good for trips with your partner or friends.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Cool! Thanks for the link, I’ve never used anything like this before and could be helpful for travel expenses down the road. :)

  12. Debtman says:

    We split everything 50/50. Have since I was a broke college student to now being a HR supervisor.

  13. Lindsay says:

    We’ve been together 9 years but have always kept our finances totally separate. We just bought our first house together so figured we finally had to merge finances somehow so we have a joint account that we each put half of our after tax income into. This covers the mortgage, bills, pet expenses and most of our groceries. That way we both feel like we are still financially independent but all of the big stuff is taken care of together. It’s only been a few months but it’s working well so far!

    • Krystal Yee says:

      I think this is what I always envisioned when I thought about “merging” finances with someone. I’d like to keep a joint chequing and savings account, but everything else is separate. I am really apprehensive about completely combining finances, and don’t think it’s something I’d ever do unless there was a very good reason.

  14. deborah says:

    we split the following 50/50 – rent, utilities, cable, council tax. Then I pay the TV license and he paid the home insurance. I also pay for the main food shops then he doesn’t the weekly top ups.

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