How to manage household expenses in a couple.
Living together should mean a life filled with thoughtful gestures, laughter and tenderness! But it’s difficult when… The fridge is empty, the bills are piling up and the kitchen needs renovating. myLIFE reviews some tried and tested formulas whilst keeping in mind that it is up to each couple to find their own balance. Find out how costs should be split and how you can avoid the financial pitfalls that risk bursting this idyllic bubble.
This fair, straightforward and simple approach ensures that you and your partner pay exactly the same amount to cover shared expenses, and any money left over is considered disposable income. Many cohabiting or married couples do this to ensure costs are shared equally.
As far as sharing is concerned, you and your partner would relate on a financial level like conventional flatmates where romantic love does not come into play. Both of you would pay an identical amount into a joint account with these sums adjusted by mutual agreement according to current expenditure and future plans. No need to calculate who would have paid the most for this or that, and no reason to argue about late repayments. Once you both agree on what constitutes shared expenses, money issues will be settled in advance and there will be no need for further discussion! However, what one person considers stingy, the other considers thrifty so as with all other aspects of your shared life, communication is key!
If the idea of a joint account doesn’t appeal to you, you will have to calculate expenses at the end of the month and refund the person who has paid more. It is up to you.
Paying what you can
Should you both pay equal amounts or each make a contribution based on personal income? Equality and fairness are different concepts and both have their merits. What is important is that you both agree on the most appropriate solution. If one of you stays at home to mind children, the 50/50 solution is no longer viable. The same logic applies for couples whose salaries differ greatly.
In such cases, having to pay the same amount would be unfair or impossible for one partner.
This is the reason why many couples manage their shared finances according to the principle of proportionality. In concrete terms, this means that you and your partner would each make a contribution according to your means. For example, if spouse A earns twice as much as spouse B, he or she will contribute twice as much to household expenses, or 66.7% of all costs.
Once this calculation has been made, all you have to do is to pay your share into the joint account and adjust your payments based on how shared expenses evolve.
When one person owns the property
Often, one person moves into the home of the other. Since couples rarely charge each other rent, a possible arrangement is to separate housing costs from other ongoing expenses. In fact, housing costs are roughly equivalent to half of a household’s shared expenses.
The person who keeps his or her home pays the rent or the housing loan, while the other person pays the bills and other expenses.
“The person who keeps his or her home pays the rent or the housing loan, while the other person pays the bills and other expenses.” In the event of unforeseen expenses or new projects, it is up to you and your partner to agree on how to cover the costs fairly.
One person pays for everything
Sometimes one partner pays for everything and manages the day-to-day finances alone. This is not a problem, as long as the other spouse is not excluded from the decision-making process. Wanting to assume financial responsibility and relieve your partner is one thing, wanting to control that person by using money can create major frustrations and tensions for a couple. It is up to you to reflect upon whether it is the best way to show you care.
A case-by-case basis
Sometimes couples operate on a case-by-case basis, i.e. they do not set any fixed rules and adapt according to the type of expenses they incur. This method can be simple: a blend of the solutions above, tailored to meet the needs of you and your partner as a couple. Why not? Our only advice here will be to maintain an open, respectful dialogue to avoid any unspoken tensions that may arise.
In an individualistic society, we lose sight of the benefits of pooling resources. By sharing property and finances, the burden of expenses can be eased.
No need to share if everything is shared!
In an individualistic society, we lose sight of the benefits of pooling resources. By sharing property and finances, the burden of expenses can be eased. The principle is simple: what is yours is mine and vice versa. In matrimonial regime matters, the principle of universal community or, in the context of the universal community regime reduced to shred assets, the couple’s shared assets apply.
In this case, proportionality, fairness or splitting everything 50/50 do not arise since everything would simply belong to you and your partner as a couple. Salaries are paid into a joint account for both shared and personal expenses. In a way, it recognises that the couple is an entity in its own right that cannot be reduced to the sum of the two people it comprises. Of course, this implies total trust in your spouse and his or her relationship with money. Suffice to say it is probably not very prudent to consider this solution the first few weeks after you meet! But this remains an option that greatly simplifies the management of the household budget for couples who are together long-term. After all, it is not an unreasonable approach if you are in a long-term relationship.
In the end, it’s up to you
The broad range of possibilities includes equal, proportionality, sharing or one of the spouses assuming total responsibility. And what works for one couple does not necessarily work for another. Even within a couple, solutions can arise depending on life stages and professional circumstances. It is therefore essential to be able to discuss solutions calmly and to ensure neither you nor your partner feels wronged by the chosen solution.
Household costs are something of a delicate topic but one which must be addressed to ensure the long-term survival of your relationship. Money may not equal happiness but sound joint financial management should still help a lot. Here’s to a happy life together!