This September, my girlfriend and I are moving into our very first apartment together. I love her, and am excited about our future together. But I have to be honest: our new reduced bills might be the most exciting part of this move for me! But when combining finances, which sections of our budget should we merge, and which should we keep separate?
Some aspects of personal finance should always be personal. Specific saving goals and registered savings plans should almost always be for an individual, not a couple. Additionally, our spending habits are unique, and so we’ve decided our monthly budgets need to be separate. Emily and I wanted to be sure we were only merging our budgets where it was beneficial for us, while still maintaining financial independence!
How we’re combining finances
We’re splitting rent 50/50
The first room I lived in when I moved to Toronto was a tiny, non-functional townhouse stuffed to the brim with at least 14 roommates at any time. For this bedroom I paid $550 in rent each month. Shortly after, I moved to a similarly structured townhouse, but with my own bathroom. This was $650/month, but also non-functional!
The one-bedroom apartment my girlfriend and I are renting is $1300/month, which we plan to split 50/50. That’s $650 for each of us (and much cheaper than the average Toronto apartment!). Although the dollar amount stays around the same, the peace of mind that comes with having a space to ourselves is more than worth it! My girlfriend previously lived in another townhouse stuffed with students, and she paid close to $700. And we know how much of a difference an extra $50 each month could make!
In short, splitting our rent allows us to have our own space without upping any of our monthly costs!
We’re changing how we eat
We are both planning on cooking more now that we have access to a kitchen. I was honestly shocked at how much of an impact sharing a kitchen with messy, inconsiderate roommates had on my spending habits! Ordering takeout seems so much simpler than buying groceries that were bound to be stolen anyway.
Not only do we plan to spend (much) less on ordering in, but the fact that we are cooking for two now helps! We are each less likely to waste food we’re unable to finish before it goes bad. We also expect to be much more motivated to cook, since we will want to provide for each other! Luckily, our new apartment is a mere 2 minute walk from the grocery store.
My average monthly spending on takeout orders this year has been $105 thus far (yikes!). On top of that, I have a budget of $125 for groceries, meaning I spend an average of $230 on food each month. With the two of us together, we plan on spending $250/month on groceries. I personally also plan on cutting my takeout spending to once a month at most! Old habits die hard, but if I can pull of the follow-through I can expect to spend approximately $150/month on food.
This is the part of combining finances that’s most exciting to me! Cleaning supplies, toiletries, household essentials, or even the occasional bottle of wine will now be a shared effort. Not only does this save us quite a bit of money, but this section of shared finances happens more frequently than monthly costs might.
This is harder to predict the outcome of, since household costs tend to surprise you! But I expect to save at least a good amount of money each month due to splitting these bills with my girlfriend. We’re planning to share:
- soaps and cleaning supplies
- entertainment (we’re thinking of getting a Crave account!)
- alcohol, or the occasional cost of going out
Do we hold a (gay) advantage?
When I first looked at the household expenses that Emily and I plan on splitting, I got over-excited. For a fleeting moment, it seemed like being a same-sex couple was about to actually benefit us.
We use the same shampoo! The same face wash, lotion, skin treatment, face masks … the list just keeps going. Surely, this means we spend less per month than a straight couple might.
This is technically true. I did the math. Although Emily and I already have the tightest of budgets, we’re likely to save about $15 per month thanks to sharing some of our household necessities. That could get us a few extra boxes of crackers, which is exciting.
But as you might have expected, as soon as I started researching the average spending of LGBTQ couples versus straight couples, I was disheartened.
There are larger systems at work
When researching a 2016-2017 Prudential report I was surprised to learn that LGBTQ+ survey responders were more likely to consider themselves as “spenders” than the general population. There’s a mountain of possible reasons why this is, but it’s heavily suspected that discriminatory “macroeconomics and LGBT-specific concerns” are largely to blame.
This is difficult to quantify, but I immediately realized the amount of times Emily and I spend because of homophobia. I’ve had to order an Uber while we’re out at night due to feeling unsafe on multiple occasions. It took us longer to find an apartment because some landlords refused to rent to a same-sex couple. Also, I’m sure we wouldn’t have to spend nearly as much on therapy and mental health care if we weren’t working on healing our deep-seated internal homophobia and the eternal issues that stem from this!
Not to mention the issue of earning money in the first place! Not only do Emily and I both face the gender pay gap, but LGBT individuals face a pay gap based on sexual orientation as well. According to the aforementioned study, bisexual women statistically make the least of any other orientation (yay, me), and lesbians follow after that (yay, Emily). This, plus institutional barriers, plus the fact that LGBTQ are typically less financially secure makes the $15 we saved on shampoo and face wash seem laughable.
What we’re keeping separate
With a cold splash of reality hitting me in the face, I realize the importance of maintaining financial independence despite taking the next step in my relationship. Emily and I agree that some aspects of our money management should remain as-is.
This might be a little obvious, but accounts started for the betterment of your financial future should almost always be exclusively in your name. If Emily and I decide to start saving for something together (a cat, meow), then we could easily open a joint savings account together.
But unless for a shared goal, personal savings should stay personal. Registered accounts such as TFSAs, RRSPs, etc, should remain solely your responsibility, and only you should have control over them! Although I don’t have the financial liberty to have too many of these accounts at the moment, my monthly investments and TFSA contributions are separate from any accounts Emily might decide to create.
We won’t be controlling each other’s spending
Emily and I have our own incomes. We also (obviously) hold different values, and indulge in our own unique habits.
Consequentially, we each have our own monthly budgets! When I sit down at the end of the month and allocate where all my money should go, it’s a much different process than it is for Emily. Combining budgets just doesn’t make sense for us!
Since I have a slightly higher expected income than earlier this year, I have the opportunity to loosen up my budget a little. This fall, it looks like this:
Meagan's Monthly Budget
Although some of my expenses are smaller because of sharing the load with Emily, I haven’t actually merged our expected spending into one budget. We plan on sharing the cost of groceries and transportation, but Emily tends to have a stricter budget than I do anyway! She’d probably hate if I leaked my sometimes-regretable spending habits all over her plans (Virgos, am I right?).
Our actual bank accounts
My girlfriend and I use our money much differently. I keep buying Sims4 expansions for some reason I haven’t committed to fully understanding, and I am a cannabis smoker which can cost me a good bit of money. Although Emily’s will-power is much stronger than mine, she also just tends to spend more on coffee in a month. We also each run our own websites with individual business costs along with that.
For these reasons, we have no intentions of sharing a bank account! For now at least, our cards will remain separate.
Yes, our new apartment is almost double the cost of our prior living situations. But after combining finances in the most effective way possible, I expect us to live within our budgets a lot more comfortably. Overall, this move helps us both financially. And, of course, quality time with Emily is priceless!