How (& Why) My Partner & I Live Together Without Sharing Finances

I’ve been with my boyfriend for three years. He’s wonderful, and he’s an incredible partner. When it comes to emotional support and foot rubs, he’s got it on lock. I love saying that we’re partners, because that is what we are — in all but one way. We don’t share money.

We live together, and we split most expenses 50/50. (We recently switched to him paying 70/30 on utilities.) We keep our incomes totally separate. His money is his to spend, and my money is mine.

Our financial pictures are very different. He makes about $16,000 more a year than I do, but carries a sizable amount of student loan debt. I’m debt free, and own my own business. He’s at a salaried position, and I’m a freelancer. We pretty much have opposite financial pictures.

I’ll be honest: sharing finances would make my life easier. Going 50/50 puts more of a strain on my finances, especially since I make less money than him. Combining our finances would mean we could pay down his debt faster, and make moves toward joint expenses. It’d be great if he picked up the rent check every so often. But that’s just not the way we work.

Why isn’t it the way we work? I’m a personal finance nerd, and he is the most flexible, caring person in the world. It would make sense for both of us to share finances.

We haven’t combined money yet for one main reason: We’re working towards different financial goals. My priority is beefing up my retirement and travel savings, and his priority is living a stable and comfortable life while he works on paying down his debt.

I was late to start saving for retirement for someone at my income level, and it’s very important to me that I have the equivalent amount of my annual salary saved by the time I hit 30. Which is in a one year. I don’t want to compromise any of my income or money-related decisions to reach that goal.

Similarly, I’m definitely the more frugal one in the relationship. He doesn’t want to have to check in with me each time he goes out to lunch, or when he wants to buy a new piece of musical equipment. (He plays guitar and piano.) For each of us right now, there are personal goals and projects that we each want to achieve individually, before we combine finances.

Plus, I just started a business, which was 100% my choice. Bravely is my project — what I make from it is my money, and it’s my work that goes into it. I own the company in full. I’d never ask him to shoulder joint expenses while I chase a dream, especially when he carries his own debt. It was my decision to start a business, and so I carry the financial responsibilities associated with that.

It’s odd to have my partner be truly a partner in everything but my finances. And, of course, as we continue to move forward as a couple, it’s just a matter of time until our financial goals merge.

We spoke recently about combining finances one day. We agreed that I should give my company at least one year to sort out income streams, and that he would focus more on his debt payoff. We also agreed that we need to come to a more firm money plan before we take any more concrete steps together.

For now, we’re fine where we are. Neither one of us is financially insecure, nor making financial compromises we don’t want to make. It’s definitely a bit of a money limbo, but I’m really ok with it. I like being in total control of my finances, and I appreciate the chance I have over the next year to focus on Bravely.

Kara Perez is a freelance writer and the founder of Bravely, a company that connects women and money. Visit bravelygo.co, or follow Bravely on Instagram and Twitter.

Image via Unsplash

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  • This makes a lot of sense. As someone who recently got married and went though that merging of finances.. I can tell you it’s not for everyone and definitely for people that are not ready. IT’s great that you guys are so in-tune with your goals and that your financial situations reflect your currently separate goals. It’s even better that you are on the same page with merging your finances one day… everyone should be like this!!

    Jessica || Cubicle Chic

    • Lexie

      Merging finances has been much harder than I thought it would be post-marriage! I like reading how other couples do it!

  • Amelia Wasserman

    Hey Kara, great article! I can totally understand why the two of you are preferring to keep things separate for now.
    My husband and I have partially combined finances and are super happy with that arrangement. Our income is deposited into our individual accounts and then we each transfer money to our joint account for mortgage, utilities, household items, trips, and groceries. Everything else comes out of our individual accounts and we really like it that way.
    Keep on with your retirement savings-that is a great goal.

    • Natalie Sanders

      That’s a great idea Amelia. Currently me and my live-in BF have separate finances, however, even when we get married, I would still say we should have some separation. I never want money to be a cause of a fight and I’ve experienced that in my first marriage. I had been thinking about a joint account were part of our paychecks are directly deposited and where the household bills are paid from. The rest of our money would go into our respective accounts.

  • Jack

    I doubt my bf and I will combine “fully” even after marriage. Like I get that once you’re married it’s all yours to share anyways, but from day to day, we have really different ways of dealing with it. He is much more frugal but also very hands off with his money. I like to spend and budget and invest, and log into my account 68 times a day like the crazy PF geek that I am.

  • Robyn

    Another good one today! I moved in with my boyfriend of 2.5 years a few months ago, and we also are not combining our finances for the most part. We split things 50/50, but sometimes i will pay more in utilities if we get a nasty bill, and I also cover more of our going out expenses. It might seem selfish of me, because splitting things 50/50 is much more of a strain on him. I make about 15K more a year and am debt free, he has a small amount of student debt he should have paid off in the next two years. Because of our varied situations, I am saving fairly aggressively, while he in unable to save much at all. I want to get to the point in the next year where I am saving enough for it to be 20% of each of our incomes (so about 35% of my own income or a bit more) until he is able to save as well. I am preparing for our future because i am in a position to do so when he is not. I also have pretty expensive taste, I would feel horrible dropping $300 on a dress if I knew the money was ours combined, but when it is mine alone, I only have to check in with myself and my financial goals.

    • Natalie Sanders

      I’m in a similar situation except he makes more than I do. What I did is make sure our income to expense ration is equal. So basically I my expenses are exactly 50% of my net income and so are his. If I stop having to pay a bill and my percentage drops to 40%, I’ll take over a bill for him so we come to an even 45% expense to income ratio. That way he doesn’t feel like more of his money goes towards paying bills and I don’t feel bad that he has less play money.

  • GemNoelle

    I moved in with my boyfriend of almost 6 years last year. We split the rent 50/50 and each take care of different bills and expenses that average roughly the same amount. We both make similar salaries and have similar expenses but we like being able to keep things simple and never have to figure out who pays for what. This system has work great for us so far. I honestly see no reason to combined finances without more involved financial commitments such as having kids or dependents.

  • Celia Lamb

    My husband and I are in a similar situation. We lived together for three years, both of us filling in the gaps for the other when needed, with him paying most of the bills while I bought groceries and the more day to day stuff. We still have separate bank accounts, and we use my savings account for the big stuff, like the tax refund, or the emergency fund. I have my own separate credit cards, and he doesn’t have any because of his past relationship with them. One thing that does help, with monitoring our finances is mint.com. I have all of our accounts, checking, savings, credit cards, combined, so I can see overall how much money we have to work with together, just in case something happens, or I need some cash for something. Its a great compromise for keeping our finances separate, but still always being on the same page at the end of the day.