Sharing Expenses In a Relationship

Sharing Expenses in a Relationship

Sharing expenses in a relationship, whether it’s with your significant other or a roommate, can be tough.

For your individual expenses (student loans, cell phone, credit cards, etc.), I recommend paying those yourself.

With the joint bills (mortgage/rent, utilities, cable, groceries, etc.), you will need to determine a fair and equitable way of handling them.

This will entail sitting down and discussing some of the following options with your significant other.

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Splitting Bills Based on Income

Let’s start with the best option that ensures both individuals are paying an equitable amount towards the joint bills.

This requires splitting the bills based on individual and joint income.

**BONUS!** Get access to my FREE spreadsheet to help you split your joint bills equitably based on income! Click Here and It’s Yours!

Start by taking the gross (before tax) yearly income of both parties and add them together.

Then take the larger income of the two and divide it by the total combined amount.

This will then give you the percentage that individual #1 will contribute to the joint bills.

Subtract that percentage from 100 and you will have the percentage for individual #2.

Let’s look at an example:

Joe and Jan are living together.

Joe makes $45,000 per year as a school teacher.

Jan makes $65,000 as a principal.

Together they bring home $110,000.

The next step to take is to divide Jan’s $65,000 by the combined income of $110,000. This equals about 59%.

In this scenario, Jan would pay for 59% of each joint bill and Joe would pay the remaining 41% (100% – 59%).

I highly recommend opening up a joint checking account to pay for these joint bills.

By splitting the bills this way, one person can not accuse the other of having extra funds to play around with at the end of the month.

Based on your income, you are paying your fair share.

The most equitable way to split bills is based on income. You're paying your fair share that way. Click To Tweet

If for some reason one of the individuals pays for a joint bill and it cannot be paid out of the joint checking account, you’ll need to make sure that the second individual is adding more to the joint checking to account for this. An example would be health insurance if you’re both on the same plan.

To make this calculation MUCH easier, I’ve created a spreadsheet to help you determine what each individual should contribute to the joint checking. Here’s a screenshot:

(click to see the calculator in action)
(click to make it larger)

If you didn’t download the calculator above, here’s your second chance. Included with the spreadsheet is an instructional video on how to use it. Don’t miss out on this spreadsheet before I begin charging for it!

**BONUS!** Get access to my FREE spreadsheet to help you split your joint bills equitably based on income! Click Here and It’s Yours!

Grab Bag Method

Based on my experience, I believe that this one is the most popular.

However, I think it’s the most ineffective.

This method entails just picking certain joint expenses and saying “I got it!”.

So, one person might be in charge of paying only the rent while the other picks up the remaining expenses.

Sometimes you may not even pay close to the same amount as the other person.

I feel that this method is ineffective due to the fact that you do not have a hand in every expense.

In other words, you may not even know what they other person is paying for and how those expenses are generated.

You are not doing yourself a favor because if the relationship ends, you may not be as prepared to handle all of the expenses (or how to be effective in reducing them during a budget crunch).

RECOMMENDED READING:  Money and Relationships - Talk Money With Your Honey

Split 50/50

One of the simplest ways to split bills is evenly.

All you have to do is look at the bill amount and divide by 2 (or more if you have multiple roommates).

Once you have the amounts figured out, nominate someone to handle the bill paying process.

I recommend opening a joint checking account to handle all of the joint bills.

As you’re paid, send your portion of the bills to this joint checking account.

When it’s time for the bills to be paid, the money will be readily available.

If you’re unable to get a joint checking account (i.e. roommates), you may want to nominate certain individuals to pay certain bills and then just have the others reimburse as needed.

I don’t recommend having someone pay all of the bills.

You may find out that your roommates are bad at paying back their fair share. 🙁


*     *     *     *     *

The previously mentioned methods are just a handful of the options out there.

These just happened to be some of the more popular ones.

You and your significant other will need to find something that works for both of you and is agreed upon.

I would not recommend combining all accounts and sharing all expenses unless you are married (or thoroughly committed to each other).

This is due to the fact that some relationships just do not end well.

P.S. You grabbed your FREE spreadsheet, right? Click Here and It’s Yours!

How do you and your significant other handle expenses?

Please share in the comments!


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47 Responses to Sharing Expenses In a Relationship

  1. I would accept the help if my financial struggle was really a big burden. Otherwise I would split normal living expenses half way and let him pay for dates and entertainment. I don’t want the money to ever become a source of argument in the relationship so my bf could start saving what he offered to pay for me and if we get married he can put that towards my debt as finances will be joined. But a nasty breakup would leave him bitter and I am way too independent to accept a monthly handout if we both make the same amount.

  2. I think the grab bad is ineffective and rife for trouble! Have seen this in action mostly in shared houses where flatmates pay different bills. I make quite a bit more than my fiance at the moment so shoulder the majority of expenses. This has been true for a few years now, though for a while when I was studying he paid the bulk of outgoings when he outearned me. Unfortunately he got laid off shortly before I finished uni and hasn’t made anything like his previous income since.

  3. All of these solutions sound reasonable. I’m wondering if I’m crazy. My boyfriend has lived with me for the last 8 months. During that time he has not paid any rent. Granted when he first got here it was a “trial”. Obviously, 8 months adds to more than a trial. He also was making little more than minimum wage and has had 400 dollars a month in expenses to keep his place, which he still has He now has a decent job and a larger income than mine (last 3 months +). Since he’s been here I’ve paid all expenses related to our living including items to help him look for and or to keep a job.

    In addition. He’s worked from our home since he’s been here. Everyone else has had to adjust their s schedules and lives around his work.

    Additionally my son moved out so that my boyfriend could have his room as an office

    Here’s my question: now that he’s able, is there anything wrong with me wanting him to contribute to the expenses of living here?

    He says there is because its my mortgage. I asked for 500 a month us half of the groceries. Monthly expenses that include mortgage but are not personal are 2000.

    He says he’ll pay the phone and gas and electric. The phone etc are company paid expenses which I have paid for since he’s been here The gas and electric are 150 a month which is double what it was before he got here

    He says he won’t pay more that paying gas and electric is a gift since I’d have the same expenses if he want here

    Am I crazy to think he should contribute at least the 500 regardless of where it goes or am I crazy to have let this go on for so long

    • My first thought, why keep the other apartment when he is living with you full-time? It appears that those funds could be directed towards your shared living expenses. Either he is committed to you or not. Getting rid of the other apartment would be a good start.

      I would definitely ask him to share in the expenses. His excuse about it being your mortgage is just crazy. That does not matter. In all actuality, it’s just the same if he were renting a room from a friend that had one available. Would he tell his friend that he was not going to pay because he would pay it regardless? I don’t think so.

      You’re not crazy. I’d calmly talk to him about your current living situation and how it seems more fair to share in the household expenses. Even though you are romantic, it’s just like having a roommate. That roommate should share in the expenses.

  4. I have a situation where I agreed to my bf moving into my house in October 2008. He did not earn consistently, being a painter with a business partner. I pay for all utility expenses most of the groceries, plus auto fuel and cell phone. And do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, plus work a 5 day work week. Up until recently, I have expressed that he pay his way for use of the cell phone and groceries. He’s agreed to contribute paying for 1/2 of those 2 items, but does not agree with paying for anything else. He has since benefited extremely well from living here, by setting up his own in-home, on-line business, which I had initiated on-line. Plus he’s received financial assistance from me to the tune of $50K (paying off his car and bike loans, and other money) since living with me, but says the amount of repairs and innovations in and around the house with him doing the oil changes on the car, and has helped save me so much money. Also, he does not agree with paying utilities since he says it’s my house. I did not ask for any contributions for the 1st 3 years. It’s been 4 and 1/2 years since he’s lived with me in my house. He says I could give him notice, if I insist on him paying half of the utilities. Should I ask him to pay up or move out?

    • Hey Ken!

      If you’re subscribed to the email newsletter, be on the lookout for something over the next few weeks.

      There’s an article on the horizon regarding communicating about money and handling differences of opinion.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I too have a live in bf who has 3 kids custody of 2 of them. I have one son still living at home. I make more than he does and he’s lived with me about 9 mo. He recently started giving me $100 week for living expenses. I don’t feel this is fair as he’s adding 4 members to the family. I work a 4 day week compared to his 5-6 day week so I’ve had to accommodate to meals and laundry for all 6 of us…it’s overwhelming to say the least and I’m not sure how to fix it. He too refuses to pay “rent” per say do to it being my house…I don’t understand. He and his 3 kids could not live anywhere for $400 mo with food and chores done for them this is insane. Is there any way to do this fairly?

    • Unfortunately, you can’t force anyone to contribute what you feel is equitable.

      If I were you, I’d discuss the possibility of splitting the shared bills based on percentage of household income. This way, your boyfriend won’t feel as if he is being taken advantage of financially. He’ll also end up paying less, which may help soften the possible blow back.

  6. My GF does not make near as much as I do and the mortgage is under my name. Therefore the mortgage is 100% my responsibility but I expect her to help with cleaning a bit more than I do, since I also work longer hours. Good thing she’s not a feminist.

    On the other hand, we have a common bank account for the bills and shared groceries.

    We fill out gas tank and pay for our lunches and personal hobbies and fun times with our individual bank accounts.

    • I am a similar situation as Nick V but we haven’t figured out how to handle the finances together yet. We still have separate checking accounts. He pays all the household bills(mortgage payment and utilities) It’s his house he built 18yrs ago and I cover all the groceries and household expense…cleaning supplies, bathroom necessities and so on. We eat well and I do all shopping, cooking and cleaning.

      We both have loans on our cars and credit cards to pay as well. I am open to getting a shared checking to cover household bills(utilities and expenses), groceries and I think he would be too.

      Would you recommend we each pay our own personal loans or should they be a joint effort to pay off together? He makes about $65k and I am making $42k roughly..

      We are committed to each other but have not yet decide if marriage is for us.

      • Hey Kim!

        For unmarried couples, I’d recommend getting a combined checking account for all of the bills you share. That would include items such as the house, utilities, food, vacations, etc.

        Since your incomes are quite different, I’d also recommend splitting those shared expenses based on your income. The information on that method is in the article. This will ensure fairness and allow you to have the same percentage of your income left over to start paying on your loans.

        At this point, I’d keep all personal bills separate. If you find out later that marriage isn’t for you, you don’t want to feel like you owe the other person something. If you do get married later, combining forces on the debt will certainly make the elimination of it go much faster.

        Good luck!

  7. BF is staying with me for over a year now. My mistake is when I offered to apply a lease car under my name for him to use. He firmly promised that he will pay for the monthly lease unfortunately I am the one paying for the dues.
    He is using my place for his on line business . His eranings will depends on the number of items he sold and base on my observations he is doing good profit wise.
    I already talked with him about my concerns.
    1. car lease
    2. reimburse the expenses ( starting his online business) for I put out cash and i need it back.
    I am paying for almost everything.
    seems nothong to him.
    what to do now?

    • Tough stuff AG.

      Since the lease is in your name, you’re going to need to keep it current for your sake. Honestly, if the title is also in your name, you have every right to drive it. 🙂 That may push him towards making the payments. He obviously still wants to drive it. Right?

      The other issues are ones better addressed with a marriage/family counselor. See if your work provides an employee assistance program or reach out to someone in your community.

  8. I am planning on moving in with my fiance and her children. We are discussing how to equitably share expenses. She has 3 teenagers at home. She makes about 56k a year including her gross salary and child support. I make about 80k gross. I am ok with splitting the fixed expenses: mortgage, taxes, insurance, cable based on income. Not so much for water, electricity, food since her family has 4 people and its just me. I also have 2 kids in college from a previous marriage that I provide some support for and don’t expect any help from her on, obviously.

    What would be a good way to approach the variable costs?

    • Hi Darren!

      Since you’re not married and you’re bringing in previous children to the relationship, I agree that it wouldn’t be equitable to split the variable expenses based on income.

      You might want to try splitting them based on the number of individuals while adding a little extra due to your higher income and higher consumption levels. For example, if the grocery bill is $500 per month, you’d contribute $100 based on being 1/5th of the equation. However, you need to realize that you’re more than likely eating more of the food and purchasing stuff that only you will be consuming. In that case, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for you to contribute $200 in that example. There’s really no easy way to split out those bills based on exact consumption. You just need to ballpark it knowing that it’s still less than if you went on income alone.

      • I would never pay half of grocery bills with a man. Men, I know for my each and my current boyfriend, consume 2/3 to my 1/3. So, when people think about what is equitable (fair) then they also need to look at consumption. I know it probably sounds cheap of me but my attitude got this way with some history with my current boyfriend and his interpretation of fair. I could bore you with of the travail points but I won’t.

    • Great question Emma!

      I’d use gross pay. If there are some deductions that could be considered joint, you’ll need to make an adjustment. For example, if your significant other is on your health insurance and it comes out of your pay, I’d add that to the pot of joint bills that you’re dividing. Since they technically wouldn’t be able to pay their fair share of it, I’d add the contribution toward a different shared bill.

      I hope that makes sense!

      • Hey Adam. This situation is still not very clear to me.
        Why making this calculation with gross salary rather than net (after taxed) salary?

        I’ve recently moved together with my girlfriend, and we agreed upon splitting our rent based on income. The other bills, we agreed upon sharing it 50/50.
        During the first 3 months, we calculated our rent based on our gross salary, simply because we both started new jobs and due to some benefits we received incorporated on our first 3 month salaries, we didn’t know our exactly net salaries. So far so good!
        After the first 3 months had passed though, we started getting our regular salaries and my girlfriend felt that our rent should be recalculated based on the net salaries and not on the gross.
        Her reasoning was that she earns more and than me, and consequently she pays more tax over her salary (even in percentage, since her salary places her at another tax range), than the difference between our net salaries are not as high as in our gross salary.

        Hence my question, what should we use in the calculation, our net or gross salaries?

        • Hi Mark. I’m not sure about your country, but here in the US, our income tax withholding can be manipulated to allow us to have more taken out than is necessary. Therefore, it’s best to use gross income to remove that variance. In other words, one person in the relationship could over-withhold for their income taxes, pay a smaller share of the bill, and end up getting a large tax refund that they would claim is 100% theirs to keep.

          Unfortunately, making more income inevitably leads to paying more in income taxes. That’s not a bad thing, but it does mean that for every additional dollar you make, less of it actually gets into your pocket. Since you’re not married and therefore filing your taxes separately, there’s no way to account for that difference.

          Also, you have to know that this topic (sharing expenses in a relationship) is not black and white. There is certainly negotiation that needs to take place. In my opinion, splitting the bills based on gross income is at a minimum, where you should start.

  9. My boyfriend makes more than I do but he says that when it comes to sharing living expenses, we need to consider that he has child and spousal support responsibilities. I don’t have such financial obligations. In fact, if I move in with him, I have to commute which will increase my gas cost. How do you advise I approach these factors in deciding on sharing living expenses?

    • My response is similar to the one I already gave. In your situation, his other expenses are his responsibility and should be paid with his leftover money. I would split the bills based on the method we already discussed.

      However, in most cases, I imagine it would leave him with little or nothing left over, while you may be doing just fine. Therefore, I would start with the method I just described and adjust the numbers based on the results. This way, you’ll at least be discussing an equitable solution and not simply splitting the bills 50/50. If you’re committed to each other, I imagine you want to see each other succeed, and this is a good way to start off on the right foot.

  10. I moved in with my boyfriend and he is having me pay $400/month. He has a mortgage on his house and has the usual monthly bills such as cable,electricity,gas,and water. he makes around 100,000/year and I make around 10,000 /yr.He came up with a figure of $400/month for my share. I had to have surgury 2 months ago and have had no income and he still expects me to pay $400 plus every other time we eat out.

  11. My “boyfriend” and I are in our sixties, both financially self sustaining. He will move into my home in a few months. What expenses is it fair to ask him to share? I feel that taxes, major maintenance and capital improvements should be mine.
    He agrees we should split Internet, utilities, groceries. But he doesn’t feel he should support gardening, pool or housekeeping services, as I would have to pay for those in any case.
    What are your thoughts for a couple in our situation?

  12. I have been living with my boyfriend for over a year. He has owned his home for 20 years and I have rented out my home. I am sure his house payment is covered by myself and tenant. He insists that I pay rent of $1,250.00 per month. I am sure his house payment is not much more. He covers all utilities etc. but I essentially end up buying the groceries and cooking because I am a foodie. I probably spend $600 a month on food and we do share expenses when we go out. We also have a tenant living in the lower level so my man is making out quite well. I have tried to discuss this with him but it ruffles him up quite a bit. What is fair when you are contributing to a home that you do not own and have no stake in improving etc? I do most of the cleaning too.

    • Tracy,

      I would look at the cost of renting in your area. That will give you a starting point. If you can rent something by yourself for less than what he’s charging you, you have some leverage.

  13. (sorry for bad English)
    We decided kinda spontaneously on 50/50 when we first moved in together. After a year more or less, we got to the point in a relationship that we knew this is the real deal etc., we decided to share 70/30.

    My bf earns more then me, he makes 63% of our total income (my salary + his).
    We don’t split exactly 63/37 since I do the housework, cook, do laundry, clean etc.
    We use an app to keep track on spendings, and it splits expenses and we see who owes how much in the end of the month (only for split expenses).

    Our shared expenses: rent, bills, groceries, eating out, house things like toilet paper, holidays (though here sometimes he covers more if we agree to go a bit more fancy), entertainement like cinema

    Separate expenses: clothes, my makeup, phone bills, personal splurges (for example he wanted a PS4, I wanted a spa weekend with my bff), personal savings (retirement etc)

    It sometimes difficult since he really makes more than I do, for example he likes to go to restaurants that I couldn’t afford by myself. In that case, he usually just says “my treat” before we go.

    I think it is all about communication in a realtionship. I would be perfectly ok sharing 50/50, but then he would need to lower living conditions (cheaper flat etc), and since we are in love, in a realtionship, we want to have a life together so we adjust 🙂

    Also it is quite easy for us since we don’t have “controversial” spendings like child support, or living in my(or his) house.

  14. I am living with my boyfriend over the year now in my house which is fully paid off. The rent for similar house in the area goes around $1900 plus utilities and internet. He gives me $900 (everything is included). His is renting out his own condo for $1550, the tenant pays his own hydro and internet.
    Is it a fair arrangement? I feel sometimes that he got the better hand. Especially because during the week I live in different city and come home for weekends only.

    • Hi Lina! Thanks for the comment.

      As the article states, I always recommend splitting the joint bills based on income. If he is renting out his condo and it’s paid off, I would include that income in his income calculation. However, if it’s not paid off and his mortgage is almost exactly what he brings in, I would count that as an individual bill and treat the income on that property the same way.

      Honestly, I don’t think the fact that you’re only there for the weekend should factor into the calculation. I’m guessing that’s a career and personal choice that you made.

      If you split the bills based on income, is the $900 a fair share for him?

  15. I have always believed that splitting bills based on income / percentage is the best way to handed shared expenses and to keep things fair. Each partner would pay their percentage of shared expenses such as rent, groceries, household goods, utilities, home internet. Each partner would cover their own individual expenses such as cell phone, car expenses, clothes, etc.

    What do you do if one partner works regularly and the other partner has a family inheritance where it is not necessary for them to work regularly. How do you split based on income if technically one person doesn’t have/need a monthly income. Is another method more suitable?

    • Great (and tough!) question Matthew!

      With this type of situation, I suggest looking at it as if they’re “in retirement”. In other words, what would be a safe percentage they could withdrawal from their accounts each year and still be OK for the future? You could look at the 4% safe withdraw rule as an example.

      So, if the individual has a $1,000,000 inheritance, a safe withdrawal rate of 4% would make their annual “income” $40,000. You could use that number for the calculation in the article above. Now, if they’re taking out MORE than $40,000 (at the risk of running out sometime in the future), I would use what they’re ACTUALLY taking out of the account.

      Hopefully that all makes sense!

  16. We r separated but renting together. We have two children. He earns 107000 per year. I work part time only about 5000 per year. What percentage of bills should I pay ?

    • That’s a tough one.

      Are you staying at home and caring for the children? If so, I’d calculate what that expense would be if you weren’t staying at home with them. You could count that toward the bills you “pay” out of your income.

    • If you’re including expenses related to the children in your calculation, I’d add it to your income. Since that’s what the child support is for, it’s only fair. If you don’t want to include it in your income, you’d have to remove the additional costs of the children (assuming they’re less than the child support).

  17. Hi Adam,
    I moved in with my bf 6 months ago. I rented my home for $2500, we moved here so we could a) be together finally after 8 years, and, b) the income I give him will help him do home improvements.
    I am teaching voice in the basement suite at the home my bf owns. I am happy to pay him rent for being here but he wants to split my income from my rental home 50/50 and I think that’s crazy.
    His reasoning is that if we were to be at my house that we would split the income that he got for renting out his home??
    He wants at least $1100 for rent here. My income including my rental home is about $50,000 and his is approx. $80,000. All gross.
    What do you think? Please help….

    • Is the home you rented out paid off? In other words, are you pocketing the entire $2,500 from the rental payment? I would use the calculator in this article and split the bills based on the income you provided in your comment.

      • No it’s not paid off. Thanks Adam, I guess he’s thinking if we lived at my house and rented his house he would get that money and he would split it with me?
        But I have been confused as to whether my rental income comes into the equation at all.

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