Are you looking to start budgeting with your live-in partner, but don’t know where to start?
Budgeting as an unmarried couple can be confusing. Your money is likely completely separate, so it can be unclear as to how to create a budget together.
Figuring out how to work together on a budget was something that was important to my partner, Mr. Taco, and me when we decided to live together.
But we weren’t quite sure how to successfully handle our money as an unmarried couple. Questions like how do we split expenses, do we start a joint checking account, and how do we save for bigger ticket items together popped up.
Luckily, after fumbling around for a while, we figured out a way to budget as a couple that works for us.
Here how we budget as an unmarried couple living together and a few reasons why this is working for us.
Budgeting Together as an Unmarried Couple
Deciding to live together was the impetus for us to start talking about how we wanted to handle our finances as an unmarried couple living together.
Like many, Mr. Taco and I both have experience with relationships where money was a source of tension.
We didn’t want that to be the case in this relationship, so started budgeting together right from the start.
For us, the important thing was to figure out how to work together on our money goals while looking out for our own financial health (in case things didn’t work out).
Here are the things that have helped us successfully budget together as an unmarried couple living together.
Talk About Our Goals
The first step in budgeting together as a couple is taking the time to understand your goals as a couple and as individuals.
We knew we wanted to work together on some shared goals, like taking vacations together. But we also had our own individual goals.
Mr. Taco was working on paying off his car loan and I was working on saving up money for a new car and making improvements to my home.
In addition to discussing longer-term money goals, we also talked about what each partner wants their money to do for them. What kind of life do you want your money to help you lead?
Do you want to go out to eat on occasion? Do you want to use a meal service each week? Do you want a house cleaner? Do you want to donate money regularly?
Both Mr. Taco and I love going out to eat and supporting the restaurants in our city. Therefore, we knew that it was important to talk about how much money each of us wanted to spend in that area.
In addition to things we like to spend our money on together, there are things we each as individuals like to spend money on that the other does not. Mr. Taco likes to support musicians by buying new albums, while I spend money on a quality haircut every 8 weeks.
Understanding what is important to each other helps you get on the same page financially, even if your bank accounts are separate.
Speaking of bank accounts…
We Keep Separate Bank Accounts
Would we open a joint checking account for shared expenses or keep everything completely separate?
We opted to keep everything physically separate to start. And 3 years later we still have separate accounts.
In the beginning, we felt this was the safest option for us if things didn’t go as planned.
And with today’s technology such as Cash.app and Paypal, it was really easy for us to split costs while keeping money in our separate accounts.
We Split Expenses Based on Income
For our household expenses, we decided to split them based on the percentage of income each of us was bringing into the household.
For example, if my salary was $75,000 and Mr. Taco’s was $50,000; I would pay 60% and he would pay 40% of the total household bills.
We did this with the household bills, but not our everyday spending like groceries, spending money, and household goods. We currently split everything besides the household bills 50/50.
We do this because our salaries are pretty close, and it is easier to split these expenses 50/50. But you can easily split all expenses based on income if you choose, or vice versa.
We use an app called Splitwise, which allows you to easily keep track of and split expenses any way you want. This app is a life-saver when it comes to handling finances as a couple living together.
Determined Who was Responsible for Paying Each Bill
In our situation, I own the house we live in so all of the bills were in my name when Mr. Taco moved in.
We decided that I would continue to pay all of the bills and Mr. Taco would send me his share of the monthly bills by the end of each month.
This amount included what we determined he would pay me in the form of “rent” each month.
Each of Us Maintains Our Own Budget
Since we decided to keep our finances completely separate, each of us maintains our own budget or spending plan.
We each decided to use YNAB (You Need a Budget) for budgeting, but you can easily use any budgeting method that works for you.
- Do You Need a Budget? 12 Reasons Budgeting is Important
- What to do When You Hate Your Budget
- Which Personal Budgeting Method is Best for You
Created a Money Plan Together
How do you budget together if your budgets are separate?
The answer is what I believe is the key to success for us.
After making the decision to keep our finances separate, we wanted to figure out a way we could still work towards our personal and joint financial goals together.
To accomplish this goal, we decided to be completely transparent with our finances and show each other exactly how each of us was spending our money.
We then sat down together, talked about our priorities, tweaked a few of the numbers within our own budgets to match those priorities, and agreed on our plan. After that, each of us was then responsible for handling our own money in a way that aligned with that kick-ass plan we agreed upon. Boom! Easy peasy.
Meet Regularly to Reflect on Our Plan
Every three-to-six months we schedule a Money Date.
I actually think sitting down to check in on our finances is the best part of our overall plan.
It gives us a chance to voice our concerns about how we are using our money, talk about any new priorities we want to start allocating money towards and find areas to trim a few more dollars from or areas to start spending more in.
We then tweak the plan together and carry on our way for the next three months. Boom!
There it is—our plan to get in sync with our finances while still keeping our money in separate accounts. And after having this plan implemented, we are starting to see the benefits it’s providing.
Why Our Budgeting Method Works For Us
We Can Spend on Our Personal Priorities Guilt-free
By being transparent with our finances and sharing our goals, we have the opportunity to learn about each other’s priorities and to understand their financial implications.
For example, Mr. Taco geeks out over Halloween and loves to create elaborate scenes in the front yard each year. And for me, I enjoy my gym membership and buying home goods from local shops.
By understanding what each of our priorities are and then agreeing on how much of our resources should be allotted to those priorities, we give each other the opportunity to spend money on our personal priorities guilt-free.
We are Both in Control
Although I take on most of the responsibility for brainstorming where to put our money and what our long-term savings goals could be, it’s ultimately a decision that we make together.
This helps avoid a power struggle over money. Since both of us are responsible for our own finances while having an understanding of our joint budgetary goals, we avoid a situation where one person feels high and mighty and the other feels powerless.
In addition, because each of us is fully involved in planning and carrying out our money plan; we both have the opportunity to feel super proud when we accomplish our goals. At the same time, we both feel frustrated when things don’t go as planned.
We are Building Trust in Each Other
The feeling that we can jointly set a plan and trust each other to individually carry out the plan is absolutely wonderful.
Don’t get me wrong though, this has been a work in progress for me. I have a strong desire to control things. I find it hard to allow someone to do things their own way. I mean, I’m pretty awesome when it comes to finances, so of course, I obviously know the best way to manage your money, right? HA!
This method of handling our finances has been a growth experience as it has forced me to sit back and simply trust. I have learned that I have to give Mr. Taco the opportunity to do things on his own. Because if I’m constantly telling him what to do, I will never truly learn to trust him, and that could be disastrous to our relationship
The regular meetings to discuss our progress helps, as it’s a way for me to verify that we are sticking to the plan while continuing to build that trust in him.
Mr. Taco has never done anything that has resulted in this “distrust”. This desire to control things is likely the result of past experiences.
On the flip side, Mr. Taco has always been able to manage his money admirably. But to take his finances to the next level, he puts his trust in my financial know-how and love of math and spreadsheets to guide his investments in a new, positive direction.
You Got This
Budgeting together as an unmarried couple living together can be tough.
But with a little planning and an open line of communication, I know each couple can figure out what works for them to start crushing their money goals together.