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Managing Joint Expenses while shacking up

June 1, 2009

You may notice, based on how I have crazy funds for everything, that I’m a little obsessive about my money.  Over the past year or two, I’ve perfected a system that works beautifully for me.

Except now T and I moved in together.  It was driving me crazy how un-automated everything is!  Aside from rent, we split everything roughly 50-50.  And YES I keep track of it all, no I don’t just figure “it all evens out in the end”.  That stresses me out, I can’t handle it.  I’d rather just be sure it evens out (or if I want to treat for real, I can do it by choice, not just by accounting error).

It’s been this complicated accounting mess.  Who bought what, how much was it, and who owes who what???   And if he pays for something, do I mark half of it on my spreadsheets, assuming I’ll pay him back someday?   [I’m not quite ready to combine spending tracking, but that is an ultimate goal.]

Solution:  I added T to one of my credit cards.  Only as an authorized user for now , but we’d like to convert it to joint account holder, as it is my oldest card and will age his credit history considerably.  I’ll start limiting that card for joint expenses (and he’ll do the same), and we’ll split the bill each month.  One calculation per a month, instead of a constant running sum.  And everything that goes on there, I’ll divide by two and track in my budget sheet.

I think from now on, we’ll just write two separate checks for our rent.  He has been transferring me his portion, but I can’t handle it.  Ok, I can handle it, but I don’t want to unless I have to.

I’m at peace again!

Eventually, I think we’ll combine most of our accounts.  There is a lot of duplication right now.  But no rush.  For now, it is just easier for us both to manage our cash flows with the systems we’re used to.

For all you who have recently moved in with your significant others without combined finances, how do you manage shared expenses?  I think rent is easy, because it is once a month and a fixed ammount.  But what about food and fun?

13 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2009 6:17 am

    Peanut and I haven’t quite figured out how we’ll do it. Right now, he makes almost twice as much as I do, so maybe he’ll pay more for rent or something…but on the other hand, he has a LOT more student loan debt to pay down, and if we split expenses evenly he can funnel a lot more towards the loans and be able/willing to pay off mine when I’m done with school next year. Plus, splitting expenses evenly is still a ridiculous savings over what I’ve been spending living alone–my rent will go down at least $400, probably more like $600. And I’ll feel like a more even partner, because I’m sure not going to be doing more around the house!

    Luckily, Peanut tracks his spending as anally as I do, so the accounting won’t be a problem.

  2. June 1, 2009 7:24 am

    I’ve been living with my Partner for a little better then a year now, and we live with a couple of roomates as well. For this reason (the roommates) we haven’t combined everything. Everyone (including him) writes me cheques for rent (and I write one to the landlord), a few days later when the utility bills come in (enmax, bell, & Shaw – this covers gas, electric, water, waste, TV, internet & phone) – we split the bills even.

    We tend to rotate who pays for food/fun. We get paid on opposite weeks (both paid bi-weekly) so whoever just got paid – it’s that person’s turn to buy.

    I track my finances, but he doesn’t – and it wouldn’t be fair to impose what works for me on him. So rotating like this works for us.

    I wrote a bit about this on my blog a while back:

  3. .deb. permalink
    June 1, 2009 8:18 am

    We’ve been living together for 4 years – 1.5 of those with roommates and 2.5 just us.

    When we moved in together, we opened a joint checking account. Our incomes are pretty similar, so we each put in a set amount at the start of the month to cover rent, utilities, groceries, and house stuff. It’s worked out really well for us.

    For things like going out to dinner, we still treat each other (but try to keep it even by alternating).

  4. June 1, 2009 9:09 am

    When we first moved in together one took rent and the other took bills, with the thought that this would be even. A year later it was really uneven and we struggled for a while. Now we put a percentage of our salaries into a house account that all bills (including joint household credit card) get paid from. We alternate who pays for fun out of our personal accounts.

  5. June 1, 2009 9:57 am

    Chad and I have a shared account that we use for rent, utilities, food, eating out, etc. We both send in a set amount of money each month (based on spending from the previous month), and I get to track the spending and he gets to essentially ignore it. We both win!

    It can lead to fights (he was a big fan of running to the store and spending $50 on junk food, but I put my foot down after the 3rd month in a row he put us over budget), but it really has made life much easier.

  6. June 1, 2009 11:59 am

    Sounds like many people have a “house” account. I don’t think we’ll go that route at this point. But I’ll keep it in mind if the joint CC runs us into trouble.

  7. June 1, 2009 12:35 pm

    I really like the idea of the joint ‘house’ account. I look forward to doing things once we no longer have roomates – right now, I don’t think that it would work.

    The joint credit card would scare me.

  8. SP permalink*
    June 1, 2009 1:14 pm

    @Jessie – Why is that? I’m surprised.

    I don’t want any more accounts (we already have enough) and would like to consolidate them somewhat, eventually. Both of us do most of our spending on CC.

    If i don’t trust him with a CC, I don’t think I should be marrying him! 🙂

  9. June 1, 2009 4:11 pm

    We’ve been living together for two years, and we are getting married next fall. When we moved in together we had been together for about 2 years, so we did the same thing I added him to one of my credit card accounts and we split the bill every month.

    Eventually we opened up a Upromise Mastercard together so the the ‘rewards points’ go towards my Sallie Mae student loans. And now that we are engaged and we just bought a house, we finally made the step of a joint checking account.

    I have a certain amount set up to go into each of our personal savings accounts each week, a set amount into our personal checking accounts (for money that neither one of us has to account to the other for spending), and a larger sum that goes into our joint savings account for the wedding.

    Chris had a very hard time with a budget, until we bought the house last month, and now he understands how important a budget (and sticking to it is) because he has something tangible he doesn’t want to lose. Before he would just spend and then whatever he had left over he would put into savings. Now we save and then we spend.

  10. June 1, 2009 4:17 pm

    I actually really like the joint CC idea. That’s how I track my own expenses 95% of the time now, and it’s all there. What was even nicer was when I used business cards and they split the itemized purchases according to the card user so I could tell when purchases were made by my family and when they were made by me. Of course, you don’t really need that since it’s just the two of you.

  11. June 2, 2009 8:12 am


    I talked about the joint CC with my partner last night – and he loved the idea!

    I’m actually not sure why I didn’t like it at first – you made a really good point that if you’re not ready to share a credit card, you shouldn’t be ready to share a home or a life ect.

    How large of a limit do you folks have who share a c/c?

  12. SP permalink*
    June 2, 2009 8:31 am

    @Jessie – On that particular card, the limit is only $3k. That should be plenty to cover non-rent expenses, but maybe it is time to call and ask for an increase anyway. The only problem is, it is a Discover and they aren’t quite as widely accepted as Visa. We’ll probably shop for a better one eventually. For now, it should work.

    I guess if someone has a history of past irresponsibility, a joint CC would be something you’d want to avoid to protect yourself, esp in new relationships.

  13. June 4, 2009 12:29 pm

    My fiance and I both manage our own individual budgets. So I created a spreadsheet that tells us who owes who how much. (He owes $200, I owe $100, it says he owes me $100.) So when we do our budgets we each just input any shared expenses and then we transfer the actual money once or twice a month. This works well for us, since we both track all our spending anyway. It probably wouldn’t work in any other case though. The CC idea is a really good one though. That would make it super easy to figure things out.

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