By Susan K. Thomas
© 2013 Diversity Rules Magazine. All Rights Reserved.
Susan K. Thomas is a lecturer in English at the University of Kansas where she spreads the good gay word through LGBT literature and first year composition courses. She is currently researching the impact of HIV/AIDS on the LGBT community in Kansas. She has two cats, Hannah and Hamlet (Ham).
Q. My girlfriend and I have been together for about six months and have decided to take the next step by moving in together once my lease is up in two months. We’re currently discussing whether or not we should combine our finances or keep them separate. What do you think? Alison
SKT: This is a good question, Alison, and one that anyone who moves in with a partner must consider. There are perks to both, of course. The first question is how much do you trust your partner? Trust is a big issue when moving in together. Hopefully by this point you have both been truthful about your finances, credit, etc. Do you trust your partner to manage money wisely? You both need to step back and think about all scenarios.
To begin with, it is very convenient to merge accounts. All of the money is deposited into one place. However, there are things to consider. You will both need to be accountable for not only what is deposited into the account, but also what comes out. This means not just the household bills, but the spontaneous purchase, whether it is a lunch out or something else. Each person on the account needs to know if such purchases are going to cause issues if that money has already been flagged for something else, such as the water bill. If that money suddenly disappears, will the water bill (or whatever bill) be covered? Each person involved needs to know how much cushion there is in that account and faithfully disclose any purchases so that the account doesn’t end up going into the red.
Another option might be to continue having separate accounts, but to also have a joint account for household expenses. Each person then puts money into that account to help cover the rent, bills, etc. However, then each person retains a separate account. Each person then becomes responsible for whatever personal expenditures arise, whether that is a student loan payment or credit card with a balance from before s/he knew the current partner.
Finally, there is the option to keep everything separate. Each person could then a portion for all of the shared bills. Another option would be that each person in the relationship takes a designated bill. While each person pays a portion of the rent, each pays for one of the major bills like water, electric, or gas. Each person is also responsible for individual car payments, insurance, and additional bills. If a partner runs short at any point, s/he can always borrow from the other(s) in the relationship.
Also, consider what might happen if one of you suddenly becomes unemployed. How will finances be handled in that situation? Try to think about all possible scenarios before moving in together.
Of course, the argument against some of these divisions is that you’re really in love and this feels too much like being roommates instead of partners. We all want to think that everything is going to be perfect in our relationships and that they will last forever, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes people are in long-term relationships and something suddenly happens, dissolving the relationship. Things can become ugly quickly if the breakup isn’t amicable. I have known people who have combined finances, and when the relationship ended, things were divided equally. However, I have also known couples who have had different situations where things grew ugly– health and car insurance were suddenly cancelled, and items secretly removed from the property to keep them from going into the other partner’s hands. We don’t like to think that people will be like this, but they can be.
So, Alison, once again, trust is the big issue. Talk to your partner. If you are on different pages of the discussion, step back and consider all of your options. Best of luck!
“Inqueeries” is an interactive column. Readers are encouraged to submit questions for Susan to answer! Contact Susan directly at: [email protected]
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