5 Tips on What to Do Before Moving in Together

by Lauren Lyons Cole on 1 October 2010 3 comments

If splitting the cost of rent and utilities with your significant other sounds like a good idea, you're not alone. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 7.5 million unmarried couples are living together, which is a 13% jump from last year. The economy may be playing a role in the increase — both partners have jobs in only 49% of cohabitating couples.

Saving money on rent is obviously not a reason to move in with your boyfriend or girlfriend. But the truth is it can be a nice benefit — if you do it right. Below are five tips to make the financial side of moving in together a smooth experience.

1. Talk about small things first

Discussing trivial things like "will we make the bed every morning?" can be a lot easier than talking about money. Start small and work your way up. Actions may speak louder than words, but when you're moving in with a significant other, communication is key.

2. Decide what you can afford

If one partner wants a significantly nicer apartment than the other and can afford it, great. But that doesn't mean the rent should then be shared equally. Agree on how much you can each afford and how you will split the cost of living before signing on the dotted line. Being in love doesn't mean you can or should put yourself in a stressful financial situation.

3. Neutralize the financial risk

Both partners share the emotional risk of combining lives by living together, but sometimes the financial risk is skewed in one direction. Creating some sort of cohabitation agreement can help neutralize this risk. If you were to break up, who would move out? How would the finances be handled during that process? These may not be fun questions to ask, but if you don't discuss it up front you may be dealing with financial stress on top of emotional stress if the relationship comes to an end.

4. Do not combine accounts — ever

While you need a strategy for paying various bills, combining accounts is not a good solution. Signing up for a joint checking account or credit card is a big decision, and not one that makes sense for couples who are cohabitating. If your partner goes on a shopping spree, you could be on the line for 100% of the cost. Be smart — keep your accounts separate for now.

5. Schedule time for fun and for finance

Set aside time for fun — whether that means cooking dinner together or going to see a movie, make sure you're still enjoying your partner after moving in together. While you're at it, make a date to talk about your finances too. Communicating about bills or any other money-related topics should be intentional. If some sort of tension does arise, it'll be easier to bring it up within the context of a planned meeting rather than out of the blue.

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Guest's picture

These are great tips! I'm moving in with my significant other in a few months. I'll keep some of these in mind.

Lauren Lyons Cole's picture

Congrats & best of luck! Glad you found the article useful.

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Brittany B

Great tips. I like the idea of easy discussions first that lead to harder discussions of money. Better to have all expectations on the table. Less awkward in the long run.