Approaching Finances with a New Partner
When you are on your own or only dating casually, your personal finances are simple — there’s just you. You have full knowledge of every detail of your income, and you have complete control of all your expenditures. When you first become serious about a relationship, however, the game changes. There’s now a second person to think about and consider, both practically and emotionally, and what was once easy to handle can now be a little bit tricky when “I” becomes “we”.
Each person has their own way of handling their money, and when two people start to share a home or some other kinds of financial responsibilities, it can be a big mess if their systems don’t mesh, or if they have different opinions about the best way to proceed. If all the bills are getting paid without incident and neither of you are worried about what is happening with the leftover money, then you’re very lucky, and that’s great. But if one or both of you has issues about how the money gets spent and how the bills are split up, it may be time to sit down and form a concrete plan.
There are infinite ways to split up house finances between two people, and you can make it as simple or as complex as you want. You can pool all your money together, pay the bills from that, put a set amount into savings or investments, and share what’s left over. If you need something more structured and defined than that, you can separate the bills out so that each person knows what their responsibilities are. Perhaps you will pay for utilities and food, and your partner will pay the rent. Maybe you’ll split every single bill down the middle. You could also weigh the bills proportionately based on what each of you earns in a month, so that you’re each paying the same percentage out of your income. The key is not to assume that it will all get worked out eventually — everyone has different ideas about money, so it is important to talk it out in specific terms, and find some middle ground that you can both agree on.
Eventually you’re bound to have a conversation about whether or not you should combine your money into a single joint bank account. This can be a tricky subject, so proceed carefully. If one person brings it up as a good idea and the other one doesn’t want to do it, sometimes issues of perceived distrust can pop up. But if, for instance, you want to combine bank accounts but your partner doesn’t, it doesn’t mean that they don’t trust you with having access to their money. It’s simply a matter of personal preference — some people are raised to believe that financial information is strictly a private thing, not be shared even with their closest confidants, while others have been brought up to have a more relaxed attitude toward it. There’s no right or wrong attitude about it, so don’t take it personally if you’re ready to share all your financial information and your partner isn’t. Some couples do a compromise, having both a joint bank account and additional separate accounts. This can be a excellent solution if you’d like to have a joint bank account for a trial period, just to see if that system works for you as a couple.
The most important aspect of any relationship, romantic or otherwise, is communication. People often neglect discussing finances with their partners, especially if they have just recently become serious, because it’s a touchy subject for many, and there are of course more exciting things to talk about than checkbooks and utility bills. But if you get your framework and ground rules set up firmly from the start, you can prevent a lot of misunderstandings and arguments later, leaving less for the two of you to worry about, and more time and money for you to enjoy.