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How to combine finances without breaking up

True love is bliss. Well, except when your soulmate leaves the lights on in every room or can’t spell Massachusetts. Nevertheless, my fiancé and I are committed to sharing our lives together. We’re also committed to sharing finances.

When do you need to start talking finances with your partner?

My fiancé and I opened a joint chequing account when we first moved in together, and from it we agreed to pay our shared bills of rent, utilities, and groceries. The system was perfect for us because we never had to worry about whose “turn” it was to pay for things, while still making sure there was enough money to meet all our financial obligations. Furthermore, agreeing to a fixed amount to deposit to the shared account allowed us to put some money toward our new life together, while still keeping autonomy over our individual finances.

Most arguments and stress about money in relationships stem from feeling like there is not enough of it, or one partner is not contributing their fair share. By agreeing to a fixed amount that’s enough to cover your baseline financial obligations, you already remove the opportunity for major disagreements. (Those can come from leaving wet towels in the bed or not turning on the dishwasher.)

His, mine, & ours

My fiancé and I agreed to deposit equal amounts to our joint account each month only because our salaries were relatively equal. For most couples, this is rarely the case. If one partner significantly out-earns the other, it might be more equitable for each contribute the same percentage of income to shared expenses, rather than the same dollar amount. This means if you earn $4,000 per month and your partner earns $2,500, you might both agree to put 40% of each of your incomes toward shared expenses. This means you would put forward $1,600 and your partner would put forward $1,000.

Other couples choose to split the bills. For example, one person might pay the rent or mortgage, while the other agrees to pay utilities and buy groceries. Some choose not to mix money with love at all, and that’s great too. There are as many ways to manage finances together as there are couples in the world. Like any aspect of your relationship, the only people you need to answer to are one another, so do whatever works best for you.

When it comes to savings: goals first, dollars second

When it comes to sharing money with your partner, it’s less about then numbers than it is about the results. What kind of life are you trying to build together? Some couples are working towards home ownership or early retirement, so saving for a joint mortgage might be important. Other couples want to go on extended vacations each Christmas.

It doesn’t matter what your dreams are, only that you share them with each other and manage your money in ways that will reach those goals. My fiancé and I opened our joint savings account to save for our wedding, vacations together, and a new-to-us car. We rapidly found that sharing savings doubled our efforts: we now had more than the power of compounding interest; we had the power of a second paycheque.

We’re still working on Massachusetts.

Flickr: Susanne Nilsson

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