When things start getting serious in a relationship, you begin sharing your life fully with another person. Even if you don’t merge your finances completely, you’ll probably end up splitting bills at some point.
Expenses can get confusing enough when you’re the only one paying them, though, so how exactly do you go about splitting them between two people?
Have ‘The Talk’
Everyone likes a good surprise, just not when it comes to money. It may be awkward, but it’s important to be upfront with your partner about any expenses you have or expect to have in the future—things like student loans, car payments, chronic health issues that require treatment, etc.
Odds are your partner already knows about whatever big expenses you have, but it doesn’t hurt to cover it again and give them the specifics in more detail. If they’re going to be splitting bills with you, they have a right to know!
It can help to have this conversation so you both know where the other is with their financial goals. You’ll also be able to tell whether you’re on the same page or not. Not the most pleasant thing to talk about, but it’s important to do it. You’ll also need to revisit the topic as things change in the future.
Keep track of expenses
Keeping track of your expenses is a no-brainer. If you’re over the age of 18, I’m sure you have at least some practice by now. When money is in short supply, most of us are pretty obsessive if we know large amounts of it will be drained from our bank account.
Make a calendar
Write down when each of your expenses is due for the month. You probably already know when your rent is due and when you need to get your credit cards paid off. For the things your partner is handling, do you know when they need the money?
It can be hard to talk about money with your partner. You love them and trust them with your life but asking for money to cover bills still feels awkward. It’s easy to get in your own head and overthink how you’re coming off, too (I know I do). That doesn’t mean you can just not talk about it, though.
If you’re having trouble getting that particular talk going, check out our blog, all about talking finances.
When you’re divvying up money and primary account holders, think about when you and your partner get paid. If you can’t move around payment dates, then think about switching who pays for what. If you get paid on different days, it can be easier for the person who gets paid on the 20th to cover the phone bill coming on the 24th.
Working around paydays isn’t necessary, and if you’re budgeting right, you probably won’t need to, but it can be nice to not have to hold onto ‘X’ amount for a week or two. Splitting bills is supposed to make things easier, not harder, so if this doesn’t work for you and your partner, that’s fine!
Balance who pays for what
Talk to your partner about what expenses you have and which you’re willing to share. It’s a pain, but it’s a good idea to sit down and audit your budget if you’re living together. Figure out which expenses are just yours and which you should share. Things like Netflix, Amazon, and utilities should probably be shared between the two of you, but you probably don’t want to pay for things they use that you don’t.
During your audit, you can also get a feel for the total cost of your expenses and balance things fairly. When you are splitting bills, you want to make sure everyone pays their fair share after all.
If you decide to go straight down the middle, 50/50, then you’ll know how much you will need to budget for too. You can also minimize the amount of money changing hands between the two of you.
Quid pro quo
The term “quid pro quo” is Latin for “a favor for a favor.” Basically, you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours. Or I’ll pay for electricity if you pay for the internet. Splitting bills doesn’t have to mean splitting every single bill. It can also mean swapping some. As long as you have two bills that are roughly the same, make things easier by agreeing to just pay for one bill if they pay for another of a similar amount.
It can be tricky to find two bills that cost about the same, but it does make things so much easier if you have one less bill you personally have to worry about paying.
When I was in college, I never had to worry about electricity because it was around the same as the internet. My roommate and I agreed that she would cover electricity if I covered the internet. Simple, easy, and one less thing to keep track of.
Write it down when money changes hands or accounts
When you are splitting bills, it can be easy not to notice when you don’t get paid back for things. Auto payments pull money out at the same time each month, but if you get busy, it can be hard to remember to send your share of the bill to your partner.
Even if it’s just in your phone’s notes app, keep track of what you’re paying for and when you get paid back. It makes things a lot easier, and you don’t have to stress about whether you’ve been paid back or not. You have the receipts (literally), and you can avoid arguing over whether or not someone owes you money.
Try out a budgeting app if you’re having a hard time keeping track of expenses and who owes who what. There are tons meant to help couples (or anyone really) streamline their budgets and track spending. If you’re looking for a place to start, we really like Honeydue. Forbes even named it one of the best budgeting apps of 2021!
Do you find talking about money with your partner difficult?