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How Do Independent Couples Divide Up Expenses?

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My fiancee and I have very independent personalities. When we met eachother, we each owned our own property. We each have fairly successful careers, though I must admit that her's is taking off a bit more than mine. While we lived together in Boston, we split expenses more or less 50-50.

When we moved cross country for her promotion, we did talk a little bit about money. She offered to help with some of the expenses that occurred due to the move including the negative cash flow property that resulted. However, she was concerned in helping out so much that I'll go out and buy a jet ski (her joking sarcasim), while I was somewhat concerned that she'd spend the extra money on designer purses (my joking sarcasim).

I was on board with continuing the 50-50 split until I realized exactly how much of a breadwinner she will be and how much less I'll take home with the increased expenses. I came up the idea using each of contributions of our total net income to figure out how we should divide up our expenses. She brings home 57.6% of the income, so I suggested she paid 57.6% of the expenses. After doing the math, she'll still take home a good deal more than me each month. After all, she makes more money, she should enjoy it.

I'm curious as to what others would do. Do you think this is a fair split? This will become a moot point once we get married - or at least that's the current plan.

Last updated on June 12, 2007.

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Couples and Money

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17 Responses to “How Do Independent Couples Divide Up Expenses?”

  1. My wife and I also ended up splitting expenses based on our income, since it seemed like the fair way to do it. To make things easier, I paid the mortgage and she paid the other monthly bills. Of course, none of that matters now since we are a one income family these days. :)

  2. GeckoGirl says:

    While the concept is fair, I think calculating it out to one decimal point is a bit nitpicky for people who presumably love each other, intend to marry and see their relationship as a partnership. My hubby makes more money than me and I have student loans to pay off whereas he doesn’t. Based on those two things, we agreed he would shoulder more of the financial load. That said, we didn’t calculate anything. We just agreed that he will pay the mortgage and I will pay any other bills.

  3. Good point GeckoGirl. It’s actually something like 10 decimal points, I just saved you the details :-)

    We do our expenses via a spreadsheet and have done so since we moved in. The split was 50-50 at the time and it was built into the system. It took me less than two minutes to integrate the exact math. I think the decimal point is just force of habit. We might very well just do the split of someone pays the mortgage and someone pays everything else.

    The really odd thing is that I have never balanced my checkbook and I can’t find my way around Quicken, but for some reason the spreadsheet works for me.

  4. I think once we are married we will go 50-50 as well. The thing is that I moved across the country for her job and acquired extra expenses in the process. Because we haven’t completed the merger (as they might say on Survivor), we haven’t yet put our financial goals on paper as I would like.

    She’s also not the type to really plan things out long term. She makes all the good short term moves, but she doesn’t have a plan of where she wanted to be in 5 years, 10 years, etc. as I do.

    And, of course, now I’m curious as to what you and your wife do :-).

  5. MiserlyBastard says:

    Im in the same boat as you, except that we’re married. The bottom line is that marriage is a financial partnership, and accordingly Im a strong believer in a 50-50 split on all things financial. If you want the jet ski or she wants the purses, discuss it and work toward mutually shared financial goals. I dont think that spending should be pro-rated based on earning power (and I dont say that just because my wife makes 10x what I do; we had this arrangement back before she hit the bigtime.)

  6. MiserlyBastard says:

    Im an attorney, and my wife works at a hedge fund.

  7. Jen says:

    He makes slightly more than I do – maybe 30% more – and we split it in proportion to how much we bring in. So, he covers 30% more of the bills. It works for us. We both still get spending money – he just gets 30% more than I do.

  8. I think that’s the plan. It’s good to know that it’s working out for you.

    And while I’m here, Who says there aren’t any wealthy PF Bloggers? Miserly Bastard seems be doing okay.

  9. […] How Do Independent Couples Divide Up Expenses? at Lazy Man and Money A look at how couples split their expenses. Surprisingly, I’ve never spent much time on this issue. It seems to come naturally for me and my wife even before we married. […]

  10. moneymonk says:

    I agree with Frugal Frugalson , I pay the mortgage and my spouse pays for all other expenses ie water, cable, gas etc

    By me being the breadwinner I just took on the highest bill which was the mortgage.

  11. […] that to the method outlined here last October, How Do Independent Couples Divide Up Expenses?. Specifically, “I came up the idea using each of contributions of our total net income to […]

  12. […] how do independent couples divide up expenses – I’d probably do what lazy posted here, although I’ve always wondered whether I’d feel the same way if the other party earned significantly more or less […]

  13. J. Martineau says:

    It is funny to see the women’s thoughts: they always go for their men’s income: he should pay more. They should earn more, and yes I’ll just do without these supposedly women who think that guys are all stupid and will pay all the time. A prostitute is cheaper.

  14. Lynnie says:

    Love how you make sweeping generalizations about women, J. Martineau. LOL!

    I am the *only* breadwinner in this household. My partner makes zero money, but is at the second interview stage of getting one. Even if he gets the job, he’ll be bringing in about 16% of the household income.

    So yeah. I’d like to figure out a good, fair way to divide expenses. That’s why I’m reading this thread.

    I think having him contribute 16% of the expenses is a fair way to go.

  15. Alex says:

    I’m a believer that the one who earns the most has to pay the most. I find this to be fair mostly when the incomes are really different. let me give you an example: in a couple, A makes 300 and B makes 700. Let’s say the total expenses are $500. In a 50-50 situation. A and B would have to pay $250 each. So A would end up with $50 and B would end up with $450. This is not fair if you consider that it’s not their fault that their salaries are that low, and still they contribute the same as it takes the same effort for both of them the earn the money.

  16. Gerri says:

    Just wondering how to figure out how to discuss finances with your fiance. He makes 40% more than I do but his expenses are more than both of his monthly checks. He does not know how to pay his bills and bge, car payment and his rent are always not paid in full and sometimes never paid where he is out of electric and I let him stay at my home for weeks until he can afford to pay bge to get turned back on or his car is paid. I am very afraid if we get married, I will have to end up paying for everything. Help I want a marriage where I feel not taken advantage of and the man pulls at least 60% or a fair share and I will also..help any answers???????

    Tired/ confused and darn upset at fiance’s horrible childish financial habit

  17. Lazy Man says:

    I don’t have any suggestions on how to start a discussion with your fiance. It would be hard without knowing him. Even if I knew him, I might have difficulties.

    I presume that people are logical. This often fails me, but nonetheless, I can’t think of a better approach. So what I try to do is sit someone down and appeal to logic. Since you are getting married, it seems like you could talk about the wedding budget. For a lot of people, it is a significant amount of money and requires some planning. This can help get you thinking about the future.

    I think one of the best things you can do is sit him down and say that you are embarking on journey together and that journey is going to be easier if there aren’t money problems. That might mean giving up some luxuries or some toys now, but it will lead less issues and fights in the future. For example, the cleaning service that we get now is pretty near priceless in keeping our sanity. It is worth much more to me than a fancier or new car.

    I also have a list of ways to save money that may help reduce some of those expenses. Also living together will help reduce some expenses because you’ll be splitting a rent and utilities.

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