Q&A: What Should My Sweetheart and I Discuss About Finances Before Moving in Together?

By Rachel Puryear

A big milestone in any serious relationship is the decision to move in together. If you and your significant other are contemplating this step, you likely have some questions about many things – including how you will jointly manage finances once you share the same residence.

If having this talk seems overwhelming, that’s understandable. Discussing the financial aspect when you’re in love seems unromantic to many – but do you know what’s really unromantic? Fighting about finances all the time. A little time spent up front communicating each person’s needs and views, though, can save a couple lots of headaches and heartaches down the road.

As a life coach with a background in law and finances, here are just a few basic questions that every couple navigates as their relationships develop:

A young couple surrounded by candlelight outdoors, and snuggled close together, while looking out at a panoramic view of city lights. By Nathan Dumlao.

Keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions. The point is instead to open communication about finances – and difficult subjects generally. If you differ a lot in your approach to finances, that doesn’t mean you cannot have a happy and fulfilling relationship – it just highlights areas you may need to talk about to deepen understanding of one another.

What’s Yours, Mine, and Ours?

Some couples pool everything they have and make, and pay bills and then share the rest as savings. That’s a valid way to do things.

Other couples keep everything separate, each contributing an agreed-upon share (which may or may not be 50/50) to household expenses, and then each feels free to keep and do whatever they like with any remainder. This is also a valid way to do things.

Many couples also fall somewhere in between – choosing to put their money together to pay household bills, and then with the remainder; save some jointly and each also keep some separately. This is also a valid way to do things.

None of these is inherently right or wrong, though one way might be preferable for a couple depending upon their needs.

For instance, a couple who intends to start a family together eventually might prefer to join their finances to at least a large extent. The “keeping things separate” model works fairly only if each person is able to earn consistently, and still have something left over after contributing to bills. Even if that model works for a couple initially, that may change after having kids.

At the same time, allowing for each partner to have at least some separate funds that they can do whatever they want with – even if it’s just a small percentage of their income – can help solve problems. That way, each can spend a certain amount of money without needing a discussion and agreement every time, and cut down on the mutual resentment that can create.

At the end of the day, couples should do what works for them. This is meant only to help start a discussion and ask one another questions. And of course, keep in mind that circumstances can change, and accordingly what is right for a couple can also change – and it’s ok to revisit things again later on.

What Are Our Respective Preferences Regarding Saving Versus Spending Money?

Some people are more savers than spenders. They like to economize and negotiate deals, and are often good at solving problems. They know that expenses will come up, and want to avoid unnecessary financial stress and hardship by being prepared and prioritizing setting aside money, even if it means making some sacrifices now.

Other people are more spenders than savers. They like to enjoy themselves and live in the present, and are often generous of heart. They remember that life is short, and want to have fun with their money now, even if it may mean insecurity later; because tomorrow is never promised.

Of course, many people are also somewhere in between.

Big differences between partners over spending versus saving can be a big source of conflict. The good news is, even if you have differences around this, that doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed.

However, couples with different outlooks around this issue may need to make some compromises. Communication on a regular basis is also especially essential for them.

This question will influence thoughts around the first question (yours, mine, and ours). Some couples who decide to keep finances more separate than joined do so because of differences over how much to save versus how much to spend.

Again, there isn’t a right or wrong way to go about this. That said, generally speaking, individuals and couples who are at either extreme tend to suffer a lot of problems more than people with a more balanced take. Not saving anything leads to hardship sooner or later, while life is also too short to never enjoy any of what you spend much of your life working hard for.

If We Have Kids, How Will We Balance Raising Our Kids With Working?

This is a great subject to discuss if you might have kids in the next few years. Whatever your respective working situations are now, having children will definitely change that. For some time, a mother will need time off work to care for a new baby and recover from birth. A father will also need time off work to care for the baby, and support his partner. If one parent stays home long term, the family will need to get by on the income of the other. If they both go back to work after parental leave, they will need child care.

Again, the right answer is what’s right for your family. Nonetheless, though, as always, the key is communication – to find out where each of you is on matters, and to open up discussions throughout your relationship.

Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to communication about important matters before and during marriage, and the stronger relationships that result.

Got a question you want answered through this blog? Submit your question to me here – and if you don’t already, please subscribe to the Free Range Life newsletter while you’re there!


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