Finance questions to ask before you move in with someone

Moving in with someone is an exciting step. But it can also feel a bit daunting – particularly if you’re not sure where your partner stands financially. Whether you’re renting a home together or buying your first property as a couple, there are some fundamental financial questions you should be asking each other before you take the leap.

In the latest guide from our Money & Relationships content series, we share the top 15 questions you need to ask before moving in with your partner.

1. How will we organise our finances?

If you’re moving in together, you’ll likely be taking on some shared financial responsibilities. It’s obvious, but you need to know how you’ll pay the rent or mortgage payments, monthly bills, and day-to-day expenses.

The most common ways to split finances include:

  • 50/50 – all of your joint living expenses are equally divided in two, with any disposable income being kept separate
  • Flexible – each of you is responsible for different expenses (one of you might pay the rent, and the other pays for utilities, for example)
  • Proportional – your living expenses are split proportionally based on each person’s income
  • Joint – you pool all of your finances into one account, and all expenditure is taken from the same source

You must both cooperate to find out how you want to split your finances – particularly if one of you earns more than the other or one of you has existing debt to pay off. Will you decide to take on the debt as a joint responsibility, or will you only share joint expenses such as bills?

You’ll also need to decide how you’ll share any existing property, savings and investments, or whether you’ll keep them separate.

A good way to work out the best option is to each write down how you want to manage your finances going forward. You can then compare your ideal scenario and work out the best compromise.

2. Who’ll pay for what?

Once you’ve decided on how you’ll split up your living expenses, you can go into the finer details. For example:

  • Which one of you will be responsible for managing your finances (paying the bills, renewing insurance etc)?
  • Who will take legal responsibility (for example, whose name will be on the lease and the bills)?

You should also start thinking about how you’ll fund everything you need to make a house a home. A survey by Terry’s Fabrics suggested furnishing a three-bedroom house could cost an average of £15,215 – so it’s important to know in advance who’ll be responsible for buying what.

Will you be bringing items from each of your old homes, or buying everything new together? You could split furnishing costs as you do your living expenses (50/50, flexible, proportional or joint). Just make sure you keep a note of your purchases and how they’ve been paid for, so you can keep track of all costs.

3. How will we manage our finances?

Start to think about which accounts the money will come out of. There are a few common options:

  • Keep your bank accounts separate for now, with joint bills being paid for from each of your respective accounts
  • Open up one joint account with all of your money going in and out of it
  • Open a joint account for shared bills and purchases, and keep your personal accounts separate for individual spending decisions

Remember that opening a joint account or getting a mortgage together will form a financial association between the two of you. This will be recorded on your credit file and could impact your ability to get credit in the future. For example, if your partner has a poor credit history, a lender may consider you a greater risk as you have joint financial obligations.

Think carefully before you create a financial association with your partner. You should make sure you’ve asked all the questions in this guide and must be confident you understand the ramifications of any financial association.

4. What’s our budget?

If you’ve yet to decide on where you want to live, now’s a good time to set a budget. This should cover how much you can afford to spend on rent/mortgage payments, bills, essential spending and how much you want to put into a savings account.

We’ll cover discussing your spending habits and financial values later in this guide but have an open conversation about how much you earn and what percentage of your income you’re prepared to spend on living expenses.

This should help you decide how much you’re able to spend on necessities, how much you want to spend on ‘nice to haves’ each month and how much you want to put aside to achieve your future financial goals. From here, you can decide where you want to live and what kind of lifestyle you both expect to share.

5. How do you like to spend money?

Is your partner a spender or a saver? It’s important to know each other’s spending habits before moving in to avoid any nasty surprises later down the line.

For example, do you shop around for a good deal or do you impulse buy? Would you rather save for an expensive purchase or buy a cheaper version now?

A good way to find out more about each other’s spending habits is to look over your latest purchases. Categorise everything you’ve bought over the last few months to find out where most of your income goes. You might find one of you spends more on clothes, tech or nights out whereas the other puts most of their disposable income into savings.

Having different spending habits doesn’t necessarily spell trouble – but it’s important to have upfront discussions about your priorities and expectations.

If you’re building your life with someone, you need to know they’ll be able to support your goals (and vice versa), so you need to be able to trust their financial judgement and agree to compromise if you do like to spend your money on different things.

6. What are your financial values?

Spending styles are one thing, but financial values are quite another. You’ll need to dig a little deeper to find out how you both really feel about money. Work out your financial compatibility by discussing what your attitudes are towards money and how you use it.

This involves asking yourselves some tough questions, such as:

  • Is there a financial decision you’re particularly proud of, and why?
  • What would you do with a significant sum of money?
  • How much money would you need in the bank for you to feel truly comfortable?
  • What’s the maximum you’d spend on big purchases such as holidays or a car?
  • What’s your greatest financial worry?

This will help you to understand why money is important to you. It might be that you’d use more money to spend time with family, travel the world, learn a new skill, or simply enjoy living a life of luxury. The more you learn about how you’d want to spend money in an ideal world, the more you know about your financial values.

7. Are you keeping any financial secrets?

Before you make a serious commitment to one another, make sure you have a clear idea of your partner’s financial status. Do they earn as much as they say they do? Does your partner have any debt you don’t yet know about?

You need to trust your partner won’t lie about their debts or hide big purchases in the future. After all, financial infidelity can be just as harmful to a relationship as emotional or physical infidelity. According to Aviva, almost two in five people in the UK who are in a relationship or married are committing financial infidelity. Avoid becoming part of this statistic by getting into the habit of talking openly about your financial affairs.

Now’s a good time to talk about how transparent you want to be about your spending too. Some couples may not want to know about their other half’s individual spending at all, as long as the joint bills are paid on time. Other couples like to consult one another on any purchase over a certain amount (such as £100 or £500). Think about how involved you’d like to be in each other’s spending before you move in together.

8. What is your financial history?

If you’re planning to share financial responsibilities with someone, it’s a good idea to know how they’ve handled money in the past. You should have a clear idea of your partner’s current financial state-of-play (for example, whether they have any loans or credit card debt).

But it could be beneficial to understand how they’ve managed debt in the past, too, as this will indicate how they’re likely to deal with money in the future. If they’ve previously made late payments or missed repayments altogether, for example, it’s important to understand the reasons why. Their money management might impact you in the future.

You should also decide how you’re going to handle any individual debt before you move in together. For example, if your partner is paying off a car loan, will you now consider that a joint debt and work together to pay it off, or wait until your partner has settled their loan before applying for a joint account?

Having debt isn’t always a bad thing, and taking out a loan is by no means a guaranteed red flag. You may choose to use a loan to allow you to access the things you need sooner, or to help you make the cost of a big purchase more manageable in the future. Take this opportunity to discuss your attitudes to borrowing money and how you both manage debt.

9. What’s your financial ‘story’?

Each of us will have a different view of money and how to manage it. This invariably stems from our upbringing.

It could be useful to talk to your partner about their experiences of money growing up, as this could help you to understand why they view money in a certain way.

Understanding your partner’s money story can help you manage your finances in a way that works for you both.

10. What are our goals for the future?

If you’re moving in together, things are getting serious. So now is a good time to start talking about your long-term financial goals to ensure your visions are compatible. Consider:

  • What financial “success” looks like to you
  • How much you’d like to put away in savings each month
  • What big purchases are on the horizon (both in the near future and long-term)
  • What your career goals are, and how much you’d like to earn in the future
  • How much you’d need to collectively earn to achieve your goals as a couple
  • Your ‘bucket list’ of things you absolutely want to achieve in your lifetime

11. What will we do if our circumstances change?

It’s great to know how you’ll handle your finances based on your current situation… but things change, and it’s important to know how you’ll deal with this.

Talk through some potential future scenarios and how you’d handle them. For example, what would happen if one of you was promoted and ended up earning a vastly different amount to the other? How would you split the finances if you were to have children, and one of you took parental leave?

Having these conversations now can help you avoid disagreements and potential conflicts in the future.

12. Can we agree to disagree?

You won’t always see eye to eye when it comes to spending money. Before you take the next step in your relationship, ask yourself this: how do we deal with financial disagreements?

Can you make an amicable decision, even if you have different opinions? Discussing the pros and cons of major financial decisions such as moving house or buying a car can be a deal breaker…

13. How will we handle the unexpected?

Sometimes unexpected situations come up and you might not have a plan of action in place to deal with them.

You should talk about what you’ll do if you ever find yourself in financial difficulty, are faced with an unexpected debt or asked to help a friend or family member financially.

It can be tricky to think about hypothetical scenarios like this. If you’re looking for a good starting point, discuss how you’d find the money if you had an unexpected expense of £1,000 or more. This will help you both think seriously about how you’d perhaps handle a change in circumstance.

Now’s the time to talk about your emergency fund, too. It’s recommended to have between three and six months’ worth of living expenses saved up.

If you don’t have that amount of money in your savings just yet, it could be a good idea to discuss how you’re going to build your emergency fund. For example, you could each set aside a certain amount or a small percentage of your earnings each month to make sure you have some extra cash saved up if you need it.

14. Will I remain financially independent?

While you might share some financial responsibilities with your partner, you should never feel as though the person you’re living with is controlling your money and how you spend it.

16% of adults in the UK say they have experienced economic abuse, though you may not always recognise the signs.

Financial decisions being made without your consent, using someone’s bank card without their permission, limiting or tracking an individual’s spending, or pressuring you to get credit in your name can all be indications of financial abuse. If you recognise any of these signs, there is help and support available from a range of organisations including The Financial Support Line for Victims of Domestic Abuse.

Moving in with your partner may lead to lots of discussions around money and your finances, so be alert to any red flags that may appear during these conversations. Make sure you’re confident you will remain in control of your money.

15. What will we do if things go wrong?

No one wants to talk about splitting up when you’re planning the next exciting step in your relationship. But, realistically, it’s important to have a clear plan in place for what you’ll do if you do decide to separate.

For example, will one of you continue living in the property? Will the other person continue contributing until the tenancy ends / the house is sold? Knowing how you’ll handle such important matters will help avoid additional animosity in the event of a split.

You should also consider how you’ll split your assets in the event of a separation. You may agree to each take certain items with you, or one person may keep everything and simply pay the other for their half of the assets.

If you want to make your decisions legally binding, a family law solicitor may be able to help you prepare a cohabitation agreement. This will ensure you’re both protected if things do go wrong.

Research by legal firm Slater and Gordon found that financial pressures was the main reason for couples considering separating. So, not only is it a good idea to talk about what will happen to your finances if you do split up, but it’s a good idea to communicate about finances more generally too to avoid money worries becoming a significant factor in a relationship breakdown.

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Written by

Sophie Venner

Sophie Venner is a Yorkshire-based content writer specialising in crafting content for the financial services industry. She’s written over 300 articles on finance, but she’s covered everything from insurance to digital marketing trends. Her content has been featured in the likes of Semrush, Digital Marketing Magazine and Insurance Business. In her spare time, you won’t find Sophie far from a notepad and pen as she squirrels away trying to write a novel.

Monday 12th June 2023