I have been officially living with my boyfriend for over a year now and boy, have we learned a lot about each other. Having dated him for six years prior to living together, I had thought I knew him well. We are cohabitating right now.
Let’s just say that I know him even better now!
In case you don’t remember, I have been managing our day to day joint finances. We have our own individual accounts and a shared joint account and a shared credit card. Things that get charged on the credit card are groceries, cable, and other joint expenses. Things that get deducted from our joint account are the mortgage, hydro and gas bill, and other joint expenses. We had split things like the mortgage and groceries in half.
My boyfriend likes the home warm and I was shocked at our hydro bill (our home is heated throughout by electric baseboard heating) this last winter. Since my boyfriend liked it warm, and I was a poor starving student, I suggested that he pay 60% of the hydro bill and I pay 40% of the hydro bill. Also, since he watches television and since I use the internet predominantly, I suggested that he pay the cable and I pay for the internet (though this is difficult to separate since both are in a “bundle” with Shaw cable).
There were times when I felt like I was being taken advantage of but as time went on and as I would tell him he owed the joint account $67.13 to the penny (yes, isn't this terrible?), I realized that loving someone is about giving and it’s not about 50/50 arrangement or being “tit for tat”. I’m sure that there were times when my boyfriend felt like he was being taken advantage of too. Because our payment arrangement for bills etc. was so clearly defined, at times it felt like we were being roommates.
What was next, his and her groceries? We split the meat and milk and he pays for his man snacks (chips, energy bars etc.), and I pay for my woman snacks (chocolate, chips)? LOL.
Where does this divisive nature of the bills end?
Personally, I think that a divisive nature towards expenses incurred together breeds selfishness and being selfish and having a genuinely loving relationship are mutually exclusive. I know that many people out there will disagree with this statement.
I have a friend who cohabitated with her boyfriend for about three years. They split everything down 50/50 as well to the point that even when they went out, they would always pay for their own share for meals and entertainment. It was down to the penny (okay, maybe I exaggerrate, but they went Dutch all the time without one paying for the other and saying “you can treat me next time”… always Dutch). My girlfriend had told me that he liked separating their finances this way because that’s the way he has always done it with a previous cohabitating relationship. She felt that he was being selfish and she didn’t feel loved. When he would tell her she owed this and that to him, she felt that he didn’t love her.
Needless to say, my girlfriend wanted out of the relationship and despite him thinking about proposing to her, she rejected him and left to find someone who would be less “split down the middle” and be less, dare I say “cheap”.
Who Would this Work For?
The title of this post indicated that the equal division of expenses doesn’t work for everyone. I think it might work for some couples though. It might work for couples where the individuals are both avid practitioners of “Guerilla frugality” (love this term coined by Findependence Day). It might work for couples where both of their parents practiced this way (though that might be rare since our baby boomer parents grew up like in nuclear families where there was often a stay at home mom).
My boyfriend and I now just divide our credit card bill in half so that it is easier to calculate. Everything is 50/50 (instead of 60/40 or he pays cable and I pay internet) and when we go out, we don’t pay for “our share” only anymore. We take turns but we’re not anal about whose turn it is to treat.
Other ways that it might work is one person pay for the mortgage and the other person pays for the monthly day to day expenses like groceries and utilities.
The shift in my thinking has been drastic. No longer do I think “oh, I shouldn’t have to be paying for any portion of cable since I don’t watch it”. It’s not “you owe” and “I owe” anymore, it’s “we” and we’re a team! Our relationship has gotten about infinitely better since I adopted this mindset.
Readers, how do you work out your finances? Have you changed the way you organize your finances to something that works better for the both of you?