College Connect: How to talk about money — when you live together

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When my partner and I decided to move in together, we knew we’d need to have some frank (and uncomfortable) discussions about money. We’re both graduate students, and that means staying within our budgets is important.

We agreed to split our shared expenses 50-50, including groceries, rent and utilities. To keep track of who has paid for what, we use a small dry-erase board hung on our refrigerator. Each of us writes our expenses in our respective column, and at the end of the month, we tally up — together — who owes the other.

Part of what makes this system work is that we also hang our receipts from a magnet next to the dry-erase board. When my partner wanted to know how I managed to spend $50 on household items at Target, he knew right where to look. And we each allow for online deposits to each other’s bank accounts to make the payback process easy.

The key to managing our shared expenses is open communication. As bills arrive each month, we discuss whether our expenses could be lowered or improved somehow. Should we be turning down the heat? Are we remembering to turn the lights off when we leave a room? When my partner was unwilling to forgo expensive cheeses and homemade sauces and realized I wasn’t eating my fair share of his gourmet home-cooking, he offered to split the groceries 70-30 instead. We’re honest about our individual budgets and what we’re willing to spend or where we want to save.

Shared fiscal responsibility is also important when it comes to living with your significant other. For my partner and I, every expense is split down the middle (save for the groceries) to keep things as fair as possible.  Lasting materials items we use, such as furniture or dishes, belong to the person who agreed to independently pay for them.

Most times, I find it uncomfortable to talk about money. I’m frugal in my day-to-day life, but I have more student loans than I care to think about. And talking about the details of my finances isn’t exactly romantic. Plus, I feel guilt that I have more debts than my partner, who has none.

But if you can’t talk about money with your partner, there’s probably a bigger problem. My parents used to tell me the key to any relationship was communication, and I’ve found that’s certainly true when it comes to finances.


–Alexandria Baca is a graduate student in convergence journalism at the University of Missouri


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