Whether you’re housemates combining only the grocery bill or newlyweds about to share bank accounts, these helpful tips can help prepare you for a more happy financial ever after.
Money can be a sensitive topic in even the best relationships, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve pooled some of best advice for anyone combining any kind of assets, whether it’s for the monthly apartment rent, the weekly groceries list or your life’s savings.
Do Communicate About Finances
Shared finances should be discussed openly and often, and the records on whatever you’re splitting should be always accessible to the other parties – that’s the great thing about online banking and e-finances. Use a free, online payment system, like Venmo or Paypal, in lieu of cash exchanges if you’re maintaining separate bank accounts. And never assume anything that’s not been stated, agreed upon and written down.
The “finances talk” isn’t fun or easy; but it prevents costly misunderstanding down the road. Sometimes, a trusted third party – a friend, relative or even a banking advisor – can be the best mediator when you’re setting things up.
Do Use a Calculator
If you’re one of those folks who’s good at math, we’re jealous. But even for human math machines, dollar signs do funny things – and it only takes one error to erode trust in a sensitive situation. If you’ve got a cellphone, you can easily “show your math” for simple finances like rent payments or divvying up the groceries.
But hold the phone – lots of financial split ups aren’t just simple division. For apartment mates, roommates are sure to disagree on who has the “biggest” room and whether certain features (or lack of features) entitle them to a discount. An online rent calculator can make short work disagreements featuring square footage, shared and private bathrooms, windows and the like. Just make certain you agree to rent amounts using the calculator before the person moves in – then write it down somewhere you both have access to!
For other public items like groceries, it’s easy to build a free, private online spreadsheet using Google Sheets that anyone can add to and view for keeping track of grocery contributions. Paired with an understanding about what purchases aren’t “public” (e.g., your friend’s favorite cookies) and you have an easy understanding of who’s contributing what to the public pantry.
Don’t Turn Private Expenses Into Shared Ones
Couples will often give each other this “spending allowance” to maintain sanity and treat each other like adults, but even among roommates it’s understood that there’s “shared stuff” and “my stuff.”
Then comes the temptation to make a purchase on behalf of the relationship. For roommates, it might be a pricey bottle of wine your friend wants to split the costs on – or damage to the apartment they may have caused but don’t want to pay for, entirely. For married couples, it might be something larger, like a home improvement purchase or an electronics upgrade. These might come masked in the best intentions, but like we said: money does funny things to logical folk. Your desire to split the benefits of the purchase might be partially based on splitting the costs.
Happily, this “don’t” is easily avoided by communication. For roommates, agree in writing at the outset that incidental damages will be paid by the party responsible – or that each roommate is obligated only for certain amount towards the grocery bill so there are no surprising excesses. For couples, agree upon a dollar limit where you both need to agree before making the purchase.
Do Keep Receipts
Once you’ve agreed to good ground rules, good record keeping does the rest of the work for you. Keep records of paid rent, grocery bills, home improvements and anything else you’re splitting with another person for at least a year. Having 24/7 electronic banking, like we offer, can certain help!
Whether you’re splitting rent with friends or starting out married life with the love of your life, Highlands Community Bank is here to help. You’ll find warmth and understanding at every one of our three convenient location along US 220 and I-64. Give us a visit or a call today.