Mine vs. Yours: A Guide To Money Management For Co-Habitating Couples

Let’s talk MONEY, honey! More specifically, let’s talk about money between an unmarried couple living together.

I know, I know, awkward topic, right?

Well, it doesn’t have to be. 

There comes a time in many girls’ lives when they decide to move in with their significant other. For me, that happened a little over a month ago. Addison and I moved into a beautiful cottage-style home in Nashville...TOGETHER. After experiencing these past few weeks of living with a boy (which has definitely been a learning experience, to say the least!), there’s one thing that I’ve figured out:

>>How to navigate money between unmarried 20somethings.<<

To be clear, there is no right or wrong way. There is simply “your way”, speaking as a couple, of course. I understand that everyone has a different plan. In fact, moneyunder30.com asked a focus group how they divided expenses with their *main squeeze*, and here’s what they said:

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To be clear, there is no right or wrong way. There is simply “your way”, speaking as a couple, of course. I understand that everyone has a different plan. In fact, moneyunder30.com asked a focus group how they divided expenses with their *main squeeze*, and here’s what they said:

>>41% split expenses 50/50

>>40% pay for things in proportion to their income

>>17% don’t have a system for paying for joint expenses & deal with them as they come up 

>>2% have one person pay for everything

As you can see, there are a handful of ways to go about this. I’m not trying to tell you exactly how to handle your moo-lah. BUT, I can tell you the biggest mistake amongst 20somethings moving in with their beau is not having a plan at all!

In typical Kristi fashion, I decided to tackle this taboo money topic. What better way than to share how Addison & I have been navigating money since moving in together? (And, yes, I’ve already cleared it with the BF! Don’t worry, friends!)

*Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor or money guru, by any means. Any of the advice I’m going to give is purely based on personal experience. I’m simply going to outline how we handled our money and what works for us.*

Talk It Out

We made an effort to openly & freely discuss our finances before ever even signing a lease. Actually, we talked about it before we even started looking at a house. We each had a few thousand dollars saved up (Addison a little more than me since he graduated a year before and was working & saving until we moved). We discussed non-negotiables, such as his car payment & my student loans. For the most part, we were in the same boat when it came to expenses.

We both entered into the conversation knowing that money wasn’t an easy topic, but we swallowed our pride and showed each other our bank accounts to see what we could realistically afford.

And, guess what?!

It wasn’t really that painful! Who knew?!

Find a “Happy Medium”

When we moved in together, there were sooo many expenses that we had to cover right off the bat. We were starting from scratch, buying everything from a kitchen table, to toilet paper, to a toaster. Everything began to add up quickly. Since we had separate bank accounts, we took turns buying things. We saved all of our receipts, and every few days we would tally how much each of us spent. We would adjust our spending accordingly in order to keep it somewhat even.

Not only did this help in finding a middle ground, but we also learned how to get really handy! We did a lot of sanding, painting, and gluing together thrift store finds. We were able to make our house a home without breaking the bank. We budgeted when we could, so we were able to spend money on certain things like a rug, frames, and plants, to make our home more inviting.

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Talk Some More

Now that we had our big purchases out of the way, we could focus on expenses like groceries, rent, and utilities. And, of course, we each had random things that we wanted to indulge on separately. We found ourselves in a pretty stable pace, moneywise.

So, how were we going to navigate money moving forward? Do we get a joint bank account & pool all of our money together? 

This is everyone’s least favorite part of “the talk” (money talk, that is). For us, being unmarried, we decided that the “what’s mine is yours” strategy didn’t seem like a good idea...just yet. After a lot of conversation, we decided to get a joint bank account for mutual expenses and keep our current accounts for ourselves. This meant we had to set some ground rules:

>>First, we’d make purchase decisions together if at all possible. However, if one of us was absent, we’d make the best judgement call and talk about it later. 

>>We also agreed that we wouldn’t nickel and dime each other over simple things because that seemed tedious.

>>Our biggest rules were: 1) don’t lie about it, & 2) don’t hide it. Every year, money shows up as a leading reason why couples fight & why they ultimately get a divorce. We did NOT want that to happen to us.

>>We also agreed to have a chat every Sunday night to touch base on where we were at financially. This gave us a set time to talk about our upcoming finances and review the receipts from the past week. 

>>We decided that we were only going to use our joint account for things we absolutely needed, and our personal accounts would cover the rest. We each put $500 into the joint checking account initially. Every time it needed to be replenished, we’d each put in the same amount to remain fair.

Seems like a lot of talking, right?

Well, it’s working for us so far! I know we’re only a month or so into this scenario (and I fully plan on having a future podcast with an update on this subject), but since we’ve outlined our expectations, it’s easier to ask each other questions or have conversations about money regularly. 

Here’s a little secret...this isn’t one of those things that will go away if you keep it in the closet. So, you might as well get it out in the open and breathe. If you don’t, it could drive a wedge in your relationship, and I KNOW you don’t want that!

>>Money amongst unmarried 20somethings doesn’t have to be a taboo topic. The key is to TALK.<<

How do you and YOUR significant other handle money? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!