In an ideal world, the realm of money would be devoid of the realm of relationships. If your love for someone is a function of how much money they have, your love will never feel truly authentic. Quantifying everything you do with your partner with money will only tire you out.
The reality is, if you move in with your partner, not only will you have to talk about money more often, you’ll also have to devise a system that works. Once you leave uni and start earning, you’ll be bringing home different sums of money, and you’ll also want to spend your money in different ways. So you need to work out a system that works for you both, especially because, chances are, you’re not going to be earning much when you begin your career.
I’ve lived with my partner for one year, and our spending is very well integrated. We’ve been together some four years, during which time we’ve always been a bit skint. It turns out the transition from student life to being a teacher (my partner) and a writer (me) doesn’t involve much incline on incomings.
We have a bit of a disparity in our earnings. Once you factor out tax, NI, student loan repayment, my partner has a little bit more left over than me, but not much. My earnings vary by the month, depending on how many jobs I’ve done and who I’ve done them for. It’s safe to say we’re careful spenders, but as we’ve found out, we have a different sense of how much we’re willing to spend.
I’ve heard of a couple of ways that other couples split their expenses and bills. Some alternate each month, one paying for household bills, the other paying for groceries. Others use a joint bank account. But neither of these methods, we decided, would work for us. Life in the UK is bloody expensive, especially so when you live in London. And we’re both in a lot of debt. Cheers, David.
So, this is our way of doing it: we share everything and divide our total monthly spend by two. It sounds tedious and mundane - that’s because it is. Sometimes, the best way to get rid of the elephant in the room is to see the elephant as a lego sculpture and dismantle it piece by piece. Making the majority of all spends part of a system means that we don’t have to overthink our spends. We keep all our receipts of food and toiletries, and at the end of the month each add up the total of what we’ve spent on everything we’ve both consumed. One of us then pays the difference between half the total and our actual spend to the other.
Anything we buy for ourselves - clothes, technology - we pay for ourselves. We’re not bothered if there does end up being a deficit of say 30 quid each month. The point is that the system takes out the possible element of feeling that things are not roughly even, because there is a system in place. We rent a room in a flat in London, and split the rent and bills right down the middle. Rent takes £500 a month out of each of our bank accounts. Bills take another £65. The most we’ve spent on food in a month £250. The least we’ve spent is £105 (I don’t know what we ate that month). On average, it’s £200.
We decided to move in together on the basis of emotional reasons. But, now that we have, there have been some hidden financial benefits to us moving in together. Not only is it now much easier to track our money, we also save by sharing everything. Here are some extra points to flesh out your thoughts.
Things which you want but don’t need are now half price
A new rug, a rice cooker, houseplants - if I’m honest, these are things I would go without if I lived on my own. But they’re nice things to own when you invest in them with your partner. And you don’t have to justify the cost quite so much.
Splitting rent on a room gives you a bit of extra buffer space to live in
Most of my friends who rent by themselves drop about 600-700 quid a month on a small room. When you share a room, you can end up with a relatively good one relatively cheaply. Not only that, you benefit from the general niceness of living in a bigger space.
The hidden benefits of sharing consumables
One thing we learned is that when you share food you’re less likely to overeat for fear of wasting it. You also end up not wasting as much. When I was living alone, I was spending on average £125 per month on food. Now, dividing our total by 2, we spend roughly £100 a month.
Two people can have a different sense of value and price
We have learned this over the course of time, but it still takes adjusting to one another after a year. I tend to go for cheaper options (Sainsbury’s basics yoghurt, I need you) more readily, because I earn a little less. But sometimes my partner doesn’t want Sainsbury’s basics yoghurt, because of it’s transparent lack of quality (maybe fair). These are picky things, but over time they add up. You need to be good at making compromises.
Don’t move in together to make savings if you’re not ready
There are also some anxieties wrapped up in the whole issue of going into a 12 month contract. Be sure about what you're doing. In the event of a breakup, you’re either then liable for the total rent of the room if your partner leaves, or you’re stuck together in a shit situation.