Relationships. They start off blissfully. Then as years go by and responsibilities increase, it changes. Unfortunately, money becomes the hot topic. There are many surveys that validate most couples argue about money.
Whether or not you’re married, couples who live together struggle with how to split finances. Being a couple does not mean all finances have to be merged. Historically, couples operated in that manner when the husband was the sole bread winner.
But now, it’s more common to find both individuals in a relationship generating income. Some have also lived independently for a lengthy period or have been previously married. These situations validate we’re in a new era of relationships. It’s really up to you to discuss and decide the best way to manage shared expenses.
What are shared expenses?
Shared expenses are items both of you benefit from having. For example, your mortgage or rent. Other shared expenses include groceries, household supplies, and utilities, as well as pet expenses.
What if I don’t agree with how much my spouse spends on a shared expense?
When identifying which items are shared expenses, discuss limits on each expense. It’s better to have this conversation before an issue arises and the topic becomes emotional. It’s best to have an overall spending plan (aka, budget) developed to define these limits. Discussing expense limits upfront will minimize conflict down the road.
How do I split shared expenses?
Some couples split shared expenses 50/50. This split works well if both individuals generate similar incomes. However, it creates a problem down the road if there is a significant difference in income. The person with the lower income will have less discretionary income and may resent the split.
A better way to split expenses is based on each person’s percent of total household income. For example, if one personal earns $200,000 and the other person earns $100,000, total household income is $300,000. The person with the higher income will pay 2/3 of expenses ($200,000/$300,000).
With your spouse, list all shared expenses, define limits, and calculate your split. Once you’ve discussed these items, then decide which financial management option works best for your relationship.
OPTION A: SHARED ACCOUNT
Some couples have a shared checking account for shared expenses. Each person contributes to each expense based on the determined split. This financial management scenario requires monthly reconciliation. Both parties make day-to-day decisions to stay within their spending plan. And they both share in paying bills on time.
OPTION B: FIXED PAYMENT
Another financial management option, is for one person to pay monthly a fixed amount based on the determined split. The other person is then responsible for day-to-day control of spending and making timely payments. In other words, they have to make sure they don’t overspend because they are receiving a fixed amount to pay for expenses. With this scenario, the person paying the fixed amount will be hands-off and involved with adjusting the spending plan only on a quarterly or annual basis.
OPTION C: EXPENSE ASSIGNMENT
Some couples assign responsibility for each shared expense. One person will be responsible for paying all utilities while the other person will be responsible for paying all food expenses. Assigning expenses is based on your determined split. With this financial management option, schedule quarterly reviews or an annual review to calculate if the expense assignment split is equitable. During this review, alternate responsibility for assigned expenses in order for each person to understand what controlling each expense entails.
When deciding which financial management option is right for you, consider how much time you have and how much control you want over spending. The benefit of all options is it requires you to review and reconcile regularly. It requires you to talk about that uncomfortable subject … money.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Niv Persaud, CFP®, CDFA™, CRPC®, is the Founder of Transition Planning & Guidance, LLC. Life is more than money. It’s about living the lifestyle you want and can afford. For that reason, Niv consults with clients on money, life, and work. Her approach capitalizes on techniques she learned throughout her career, including as a management consultant, executive recruiter, and financial advisor. Her services include spending plan, financial plan, divorce financial review, life strategy, and professional progression. Niv actively gives back to her community through her volunteer efforts. She believes in living life to the fullest by cherishing friendships, enjoying the beauty of nature and laughing often — even at herself. Her favorite quote is by Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I used everything you gave me’.”