A much requested post (at least from comments in other blogs…).
What if you don’t have one money pool for all your money… what do you do?
Figuring this out is a work in progress. I’ve been through many systems with various roommates, housemates, and, of course, my dear partner.
The I-Love-You-But-Baby-Needs-Bank Way
Currently, my partner and I have a shared spreadsheet in Google docs. There is a separate sheet for each month. There are rows for all our recurring expenses: rent, power, gas, water, sewer, trash, cable (includes phone, TV, and internet), misc things. There are columns for: how much the bill was; how much I paid; how much he owes (usually half of the bill but in some cases we have other arrangements); how much he paid; and how much he has left over to pay at the end of the month. Occasionally he gives me a check. We would do a direct transfer or share a bank account, but we happen to have had different banks for years, and neither of us wants to switch. So we’re stuck with the tedious deposit-a-check method. I used to have PayPal set up, but I decided I didn’t want them to have access to my checking account anymore.
He buys most of the groceries, but not all. Sometimes I pay for half the groceries, which has its own line in the spreadsheet. Then we just take money off what he owes me for the utilities. Utilities are in my name because I set them up before he moved into the state.
We’ve started talking about saving together for a house, but that can be the subject of another post.
The Share Everything Way
We can’t do this. We have fundamentally different attitudes about money, both of which are fine. Both of us live within our means, pay the bills, save for retirement. We are both responsible. But when he spends a bunch of his money that he earned on stuff like games or comic books, the amount tends to stress me out and worry me, even though it is really fine. For my sanity and for the sake of us not arguing, we have separate finances even though we have been together for over 15 years. We probably always will have some separation; I don’t mind having his-and-hers accounts, though his, hers, and theirs might be easier.
#2 does it this way. When #2 got partnered up neither she nor her partner had any assets, they had approximately the same tiny salaries, and #2′s partner had no head for finances. #2′s partner gets an allowance for his fun spending and #2 takes care of everything else (though #2′s partner has been putting in a lot more input over the years as he’s gotten more comfortable with the idea of finances). #2′s parents have his, hers, and ours accounts, and #2 thought she would have that too, but that hasn’t been necessary (just like she doesn’t need separate home offices like her parents have).
The Super-Fair (but Tedious) Way
In college, I lived for a while in a rented house with a bunch of roommates. We split rent and utilities evenly, but not food. Our system for food use and accounting was extremely tedious but very fair. The parameters were that anyone could eat any food they found in the house (unless you wanted to save something for a reason, in which case put a note on it). Everyone shopped for whatever food they wanted. When you bought food, you would put the receipt with your name on it in an envelope on the frig.
Every once in a while, we would reconcile the grocery bills. This required going through each receipt with all members of the household. Let’s say we would take a receipt for food that I bought. We would go through each item on there, and report who ate or used that item, and we would split it among those people. Like, a box of pasta at $1.29, and three people ate it, so we would split $1.29 three ways and each of the other two people would owe me 43 cents. We would write down that. For each item, some people would owe me some money. After adding all my receipts, we’d know how much the roommates owed me. Then we went to their receipts. I ate some of the food they bought too, so I would owe them some. Then at the very end we would calculate the totals that everyone owed everyone and exchange checks. It took a while, but nobody felt taken advantage of!
We’d love your input too! What methods do you use or have you heard about?