How Do You Split Expenses When Living Together?

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It can be a really exciting time when you’ve decided to move in together. But if you’re not married, do you combine finances or get a joint bank account? And how do you split expenses when living together?

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years:

When living together but not married, ideally split rent and all bills 50/50. But if one income is significantly higher, it’s OK to split rent and expenses based on income, with the lower-income person doing more around the house instead of providing equally from a financial point of view.

Also, avoid joint bank accounts or credit cards. And do not buy a house together unless married.

Living together is a big step towards the future. It can also be pretty stressful. You’re trying to decide where to live, what belongings to keep, and what belongings to toss.

Deciding which couch to keep and what dishes to throw away is pretty easy compared to money issues.

I made some pretty costly mistakes when I was living with a girlfriend before getting married. In this article, I’ll help you learn from my mistakes, saving you some money in the long run.

Just keep reading!

Do you split rent based on income or 50/50?

Ideally split rent 50/50 when living together but not married. But it is OK for one person to pay more if they earn more as long as the other person is contributing in other ways. Once married, all income and expenses should be combined.

So there really isn’t a right or wrong way to split the rent, as long as it is fair. If one of you makes significantly more money than the other, it is one option.

Before you make the leap to living together, discussing how you will split rent, and other bills is vital. Not only will rent be an issue, but you’ll have to purchase groceries, do laundry, go out with friends, and eat out – just like you did before you moved in together.

You like to watch premium TV and get your car washed every week. Your partner may prefer to keep the AC on and have a laundry service do their laundry once a week.

These things may not have been an issue before moving in together, but they can become a source of tension when you are splitting bills.

You can split the rent and all the expenses 50/50 if you want. Or you can do it based on income – whoever makes more money pays the higher percentage.

Or you can have one person pay all the rent and the other pay just the expenses. Whatever you do, make sure you both agree before signing that lease.

How do I split food expenses with a live-in boyfriend?

Each person can pay half of the grocery bill or alternate buying groceries each week. For restaurants, alternate who pays when eating out. Avoid joint bank accounts or credit cards with a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend.

How did you split food expenses when you were living apart? Were you splitting the bill when you got takeout? Did he pay for every dinner date? Was that working for you?

If you already have a system for eating out that works for you, keep doing that.

When it comes to groceries, things can get a little tricky. Does he like expensive protein powders while you only eat ramen? If so, then it wouldn’t be fair to split the grocery bill down the middle.

But if you both have similar tastes and enjoy eating meals at home, splitting the bill down the middle is fair. You could alternate who pays for groceries. Or you could even just continue purchasing your own groceries, as you were no doubt doing before you moved in.

If you’ve ever had a roommate before, you know that food can become a point of contention. So if you have purchased something that you just can’t wait to eat when you get home from work, put a label on it.

Can I share a bank account with my boyfriend?

Shared bank accounts should be reserved for married couples as there are legal protections when married and a divorce decree decides what happens in the event of a breakup. With a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend, there is no legal recourse to prevent one from emptying a shared bank account.

Until you get married, don’t get any joint accounts, co-sign loans, or make any other large purchases together.

Once, I made the mistake of buying a house with my then-girlfriend. When we split up, I couldn’t do anything with the house without her written consent. I couldn’t sell it or even refinance it.

This is because we weren’t married.

There was no judge or divorce decree saying what would happen. And there were no protections for me against her being unfair.

So, I was stuck paying a mortgage on a house I really couldn’t afford by myself. In the end, I had to buy her out, and the amount she insisted on was almost twice what her equity really would have been.

But I had no other choice.

Had we been married at the time, a judge would have divided the assets at the time of the split. But if you share a bank account or debts or assets of any kind and then break up, there will be nobody to divide the assets.

This could end up costing you not only a lot of money but a lot of heartaches as well.

Now, if you get married, you should definitely share bank accounts. When you get married, everything becomes “ours”, including the income.

When you combine income, bills, and debt, you are partnering with your spouse to take on the world. To read more about why married couples should share bank accounts, read this recent article.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Should you get a credit card with someone you’re not married to?

Do not share credit cards with someone until married. Additionally, do not take on any debt together, buy assets together, or even share a bank account until married.

When you are dating someone, even if you are in a long-term relationship, it always has a chance to go sour.

It may feel like you’re married, but you’re not. Marriage is harder to get out of because you’ve made a promise to each other – usually in front of lots of people – to stay together forever. Not only is it a promise, but it’s a legally binding contract.

When you get married, you share income and debt.

You pay taxes together, and you make large purchases together. The choices you make as an individual affect you as a couple. If you have bad debt, so does your spouse.

What are you going to do if you take out a joint credit card and you split up?

Your now ex-partner has a credit card that is linked to your credit report. They could rack up tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt and leave you with the bill. And the bad credit score that comes with it.

And there will be very little, if anything, that you can do about it. 

You might be able to hire a lawyer and get a civil judgment against your ex. But if they won’t pay a credit card bill, what makes you think they will pay a judgment?

I’m not saying that your relationship will fail. You could be in a fantastic relationship. But until you get married, you need to be smart. Protect yourself as much as possible.

My boyfriend earns more than me but wants me to pay half – is that fair?

A non-married couple who lives together would ideally split the rent and bills 50/50, so that is fair. But if one person’s income is significantly lower, it is also a fair proposal to pay a smaller amount of rent and bills in exchange for doing more in other areas around the house.

This is another thing that needs to be discussed together. Does he want you to pay half the rent, but he’ll pay all the expenses?

Look at it as a roommate situation.

What would you do if you had a roommate? Your roommate would probably just split everything down the middle, regardless of income. Yes, while you are in a romantic relationship, you should still look at your situation through the same lens as a roommate.

If you find that you are having a hard time making rent, or paying expenses, consider making a budget. In fact, it’s a good idea to get your boyfriend on a budget, too.

It’s completely normal for one person in a relationship to be more of a math-nerd than the other. It’s also normal for one person to spend more than the other. But even before you get married, you need to be in communication and agreement when it comes to finances.

One way to make sure you are on the same financial track is to create a budget.

Even if you are not commingling finances (and you shouldn’t), you can still create a budget together. This will allow you both to see how much you are contributing financially to the relationship. This is also a great way to show your boyfriend what percentage of your income is going towards shared expenses.

If he sees that a large portion of your income is going towards household expenses, then maybe he’ll reconsider his position.

If he doesn’t, and he sees that it’s hurting you, then it could be a red flag that you need to get out of the relationship.

To read more about how to get your partner to stick to a budget, read this recent article.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How do you get out of a lease due to a breakup?

A landlord is not obligated to let anyone out of a lease due to a relationship breakup. That being said, they may allow it if they feel they can charge more rent to a new tenant. So, if rentals are scarce and a lot of people are looking for rentals, always ask the landlord.

Additionally, some may be willing to let you out of the lease for a fee. And you’ll certainly lose your security deposit.

But you don’t want it to end up on your credit report, as that could hurt your ability to find a new place to rent. So, ask, and don’t hesitate to negotiate.

Nobody wants their relationship to go south. But you should still plan for it. Just like nobody wants to die, it’s still a good idea to talk to your loved ones about it before it happens.

If you plan ahead of time, you can write an agreement with your significant other about what will happen if you break up.

But let’s face it, no one wants to plan to break up with someone they are moving in with. So, while you probably need some time to heal, don’t break off all communication with your ex just yet.

Talk to each other about the options that are available to both of you regarding living arrangements.

You can continue to live together and split the bills until the lease is up. One of you could move out. If you choose to move out, what are you going to do about rent?

Are you going to keep paying half until a suitable roommate can be found?

Talk to the property manager about your legal and financial obligations. Go over the rental agreement and look out for fees associated with breaking the lease.

Look for rules regarding subtenants and subletting.

What about the security deposit? If it will be refunded, make sure the property manager knows they need to issue two checks and mail yours to your forwarding address.

Does buying a house together make you common law married?

In most cases, an unmarried couple who buys a house together is not considered common-law married. Currently, only 7 states and the District of Columbia recognize common law marriage. Those states are Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Texas.

Only a handful of states recognize common law marriage anymore. The biggest indicator of common law marriage is holding yourself out to be married.

Below are the elements of common-law marriage for each of these states:


  • holding yourselves out to be husband and wife
  • consenting to marriage
  • cohabitation
  • leading the community to believe you are married

District of Columbia

  • you are legally free to marry and intend to establish a marriage
  • known to the community as husband and wife


  • must be 18 and have the capacity to marry
  • a present marriage agreement
  • holding out to the public as husband and wife


  • competent to enter into a marriage
  • mutually consents and agrees to common law marriage
  • cohabits and is reputed in the community to be husband and wife


  • Check with a legal professional; there are conflicting points of view within the state.

Rhode Island

  • the parties seriously intended to enter into the husband-wife relationship
  • the community believes they are married


  • enter into a Declaration of Informal Marriage in front of a County Clerk


  • an agreement to be married
  • after such agreement, cohabitation within the state of Texas
  • representation to others in Texas that the parties are married

If you live in any of these states, you should consult a legal professional before purchasing a house with your boyfriend or girlfriend.

In any other state, if you are not legally married, you are not considered common-law married, regardless of whether you purchase a house together or not.

10 Couples Confess How They Split Rent And Bills

Final thoughts

You should talk about how you are going to split expenses before you move in together.

It’s not exciting, but it is important. Most marriages that end up in divorce do so because of finances. When couples argue about money and money problems, they add stress to the relationship.

Set yourself up for success and lay it all out on the table before you make the big move.

Image by Rúben Gál from Pixabay

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