How to handle money in a relationship

Money and relationships can go together sometimes very well, like Peanut Butter and Jelly and other times it goes together as unsuccessfully as Peanut Butter and Mayo (my apologies to those who like that combo).

I’m curious how money matters have evolved for many of you.

How did you handle money at the beginning of your relationship? Did one person pay for dates more often than the other? If so, was this based on historical gender roles or was it based on who was more “successful” (in the manner of income)?

As the relationship got more serious, and the two of you moved in together how did you then handle money? Did you split everything 50/50; rent, utilities, groceries, household items, etc.?

How “hard headed” would one of you be when it came to buying particular items? Say your significant other loves expensive cheeses and you don’t really like cheese too much. Would you feel taken advantage of if they put a few of those “delicacy” items in the grocery cart and then simply wanted to split the bill?

How did you approach going out on dates? When do you decide if it is a situation where one person picks up the entire bill or when it will be dutch?

Now say you’ve bought a house together, are engaged, married (or any combination of the above)…so on and so forth. Do any things change here?

Have you set up a joint account? Is that the only account you have now or are you both also maintaining your own personal accounts as well? This way you have the joint assigned for all bills and the personal account for personal items where you can still take part of those indulgences with no questions asked. Do you think something like that is beneficial to a relationship or harmful?

I’m sorry for this being extremely question heavy, but I figure that leaves room for a lot of excellent varied answers and comments.

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12 thoughts on “How to handle money in a relationship

  1. theattack says:

    [When we first started dating, he paid for everything – not because I expected or wanted him to (I was extremely uncomfortable with it), but he insisted on it. As we started dating more seriously, he seemed to still feel like he was supposed to pay for certain categories of things, like at restaurants or bars. He felt really uncomfortable and got a little irritated when I would try to pay at restaurants, and I think it did something to his ego. He was very much raised as a Southern gentleman, and although I didn’t expect him to pay for things all the time, I allowed him to do what he felt he should, because it seemed important to him. So I found other ways to pay for things. I’ll sneak and buy some groceries for him while he’s at work, and he pays for dinner at the restaurants. I’ll do things like drive us around to save his gas, or buy the Dr. Peppers from the gas station, or rent the movies. It probably comes out pretty close to even, but we’ve never really been that concerned about it being exactly even as long as we can afford what we’re doing.

    Now that we’re engaged, things are changing some, but not much yet. We’re hardly concerned at all about keeping things even, but until we move in together in a few months, our money is still very much separate. When we move in, we’ll probably split things like rent down the middle in an official sense, but everything else will be muddled together informally. There will be absolutely no joint account until we get married, but we’ll function financially as a unit for household expenses.

    As for one person having expensive tastes…. I had an ex who was like this, except it just so happened that those expensive cravings only occurred when it was MY turn to buy. Isn’t that so bizarre?!? I became extremely resentful of him, because while I was struggling for money, and he was piling on his expensive items onto my tab, his parents were just handing him loads of money and he was buying new video games and skunky weed every week. As for now though, my fiance and I just had this conversation. He says that we just have to trust each other to be reasonable, but I’m not convinced it’s that simple. We’ll see.

  2. resullins says:

    [That’s a VERY heavy question. Me and my bf have always pretty evenly split things. He may have paid a little more in the beginning, but it was never very lopsided.

    These days we split everything down the middle. Rent, utilities, whatever. We don’t really have grocery problems… because neither of us like fancy cheese. I buy his deodorant and shave gel, he will pick up my shampoo upon occasion. It’s never been a big deal.

    Our only real snafu is when he spends lots of money on car parts… or I spend too much money on new sheets. But that’s rare… and it’s never really sparked a lot of controversy.

    My vote for finances is just to strike rules. Never buy anything you can’t afford, and all big purchases must be mutually agreed upon.

  3. Claudia says:

    [At first: He pays as it shows intent. Friends go dutch.

    Dates as time goes on: he still pays – for the most part.

    Blunt feminist reason: they still make 25% more than us + the amount of money we spend on making us not look frumpy – clothes, hair, make-up, waxing, lingerie, etc. We also are expected to bring in income while still doing more of the household chores.

    The nicer reason: it feels good on both sides. It makes us ladies feel special and the men feel important. The only men I’ve ever dated who didn’t enjoy providing an evening of entertainment, turned out to be selfish in a lot of other ways down the line. As long as he isn’t broke, of course.

    This works well as long as we aren’t demanding (bitchy) about it. Also when we are appreciative and respect their available income.

    Everything else: whatever both people can agree on. Communication and compromise is the key.

    Roughly equal salaries: I prefer to keep money separate and split household expenses down the middle. Extras like fancy cheese, video games and whatnot that aren’t shared shouldn’t be purchased together.

    Unequal salaries: While I’ve never experienced this situation myself, my mom and my step-dad have a brilliant set up. Money is kept separate. He makes considerably more, so he pays for the house, repairs, and whatever else goes with it. She pays the utilities and groceries. She cleans the house and cooks during the week and he takes her out on the weekends.

    Money can be an incredibly tricky thing. I had one who paid for every date up until the night before I left for my grandfather’s funeral when he asked me for 1/2 when the bill came. That lovely piece of work also expected me to pay for 1/2 the groceries when I was also doing to cooking, cleaning up and making extra for his weekly lunch. I had another that spent all his extra money on music equipment then complained when I bought a second monitor for work (self employed).

  4. Eleanor Roosevelt says:

    [There’s a LOT of questions here.
    When my fiance and I first started dating, he paid for almost everything. As the relationship progressed, we started splitting things more evenly, or taking turns. We’ve just recently “officially” moved in together (after two years of unofficially) and combined our finances, so everything is shared now. We each have our own personal spending money, and any special treats come out of that (or if it’s something we’ll enjoy together, and there’s room in the budget, it can come out of “our” money).

    Combining finances has been eye-opening, and hard. I’m a control freak, so giving up control of “my” money and putting it towards things that aren’t just for me has been an adjustment. However, this is the way that makes the most sense for us – everyone’s solution is going to be a little bit different. 🙂

  5. Solstice says:

    [I haven’t been in a relationship serious enough where we combined finances, however I generally like taking turns paying or splitting the bill, but I’d like it if the guy did take me out every once in awhile so that he pays slightly more often. This is because I don’t make much money, so if I was dating someone who made less then me, then I’d feel like I should treat once in awhile. But everyone I’ve dated has made more than me.

  6. Shelly says:

    [I’ve been married too long to recall how dates were paid for back when we were just dating. Plus, we were students, so our dates weren’t really traditional dates, but more “hanging out” or “meeting up” somewhere.

    Often, finances are a sensitive subject, and how they’re handled in a relationship varies based on the two people involved, as well as the combined financial status. Money is one of the most common sources of stress in a relationship. That stress can be from “there’s not enough” to “have plenty, but how to invest or spend.” It’s important to discuss financial goals and expectations, and to come to some agreement on how financial matters will be handled. Depending on the two people, it might not be best to commingle funds, but for others, it’s ideal. For some couples, purchasing decisions need to be jointly made, but for others, one person might be designated to make purchases on behalf of the couple.

    For my relationship, our funds have been commingled since we were married. All accounts are joint, and purchasing decisions are typically made together. We share common financial goals, and neither of us have any expensive hobbies or preferences for expensive consumer goods. We’re both conservative with our money, so there is no fear on either person’s part that the other might overspend. There’s only one income now, but that hasn’t changed anything about the way finances are handled or how much of a “voice” the non-income generating partner has.

  7. karlos says:

    [I don’t really see money as that much of an issue mainly as the only things I’ve ever had to pay for are cinema tickets, taxis and underwear that don’t chafe.

    Normally I play rock, paper, scissors to decide. Since I once wrote an article on how to be a boss at this game, I normally don’t end up paying. It’s pretty sweet.

    Then again, splitting everything right down the middle seems to work pretty well too, especially in the bedroom.

  8. lilredbmw says:

    [I love this question, and I am enjoying all the different outlooks on it! Every situation is so unique. When I started dating my husband, he paid for all of our dates. However, I must add that most of our dates were not financial dates, they were more active things like hiking, camping, going to Julian, the beach, etc. So, at first, there was not a whole lot of discussion on the money matter. When we did go out, he paid. Before we even got married, I had let him know that I don’t share money. I just don’t and I couldn’t tell you why. I take a lot of pride in what I have earned, and what I spend it on. So, I bought a truck and I paid for it. We kept those things separate, but we would split other things that were mutual costs, like groceries and utilities, etc. I paid for groceries, and he paid the cell phone bill, for example. Since we do have separate accounts, if there are costs for extra things(like expensive cheese), then it is up to us individually. We each know what we can afford. I have my own savings account that I will put money in to if I want to treat myself. This has worked well for us, so far. We have never once argued over money.

  9. Maracuya says:

    [My boyfriend is the type to insist on paying for everything. (At first.) I really was never comfortable with it, so now we’re at a point where we switch off but don’t really keep track. It just feels more or less right. Right now, he has more money for living expenses so we agreed that he pays rent and I pay everything else and it more or less works out.

    I’m of the mind that a “yours, mine and ours” is the way to go. Fancy cheeses and my love of microbrews goes into the yours/mine accounts and utilities, regular groceries, and rent go into the ‘our’ account.

    Luckily we both love expensive cheese.

  10. Matt Sanchelli says:

    [Hmmmm….how to approach this. So many questions…but I love it!

    When first dating, I’m old fashioned and think a guy should pay for the first few dates. However, the girl should at least offer to either pick up the tab eventually; or even help the guy cover it. Some action should be done to make the guy know that she is as equally invested in this dating process as he is. This guy is willing to pay for dates and that tells the girl he’s serious. Well, a girl willing to help pick up a tab or pay for an element of that date tells the guy that she’s serious too and not just out for a free “night on the town”.

    As a relationship grows and evolves I think it is perfectly fine for both parties to treat the other and the gender lines become some-what faded when it comes to paying for dates.

    When the relationship reaches that much more serious nature then I see no problem in occasionally going dutch. If I know I want to treat my girl to a date, dinner, movie, etc., I usually try to let her know it “Hey hun, I want to take you out for dinner tonight.”, this way to remove any potential “worry” about how the bill will be settled.

    My girlfriend and I are living together so when it comes to rent and bills for the house that is currently divided evenly. Groceries and household items are roughly the same way but there is some flexibility and we both will go out and get other random items without expecting any type of compensation from the other. I often will encounter good sales on food or house items while running other errands and on a whim I’ll pick up a few additional things we would probably like to have. Since those are more of an “impulse” I don’t even think about asking for her to give me anything in return.

    As for being engaged/married…I know I’ve always been a fan of having a joint account and then also having out own separate accounts so purchases could be made without any interjection by the other. But I agree with a lot of those who say you definitely need to just have an open conversation together and figure out what works for the two of you best. Do you have similar goals financially? What goals do you share? What goals are specific to the other? How can you work together to reach them?

    It comes down to communication. Don’t want money to become an issue? Talk about it before it has the opportunity to turn into arguing about it.

  11. Jasmine says:

    [Clearly this all depends on the couple!
    When we were dating, we took turns paying for the most part. We didn’t live together before we got married so we didn’t have to deal with any of the mumbo jumbo that goes with that.
    I thought that I wanted a joint account for rent/utitlities/etc and personal accounts for personal things. My husband didn’t want that. So, we went with a joint account. I am better at getting the bills paid on time, so I take care of all of that.
    Actually, it works out great- we always talk before we make any large purchases, whether a joint decision or a personal hobby. Because the money is “ours” and not “mine and his” we are less likely to be frivolous with our purchases. We can see in one place what our financial situation is.
    When you get married, all romance aside, essentially you are making a business contract to share your lives and your fortunes together. For us, it has just worked out that having one account and communicating has been best for the business side of our relationship!
    Having said that, there is that pessimist who knows that once your money is all in one account you are very vulnerable to the other person. At any point one of you could bleed the account and leave the other with nothing.
    But I don’t plan on doing that.

  12. michi says:

    [In the beginning my fiance was used to always footing the bill, but I personally don’t like it, so we traded off-or we go by the rule-whomever asked the other for the outing, they’re paying.

    Now that we have lived together for a year we’ve split the bills 50/50 although in terms of groceries he’s mostly buying because I still have my college loans to pay for. Sometimes when I do have the money I go shopping but since we both work opposite shifts it’s kind of up to the other person to buy what they want-keeping in mind what the other would like-thoughtfulness like that goes a long way. I think though if he were to ever get the expensive cheeses he would feel obligated to pay for the bulk of it and if I got something expensive for my self I’d pay. But at times we even split the groceries… I love how it’s just comes together at time, I think that’s because we understand each other (there are times when I’d say something and he’d be thinking it).

    When we do go out on dates, it’ll depend on who got paid this week or who has the money to spare, but then of course there were times when we couldn’t go because we were both short.

    We were recently discussing getting a joint account because we’re both getting jobs that would pay more… in this sense the joint account would be established for paying the bills and a savings account would be for rainy days…. In addition we both have our personal accounts for whatever we want. I think that this would be incredibly beneficial towards a relationship. It allows you to still retain your autonomy financially but still be connected. That’s what relationships are about… being able to be yourself, and yet be with someone else natural way.

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