Moving in together. It seems weird to call it the “little I do” when it’s such a big deal. If it’s something you and your partner are talking about, chances are you’ve already considered it in the context of your relationship, asking questions like “are we ready?” and “what does this mean for us?” Being mentally and emotionally ready is by far in a way the most important thing when it comes to taking the half-plunge, but being financially ready is pretty important, too, and can save a lot of stress and arguing later on.
Set Expectations Early
It’s important to know in advance how sharing your expenses will break down. Don’t just assume your partner is on the same page. They may have a higher take-home, but that doesn’t mean that you should assume that they’re going to foot bigger portions of rent and the bills without talking to them about it. Likewise, just because you’ve got the big paycheck doesn’t mean your partner will be comfortable letting you cover more. Is a joint bank account in question, and if so, would you want to keep separate accounts on top of that?
Before boxes start getting shuffled around, make sure you have a plan in place for how the bills and rent or mortgage will be covered. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s just something about which you and your partner should be on the same page. Make sure that there’s at least one account in your name and one in your partner’s name, too, even if you’re splitting every bill 50/50. If, for whatever reason, you find yourself without your partner later down the road or vice-versa, having no payment history on your credit report because all accounts were in one person’s name could do some damage to credit scores that it would take awhile to recover.
This goes along with setting expectations, but before the ink on any lease dries, make sure you and your partner know everything about your current financial situations. It might be uncomfortable, but get things out there like current debt in exact dollars, general spending habits, and current credit score. You won’t love one another any less just because one time someone charged a study abroad in Thailand to their card, but it’s something each of you should know before you become financially dependent on one another.
Get Everything In Writing
If the two of you (or three, or however many you include in your arrangement - I’m not here to judge) aren’t married or legally bound in something like a civil union, you’re essentially roommates as far as the paper trail goes. That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from something like a roommate prenup, though. Getting your living arrangement in writing is decidedly not the most romantic thing, but it’s super useful. It doesn’t mean a lack of trust or an expectation that things will end. It just means a bit of security for everyone involved. Everything you decided earlier when you set expectations - get it all down in writing. You can always change it later if your circumstances change. Document all major purchases and payments, too, including who paid, when, and what amount. It helps you more evenly distribute things, and lets you build in security for if unfortunate circumstances should come.
It won’t be a fun or sexy talk, but once you’ve got the financials worked out, everyone will feel a lot better, and you’ll be able to enjoy a much more low-stress cohabitation.