Home > Personal Finance > How to Budget as a Live-In Couple

Comments 0 Comments

When my boyfriend and I first moved in together, we had a falling out over utensils.

OK, maybe “falling out” is a little dramatic, but things started to get heated when we broached the topic of household furnishings. Almost as soon as I turned the latch on our new apartment, I began spouting off the things we needed. Top of the list was a set of silverware and plates so that we could move beyond our move-friendly diet at the time: Pizza directly from the box. Cutlery seemed like a perfectly rational addition.

He immediately disagreed.

With two perfectly functional pairs of chopsticks ‘recycled’ from a Chinese restaurant, and two Halloween themed plastic plates that we used when we camped, he saw no need for spending on extras and living beyond our current means.

After all, he argued, we had just put down a deposit, paid two months rent and had a non-existent emergency fund. I saw his point, and yet I had a $10 bill ready to take action in the kitchen department. What I saw as non-negotiable, he saw as a place to save some cash as we pumped up our savings accounts over the next month.

Not having the same expectations for spending while living under the same roof was an eye opener for both of us. Just maybe I was a little too lenient with my cashflow. And just maybe he was a little too protective. But one thing was certain: We needed some budgeting talks to sort through our differences of opinion.

Based on what I’ve learned, here are a few tips to help you take on the challenge of setting up a budget as a live-in couple:

Look at the Whole Pie

Your budget as a live-in couple goes beyond splitting rent down the middle and calling it a day. There are other costs you’ll need to consider, such as utilities, gas and electric, food, furnishings and, yes, maybe even chopsticks. Instead of tackling each and every single separate bill one at a time, make a list of items you agree should be split and then combine the costs to get a cohesive idea of what the whole will all add up to. Though to be fair, the budgeting pie will definitely look less delicious as a spreadsheet.

Share Some Numbers

Admittedly, this one’s tricky. Financial transparency opens you up to vulnerabilities and exposes information that you may not feel comfortable sharing. But it doesn’t mean you have to share a spreadsheet of your passwords and bank account numbers. A general knowledge of what each person can contribute realistically to a budget will help to prevent uncomfortable feelings down the road. Part of being a couple includes discussing things that may or may not affect your partner — finances included.

Track Spending, Write It Down

As you keep tabs on your purchases, write down your expenses. Putting the facts to paper can be the perfect way to reveal spending differences. Whiteboard, leather-bound planner, wood carving … The medium doesn’t matter quite as much as the actual info you gather.  Some people are more spendy than others based on their means, experience with finance and personality — problems arise when they’re unaware of the extra spending, or differing spending habits cause friction. The only way to really understand where some budgeting TLC needs be applied is to write it down.

Communicate Your Financial Goals

Communication is key. Communication is key. It’s been said so often that saying it twice seems essential to ensure that it’s not skimmed over. When it comes to any kind of relationship, keeping problems under cover can quickly lead to a wildfire of passive aggressiveness. The best way to find a budgeting balance is to actually talk about it with one another. Much of disappointment or frustration comes from expectations that weren’t met or communicated. Communicating your longer-term financial goals can open up an essential line of communication that helps you avoid disappointment or frustration.

Send Your Ego Out for Ice Cream

Have your ego take a walk — at least while you’re having your budgeting talks. As you move in with your partner, and move forward with budgeting, you’ll have to make concessions and you’ll have to make compromises. Neither of you will be right 100% of the time — there’s a unique kind of volatility that goes along with finances and pride. It can get pretty petty, pretty quickly. So remove your ego from the mix as you hash out your plan. And maybe you’ll even have ice cream at the end of the discussions. Preference of flavor is a whole other talk, of course.

If It’s Not Working, Change It

It can be time consuming and frustrating to crunch the numbers and put forth the effort to create a budget — only to realize it doesn’t seem to be working. But the truth is, most budgets are imperfect and that’s a-OK. Budgeting magic isn’t achieved by financial smarts alone, but also comes about from experience and through trial and error. Write down the first few plans in pencil. If after a month or two you realize that it’s simply not working, rework your plan of attack. In most cases, you won’t formulate the ideal budget on your first go around. It takes time and a little flexibility from both parties. After all, you want to set a budget that you can not only stick with, but live with as well.

You may have already learned that they prefer Pepsi over Coke, dogs over cats, and green grapes over red. But personality quirks alone don’t define a person’s financial persona. Budgeting as a live-in couple can be stressful and confusing, particularly if you have student loan debt, credit card debt, or a mortgage payment. But it is possible — as evidenced by my happy drawer of budget friendly silverware coexisting quite happily with a couple of plastic Halloween plates.

Image: Wavebreak Media

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team