I feared my prorated rent would eliminate my right to whine about Zach's choice of $1.99 V05 shampoo or to splurge on my $15 curly girl products. More importantly, I didn't want Zach to dictate my spending or resent me for choosing new gold peep-toes over dinner out.
So before you book a truck and start unpacking, you need to have a plan. There isn't a "right" strategy to manage your financial arrangement, but a successful live-in relationship is more likely with an agreement. Whether it's in an Excel spreadsheet or not is up to you, but make sure it's written down. If you know a notary or have a lawyer friend its even better if they can make it official.
Start with your biggest shared expense, which is most likely rent. For Leah, 25, a teacher and Mike, 25, an urban planner it wasn't as simple as dividing this monthly cost in half:
"When he first moved in, I had been working for a year and he was straight out of college without a job. We had a gradual split-rent plan, meaning the first month he paid a small amount of the rent, the next month a little more, and so on until we were splitting the cost of rent." Part of living together is stretching yourself to help out your partner.
Although Zach pays a more for our apartment, we tried to find a balance so I wouldn't have to call him my "sugar daddy." The $400 difference puts a little extra money in my account, so I don't have to skimp on birthday presents or start self-waxing. Contributing in non-financial ways, like grocery shopping and laundry, allows me to feel like an equal partner. These responsibilities are ones I wanted to take on since I enjoy doing them. Don't put yourself in charge of cleaning if you hate doing it otherwise you'll end up resenting your partner.
Once you've defined your major costs, the real fun begins—dividing the little purchases. Before they moved into their Brooklyn apartment two years ago, Erin, 23, a strategist at a brand firm who makes more than her boyfriend Brad, 26, a social worker, created a budget.
"I pay for cable and Internet, he pays for utilities, we split groceries and household purchases. If either of us wants something frivolous like the $6.99 Caldea Countertop Cleaner I bought yesterday, we pay for that out of our own pocket," she says.