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Financial fairness in a relationship

By November 13, 2009 - 10:41pm
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My boyfriend and I have been together for about 2 1/2 years, and have lived together for the majority of that time. After we began dating, I moved into his house about 2 months after. I am a divorced mom of 4. My ex is retired, and he has the kids about 60% of the time. In our household, my guy makes a little more than I do income wise. In addition to his regular job, he also does side work for enjoyment and gets paid quite well. He pays the mortgage, gas and half of the electric. I pay for the water bill, half of the electric and the household groceries and goods. In addition, we both have car payments, and I put out extra $ on a regular basis for my children, of course. My b-f enjoys cars and spends a considerable amount of money maintaining them or improving them. Whenever he does a side job, he says that it's a good thing he worked it so we could pay the mortgage. Whenever I ask to go to dinner, nothing fancy, once a week, he says I should be the one to pay half of the time. I disagree, considering I purchase all the groceries for 3 plus meals per day, practically every day of the week. I don't ask for anyhting else, if I need something for myself or want it, then I will buy it on my own. Just wondering if I am in the wrong?

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EmpowHER Guest


I live in the exact opposite situation.

I own my house, have a son who lives with me 100% of the time, pay for all the bills & food, as well as everything my son needs.

My girlfriend saves very little, and feels put out when we discuss finances because she feels 'judged'.

You are being treated fairly, although you may not feel that way. I'd sit down and do a little math before riding out of town on your high horse.


November 24, 2009 - 6:16am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi there. I do have 4 kids and do pay for everything they need in addition to household bills and groceries. My b-f doesn't pay for 100% of everything in our home. He definitely doesn't pay for all the food that his brothers and friends eat when they come over either. No high horse here.

November 24, 2009 - 12:02pm


When we are blending households, the money is always a sticky issue. It just is. Especially when we have our own children of different ages, when the house is owned by one and not the other, etc.

I lived together with my boyfriend for a couple of years before we got married, and the way we split the bills was to figure out what percentage of the total each of us made. In other words, both of our salaries together were 100%, but split apart his was about 60% and mine was about 40%. Then we kept track of the bills for a month and figured out how to split them about 60/40.

After that, any money we had left over was our own to spend as we please. Our credit cards and car loans were separate, of course; we each paid for our own. And when we went out to dinner, we did take turns. It wasn't a big deal; one would pay, then the other would. We didn't think much more than that it was two independent earners sharing a lifestyle.

Some, when hearing about our arrangement, thought we were making far too big a deal of it. And especially when we got married; they'd say, why not just pool all the money and go from there? Well, the reason is because of questions like yours. You are feeling slighted because of the money you spend on groceries, but he isn't understanding your feelings because he's paying the mortgage, etc.

Have you ever sat down and figured out (a) exactly what he makes in a month (give or take a little, but yes, I would count the work on the side as well) and (b) exactly what you make in a month, and figure out what the percentage is? And then keep track of all the expenses for a month and see if you are spending at about that percentage?

Let's round things up to big numbers for an easy example. Say the two of you make $100,000 together. Let's say he makes $60,000 and you make $40,000.

And let's say you add up all the bills -- (but not your own car payments, personal credit cards, personal cell phones or expenses for your own kids).

Let's say it ends up this way:
Mortgage: $1,500
Groceries: 900
Electric: 300
Gas: 50
Water: 30
Television: 80
Landline phone 40
Total: $2,300

You would split that $2,300 60-40, then. So that would be roughly $1,380 that your boyfriend would pay, and $920 that you would pay. (Which means that groceries + water comes out pretty close in my made-up instance).

After each of you pays your 60% or 40% share, then the rest of your money is to take care of your personal bills, your children and anything else you'd like. And yes, that includes buying dinner for each other, in turn.

Keep track of the bills for a month or two to make sure that they stay consistent. If the groceries run more because of visitors, then you need to know that.

I think that once you feel the situation has been talked about and made equitable, you won't feel so badly. The question of who makes food for the visitors is different -- I think you should do it if you feel like it, but if you don't feel like it or you are doing something else, do you feel free to suggest that they fix something themselves?

Or if all of the above doesn't sound right to you, how about switching up who pays for what?

Do you know who Suze Orman is? She is a dynamo of a financial wizard whose primary concern is educating consumers to do right by themselves when it comes to money (and that includes getting the emotion OUT of the issue). Here are some tips she has for couples and their finances:


I know you aren't married, but moving in together is a pretty large commitment, especially with children. It wouldn't be a bad idea if the two of you visited a financial counselor together. It could help you make a plan that you can both live with, and get it in place even before you start talking about marriage.

Does any of this help?

November 16, 2009 - 10:05am
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for your reply. I think you are feeling like more of his servant than his wife. It appears that he likes to help others out to earn money for doing simplistic things such as doing laundry and then also feeds them but that is at your expense.

Have you talked to him about how you are feeling? What does he say? I think if you have feelings, they are not wrong, per say since it is how you feel. Who can argue with that? Even if we are wrong in our feelings, it is, in fact, our feelings. I think it ends up being how we deal with our feelings that ultimately feeds the negative energy or creates a positive aura.

Think of this...what would make you feel better? What is the ultimate outcome you would like to see?

November 14, 2009 - 10:44am
EmpowHER Guest

It most likely does. There are other frustrating factors that influence the way I feel. For example, he has a friend that he pays to come over and do things around the house a few times a week. He wants me to make meals for both of them when he comes over. He will take the friend out to lunch once a week in addition, and also pay for him to go to the gym with him. It's nothing for my b-f to drop $1,200 on a different set of tires for his hobby car, just because he didn't like the other tires anymore. Perhaps I am a bit jealous because I see him putting all this money into everything else, but going out to eat seems like I'm asking for a brand new car. In addition, he has a 40 year old brother who will come over a few times a week to do his laundry and help himself to whatever food we have. My b-f will even go so far as to ask me to make them something to eat. I guess I just feel disrespected, like his money is no big deal when it comes to others, but a huge point of contention with me. Does it seems like it is unfair of me to think this way?

November 14, 2009 - 8:14am
HERWriter Guide

Hi fitgirl

I don't think it's a case of either of you being in the right or in the wrong. Does it really matter who pays? Why not pay for the occasional dinner, I think that's fine. As to whether it should be 50/50 - well, that's up to the couple. Some men insist on paying every time, some like it to be even. Some like it to be paid for by someone else all the time!

What I think is more important is that since you're living together but he owns the house, you are leaving yourself very unprotected. Do you have any kind of rental agreement? I assume the house is his (and you're not on the title) since he is paying the mortgage and presumably the taxes and insurance, and I've no doubt that it's a considerable amount. If you are living rent free then you should definitely be paying for some utilities and all the groceries. I know groceries can add up but depending on where you are living, your rent could be as high as 600-2000 per month so you are saving a lot by living there for free.
Don't make who pays for dinner once a week a point of contention. Surely it doesn't matter?
I think the root of your question lies elsewhere. Do you think this is the case?

November 14, 2009 - 7:03am
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