Should you move in with your significant other? Wow. That’s a big question – and it doesn’t have a simple, yes-or-no answer.
There are several things to consider before deciding to live with someone you love. GoodCall® asked the experts what they’d want to have settled before the big move.
How will you split any shared expenses?
The first conversation to have – long before you sign a lease – is how to split expenses. Most people choose to do this 50-50, but in some situations, couples choose to split things based on income. It’s important for you to find the split that works for you.
You should also discuss how you’ll cover any unnecessary or personal expenses.
Ian Atkins, of Fit Small Business, suggests making a list of various types of bills, along with due dates:
- 1. List shared necessary household expenses (rent, utilities, groceries)
- 2. List shared nonessential expenses (cable, Netflix, subscriptions)
- 3. List individual necessary expenses (commuting expenses like auto expenses, cell phone, credit cards, and student loans)
- 4. List individual nonessential expenses (gym memberships, clothing)
- 5. List net income
“Once you have a budget that works for the two of you, what are you going to do with the savings?” Atkins says. “Pay down debt? Contribute more to retirement accounts? Set aside money for a down payment on a home, a wedding, or a couple’s vacation? Whatever it is, you want to make sure you’re on the same page.”
How will you work out problems?
People who live together, whether in a relationship or not, will run into some points of disagreement.
The challenge you’ll face as a couple who lives together is how you’ll handle some stressful situations, says Lauren Appio, a psychologist from New York.
“I often tell my clients: expect that you and your partner will be more anxious or on edge than usual,” she says. “Talk to each other in advance about what it looks like when you are stressed or overwhelmed. Do you tend to get quiet and withdrawn? Do you share your worries out loud? Are you likely to feel irritable and get angry more quickly?
“Knowing that about each other will allow you to recognize what’s going on for you and your partner when it’s happening, so you can resist taking it personally and use it as an opportunity to check in,” Appio says.
She points out, that the important thing is not to try to plan for everything, but instead be prepared to support each other when new issues arise.
Is this a test for marriage?
Often couples moving in together for the first time view this as an uncommitted way to test whether they are ready for marriage.
But Judi Cinéas says that can be risky and detrimental to the relationship without some important knowledge.
“Because the first year of learning to live with someone can be so difficult, many couples say that if not for the binding of marriage they may not have made it through that first year,” she says.
In other words, unmarried couples living together are more likely to break up rather than weather the turbulence of the first year because they don’t have the commitment of marriage to help them stick it out.
If you’re thinking in these terms, it might be a good time to discuss the possibility of marriage before moving in together. Knowing you’re both heading down the same path can keep your relationship stronger when things get rough.
Do you need to discuss bad spending habits?
It might not be a comfortable topic to broach before you move in together, but it will only get worse if you wait.
Important topics to bring up in a discussion of bad habits are things such as gambling, habitual shopping, and carrying credit card debt. Consider also discussing splurge items, such as frequently spending money on bars or eating out.
Also take the time now to talk about whether your partner’s current spending habits irk you. Do you get annoyed when all his extra money goes into buying new video games? Perhaps her makeup passion is a little out of hand? Talk about it now, before you’re sharing a roof. You can discuss reasonable budgets for these that will allow you to save money as a couple.
How do you handle money?
John Barnes, a certified financial planner with My Family Life Insurance, suggests that discussing your current preferences for handling money is a good way to go.
“Is your fiancé/girlfriend/boyfriend a spender or a saver? Do you know their financial upbringing? These are important to know as past history plays a significant part in shaping one’s money personality. Not knowing and not having a plan to manage any differences could lead to relationship strain,” he says.
He also says it’s a good time to bring up some “what if” scenarios. What if you lose your job? What if you need to make a big purchase, like a car? What if you need to replace furniture or appliances?
Overall, it’s an exciting time when you’re moving in together. Don’t let the excitement distract you from having important discussions. You’ll definitely have a stronger relationship if you go in together with a game plan.