Talking salary is awkward. Early days of relationships are awkward. Mix ’em both together? Hoo boy, that’s the worst of both worlds.
It’s delicate enough trying to manage outings with mates who earn a heap more or less than you, but someone you’re trying to do life with is a whole other level. It’s intimate as hell.
If you’re getting ~serious~ with a new sweetie and have had the initial money chat, you might have an idea how your incomes stack up and if they’re vastly different. But, if you’re thinking about moving in together and worried about splitting bills and sharing funds, never fear.
We’re asking around for how it can be done without blowing the relo to smithereens. After polling our audience, we’ve gathered some intel from people who are doing the damn thing:
- 39% of couples have one person pay more rent
- 77% still split bills evenly
- 16% split bills by a percentage based on salary
- 53% said the one who earns more initiated the money convo
People said guilt about not contributing on the same level, managing expectations on stuff they do together and trying not to make the other person feel bad were some of the toughest parts. But on a brighter note, in response to a question on the hardest parts, many also said it wasn’t that bad — they had shared goals and made it work. Sweet!
Let’s get even more goss, though. We spoke to three people who have made it through that awkward transition from dating to building a life together, all while having a huge gap between their incomes. Ranging from being together from five to eight years, each of the couples are deep into it, and know their counterparts’ exact salary. Here’s how Sarah, Frankie and Lily made the big ol’ difference work with their partners – and how it’s felt for them along the way.
Does one person pay more rent?
“No, we split it 50/50.” – Sarah
“Yes – my partner pays about 66% rent and I pay 34%.” – Frankie
“Currently no, but this is changing as we’ve bought property together so for mortgage repayments we created a different system” – Lily
Do you have a joint account?
“No, but we’ve talked about it recently since living alone together.” – Sarah
“We don’t have a joint account. It’s something we talk about doing all the time but never get around to it. We had a joint credit card at one point which worked well and we divided the bills up 66/34.” – Frankie
“Yes, several. First one about 1.5 years in (when we moved in together to take care of bills). And then maybe six months to one year after, a joint grocery account to cover those day-to-day costs.” – Lily
How do you split bills?
“We basically split bills down the middle and take turns buying things like groceries. But for bigger things, like a holiday we have coming up, it’s understood that my partner will be able to contribute more to our joint pool of holiday money than I will, despite both saving.” – Sarah
“My partner tends to pay most of the bills now that we’re in an established relationship. At the beginning we used to split things more evenly, however, I started to find that I was having a hard time to keep up with the rent, bills and our lifestyle.” – Frankie
“Currently just putting the same amount each week in a joint bills account from our separate accounts. Now we have purchased property, we are going to send both our incomes into the one account where bills will be taken from and then distribute other finances and an equal amount of fun spending money.” – Lily
How has the difference made you feel?
“It’s not about the money for me. My partner’s job has longer hours than mine and that leaves me with a lot more of the household tasks and caring for our dog. These things are the ones that add up for me, and we often discuss finding the balance here, but with the demands of both of our full-time jobs, often these discussions don’t lead to much of a solution.” – Sarah
“I used to feel the need to overcompensate. There was a point in time where I also wasn’t working or earning any income and he had to support me financially. I quit my job to support his job as we were relocated interstate and my job at the time couldn’t transfer me. Despite being in an established relationship of over three years, it was still uncomfortable not having my own spending money to buy essentials and enjoy little splurges. Financial freedom is everything but we adjusted to it and made it work.” – Frankie
“Definitely when we first moved in together – and basically for the next several years until Covid – I felt like I needed to make sure I paid my even share. I was earning even less at that time and was adamant that I paid the same amount of rent and bills. Once Covid hit and I lost my job, I had a meltdown about not earning enough to help us survive. Frank had a blunt conversation with me to say he can take care of both of us and he’s prepared with extra funds.
I haven’t been as great at saving throughout my earlier years to have this confidence. Going into this new living situation of owning property entirely and merging our funds takes that stress away as we look at our combined money from the start, rather than funding our living situation from seperate accounts. I still have some apprehension about merging our accounts in this way, mostly because I come from a family with parents who didn’t stay together, whereas Frank doesn’t have that as his parents are still happily married.” – Lily
How have you made the difference work?
“The money itself has never really been an issue for us. We have been together while we chose our careers and studied, so it was pretty expected for us. But day-to-day, we have very open communication about home-related workload. It’s still something we’re definitely trying to work out and make more equal, like how we treat the money.” – Sarah
“Communication is key! Whenever I’ve felt short of money or overwhelmed by expenses/costs of living, we have a chat about it. We then decide how we approach it, whether it’s going to be an expensive month or we decide to make more frugal choices as a couple to get us ahead. We approach expenses as a team and I know he doesn’t feel like I take advantage, as I always contribute in ways that I can.” – Frankie
“Basically, open conversations about my insecurities and honest discussions about how much we earn. And then putting those talks into very detailed excel spreadsheets.” – Lily
Even if we earn significantly more or less than our loves, we all have different relationships with money. Try to get an understanding of your own money story before you merge all that moolah with your partner, so you can talk everything through.
Anyhoo, go and give that partner of yours a smooch and go splurge on a treat together.
Please note that this information is general in nature and shouldn’t be construed as financial advice.