How to Peacefully Split Bills in Your Relationship

35 comments

Corinne and I have lived together since July and we share a majority of the bills including internet, water, gas, and car insurance. A problem a lot of couples run into when they’re trying to figure out their bills is who should pay for what?

It’s easiest to split the costs 50/50, but if each person has a different income amount this can cause some dreaded relationship tension. One person will have to pay a larger percentage of their paycheck, while the other person will then be able to pocket more cash every month.

After a little research, we realized that paying a percentage of the bills based on our income amounts worked best for our situation.

Here’s an example of the formula we use to split our bills so that no one’s feelings get hurt and every one’s paychecks are treated fairly.

Meet Ron & Alicia

For the example, we have Ron who makes $3,000 per month and Alicia who makes $2,500 per month.

Their monthly bills that they split cost $1,000.

To figure out who should pay for what, take each person’s income and divide it by the combined monthly income.

Here’s how Alicia and Ron’s percentages would look:

[Alicia's Monthly Income] / [Combined monthly income] = % of bills Alicia pays

$2,500   /    $5,500    =      45%

[Ron's Monthly Income]  / [Combined monthly income] = % of bills Ron pays

$3,000    /    $5,500    =      55%

Now, every month Alicia will pay $450 of the bills, and Ron will pay the remaining $550.

Do What Works For You & Your Partner

This formula works well for us because we both have a similar job – English teacher – that requires a similar amount of work and hours. The difference in our paychecks doesn’t reflect any increase in workload or skill, so we both feel comfortable using the percentage formula.

On the flip side, if I was only working 5 hours a week, I would feel like I wasn’t holding my own. I’d expect Corinne to speak up about having to pay a larger percentage of the bills, while also doing a lot more work.

This formula also works well for us because we’re dating, maintain separate bank accounts, and don’t share our money. If you’re married, engaged, or extremely committed then splitting bills 50/50 may work well for your relationship.

This formula may not work for your family situation, but if you consistently find yourself frustrated at a confusing bill situation, then the percentage formula may just work for you.

Have you tried this method in your relationship? How do you and your partner handle bills?

Photo: karpov the wrecked train

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35 Comments

  1. Nice thread! Yeah, I think that formula works best too, my boyfriend is a proponent for the 50/50 split though.

    We haven’t moved in together yet, but currently split things roughly 50.50 right now.
    .-= youngandthrifty´s last blog ..Negotiating with Rogers Wireless- Head to Head Battle! =-.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    Interesting. Does this cause any problems or does it work for your situation? Not living together has to help this a bit, too.

    Thanks for the comment!

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    youngandthrifty Reply:

    I think it works generally for our situation. I offer to split it equitably (like the formula that you use) but he likes it 50.50 for now for simplicity’s sake. We’ll see how it goes for when we move in together!

    hehe I make more than him right now, so I’m not complaining. =)
    .-= youngandthrifty´s last blog ..If You Had a Million Dollars… =-.

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  2. I think you hit on the best and most fair solution. I honestly can’t think of a better way to handle an equitable split. Thanks for sharing!
    .-= David @ MBA briefs´s last blog ..Do mass firings improve performance? =-.

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  3. Your solution definitely seems the fairest. What are your thoughts when one of the people is self employed? I bring this up because of there are usually more fluctuations in income and more business expenses for that person as well.
    .-= Evolution Of Wealth´s last blog ..Pricing Your Disability Insurance =-.

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    Austin Reply:

    There would be pros and cons w/ trying to do this formula with 1 self-employed member.

    Perhaps, they don’t drive as often so they wouldn’t spend nearly as much on gas, but they may need to fly places for conferences. Also, the internet is probably tax deductible so that helps the couple.

    The most important thing is to test it out for 2-3 months and evaluate. How do both sides feel about the % split? Do they worry about it or does it seem fair? If it needs work, adjust and re-evaluate again.

    Same question to you: how do you think people who are self-employed should use this formula?

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  4. Evan says:

    I make more money than the wife, but we do it 50/50. I think the most important thing is to actually make a plan:

    http://www.myjourneytomillions.com/articles/the-wife-and-i-finally-implement-a-plan/

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    No one’s ever complained because there was too much preparation or communication.

    I liked your map. I need to make one of those for a future post and to help keep the money organized.

    Thanks, Evan.

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  5. If you’ve managed to reach a financial consensus with your partner, my hat goes off to you. I rarely can so much as go on a date without my girlfriend giving me the evil eye. “I’ll pay half” she says when she orders that $17 steak and I eat the $3 hash browns; but “Let’s buy our own food” when her bill comes in a penny less than mine…

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    How long have you guys been dating? I’d bring it up if you can. It may not seem like a big deal, but it could escalate into something a lot bigger that could potentially hurt your relationship.

    I’m a firm believer that a couple need to have similar money values. If my gf had credit card debt or excessively spent I don’t think we could be together.

    Thanks for the comment!
    .-= Austin´s last blog ..A Guide to Traveling Internationally with Credit Cards =-.

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  6. Ann says:

    Interesting? I am trying to decide what is fair for my boyfriend and me. We live together but until recently he has still had a mortgage. He is going to be renting out his house and covering his mortgage payment. So I am wondering if or what he should chip in to my mortgage. Right now we split the bills 50/50 but he was wanting to save some money for future expenses so I am not sure what may be best at this point. Any thoughts?

    [Reply]

    Austin @ Foreigner's Finances Reply:

    If the expenses will be for both of you, I would suggest he help you out with your mortgage. You have to take into account how serious you are together because you don’t want to split mortgage payments if you’re not a sturdy couple.

    Good luck!

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  7. Data8e says:

    I have the same problem, how to fairly split the bills, however i make a substantial amount more due to i work full time and have a good job, she on the other hand chooses to only work part time and makes half my per hour amount, so in my situation i would be paying the majority of the bills due to your formula how do i find a happy medium considering its her choice to only work part time not full time?

    [Reply]

    Austin @ Foreigner's Finances Reply:

    That’s tough. Is she filling her time with something substantial (charity work, side passions that bring in no income, etc.) or is she just relying on you. Voice your opinion and she what she thinks of the situation. Don’t let this topic go untouched though or else it’ll lead to a big fight somewhere down the road after you have to pay for her burrito.

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  8. sharon says:

    Me and my boyfriend live together and have been for 3years ,and threw out the 3years he’s in enrolled in school and finished ,promised that when he started working we would split the bills in half ,he buys food and pay for different things around the house which in ok but its not adding up to half on the bills. He saved up his money and now he has his own business and he still has not started paying half on the bills he’s wants to pay for MISC. things around the house.His business is doing well and still will not agree to paying half on the bills he tells me im being greedy and ungreatful and that what he dose around the house add up to more than half on bills .he lets me borrow gas money and i have to pay him back . can i please get some advice on this .

    [Reply]

    Austin @ Foreigner's Finances Reply:

    Try to keep track of the expenses you both pay for for 2-4 weeks. Does he have a point when he says his stuff adds up to more than half? If not, show him the evidence (in a non-confrontational way) and tell him it’s causing you stress.

    Good luck!

    [Reply]

    ashton Reply:

    You know not every relationship works that way, saying men should put a little more in because he is indeed the man of the house. Do you remember that old saying 60/40?
    Because when yall are actually living together (women escpecially) you will notice how much little that is when you make less.

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  9. Laura Croft says:

    Ok. I was the nice girl. i worked hard and put in the extra hours, did the commuting and the early mornings, requested the travelling assignments for a modest pay hike. My bf just finished school and we moved in together. We split the expenses haphazardly, something like 80/20. He was working part time at a dealership.

    Then he decided to go back to school. No problem. I carried the expenses.

    Now, since starting work, he pays the odd bill because Its better for him to pay off high interest loans rather than living expenses, right?

    WRONG!

    At the grocery store the prices aren’t based on income (e.g. apple costs $1.00 for someone who makes $100K, but only $0.50 for someone who makes $50K). Rather, THINGS COST WHAT THEY DO.

    By paying more than 50% of expenses you are giving your partner cash– and not everyone is responsible with it. My partner has no problems spending on things that benefit him because he doesn’t have to face reality.

    Thus, if you give your boy cash then Caveat Emptor (buyer beware); best figure out what you want in return. If he doesn’t want to call you “your highness” and give you foot massages…

    Bills should be split 50/50. We live in a modern society folks!! So if you make less money and this upsets you then look in the mirror for someone responsible.

    Reality has to be lived by someone.

    [Reply]

    beauty Reply:

    @lauracroft: i understand the point you’re “trying” to make but its very unrealistic also… people have various reasons why they make more or less. it does’nt make them unrealistic if they use the method above…you are allowing yourself to be taken advantage of and your comment sounds resentful of that… you should be realistic and make changes in your relationship. the method above is realistic and practical.

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    paige Reply:

    Bravo!

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    Paula Reply:

    YES! Thank you for saying that. I make less than he does, but I still agree.

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  10. Laura says:

    I like that calculation…..now what if there are kids involved? My boyfriend has 2 kids that he has 50% of the time.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    I guess it depends on your relationship with his kids.

    Do you consider them your own and have no problem using your $ to support them? If so, it should be no problem adding their costs to the equation.

    If you don’t want to support them, I think he needs to step up and realize that and not expect your paycheck to help support his kids.

    In the end, make sure you communicate! It never hurts to be honest with this topic because it’s easy to get hurt.

    Good luck!

    [Reply]

  11. Ava says:

    Hi Austin,

    Thanks for the great post! I’m hoping I can get your take on this… My boyfriend and I just moved in together. A long time ago when we discussed it we’d made a plan similar to yours, and even though he was barely employed at the time I thought that plan was fair. It’s not like I’d want him to only have $100 at the end of the month while I ended up with $1000 or something.

    Now that we’ve actually moved in together, our circumstances have changed. He has a great new job where he’s making about 4 times more than I am. I’m underemployed, working full time for about $10/hr while searching for a better job (I’ve had many interviews but no luck yet). Suddenly he’s saying that he never meant for our plan to be set in stone, and he thinks it’s unfair for him to pay more just because he makes more. I’m not really sure what to do. I never would have let him rent the place we got if I’d thought I’d have to pay 50%. There’s literally no way I can do it, I’d have nothing left over after paying my half.

    I’ve finally gotten him to consider splitting it based on how much we each make (he’d put 50% of what he makes towards rent and bills, I’d do the same… Obviously he’d be putting in a lot more money but we’d both we putting in half of what we have), but he wants to put a time limit on me finding a new job. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s not like I don’t want a new job, and it’s not like I’m not trying my hardest to find one. I just feel like at the end of the day I don’t have a lot of control over when I actually get a new job, and if I can’t find one in six months or whatever I’m not going to be any more able to pay 50% of everything than I am now.

    Sorry for the length of this comment, I’m just hoping for some input. I’m pretty upset by this whole situation; if circumstances were reversed, I would never consider asking him to pay 50% when I know perfectly well he can’t. And as much as I’d do my best to help him find a new job, as long as he was genuinely trying his best I wouldn’t hold it against him if he had trouble. The economy is getting better but it’s not exactly awesome yet!

    Thanks again for the post!

    [Reply]

  12. JudyR says:

    I am retired and own my own home. I am considering getting married again to a gentleman who has no assets, but has approximately the same income as I do. When considering how to share expenses, the fact that I own the home outright, should consideration be given to this when figuring the percentages each should contribute?

    [Reply]

  13. LeeR says:

    My boyfriend lives with me for free. I pay all the bills, the rent, and buy the groceries. He owns a house, which he pays a mortgage on, in a city 45 minutes from my apartment. His job is close to my apartment, and he saves a lot on gas money living with me. He is at my apartment all the time except one weeknight a week and every other weekend when he has his daughter. We intend to buy a house after his house sells, which is not on the market at this time because he refinanced to lower his payment. I am wondering if this arrangement is fair?

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    I would peacefully ask him to help you out a little. I understand that he’s trying to sell the house, but there’s no reason for you to take the grunt of the expenses. Good luck!

    [Reply]

  14. zepo says:

    I wish ladies in Kenya were this cool. Around here you still hear things like “You’re the man so you must provide.” Chapter closed!

    [Reply]

  15. paige says:

    My husband has only worked for 2 of our 6 years together. I gave him the get with it or get out speech last year. So he has not only got a job but has already advanced and now makes 50% more than I do. With the larger income bills have got much higher. I have 2 kids that he has mostly raised. My problem is getting him to even pay half the bills is a struggle. He never has the rent or bill money on time and by the time I get it it is a large amount, and he is pissy about it. I buy all household goods, I pay when we go out unless the amount is trivial. He will not buy groceries except for himself. He eats out 2 times a day and drinks expensive energy drinks all day long. He always has to borrow money from me on the regular.

    I want to do a percentage as he make so much more than me now. But I have the extra 2 kids. Not sure how they would factor in?

    I know the above sounds very harsh but we have an amazing relationship we fight once in a blue moon.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    Sit down and talk it out. This isn’t a topic you want to leave untouched because of awkwardness. Ill will will only continue to fester and make it worse. Good luck!

    [Reply]

  16. Elaine says:

    My boyfriend and I just started living together. I like your idea of splitting bills proportionately by income, however I’m wondering how these other factors should play in with our situation. His new job hasn’t begun yet so we’re not sure what is exact monthly take home pay will be. But comparing yearly salaries, he will be making roughly $7,000 more than me.

    He however has a 30min commute to work. Mine is 5 minutes.
    He has a bad car that is on its last legs. My car is fairly new and very reliable.

    He has large school loan amounts to pay off. I have none.

    Therefore he will end up having larger monthly expenses than I will, yet a slightly higher income.

    Should we pay 50/50 to compensate for his higher expenses incurred from living farther from work, or should we pay a percentage of bills based on our monthly income minus our personal expenses? Or another solution altogether.

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    Hey Elaine,

    I think doing the % of bills minus personal expenses works for now. Then once everything’s paid off you guys can start doing a straight % split.

    Good luck!
    Austin

    [Reply]

  17. KimKay says:

    Hey Austin,
    my boyfriend is very stern about being 50/50 we live together and do just that. I make 27% of the combined income and he makes 73%, heres the hitch. I have an 8 yr old daughter which we have to have a second room for. Is it still fair that we are doing it 50/50? Rent alone obviously eats up %48 of my income. Is the situation fair, it feels like it when I see his paychecks come through :( he went to collge and did the right thing and persued his education while I got pregnant at 17 so he is entiteld to make more money.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    For now you should probably stick with 50/50 since he feels strongly about that. Maybe try to sell some stuff on Ebay/Amazon/Craigslist or pick up some part-time work (if possible) to bump your income a bit.

    After a while if you guys are serious, try to explain to him why you want to move to a split like the post talks about so that your paycheck isn’t getting wiped out every month. If you’re serious together, he should understand and want to provide for your daughter as well.

    Good luck!

    [Reply]

  18. SANDRA says:

    i am engaged and we just found out we are pregnant. my daughter lives with us and her father pays child support. my question is how do we split the living cost and now the pregnancy cost like doctor visit and health insurance since mines is cheaper. since we are not married not sure about how it works on the insurance part yet. thank you

    [Reply]

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