Settle money issues before you move in together

The cost of living keeps getting higher, due to inflation and rising fuel prices. If you’re in a well-established relationship, it could make financial sense for you and your partner to move in together to cut costs. You’ll pay one rent (or home loan) instead of two, and the same goes for internet and media subscriptions, online entertainment, armed response contracts and other monthly household expenses.

Using one set of kitchen appliances instead of two can also lower your combined electricity and water costs, and you may experience less food wastage when shopping for two instead of one. Sharing a car is another effective way to cut costs; vehicle finance payments and fuel expenses can be lower if you live together.

If you already spend a significant amount of time together and know each other’s habits, moving to the next stage – whether that means living together or getting married – might seem like a good idea, deepening your commitment while saving you money.

But do you know each other’s money habits? It’s important to have an honest discussion about finances before moving in together so that you both have clear expectations.

Talk about your finances first

Having ‘the money conversation’ may be uncomfortable – it involves disclosing salaries, which may be difficult to discuss if you’re at vastly different income levels. But talking openly and sensitively about income differences allows each of you to understand what the other can afford.

It also lets you know how your partner handles money. Do they have bad spending habits? Are they trapped in too much debt? Put everything on the table – your income, your expenses and your debts – so you both understand the financial position you’ll be in when you share one household. It's important to discuss potential problems and commit to a strategy to avoid them – before you commit to sharing a home.

As a couple, you should talk honestly about your finances often to ensure you understand each other’s aspirations or anxieties about money and establish your shared long-term financial goals. 


If you’re thinking seriously about living together, don’t allow money to become a flashpoint


Ideally, when you talk about money before moving in together, agreeing on a budget should be the main point of discussion. You need to track all your individual monthly expenses so you can list them and decide on the essentials that need to stay in your joint budget. Once you’ve agreed which expenses your household budget should cover, there are 3 ways you could split those expenses fairly:

1. Each partner pays specific bills

If there is quite a difference in your incomes, you might agree that the partner who earns more pays the bigger monthly bills – for example, rent or bond repayments, household insurance and groceries – while the other handles the rest, – like water and electricity, gym memberships, entertainment and internet services, and help in the house or the garden.

What each couple considers a fair split will differ according to individual circumstances, but it’s important that you’re both happy with the arrangement you make. In this scenario, you each keep your own accounts and pay your share of the expenses directly.

2. Taking things ‘as they come’

Unfortunately, this is often the default habit a couple falls into when they don’t have a serious conversation about money before they move in together. They decide to tackle expenses as they arise, and whoever has the most money in their account at the time pays the bill.

It’s understandable that this method is the only available option for some couples, especially if they both work as freelancers or consultants and their incomes fluctuate from month to month. But if you both earn regular salaries, it’s not a strategy we can recommend. This arrangement is chaotic and can lead to missed payments that damage your credit scores. Or one partner may end up shouldering the expenses most of the time, leading to resentment that could damage your relationship. 


Make sure you both agree on the importance of budgeting for your household


Even if you feel you have no choice but to apply this approach to your household bills, you should at least draw up a budget so that you have a clear picture of what those expenses are, and when payments are due. Then you can earmark income that you’re expecting to be paid by a set date for specific expenses.

3. Splitting all the bills 50-50

You could choose to split all the expenses equally and each pay half. This is easiest if one of you makes all the household payments and you use a budgeting tool like Nedbank’s MoneyTracker to keep a record of all shared expenses. Then the other partner can simply transfer half that amount to the paying partner’s account every month.

Since all expenses are shared equally, this is the most equitable way to budget as a couple. It also makes you both feel like part of the same team with shared long-term financial goals, which should strengthen your relationship.

If you’re thinking seriously about living together, don’t allow money to become a flashpoint. Establish the ground rules before you move in together and ensure you both agree on the importance of budgeting for your household. Unspoken resentments about money can turn into long-held grudges that destroy relationships.

You can make budgeting as a couple simple by using MoneyTracker on the Nedbank Money app.