Finance as a cohabiting couple: update

The last time I spoke about managing finances as a couple in 2017. Recently I also spoke about my personal budget, and that resulted in a couple of DMs asking about how Mr and I manage our expenses now. To make the whole division of costs easier to understand, I’ll categorise our spending into clear groups. Let’s get into it.

The situation

We’re a cohabiting, unmarried couple. We live in a property that I own (mortgaged) and both of us have other properties in our respective countries of birth. We both have separate, unrelated investment portfolios. Our accounts are not combined. The only accounts we both use is the Amex account in his name for which I am the additional cardholder and my eBay account associated with my PayPal. We pay each other back for any expenses incurred on these accounts.

Housing

As stated, we live in the same property which I own. He pays me a monthly rent. Given that the property is mine and is unlikely to become his even if we marry (we have no plans to combine assets right now), I am in effect his landlord and I act as such in the property care department – it’s my job to keep it maintained and generally functioning and it’s his job to be a responsible tenant and not cause damage. This agreement also means that I am in charge of property fees such as service charges and ground rent. However, he is contributing to our seasonal bills that a tenant would normally pay for including repairs resulting from usual use of items like occasional boiler servicing, repainting of walls if he accidentally spills wine on them and the like.

We share the costs of furnishing too, unless we’re purchasing something with an assumption that the other will not be using it.

Utilities

All our utility bills are shared equally. This includes electricity, gas, water, council tax and broadband. All these bills are paid out of my account, most as direct debit, and I am then reimbursed by my partner at the end of the month through what we call ‘couple expenses’ reconciliation. In short, we have a shared google sheet in which we log our joint expenses for everything alongside the form of payment and indication of who carried the cost and then we reimburse one another at the end of each calendar month so that our living costs are relatively even.

Food & other shopping

We split food down the middle, similarly to utilities. However, unlikely the utilities our food order is managed through his account so that we are never in a situation where one of us carries the overall living cost for two people during a month – while possible it would be quite burdensome and resulting in one person ‘owing’ the other a lot of money by the time the month is out.

Our food order includes cleaning supplies and pet food making the reconciliation easy at the end of the month – we just don’t do too many granular categories.

In terms of other shopping, we both use his Amex account – small purchases will end up added to the couple expenses, large purchases are discussed and if needed, settled right away. As example, if I wanted to buy an item for myself and put it on his Amex account (because air miles, no other reasons), we first talk about it. If between us we have already put a lot of expenses onto the card that month, I’ll either make the purchase and transfer him the balance right away or simply use my own debit card for the purchase instead and not worry for it another second. We don’t control each other’s spending but we do discuss larger expenses for the most part.

Pet expenses

We have two cats. They are amazing and their vet bills are almost as blindingly impressive as the kitties themselves. However, as responsible owners we make sure that their health is as well maintained as our own. We also make sure they are mentally stimulated through supervised and independent play and properly taken care of when we travel. These vet bills alongside Uber costs to ferry us back and forth (my debit card, our vet won’t take Amex), occasional purchases of new cat toys (varies) and pet-sitting bills (used to be my debit card but it’s his Amex now) when we’re away are all logged in ‘couple expenses’ list and shared 50/50.

Going out, travel & holidays

Cost of event tickets, food and drink is something we share. On occasion where one of us opts for something significantly more costly we might chose to adjust how we share, but this is rare now. What we pay for separately is travel to the location and of course the time when we go out without one another. If we are attending a birthday party and offering gifts, the cost of the gift is up for a discussion, most times I’ll pay for gifts to my friends and he’ll pay for gifts for his ones. If it’s a mutual friend, then we share.

In terms of religious holidays like Christmas, we sometimes share the cost of the gifts for our families, but most of the time we don’t. Neither of us puts any expectations on the other that we will gift things to each other’s families which is nice, the only expectation is that we give something thoughtful to one another. If we do end up sharing the cost of a gift, it’s again reconciled at the end of the month. If we travel to see the family, we each pay for the cost of the transit – usually this simply means that if he books Eurostar for us both, I’ll reimburse him for half of the overall booking cost or vice versa if I am making the booking to fly to see my parents.

Our vacation spending works exactly in the same way as our everyday spending. We’re in the fortunate position where we tend to be conservative spenders and both have a preference to explore what’s local during our trips instead of wanting a typical western diet. This means that you’ll be unlikely to catch us in a situation where one is knocking back a magnum of Dom Perignon while the other is having a soda lime. Instead, we agree an approximate spending budget and either use my Revolut card, or one of our international accounts depending on the currency of our destination. We reconcile the spending in exactly the same way after the holiday as we would after getting groceries.

If there is anything that you are curious about that I have not covered in this article, leave your question in the comments or DM me through Instagram.

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