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How to Split Bills Fairly in a Relationship

In a relationship, finances can quickly become a cause of conflict. Whether it’s due to incorrect assumptions, differences in income levels, poor communication, bad spending habits, or something else, the family bills can be a significant source of stress in a relationship. Here are a few things you can do to split bills fairly and help you and your partner steer clear of conflict caused by money.

Factor everyone’s debt into your budget

When you decide to share finances with someone else, any outstanding debt brought into the relationship is now everyone’s problem. Work together to make becoming a debt-free family the top priority so that your relationship is never constrained by the tether debt creates. Sit down with your partner and create a path that emphasizes getting rid of student loan or credit card debt quickly. If you’re not sure where to start, compare the avalanche vs. snowball method —two strategies for becoming debt-free that use your natural motivations to keep you focused and can help you get out of debt as soon as possible.

Once you have an idea of the total family debt load, decide how you’ll handle it. Will you both decide to take on paying off the debt or should your household budget change so that one partner’s main financial responsibility is to pay off the debt while the other handles living expenses?

Consider every relationship-related bill

When establishing a household budget, ensure you have the complete picture of all expenses so that one partner doesn’t get stuck with an unfair amount of bills. Consider things such as:

  • Who pays for dates?
  • Are there annual fees one partner pays for a shared credit card?
  • Is healthcare deducted from only one partner’s paycheck?

If you’re worried that you’ve both forgotten a bill, take a look at your bank statement and pay stubs for the last six to twelve months and notice if any expenses were overlooked. Then, create a spreadsheet that lists these costs, which you can then use to quickly rebalance your finances whenever there’s an income change or at an agreed-upon time (at least once a year).

After your spreadsheet is created decide how you will each contribute to the household budget. Upon realizing the “extra” costs that weren’t previously accounted for, many couples will decide one of the following:

  • Remove the cost altogether by closing credit cards or spending more “date nights” at home.
  • Cut the cost down by choosing more budget-friendly options and accounting for them as an item in the budget.
  • Agree to take turns paying for recurring costs like these so that both partners take on the financial responsibility.

Talk about money often and work together for long-term goals

Many couples will hold off on discussing finances because money can bring up judgment and shame. Unfortunately, avoiding talking about money often leads to heated arguments that can cause lasting damage to the relationship. Make it a topic that’s easy to discuss early on in the relationship and emphasize the love and trust between you so that neither person feels ashamed or afraid to admit when they’ve made a mistake.

It’s equally vital that you and your partner share the same financial goals. Incompatible money mindsets will lead to frustration on both sides, so talk about where you see the relationship going and how you’d like to get there.

Once you’ve come to an agreement for the direction the relationship should go, factor any associated costs into your budget and divide it accordingly. Some couples handle this by splitting the monthly bills 50/50 and having the partner with the higher income take on the savings goals, too. Other options to split the cost of long-term goals include divvying them up 50/50 as well or proportionally to income, i.e., if one partner makes $100,000 and the other makes $50,000, the higher earner pays ⅔ of the costs.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, it’s important to split bills in a way that works for both you and your partner. Work towards an agreement that feels fair to everyone by being up-front about your spending habits, meeting in the middle with bills, and keeping the lines of communication open.

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