Be the Expert: “We’re moving in together. How much should we each contribute?”

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Let’s kick off our Money & Relationships series today.

One of the hardest financial steps in a relationship is when two people move in together and start sharing expenses.

Who pays for what? How much should each person pay? Does gender matter? What about income level?

Check out this question I recently got from Jesse:

Hey, Ramit.

Bought your book. Love it. Read it. Am following every piece of advice I can.

In my past relationship, my partner and I split finances 50/50 and that was never a problem. He made more than me. I was fine with that.

I’m in a new relationship and am going to receive a significant promotion in July. Now my new partner is saying that we should do things the Suze Orman way, splitting based on percentages. His argument is that bills and utilities should take an equal percentage hit on both of us.

My argument is that I think that’s a huge step. Yes, we’re living together. But we haven’t even been together for a year. In essence, I’d be supporting him, partly. But he doesn’t see it that way. I’ve always tried to keep money out of relationships by splitting everything equally. If you’re married, I think this is an entirely different conversation. But having only dated for 6 months, moved in, but still not ready to make a life-long commitment, I think that my position is entirely reasonable. He just doesn’t see it that way.

Part of the problem here might be that we’re both guys, and I think his ego is taking a hit because I’m going to be making more money. I’d love it if you’d talk about the problem, perhaps the psychological implications of people feeling like they’re not contributing. One suggestion from him is that we should live separately. He said that’d make him feel better about things. But again, I don’t understand this. We’d both be paying twice as much in rent, and he would take an even bigger hit financially.

Any help would be much appreciated.

What do you think? How should Jesse and his partner split expenses? Leave your comments below.

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98 Comments

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  1. Suze would say that there is something else going on besides the money. If he is giving you the ultimatum of “take on the bigger half of the bills or we should live separately” then maybe he is looking to take advantage of you financially. You do not sound committed to the relationships and he looks like he is looking for someone to take care of him. Run.

    • Funny when the shoe is on the other foot for women. Treat us equally, but don’t make us pay an equal share. I would say it’s very common for men to pay 100% of the mortgage/rent. I know I did and no one told me to run.

    • Wow. In the first comment, we have Ramit’s Rule of Internet Relationship Advice come true.

      The rule is: No matter what relationship advice you ask for, someone will recommend you break up. No matter what.

      Q: “Hey, my husband of 23 years and father of 4 children chews walnuts too loudly. What should I do?”

      - “BREAK UP”
      - “4 KIDS? HE’S OBVIOUSLY A CHILD MOLESTER. LEAVE HIM”
      - “I HEAR A LOT ABOUT THE 23-YEAR-ITCH. BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY — YOU SHOULD DITCH HIM.”

  2. 6 months isn’t enough time to make a commitment to pay a greater share. I make twice as much as my girlfriend and pay 100% of the mortgage. She lives with me for free, but we have been together 7 years (dated 3 years before she moved in with me). If we split – I would still have my apartment, so I am fine with this arrangement.

    I wouldn’t move in together after 6 months, personally, and if I did I would sit down and mark down expenses for everything and set it up more as if you were roommates, rather than a married couple. Ambiguous finances are the quickest way to ruin a relationship – and if you move in together, it is very hard make a clean, efficient break if need be.

    • I agree with Eric completely. It’s not just about the money. It’s about the time, and the amount of trust that you have (or have not) been able to build with each other in just six months.

      What I do wonder, though, is why aren’t you willing to pay more? If you have additional personal bills/expenses that would cause a “Suze” split to put you in a bad place, understandable. But if it’s a “just cuz” mentality..hmm…

    • I agree. At 6 months, I think it’s weird to move in together, but I know it happens. If you are not committed to a long, long-term relationship, I can’t see why you would subsidize his living expenses. That sets you up for resentment early on, and if it’s HIS idea and not yours, it makes it much worse.

  3. I think I agree with Jesse’s partner, actually. The “huge step” is moving in together and sharing expenses. Its certainly not much of a leap, if any, to begin sharing those expenses in a more balanced manner. Relationships are all about sacrifice, and if you are not willing to give a little more of your income (even though you will still have more leftover at the end of the bills than he will) I think maybe you aren’t ready for the selflessness that a truly committed relationship requires. I just feel that any couple, same sex or not, has this same issue. Maybe Jesse’s partner wouldn’t choose to live in such a nice apartment, or have all the cable channels, if he were on his own, etc. And I think that Jesse should try to be more understanding of that.

  4. To me, roommates split things 50-50. It doesn’t matter how much the other person makes, they still pay 50% of the bills.

    A couple who is in a committed relationship shares the responsibility of all the bills, so they should have joint finances, meaning it’s one pool of money and all the bills get paid out of that pool. IMHO, any other way is going to be financial disaster — how can you move towards common life goals (e.g. being debt free, retiring early, having kids, buying a house) if you don’t share common financial goals?

    It sounds like Jesse isn’t ready to take on the “committed relationship” aspect yet and maybe shouldn’t even be moving in together at this point.

  5. I think this is about control…each of you want the money split the way you want, and it seems to be having more influence on the relationship than a lot of other things (but of course, this is a money website, not a relationship one, so the focus is naturally money in your email).

    I think you both have to discuss your priorities and the meaning behind each of the splits you’re discussing, and all the other items you’re paying for together (food, etc.). Does someone have more choice in choosing the place than the other? Are you moving into one of your places? There’s a lot to discuss that affects the splits. If you can’t work out something to both of your likings (remember, those two ways of splitting costs aren’t the only ways), then maybe moving in together should wait until you can work this out. Imagine if you can work out money issues now, how much smoother the relationship will be.

    And for the readers…READ the email. It’s two guys. I see at least one person said “Funny when the shoe is on the other foot for women.” No women involved here. You made assumptions, including about how women behave. Fail.

    • The person that said “Funny when the shoe is on the other foot for women” was directing that at the first commenter, presumably a woman judging by the name. And the comment actually has some merit which deserves closer examination outside of this discussion.

      Personally, I’ve been in a situation where it was known that I was making half as much as my significant other (female and I’m male). At that time, she was perfectly happy splitting dinner tabs and taking turns paying for entertainment (movies, bowling, whatever). In a short amount of time I was able to turnaround my freelancing business and began making slightly more than her (2-3x what I was previously making). All of a sudden, the conversation turned to all the things I could buy her and the fact that I’m “supposed to” insist on picking up 100% of dinner tabs, etc.

      I’ve had numerous conversations with both males and females on this very topic and there seems to be some consensus (albeit a gross generalization): one person in the relationship (usually the woman due to prior social norms) has the mentality of “what’s mine is mine and what’s your’s is part mine.”

      I’ve even witnessed this in recent divorces as well. The person that put the least, financially, into the marriage still thinks that they’re entitled to more than 50% of the marital assets.

      I guess it’s like the saying goes,”A piggy with two nickels in it makes a lot more noise than a full piggy bank.”

      Personally, I think people should be entitled to whatever they put into something. Being in a relationship (married or not) shouldn’t entitle people to something that they didn’t earn. That just encourages people to be slothful if their partner is successful. Doesn’t seem like anybody wins if that’s the scenario.

  6. “Should?” Did Ramit just say “should?”

    The person who earns more tends to have more authority in financial decision-making. The higher earner has a choice: put their partner’s financial priorities first, or contribute proportionally to income. Any other alternative is going to leave the lower-earning partner at the mercy of some rather nasty psychological dynamics.

    I’ll add that I certainly would not date someone who saw “contributing proportionally to income” as “supporting me.” That’s not really an attitude of partnership.

    • Oh man. Nothing gets past you guys

    • “I’ll add that I certainly would not date someone who saw “contributing proportionally to income” as “supporting me.””

      How is it not? To some degree they’d be subsidizing your lifestyle at their expense.

      And if the shoe was on the other foot how would that change your attitude?

      I’m going to be really bold and assume that you’re either single or make less than your current partner.

      Lastly, I don’t see contributing less due to earning less as an attitude of partnership either. Sounds more like entitlement.

    • I’ve been with my current partner for 15+ years. There were several years when I was making more than twice what he made. There have been several years where he’s made more than me. We’ve followed the same financial policy in all cases – so yes, your implication that I’m only interested in this because it benefits me is totally incorrect. I certainly don’t see my partner as entitled when he’s the lower earner; he gives what he earns, just like I do, even though the dollar amounts are different.

      Maybe the problem is that I phrased it as “contributing.” I would not feel financially secure with anyone who did not see our money (both income and outflow) as a family responsibility, with joint decision-making and spending responsibility, no matter who was earning what. I think the framing of “at their expense” is exactly what I’m trying to get at. If someone sees a relationship with me as being financially (or in any other way) adversarial, I’m going to run like hell.

  7. Money is the ability to make choices. So I agree with the commenter who said roommates split everything 50/50 but in a relationship you have to have a little more balance. My boyfriend and I live together, and he makes almost twice as much as I do. So for the major bills – rent, electric, water, cable, etc. – he pays 2/3 and I pay 1/3. But for the rest of our shared expenses, we split 50/50 – things like groceries, laundry, dates. I didn’t go on 1/3 of the date after all. Then we have the rest of our cash to do with what we like.

    This arrangement works for us because if I ponied up cash for 1/2 of the rent, utilities, etc., I’d have very little left over to do the things I want to do and he’d have a lot. Therefore he’d be able to make all the choices about how I spend my free time, or at a minimum limit them due to less disposable income, and I’d resent him. We both agreed that was not a good outlook for our relationship. This is what works for us. Ultimately, we were able to sit down and have a rational conversation about our respective financial situations and come to an agreement. That’s what needs to happen here.

  8. My girlfriend and her (now) husband would have three different accounts. One where they split 50/50 for the mortgage, food, furniture, electricity, etc. Then they both have their own personal account where they spend it on whatever they want. She loves to shop and he loves buying dirt bikes. They have been happy for the last 15 years.
    As fore me, I would expect the guy to pay 100% of the mortgage. I don’t believe in paying the guy when he is having sex with me. ha!

    • So what you are saying is that you are a prostitute? Why should he pay when you are having sex with him?

    • Oh, Mike. If you knew me, you would NEVER use the word prostitute with me.

      However, I guess I can see it with an Amercian viewpoint. Though… I still don’t believe in paying if you live with the guy, cook for him, clean, iron, and have sex with him.

    • I rest my previous case. Entitlement with a capital “E.”

      It’s mostly (or in whole) those that earn less that think things should run proportional to income.

  9. If this were up to me I’d have you go 50/50 on the rent, utilities and other boring necessities.

    Then I’d advise saving proportionally for some mutually agreed upon fun stuff. The obvious candidate seems to be home furnishing, since your space is the current point of contention or a vacation, since vacations are paramount to a healthy relationship.

    This type of split serves a number of purposes:

    1.) You don’t feel like you’re supporting him, because your necessities are split equally.
    2.) You get to test the shared financial waters where the worst case scenario is he doesn’t save and you keep your money.
    3.) It keeps your bare bones expenses in check, which you’ll both probably be happy about if you lose your job or the relationship doesn’t work out.
    4.) You get a vacation and furnishings proportional to your income and don’t feel “dragged down” by his income.
    5.) Re-focusing the “calculated” (i.e. difficult) portion of your finances allows you to shift mentally toward aspirational and enjoyable things rather than quibbling over essentials.

    I could probably think of another 5 benefits of working this way, but don’t think I need to oversell it.

  10. You see the Suze Orman split as a sign of long-term commitment. I don’t know what your partner sees it as-it may be a sign of insecurity. It may be a sign of commitment to him, that he just doesn’t want to admit. This really sounds like a case where your partner not be aware of what his own motivations are, so a little digging might be required.

    But figuring out his motivations and goals for the relationship (and whether they’re compatible with yours) is much more important than the exact details of how you work out your financial split here.

  11. My girlfriend and generally split things 50/50. We don’t co-mingle out finances as far as accounts and such because we each have different uses for our money. I use mine to develop my career and travel. She buys handbags. But for regular household stuff we split things evenly. The only thing that becomes uneven is some of the food when one of us buys things the other doesn’t/can’t eat. We keep receipts and that all gets figured in the budget each month.

    I make more than she does, but not by a huge margin. I’m sure she’d love me to pay for everything. And if I were really making obscene money, I wouldn’t mind it that much. But we’ve never even talked about a percentage thing.

  12. My suggestion would be to negotiate who pays what bills, instead of splitting the bills 50/50. So Jesse may end of paying more , say for groceries and the apartment rent, while his partner pays for the electricity, cable, etc. This may not end up being 50/50 but say, the one who makes more takes on more of the bills and the one who doesn’t finds other ways to contribute –for example, managing the joint finances and paying mutual bills.

    As you get more and more committed (financially and otherwise), I think your financial decision will reflect that. So, for instance, in my case, my boyfriend doesn’t want a joint pool of money split the Suze Orman way but he is willing to buy a 2nd car for us and put his name on the financing papers….

  13. When my now-husband was in graduate school and I was the one with the full-time job with benefits, we split everything 50/50 but I paid for all the extras: eating out, vacations, entertainment, etc. We also lived in a small apartment in upstate NY and our expenses were pretty small.

    I’ve had another friend whose husband made significantly more than her, and they did the Suze Orman thing with a twist: they split the mortgage 50/50, and then did a percentage of their income for all the other bills.

    I would add to this: all credit card and student loan debt should be kept separate unless you decide to significantly combine finances somewhere down the line.

  14. I’m reading comments and what I’m getting is that different things work for different people. And as long as you both discuss this and come to an agreement on money, you can both be happy.

  15. This isn’t about money per se, it is about what each of you feel is fair and WHY. Have a conversation, get to the whys, and figure it out from there after you agree.

  16. I think you should live somewhere that you’re both comfortable paying for — in the past, I was with someone who made significantly more than me, and he wanted to live somewhere fancy. I put my foot down. “I can only pay $600 a month,” I said, and if he wanted to live somewhere for $1800, he was going to have to pay the rest. I don’t think that your promotion should come into the picture for rent, utilities, and cell phones, but if you want to upgrade your home based on your promotion, then you should consider paying a larger share.

  17. My boyfriend and I moved in after two years together. We bought a house, he was responsible for 2/3′s of the down payment. I had the other third. I’ve offered time and again to change the ownership of the house to reflect that. It’s not a big deal to him.

    He makes about four times as much as I do. Maybe more. I’m also seven years younger. He probably wouldn’t find another girl my age to compete with him in the income bracket. Not to mention what a catch I am! (and modest, to boot!)

    I wanted us to split the finances Suze Orman’s way. We don’t really. He pays about 2/3′s of the bills, I pay about 1/3. But my 1/3 is about 70% of my income. His 2/3′s is about 35% of his income. Can you imagine what this means for our social spending?

    I have nothing left. I can’t go out for dinners or drinks or fancy nights on the town (I’ve always insisted on going 50/50 for those things) because I can’t afford it. . He subsequently gets to do a lot less of the things he would like to because I can’t afford it. We knew this when we bought the house and we rely on the fact that I’m at the beginning of my career and will hopefully make more (soon!). When we looked at houses, we could’ve bought something much cheaper so that I could contribute 50%. When we do splurge, it comes out of our joint account, generally after he’s convinced me again and again that we can afford it and it’s not really a splurge

    When you split things 50/50, you have to realise that it will leave him with less to do the other things that are important to you both. He won’t have the same disposable income, he won’t purchase big gifts, fancy meals etc. etc.

    Also, to assume that someone just WANTS to pay less is a little crazy. I HATE HATE HATE it. I’ve never been in the position where I’m the lower earner. I hate not being able to indulge in his lifestyle but I know it’s not realistic for me. I’m constantly trying to increase my earning so that I’m an equal earner.

    I’m lucky that my boyfriend is so understanding because it would absolutely devastate and humiliate me if he considered me to just be coasting by on his money.

    • Hey Ashley,
      I absolutely agree with you about the attitude that people WANT to pay less. I’m in exactly the same situation as you – 7 years younger (although maybe a little more modest! :) and supposedly ‘coasting’ by on his money while I study. It’s so not true, and he’s very understanding of it. While our income difference doesn’t stop him from having a good time, I know I definitely hold back on my splurges because it feels like I am using ‘his’ money. He sees all money as ‘ours’ as in a few years our roles will reverse and I will be the primary breadwinner, but I still have a hard time seeing it that way.

      Anyways, back to the advice – for a couple that isn’t prepared to completely merge finances (as you’ve only been together 6 months and don’t seem hugely committed yet) I would agree with commenters suggesting you treat the situation as roommates that date. 50/50 on essentials, and then you can quibble about who pays for what during dates like you usually would.

  18. Split the shared bills 50/50! That’s the best way to keep the peace regarding the financial aspect of any relationship. Point blank, PERIOD!

    • There isn’t one solution that fits all relationships. In mine for example, my gf was an unpaid volunteer for a year so splitting the bills 50/50 couldn’t work unless I put her out on the street. Same would go for stay at home partners when kids are involved – but that is a whole other debate.

  19. I think part of the problem here is that although Jesse is now making more than his partner, none of the expenses, which they previously agreed to split equally, have changed or gone up. It would be different if Jesse wanted to now move to a nicer apartment or take fancy vacations that the lesser-earning partner can’t afford to contribute equally to. Presumably his partner can afford his half of the apartment, since he was already paying for it, so I can understand why the suggestion comes across as presumptuous or even a bit offensive.

    The fact that Jesse’s partner thinks it would be better for them to live apart rather than split their current apartment expenses equally, which doesn’t make sense financially, indicates the most about where he’s coming from psychologically. Like he doesn’t want to resent Jesse every month when he pays his share of the utility or rent bill. It could be because he’s jealous of Jesse’s raise, or because he doesn’t like the idea of being with someone who doesn’t believe in sharing his successes. Or maybe paying for his half of the apartment is a big financial strain after all and he needs the help. I’m not sure.

    One idea may be for them both to independently figure out what they would be comfortable spending on rent based on their current salaries and debts, then join that together to make a new budget, which they can then use to find a new place. Or agree that they’ll continue to split the apartment equally, but that Jesse will pay for both of them when they go out together.

  20. My wife and I split our shared expenses (rent, utilities, groceries, dates, saving up to have a baby) by a percentage of income. We started doing this as soon as we moved in together (1.5 years into our relationships, 1 year before marriage). I make almost twice as much as her, but I don’t look at it as supporting her. If we split everything evenly, she would have very little spending money at the end of the month for her personal expenses (shopping, lunch, going out with friends, trips to see her family). I may have a little bit less for my personal expenses at the end of the month (but not that much more less). However, I have a happy wife. That is way more important to me than money to buy a new pair of shoes. Of course, as many other commenters have mentioned, there are months when we’ll make slight changes to that model to accommodate large purchases, unexpected expenses, etc. I think that fairness and flexibility makes both our wallets and our home happy. The key is to communicating about money and your shared and personal goals openly and often. I really can’t stress that enough.

  21. However you split it, make sure you decide together what your expenses will be. Maybe you earn twice as much as your partner and you want to rent a 4 bedroom house. You get a workout room, a home office, great! Maybe they are more realistic about what they can afford and only want to get into an apartment. If you decide to go for the house AND split 50/50, I can understand how the person who earns less shouldn’t be cool with this. If you move into the apartment and split 50/50, that’s a different story.

  22. Here are a couple of problems with the 50/50 split.

    Say you move into a larger house, because you earn more, and therefore can afford one. Why would you live in a smaller, more uncomfortable hole just to make your significant other happy? A larger apartament would mean larger bills in terms of heating, electricity, council tax (or equivalent), rent, whatnot. Larger cost means larger 50% of cost, which you can easily pay, because you can. It might eat your partner’s whole earning for the month.

    Let’s also assume you want to have money that only you have control over. Want to buy that motorbike you always wanted? Yup, you use your very own account, that your partner – excuse my language – can’t bitch about. Your money.

    Put the two together:
    - you will always be able to afford said motorbike, because a 50/50 split isn’t eating your savings.
    - your partner will never be able to afford said motorbike, because the 50/50 split is eating into his salary every month.

    Why would you want to put him in that situation? If you were in his shoes, would you think it’s okay?

    “Ah, here’s my partner, he earns significantly more than I do, but we still split the bills 50/50, and I can’t save un stuff, because he kinda wants all the extra luxury stuff he can afford.”

    I say go %. But that’s just me.

    • But the significant other in your example wouldn’t be able to afford a more luxurious life on their own anyways. So why would you be comfortable re-enforcing the fact that they can have a better life if they “marry-up?”

  23. One idea would be to each of you maintain separate residences, and just keep a toothbrush in each other’s bathrooms for overnight stays. I don’t recommend combining bill paying or any other financials. Keep your assets and your financial obligations separate. As an unmarried couple, the laws do not protect you or your assets as much if you were to break up later, as they would if you were married and the marriage ended in divorce. Living apart together (LAT) is very common arrangement, especially amongst older Americans who have assets and don’t want there to be any question about the kids’ inheritances later on, so they don’t marry and don’t move in together, they just have separate places and see each other a lot. It’s a perfectly viable option, at any age. Also, living together creates more clutter in an already cramped living space, which can put additional strain on the relationship if one of you is messier than the other.

    • I thought I was alone in this thinking but this would actually save a lot of relationships!

  24. My boyfriend and I have been splitting everything equally (we’ve lived together for a year), but it’s not working – for a couple reasons. First, I make a lot more than he does (like 5x more). Second, I work at home. So, I can both contribute more and use more of the household resources. We live in a nicer place than he could afford because I can afford it, and I need some degree of comfort to work here all day. However, he’s a southern man, and expects himself to be able to take care of “his woman” 100%. We have a hard time talking about money, because he lets his ego take a beating every time I say “but, I CAN pay more”.

    He recently lost his job and was out of work for a few weeks. Because he makes so little, and was spending so much on our household, he didn’t have much for a cushion to fall back on. I lent him the money to cover bills, and now he’s in a hole so deep neither of us can see how he’ll get out of it. Last night I finally said that we need to have a grown-up conversation about how we split the bills and not get all emotional about it. He agreed, thankfully.

    I was going to suggest boosting my share based on my usage of part of the house as my office (which I can also deduct from my taxes), but I hadn’t heard about Suze’s approach. I might see if we can add that to the mix too. I don’t have the solution yet – this is a thorny one.

    Thanks, Ramit, for posting this today – very timely for me!

    • This might sound wonky for a second but hear me out.

      My partner and I, early in our relationship, were in a very similar situation. She lost her job and it took her a while to find another one. Unemployment is not what a salary once was. What she did have, however, was a lot of free time. And a lot of pride. What worked for us is I took on the bulk of the household expenses and she took on the bulk of the household. She did nearly all the household work. Because it was also about the same time that we really started to get serious, we ended up with a complicated system at the time where we each contributed 50% of our take home pay (her unemployment, my salaries) to our shared expenses and if there was any left over, we spent it on a fun shared activities. The other half of our money was our money, which, again, was significantly higher for me. What it did do is keep our costs in check, and kept either of us from feeling like they weren’t contributing. At the time, I think half of her income from unemployment was about 1/4 of what I was bringing in from my two jobs. My point is if he needs to feel like he’s providing, remind him that not everything comes from money and he can provide for you in other ways. If he finds that emasculating, tell him to grown up.

      Eventually, as we became “married” (same-sex partners can’t marry legally in Kansas), this transitioned to everything we bring in is shared but she also ended up making more than me for a period of time after she went back to work.

  25. I would wonder why you moved in together also so quickly and how long you dated before that. Was it for financial reasons is the worst reason to live together seeing that this is a concern if that is the case.

    I dated my bf’s for 5 years when I was younger and never thought of moving in if I did not see a future. Why go through all of that and just enjoy the relationship without living together.

    Maybe a step back would be good. What would you do if you or he lost your job and could not pay would one partner step up and pay for all or ???

    • I agree with several previous posters – economies of scale is possibly the WORST reason to move in with someone. In my opinion, it screams convenience over compromise, which is the foundation of any relationship.

      That being said, I obviously believe there’s a form of compromise when it comes to splitting finances, should you choose that route. I don’t think there is any right answer, but it’s unrealistic to bleed your partner dry by splitting all finances 50/50 (I liked the idea of pro-rating rent and bills, and then going halvsies on food and entertainment, so you both feel like you’re contributing to relationship-building activities). If the partnership ever was to come to an end, you’d have a very jaded, disadvantaged ex that may have lost several years worth of leverage on debt and saving in comparison, which is unfortunate and inconsiderate.

  26. I can see where Jesse is coming from in feeling that percentage-based splitting is more of a commitment, and would make him feel like he was financially supporting his partner in a way that is different from how they had been living.

    I’ve generally been the higher earner in my marriage. My partner and I lived together for several years splitting things more or less evenly all the while. A few years ago, we knew she was coming on a long period of under employment while she waiting on some professional licensing to go through. We also knew that even in general, I would probably be the higher earner given our career paths.

    Knowing that this was coming and that I was going to be “supporting” both of us for the foreseeable future, I suggested that we get married. We were already committed, but in my mind, I wanted to have more of a stated commitment before I would feel comfortable being the main breadwinner. I think it helped reassure her that she was contributing to the household, even when it wasn’t financially. By getting married, we were able to face that difficult time sure that we were both in it together and that we would take care of each other however we could.

    I think I would have felt more resentful of the financial arrangements had we not been in a committed place, so I can completely see where Jesse is coming from. My partner and I are both women, so on some level, we had expected our relationship to egalitarian in every way, but that’s not how it has ever really worked out.

  27. You don’t want to get too mathematical on this or create a really complicated system. If you do and choices begin to be made in order to game your payment system, you and your relationship are in big trouble. For example, if you are forced into saving receipts or keeping track of who owes what, this can create a lot of friction in the relationship.

    I think the best thing to do is to make a conscious spending plan and find out how much you are willing to pay in different areas. In some of these areas, it may turn out that doing the percentage thing is fine and you would be willing to pay that anyway. In other areas, you can tell him firmly that you are not comfortable.

    Psychologically, he probably expects to meet you part way and he may be trying to assert himself for making significantly less, so when you make some concessions, he is likely to be pleased.

  28. You don’t want to get all mathematical — that’s not a relationship, it’s a business transaction.

    I would recommend you have an honest conversation about money, how he feels about you getting a promotion, and why he thinks you should pay more. This will require being extremely honest with each other (which sometimes brings out truths that are hard to swallow).

    I think, in the end, each couple has a different way they manage their finances. I know some married couples where the wife pays “rent” to the husband since he pays the mortgage and their finances are completely separate. I know another couple where the husband pays for everything simply because he makes more. I know yet another couple where all finances are completely separate, and they live more as roommates when it comes to finances versus a couple.

    The key is: whatever the arrangement is, YOU need to be comfortable with it. If you have any doubt that, for instance, you are being taken advantage of, or you are being unfairly treated, it will likely lead to resentment which will hurt your relationship long term.

    • Relationships are inherently financial in nature. Many major life events are impacted by financial considerations – career choices and earnings, marriage, birth, illness or injury, disability, buying real estate, caring for aging family, funerals, life insurance, taxes, inheritance, raising children, paying for college/continuing education, family vacations… Learning to talk rationally about money and the emotions around it is one of the biggest challenges a couple faces, and if Jesse wants to be with his partner for some time, he should start working on it now.

  29. I don’t think people should pay more because they can afford more. Its not like when you go to a retail store they offer you something for less because you make less. No one is entitled to be taken care of.

    My girlfriend lives with me but I do not share with her what things like bills and rent cost. Rent is a specific amount due to me on the 2nd of every month that includes bills. It does not change month to month. I started doing this with my old room mate because it was easier than trying to explain to him why he had to pay more some months than others. I find that it works well with my girlfriend also because it give me more control(i don’t want to spend time negotiating with my girlfriend on bills) and makes it easier for her to have a specific amount she has to come up with every month.

  30. Do yourself a favor, don’t take any advice from Suze Orman and split everything down the middle.

  31. My girlfriend moved in with me after two months, (gasp!) and we go 50/50 on rent, but I pay for utilities, internet, etc.

    I think it’s important go equal on the big stuff (rent) and let the small stuff slide. Depending on who picked up the check for dinner last, the other will pay a few dollars more on groceries. We keep it pretty fair.

    Also, I remember hearing of a study where two people were in a room with $100 dollars on the table, person A got to distribute the money as he saw fit (50/50, 60/40, 70/30) and Person B got to decide if ANYONE got ANY money. When Person A got to around 70/30, Person B would rather not get ANY money than get 30 dollars…

    I think humans have this internalized concept of “fairness” and when they feel like that is violated, all hell breaks loose.

  32. I agree with Jesse’s partner that if Jesse isn’t ready to financially act as a team that they definitely should not be moving in together.

    Financial convenience should NEVER be the only solid reason for moving in with a significant other!!

    Furthermore, if Jesse wants a more expensive apartment or a better cable package than his partner who makes less money, his partner shouldn’t be in a position where he still has to shell out 50% of that expense because “fair is fair.” Granted, a couple living together should be able to communicate about these decisions and reach a happy compromise, but that isn’t always what happens when you first move in together.

    Jesse, why do you want to move in with your partner? Is it because you care about this person and want to support each other or is it because having a roommate is cheaper and having a roommate who’s your significant other is more fun than a stranger or platonic friend?

    • “is it because having a roommate is cheaper and having a roommate who’s your significant other is more fun than a stranger or platonic friend?”

      I wonder, is that really an invalid reason to move in together? Also, having a roommate who literally shares your room (and bed) is cheaper than someone who shares an apartment. It certainly is a risk and both people should be on the same page about living together, but I think a TON of people move in together for this reason, especially in expensive cities!

  33. You want to split 50/50, he wants to split according to income, eg 70/30. Why dont you meet halfway at 60/40.

  34. Lindsay, I agree with you 100%.

    How can you make the commitment to live together, but not to share finances in a way that is mutually beneficial? Jesse you’re just being cheap. You want to save on rent but you don’t want to give your partner a percentage break with his finances. Why should he have to pay more just so that you have more comfort. Stay together but he should move out, that way you can feel what it’s like to pay for everything on your own. It would be different if you were roommates, but you’re not, you’re potential life mates. And living together and sharing finances are the biggest steps towards that.

    • The email claimed that living apart would make BOTH of them pay about twice as much in rent, leaving the lower earner even more cash-strapped. So in this case, asking to contribute less than 50/50 to live together is pretty Gold-diggish.

      “And living together and sharing finances are the biggest steps towards that.”

      No, they’re not. Having mutual respect and trust are. You can have a great relationship and never live together or share finances.

      And he’s not being cheap, he’s actually being very pragmatic. His significant other is being the cheap one. He’s playing the,”Fine, if you don’t want to pay for me than I’ll pay more to do it without you,” card. Women pull this one on men all the time so it’s no surprise that men also play this card on other men.

  35. As an old married lady, let me state that in all cases of spending issues I have encountered with myself, and with my friends, money issues are really 2 things:
    –Power (and/or ego) issues and
    –Communication issues.

    The only way to resolve the issues is to communicate, as clearly as possible, why one feels the way one does about how money is allocated. If 2 people are truly committed to one another, they will find a comfort zone (read: a probable compromise) for handling money.

    In some rare cases (such as mine) my husband and I disagree on almost all spending issues. So instead of paying any percentage of all bills, we each chose which categories are really important to us, and cover those categories 100%–no negotiations and no questions asked. We don’t combine our money on anything except our mortgage. Yeah, we’re weird, but it works for us.

    I believe statistics show that serial monogamy is more common in male gay couples than are marriage or other long-term commitments–perhaps leading to the quick living together arrangement and the stated threat of leaving over a money allocation issue. I hope this couple takes the time to communicate and tries for a long-term commitment. It may not be easy, but it is worth it.

    • I love this approach. Not for me or anyone else necessarily, but I love that you two figured out what worked for you psychologically and financially, discussed it, made a joint decision, and committed to it/upheld it.

  36. When my then-boyfriend moved in together, I thought a proportional split was really not fair, since I made so much more than him at that time. By cohabiting, my rent would barely drop at all compared to my “single” life (the place was ~200/month more than my studio), but his would drop a lot. 50/50 didn’t feel right either – we’d be limited to cheaper places and an overall cheaper lifestyle and his rent would barely go down at all. We talked about it, and came up with something we both felt was fair. Maybe it was a 60 & 40 split when I made ~3x what he did. Of course, I saved a ton in pre-tax, so our take-home wasn’t quite so different, nor were our lifestyles. Now that we are married, we just share all of our money.

    I get the idea that you’d be willing to do a percentage based thing if you were in a long-term committed relationship, but 6 months seems fast. If you can’t come to a situation that you both think is fair, agree that living separate makes sense. There is no right/wrong answer, but you both have to be happy with the decision.

  37. My experience has been that I, the woman, has had the larger income. Before my husband I and I were married, we split all of our joint expenses proportionately by setting up a monthly budget and funding a joint account according to the relative amounts of our take-home pay. So we each had a debit card on that account that covered groceries, gas for the car we both drove, etc. If one of us wanted to go on a date – out to dinner or a show, the invitee would treat the other person. (Going out to dinner = date vs. do you want me to pick something up on the way home = groceries.) It was pretty clear what should be a joint expense and that always just seemed fair to me.

    After we were married and decided to combine all of our assets, we rejiggered our budget and found that we had $X in spending money between us. At that point, we put all of our money into the joint account and transferred 1/2 $X to each of our separate accounts. So even though I made more income, I ended up with the same budget for personal spending as my husband.

    What ended up happening is that he hoarded his allowance and hardly ever bought anything and I frittered mine away every month – but that also meant that we never fought about whether I needed *another* pair of shoes or whatever.

    We’re amicably divorced, came up with a fair division of those joint assets and we still use the “person who invites pays” rule whenever we get together now.

    • Oops. I meant the “inviter” would treat the other person. You invite, you pay.

  38. Let me first say that I am also in a same sex relationship in which I live with my partner. We’ve been together a lot longer but we did first move in together after only being together a short time so on at least a superficial level, I can relate to this.

    When we first moved in together, we split things 50/50 because we moved in together for the convenience and not with the mindset that we were beginning a life together. It sounds like that is where you are at in the process. However, when you said “I don’t understand this. We’d both be paying twice as much in rent, and he would take an even bigger hit financially,” you indicated that you are taking his finances in to consideration as well as your own. In my opinion, this is where it gets sticky. If you want to split things 50/50 then you don’t get to have an opinion on his finances. I mean, of course you can, but in my experience, that doesn’t work. Additionally, when my partner and I were splitting things 50/50 and living together, we lived in a place that was within in her budget, not mine. We had expenses that met her needs, not mine. I could have afforded more house. I could have afforded cable. Because it would have been entirely unfair for me to expect her to live outside her means just because I could afford more.

    Later, when we were ready to make that commitment, we went to a different system that took in to consideration our shared life together, which is basically a percentage system but we just dump all our money in to a shared pot.

    It sounds like he is suggesting separate places because he feels out of control and wants to regain that so he can come to relationship feeling like he is in an equal place. Is there a compromise you can work out together that you would both be happy with — maybe his half of the rent feels like more than he can handle or he thinks the cable bill is too high? Or his he upset because he sees living together as the next step toward building a life together and you see it as more of a financial arrangement for cost-saving? Regardless, as the commenter stated above, there are far more solutions than just 50/50 or Percentages.

    • Love this comment. I completely agree that if you’re going to involve yourself in their finances at all (and judging that they are in a financially better situation if the do X counts!!) then you’ve got to work out something that doesn’t generate resentment.

      It also seemed strange to me the way Jessie approached his boyfriend’s attitude as if some things should be considered on a emotional level and others on a pure logic. Maybe Jessie is shutting down his boyfriend’s ability to talk about this openly by bringing in the logic side of things too much. Telling people that their feelings don’t make sense is the quickest way to shut them down. Dig deeper by not judging so fast.

  39. I think a suze Orman split is equitable. I really wonder why you’ve moved in together so quickly and why you didn’t hash this out beforehand. As one of the commenters said above, in the end you have a happy partner. If keeping your partner happy is not a priority for you, you might want to ask yourself why you are livig together.

  40. Regardless of who makes what, I think the best bet is for you two to choose a place to live where you both feel comfortable paying for 1/2.

    It’s kind of funny that a person would be comfortable taking up half the space but not covering half of the rent! It just seems that in a relationship, it doesn’t matter who has what to start with – both parties should want to pull equal weight.

    It prevents either one from feeling like they’re being taken cared for or taken advantage of.. which is important if a relationship is going to last and be healthy.

  41. Also.. I really liked Chris C’s comment:

    “Additionally, when my partner and I were splitting things 50/50 and living together, we lived in a place that was within in her budget, not mine. We had expenses that met her needs, not mine. I could have afforded more house. I could have afforded cable. Because it would have been entirely unfair for me to expect her to live outside her means just because I could afford more. ”

    The other cool thing about this is you can treat it like a savings plan – for your future together. And if your partner has plans to stick it out for the long-term, they should see this (and what advantages it has for them) in a heartbeat.

    My partner contributes half the mortgage – I pay for the whole rest of the mortgage like I did before he moved in – the result is we’re building up a large amount of equity (which is going to be a huge help when we decide to buy a house together in a few years) and his effective rent is comfortable for him and competitive for the area. Win-win.

    • Since you like me, I’m going to tell you why I like you, too.

      You have the exact right idea, as far as I’m concerned. I put a lot of money in to savings while I was living below my means and that savings ultimately became our shared savings when we combined finances after several years together and a serious of long-term commitments to one another. I also spent a lot of money on really good wine during this time period, the immediate rewards of which she also reaped.

      And if things hadn’t worked out for us and we’d gone our separate ways? I could have afforded that place by myself in a heartbeat and she could have gotten a roommate and also been just fine. Its all about where you are in the relationship.

  42. I agree with Andrea, and with the person who said money issues are either 1) power issues or 2) communication issues.

    Talk it out. Like a team, not like you’re attacking him or such that either of you becomes defensive.

    Then when you know why he feels the way he does and he knows why you feel the way you do, you can better decide the next steps.

  43. To each their own!! I had a previous relationship where it started out as 50/50 split but then after a year it started to slowly change from 50/50 to 80/20 with me supporting him because slowly he was becoming what he truly is… A bottom feeder. Sometimes people front and when they get into a relationship they start to slowly reveal their true nature. Needless to say it didn’t end well. I still resent him from all of this ordeal. I allowed myself to become manipulated, controlled and was not even in control of my own money anymore. I ended up incurring debt because of this relationship which no one should ever lose control finically from being in a relationship. Now in my current relationship and it’s been over two years, things are great. Rent remains 50/50 but as for anything else, it goes by whatever we prioritize (he wants cable so he pays, one week of groceries is me, the next week is him, I want to redecorate the bathroom so then it becomes my responsibility, and so on). I’m now almost out of debt, we still manage to travel every year, go out, and if we have to make big purchases we communicate and if he or myself are in a situation to pay more then we do, if not we meet in the middle but we still have our own accounts, our own money and help each other out if need be. I personally believe rent should remain 50/50 but for other things you need to communicate. If you want new furniture then agree to make equal contributions or pay 100%. that way it’s both of yours or all of yours and there can be no fighting about it.

  44. The expectation for cost of living expenses (rent or mortgage, food utilities etc.) should be split 50/50.

    For expenses beyond cost of living(that trip to Italy), 50/50 should still be the rule. if that is not possible and one person wants to commit beyond 50% that should be discussed, and agreed on but certainly not demanded by the person who can’t make the 50%

  45. Whether in a relationship or roommate situation, you’ve got equal access to the resources you’re paying for – half the water, half the electricity, half the house – so I don’t see why it shouldn’t be split 50/50. Why penalize the high-earner?

    The exception to this is, I feel, when you’re in a relationship where both partners have agreed that one partner will have a lower-earning career. For example, a part-time position to raise children, do home renovations, start a business, etc.

    Relationships are about both tangible and intangible exchanges, and expenses are one of the many ways that ‘give and take’ is manifested.

    • “Whether in a relationship or roommate situation, you’ve got equal access to the resources you’re paying for – half the water, half the electricity, half the house – so I don’t see why it shouldn’t be split 50/50. Why penalize the high-earner?”

      This actually isn’t true for me. My boyfriends loves long hot showers, I take quick ones. He loves the A/C cranked up full blast, I would rather run it minimally. He pays 2/3 of utilities partly because he makes more money, and partly because he can then use more guilt-free. Compromises like this mean we don’t have a monthly fight about the bill – or a daily fight about the shower. Worth it to both of us.

  46. After reading through these comments, it’s clear that almost every couple has a different idea of what is comfortable for them in terms of splitting finances. The percentage split for shared expenses feels right for us, but every couple really has to do what is right for them and their future. We know that money is the #1 reason people divorce, so you have to communicate and figure out where that comfort zone is for you together. Ramit, I hope you’ll cover how to have (what for many people are) these hard conversations.

  47. My partner and I use the percentage system to pay for our expenses, because our salaries are different. It’s actually more equal this way, than to split the expenses 50/50. If you each agree to pay an equal percentage of your income toward rent and other expenses, then you’ll each have the same percentage left over. To us, at least, that is a more equal way of “sharing the burden” than to just split the dollar amounts 50/50. It also means we can more equally share the costs of going on dates together, buying groceries, and doing things for fun. We can make adjustments as we take new jobs that pay more, or take on costs to go to school that reduce our income. No one bears an unfair burden, compensates for the other, or pays more than she can afford.

    Relationships and money are tricky, but in the end, it comes down to the fact that my partner and I care about each other. It is important to both of us that we make financial decisions that are sound as a couple, and that we support each other in doing that as individuals. Moving in together is a big step, and for us it included recognizing and accepting each others’ financial situations for what they are. I don’t think we could look at our finances without the lens of our relationship; otherwise we’d just be roommates, not partners.

  48. I agree with Kristin. Both parties are using the same resources in the household – why would someone pay less just because they make less? If you can’t afford to pay half of your utilities, maybe you should think about living somewhere cheaper/more affordable. Whether you are in a relationship or they are just your roommate, you should be responsible for the resources you are using.

  49. If you’re going to move in together, why not move into a flat that he’d be happy to pay half of the bills on? If you, with your higher level of income want to move into something a little more spacious or in a nicer area, then him paying a portion of the bills that he can afford would be perfectly fair!
    If you earn $100,000 a year
    he earns $50,000
    rent and bills are $40,000 – and you split it equally, that leaves you with 80% of your income, and him with 60%, which is going to hurt him a lot more than if you were left with 60% of your income!
    What would be more fair would be something like you paying 2/3 and him paying 1/3 of the bills.
    If he weren’t with you, he wouldn’t have that sized bill to be paying half of!

    • I think you missed the part where he said that they BOTH would be paying twice as much if they lived separately. So even at 50/50 the lower earner would be saving money. He’s just trying to take even more advantage of the situation.

    • I disagree with Shawn here. Jesse says they’d be paying double because he’d never consider living in a cheaper place, farther away, or whatever. We don’t really know what the boyfriend thinks. Maybe he’s planning to move to somewhere super cheap and way lower quality if he were to move out.

  50. I agree with Tony and I think it really depends on whether you guys are living above the level he would live at by himself. If he is a simple eater but you have more refined palette and is more expensive, then I think it makes sense you end up paying for more than 50% of the cost (although what portion it should be exactly, I am not sure). If he would be happy living in a 300 sq ft apartment but you guys are now getting a guest room, etc., then I don’t think it is fair that he has to pay 50%.

  51. My opinion is that in a relationship everyone does what they can for each other. A strict percentages approach in financials don’t work for me because it seems petty and cheap. How about the non-tangibles? I moved to another state for my partners and took a low-paying job (although socially responsible position and not a sacrifice to my career) to be there with my partner. He recognized my sacrifices and didn’t ask me to pay for rent and utilities. Although, I took it upon myself to make him happy by buying all the food and cooking all the meals. This person eats A LOT, almost double my consumption, so it’s like I pay rent for another apartment anyways. We of course talked and agreed that this was a fair arrangement. Now, I got a better job, I pay the rent. Relationships are not always split 50/50 in fairness. If that’s your focus and obsession then maybe you shouldn’t move in together yet. The role of a real loving partnership is to support the other person when they are down and find ways to show appreciation for the other person in other ways than money. Good luck!

  52. Anonymous Coward Link to this comment

    I guess I’m too Vegas, but I get a different read on this, Ramit. When a guy says “It’s my way or the highway,” and he wants the other guy to pay the majority of the expenses, or he’s moving out — the implicit threat is that he’ll move in with somebody else who WILL pay the money. It would be interesting to know if the lower income guy is also younger and/or better-looking than the higher income guy. I’m not saying dump the gold-digger. I’m saying, if Jesse had known going in that he would be expected to pay for the pleasure of this man’s company…would he have chosen this man or would he have chosen somebody else? And also: how many times in the future will this man hold out the threat of “Do it my way or I’m moving out!” It wasn’t a poster in this thread who first raised the issue of breaking up. It was Jesse’s so-called “partner.” That bothers me. A lot.

  53. My idea of splitting expenses (once married) was to put money in a big virtual pot.. pull out money for mortgage/rent, insurance, and other monthly bills. In another account, pull out money for things that aren’t paid monthly, but we need to account for tags for the car, or license renewals, etc., and in another account, decide how much we want to invest- IRAs, etc. and last determine how much we want to allocate towards fun things: going out to eat, travel, etc. Whatever might be left over is divided in half, and we each choose what we want to do with it. Once we figure out out the money on paper, we can have our money allocated appropriately into the correct bank account and spend accordingly.
    If we are not married.. we don’t live together. (married can translate into domestic partnership if you live in a state where you aren’t able to marry)
    If you can’t make that emotional commitment, then why make the financial commitment together.

  54. Henry should talk with his partner about the unresolved issues at the last paragraph. He thinks it’s that, but his boyfriend may have different reasons to want an uneven share. These are only the asker’s prejudices at play.

  55. You are two people, with shared costs. Split them in half and focus on each of your top line, then there is no debate. Enjoy your togetherness through expanding the pie, rather than destroying your energy together haggling over the cost of the ingredients. Don’t live your relationship through nit-picking over some kind of formula and ratio!

  56. The financial issue seems almost secondary.

    Splitting costs based on income makes sense in marriage. If you are living together, it makes sense for some, and it doesn’t make sense for others. In my personal opinion, living together is a really big step that is very similar to marriage. If you are willing to take the big step of living together, maybe it is time to split bills proportionately based on income. However, that’s not to say it’s either that way or living separately.

    Are you sure you are both ready to be living together? It seems like you are in different places in the relationship, and the financial question is the fallout from the bigger issue of not being aligned with where you are in the relationship.

  57. The right answer is the one that works for you. I’ve had two relationships where I’ve shared a home. In the first, I paid the vast majority of the bills. I also made a tremendous amount more. She moved into my place, so paying more didn’t bother me. I believe that, in reality, I paid more because I saw it as my place, not ours. I thought I was helping her financially, but she just pissed the extra income away.

    In my current relationship, my fiancée got a place together a year and a half ago. We split it down the middle, even though I earn 40% more. She’s still paying less than she would on her own. However, soon after we got engaged, I initiated the discussion about how we will handle it at that point. We decided to do things on percentages, in a way. We will contribute to our separate savings and retirement accounts an appropriate percentage of what each of us makes. Same with blow money. What remains will go towards bills and a shared savings account.

    Between the two, I am far happier with how things have gone in my current relationship. We’ve both benefitted financially without losing our independence. Even with our future plans, there will be some degree of freedom for us. Further down the road, we may combine everything. Even with a 50/50 split, the person with a lower income is usually saving a good amount versus living alone. Unless that’s not true in your situation, I’d recommend equality until you are both ready for more. A percentage-based split may create some resentment for you, as paying more did for me, especially if your partner handles their money poorly.

    Good luck!

  58. Six months into the relationship is still too early to live together. And if you do not see yourself in the relationship in the next few years or if you are not ready to commit yourself in a long-term relationship, there is no reason that you should move in together. However, if you agree to his proposal to move in together, I suggest a 50/50 share of all the household expenses, regardless who earns more.

  59. Hm. What I like about Mr. Partner is that the person making less initiated a conversation about collective finances instead of just letting Mr. Other Partner, who makes more. Is it always safe to presume the person making less money is worse with money? Can we imagine situations where the lower earner would actually be an excellent household CFO? I think so.

    Of course, this couple needs to negotiate their money is a way that makes them feel most comfortable and fits their needs and values. From this thread, the thing that seems to work best is when a couple decides they need to have the same standard of living. Having two socio-economic statuses going on in the same house seems fraught with peril and resentment. In a money negotiation, I’d be tempted to open my Mint budget, and honestly put down my numbers as caps and let negotiations begin from there. Ex. “Love, if we live off my numbers, we get to eat out once/week at a nice restaurant, but, otherwise, we are lunch packers.”

    We are also presuming life is fair and salaries are fair too, right? What if the partner in the law firm falls for the director of the nonprofit theater company? They may work equally as hard and value each others chosen jobs, but the market pay scale for one person is much higher than for the other.

    But does money buy you power in a relationship? Is that why we like 50/50 splits? I know I do, but it is way more about power than thinking about how to allocate couple resources wisely and I would never agree to a non 50/50 split where I didn’t feel like paying less meant I was giving up couple decision-making power.

  60. From a woman’s point of view, I think a woman should keep her independence in mind even when in a relationship, especially if the couple is living together.

    If a house is involved that is owned by either one, the owner of the house should make the full payment themselves, because if the relationship dissolves, they would still be responsible for the payment, so I don’t think they should be dependent on the other person to make a mortgage payment. If it’s an apartment, I’d split the rent.

    Utilities, I would split 50/50, because if they were living on their own, they would have to pay them anyway, so 50/50 split is a bargain for each person. I would definitely keep each other’s money separated, no joint accounts. I wouldn’t expect to spend someone elses money, the same that I wouldn’t expect someone to spend mine, because people aren’t that discerning when it comes to spending money that they didn’t have to work for.

    If one person is more generous than the other, just accept it, but I wouldn’t keep tabs on who is doing what, once you start doing that, you can’t stop, and the relationship is doomed.

  61. It sounds to me like there are really different scripts that are at play for the two of them.

    Wanting to split something 50/50 versus based on a percentage income reflects a set of beliefs about what relationships and money SHOULD be, not necessarily what they are. With all of these financial pieces of living together, splitting expenses, how expenses are divided, which (all? some?) expenses are split according to that formula, the mechanics of splitting (joint accounts? yours/mine/ours?) — all of them are probably wrapped up in our individual script for relationships.

    The 50/50 split can easily be part of a script that is about individual participation and self-reliance. For example, my boyfriend who makes less than I do was resistant to not contributing on a 50/50 basis. He liked his independence and the way that he has been scrappy in making it through life. Not contributing on a 50/50 basis signals to him that he’s giving some of that up.

    I, on the other hand, was surprised that when he moved in (we’d been dating to over 2 years at that point) he had no plans to open a joint checking account for bills with me, while to me it just seemed like, well, what was expected. It was my assumption about the ways that relationships should work. To me, when we made the decision that he would move in it was part of a larger “package” of what a relationship was, but it turned out that my script, not his.

    From my perspective, I can see that a same type of divergence in scripts might be occurring here with Jesse and his boyfriend. I’m not sure that a lot of the advice that I see here is super useful, since it is about validating one script or the other, not about trying to get them to go behind what is driving each of their point of view. I suspect the conversation about how to split living expenses is actually part of larger (and longer) conversation about what they think relationships. Figuring this out in the context of why they each approach the situation seems like a better approach than justifying based on justifying it based on “fairness” — it’s all about expectations. Also, being gay can give specific flavors to our individual scripts; I’ve been in relationships where my partner has explicitly framed the way they thought things should be in light of being gay. I know I do.

  62. I think whats best and fair for all is that the bills and rent are split 50-50. Yes it would take a bigger hit on your partner, but if he wants to stay together with u and in a lifestyle you both agree on, thats the amount that has to be paid. if he doesnt have any problems with paying the amount other than the fact that u make more, it should be clear and fair that he pays his fair share.

    having said that, there will be other living expenses other than rent and bills, like grocery shopping, petrol, or just eating out in restaurants. Being the higher income earner, it would be best if u paid for more of these. There is no need to go dollars and cents to calculate how much you should contribute but have a rough idea that you are forking out more money compared to him. This should be fair to both of you.

  63. Honestly, they shouldn’t.

    Men should be men, and let the women, buy whatever the hell they want. Mind you-If a girl is in debt-I kick em to the curb.

    Basically, I don’t date women with debt.

    I haven’t had any of my girlfriends work for over 10 years unless they want to. They contribute what they want, when they want. They can buy all the shoes and bags they want. just no debt allowed.

    In the end , my system is solid. I take responsibility for the financial decisions that don’t increase our net worth.

    Stop turning sexual partners into financial partners. Your parents would have never had you if that was the case.

    You probably weren’t that great of an investment in the end anyhow. ;)

  64. Barbara Saunders Link to this comment

    The real issue is values. One option is for the richer person to live a lifestyle that the poorer person can afford and bank the money, keep it separate.

  65. The two phrases that stood out the most were “But we haven’t even been together for a year.” and “One suggestion from him is that we should live separately.”

    Jesse, it doesn’t sound like either of you is super-enthused to be living together — I suggest having that discussion before the financial discussion.

    (Also, Jacob, I love the fixed rent/bills approach — simple solution!)

  66. Split all the expenses equally!!!

    I used to split the bills with my ex-wife by percentage since I made more than her. I wanted to do the right thing and since I made more, I figured I would pay a bigger portion of the bills. But, since she’s a woman, she would always spend all our money, and we would end up living paycheck to paycheck. When you have someone else sharing their money with you, its real easy to buy more bulls**t to “improve” your quality of life… I was constantly trying to improve my situation by getting more computer certifications and getting better paying jobs while she would stay at the same crappy job making a little bit of nothing. Finally one day after discussing the money situation, I suggested that she should probably go out and look for a better paying job, and her reply to me was, she was “comfortable” with her job. Then she proceeded to get upset that I “thought I was better then her for making more money” blah blah blah, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. All I could think of is, “How can you be comfortable being broke all the time?!!!”

    I think that if we split all the bills 50/50, AND kept our checking accounts separate, then after she paid her half of the bills, if she was still broke, while I still had spending money, then maybe she would have more incentive to improve herself instead of being “comfortable” living off of my dollars…

    BTW I divorced that Wh*re and I still have the same bills, but I have a BUNCH of money in my pocket. WTF would I ever get married again?!!! Stupid B*tch*s…..

  67. I don’t see the moving out suggestion as an ultimatum, his partner might just realize that it’s better to not get into a situation that you know will frustrate you. When you live together, you lose a bit of spending control. For instance, with utilities, he might insist on using a fan instead of air conditioning in the summer, taking short showers, or foregoing cable to keep expenses low. This might frustrate the higher earning partner because he can easily afford these small luxuries (I know that these are minuscule wins, but they are the best examples I can think of off the top of my head). Even with friends, I notice that I spend more when hanging out with my higher earning friends (and I usually can’t pinpoint what exactly is different). I would think that these small shifts would be even greater if you’re living together. Your partner may just be hyper conscious of his spending or be concerned about going into debt.

    Overall, I think that it’s responsible to make sure that you are on the same page before moving in together (this is true for friends, partners, whatever). I don’t think that 6 months is too soon to move in together (my aunt and uncle married after 3 months of dating and are still going strong after 25 years!), but this is ONLY true if you both are open about your expectations, financial responsibilities, etc.

    If you care about this person, keep having these conversations, they are uncomfortable, but really important. If you end up deciding not to live together yet, that doesn’t mean that you won’t eventually get there!

  68. The trick is communicate. My wife and I put our money together and pay our bills. Now she makes 2x what I make. That sounds simple but there are other factors like. She doesn’t have any insurance from her job, so I cover her and myself. Medical, Dental, Life and even double my 401 for us. This factor isn’t always put in the equation since my work pays the bulk of it. Another factor is most insurances are cheaper like car or home when two people are marriage.

    The main thing is to always talk about it. ( And yes, I will make you rich book works for either 50/50 split or percentage deal. Just remember to use it.)

  69. Definitely split it 50-50!

  70. I love how many people are just saying “Rent should always be split 50-50, no matter what.” I know this is two men, but people are saying it should always be that way, regardless of the relationship. So it’s always going to be okay to make the woman in a heterosexual relationship pay more, even though the strong likelihood in the U.S. is that she will earn significantly less (since even if they’re doing the same job at the same level, she’s only earning 77 cents for his dollar). So “fair” in effect is “cost the woman more”. There’s also an assumption that you will only ever live with someone with the same type of job, socioeconomic status, and values as you have. If you’re an investment banker earning $200,000 per year, and you shack up with a Red Cross IT worker earning $35,000 per year, hey, you should still split that rent down the middle! What bull. In effect, of course, that investment banker wouldn’t be that likely to live with that Red Cross worker, because people with very different values seldom get together. But if they did, the proportion system means that each would get the same proportion of the salary they choose to earn to save for themselves or to support their separate or joint wants. Splitting it down the middle is foolish in that situation.

    I suspect a lot of these same commenters would also claim that of COURSE, the investment banker and the Red Cross worker should live together, if they really love each other and commit! You shouldn’t choose your partners based on income! But in effect, their insistence on a 50-50 split does that for them.