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Five Conversations Before Moving In Together

This is a guest article by Aloysa, a creator of My Broken Coin. In this article, Aloysa offers five conversation starters for couples considering moving in together.

Based on my own personal experience I can tell you that expectations of your significant other change as soon as you move in together. All of a sudden, you expect him to make the bed, walk your dog, wash the dishes, and put the toilet seat down. He wants you to cook him breakfast and dinner, pack his lunch, buy a six-pack on the way home from work, and listen to his rants about his favorite football team.

But what about your financial expectations of each other? How often do you discuss them?

I strongly believe that when people decide to move in together, they should know as much as possible about each other finances: bank account balances, when the car will be paid off, how much money you both earn, what monthly bills you have to pay including alimony and/or child support.

If you don’t know that much, you really don’t know anything about each other and should stop reading here.

Conversation #5: What are you waiting for? Pay it already!

CoupleWhat is your bill paying style? This is something that can be very important in your life together. Let’s say you pay bills in advance, but your significant other waits till the last minute. Potentially it can create a problem for both of you. One gets nervous that a bill is not paid yet, while the other is stress-free till the “payment due” date.

Resolution: sit down together, go over your bills and figure out what needs to be paid. Make a spreadsheet or a schedule with the due dates for payments, decide when the bills are expected to be paid, and, most importantly, don’t forget to stick to that schedule!

Conversation #4: Who is paying for that dinner?

The complaint that I often hear from my cohabitating friends is related to a very trivial but tricky question: who should pay for nights out, especially if expenses are split 50/50?

Most of the time my romantic girlfriends expect that dates will be covered 100% by their partners. Some of my pragmatic guy friends assume that if they are splitting everything else 50/50, date nights should also be split the same way. Unfulfilled expectations could cause tension in the relationship, and feelings can get hurt.

Resolution: Nothing can kill romance in the relationship faster than resentment caused by money issues. You have to decide together what is expected of each other when you go out. If you expect a romantic dinner that he covers, tell him about it. If you want her to pick up her portion of a tab, talk about it.

Conversation #3: You owe how much?!

Your relationship should be open and honest. There should not be any hidden surprises such as your credit card debt, taxes you owe to the IRS, or student loan balances.

One of my friends was shocked when she found out by pure accident that her boyfriend, with whom she was living for about a year, owed $70,000 in credit card debt. When she confronted him about it, his response was, “It is my debt. Don’t worry about it.” His debt became hers when they started looking for a house together and could not qualify for a house they wanted because of his credit card debt.

Resolution: Pull a free credit report for each other, and be open about your debts. I know that not everyone would agree with this idea, but if one day you decide to get married, have kids, and buy a house, you will be glad you did it.

Editor’s note: There’s a related discussion that’s worth mentioning, as well. Before you begin cohabitation, it may be a good idea to discuss whether you and your significant other should be considering combining financial accounts now, later, or never. Depending on the state where you live, there may be statutes that define how individual property may become common property regardless of whether you combine your accounts, but it’s a discussion that should also come sooner or later.

Conversation #2: I need some cash! Please?

Both of you are individuals with different interests, life views, expectations, different bank accounts and different bills. Bills change over time. Your bank account can get overdraft fees. Or you simply spent more than you expected.

One of my friends came back from work to find out that the water was turned off in the house because her live-in boyfriend did not have the money to pay the water bill. He did not dare to ask her for help, and they ended up with no water for a few days.

Resolution: It can be difficult at first but it gets easier every time you do it. Ask for help if you need it. The worst that can happen is you will have to explain why you are short on cash. The best thing that can happen, you will have an uninterrupted supply of water!

Conversation #1: What are we looking for?

I have a few friends who have lived with their boyfriends and girlfriends for three, four, five years and they now feel the drive to make their relationship legal has flown the coop. Before you decide to share your lives and your bills, it is always a good idea to discuss how both of you see the future.

Do you know what his or her timeline is for marriage? Do you even want and plan to get married? If you don’t discuss it early on, she might start thinking that he is with her because it is convenient and cheap. He might think that she is using him as a stepping stone until someone better comes along.

Resolution: Just because you are moving in together, don’t assume that you both have the same intentions and share the same goals. Relationships tend to stall and drift. Natural progression stops, and you are left guessing what the future life holds for the both of you.

Talk long and hard before you make your final decision to move-in, ask questions and please, never assume anything.

What discussions do you expect to have or have had prior to moving into the same living space as your significant other?

Photo: gareth1953

Published or updated January 2, 2012.

About the author

Aloysa is a creator of My Broken Coin, a personal finance blog, where she openly admits that she is not your regular personal finance blogger. She has a serious spending problem. She is not a frugal person, and she is not a disciplined saver. Aloysa is on a journey to simplify her life by spending less, getting rid of the non-essential and not living up to anyone’s expectations but her own. View all articles by .

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Rob

Great post. It’s so critical to make sure you’re financially compatible with a partner once your relationship progresses to a certain point, as I learned to my woe. Financial irresponsibility can tell you a lot about how your long-term future with a partner might play out.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

I also think that the way a person handles finances also can say a lot about that person.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

When I was co-habitating we kept everything separate. Everything was split 50/50. My biggest mistake was not having a savings account set aside in case something happened. Of course I was a romantic and thought everything would be forever, then I realized it wasn’t and ended up out on my butt and no where to go.

If I ever find myself in a relationship again where I am living with someone everything will still be kept separate and I will make sure that I have enough in a savings account.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

One of my girlfriends once told me that even in marriage it is a good idea to have a seperate savings account that no one knows about. It makes sense if you think that you don’t really know what future holds.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

#5 – Nailed it. I’m the super type A one while she waits until a few days pre-bill to pay…

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avatar 6 Anonymous

Aloysa, I had to chime in here! I moved in with my husband after 2 months of dating. We were married within the year. And, have been married for decades. My 2 cents, it’s all about compromise. And don’t expect the first year or two to be easy!

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avatar 7 Anonymous

Moved in after two months of dating? Barb, you are a brave woman!

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avatar 8 Anonymous

These are all important points to discuss when starting a relationship. Especially since marriages often break up over money problems and most of the time it’s because the couple never really talked about their money style beforehand.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

I agree. Couples need to talk about money beforehand. Communication, compromise and understanding – without these three factors your relationship will no progress.

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avatar 10 Anonymous

Those are all great tips – money is the number one cause for divorce, so if you can’t figure it out together, don’t move in together!

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avatar 11 shellye

Good post – since money is most often the cause of divorce, wise couples should just get the conversation started because financial stuff will rear its head sooner or later. Usually sooner.

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avatar 12 Anonymous

Great post Aloysa! It seems communication is key!

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avatar 13 Anonymous

I haven’t taken this plunge yet (although I may soon), but I’m sure we’ll be discussing how to split up the monthly costs like rent and utilities. I think that paying proportionally to your income always makes sense, but I’m not sure she’d agree.

I like the tip about finding out their finances first, too. I’ve always assumed that I know everything financial about my girlfriend, but I should probably ask anyway.

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avatar 14 Anonymous

I’ll tell you right now: don’t assume anything. Ask! I am sure she will understand because questions open doors to great conversations. Good Luck!

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avatar 15 Anonymous

I think the idea (at least for my wife and me) is team work and not your money and my money. Yes she has her money and I have mine but we pull together without the extra baggage as best we can. Congrats on the post.

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avatar 16 Anonymous

Marriage is definitely a teamwork, and it is great… as long as you do know each other’s financial situation.

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avatar 17 Anonymous

Very thoughtful post Aloysa! Although it was not your intention, I believe you pointed out a few very good reasons to NOT move in with your significant other before marriage. Being an old-fashioned guy myself, that is the way my wife and I did it. We lived separately while dating, had separate lives and separate finances. As soon as we got home from the honeymoon, she moved into my home and we combined everything! Separate finances, in my opinion, just means you are planning for a separation.

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avatar 18 Anonymous

Haha! It was not my intention to point out reasons to NOT move in with your SO. However, if one starts asking questions, I mentioned in my post, and not get any clear answers, then yes, it might become reasons to not move in.

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avatar 19 Anonymous

Good post! Me and my wife split up our joint bills and opened an account to pay them. Everytime we get paid we have a certain amount go into the account. We have a joint savings account for vacations and projects around the house. Plus, we both have our own savings and checking accounts to pay our own personal bills and debt we had before our marriage. Although, we have over 6 banking accounts. So, far it’s working for us the past 4 years.

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avatar 20 Anonymous

A lot of people do this. It seems to be a good method to use. However, I am a huge proponent of combining accounts when get married. I believe in “for better and worse.” :-)

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avatar 21 Anonymous

Being open and honest about our finances before moving in together was the smartest thing my now live-in boyfriend and I could have done. We are now on a better financial path together and have made budgets that are separate but toward a common goal together. We keep most things 50/50, but he still makes surprise reservations and takes me out, and I make sure that even though I make less money he knows that I am not using him for his money and am not looking to “take” it from him in any way. I think most people struggle with being financial partners, but it takes away so much stress and secrecy if you can talk about the nitty-gritty of being an adult, including finances.

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avatar 22 Anonymous

It is true. “Mine” and “yours”, or “you don’t have to know about it” puts a lot of strain on the relationship. If you decided to become partners and move in together, discussing and managing finances becomes a part of that partnership.

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avatar 23 qixx

I’m a fan of becoming equals in every sense of the word. Financially and any other way you want to take it. Make known of what your goals are and make sure you have some joint goals (not just both have similar goals) can be an important step as well.

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avatar 24 Anonymous

WOW, I’m such a fan of transparency by comparison! My boyfriend is 200 miles away and we both know about each other’s debts and assets.

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avatar 25 Anonymous

Love this post! Some great points to consider especially about money. I definitely agree with pulling both credit bureaus prior to getting married.

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avatar 26 Anonymous

My (now) husband and I have kept our bank accounts separate, our assets separate and our financial responsibilities clear for over 15 years. We managed this by way of a co-habitation agreement, transferred to a marriage contract, that has benefitted our relationship and protected each of our families from the debts of previous relationships. We are happy and committed to one another – and have open discussions about money. One bank account is not necessary for happiness!

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avatar 27 lynn

There are so many variables in today’s relationships. There are so many scammers out there as well. I would hope I would stay away from any relationship that goes beyond the good friends stage. Then again I was married for 42 years (widowed) and have had my one true love. Any advice I would give to young adults is look at the big picture and move slowly. Check out the details of a person’s life. The devil is in the details.

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