Formal education may give us a leg up in life and career, but less so on managing money. School Didn’t Teach Me, a SingSaver series, is your informal education in personal finance.
Moving in with your significant other isn’t always going to be easy. It all boils down to open communication and transparency about money matters. Here are some money lessons that couples have shared after moving out of their family home and moving in with their partner.
A typical Singaporean usually stays under their parents’ roof till they are ready to get married and move out with their partners. While the real adulting journey starts at about 25 to 30 years old when they get married, kids in the USA are already moving out at the tender age of 18. Because of this, many Singaporeans often take little things for granted.
When you move into your new home, there are many things that you probably have overlooked that can add to your expenses. Groceries run out way too fast, electricity bills have to be paid for, and household items are just… expensive. On top of that, living with your partner brings about a whole new set of challenges altogether.
We’ve asked some couples to share some of the financial lessons that they’ve learnt after moving in with their partner. While moving in with your spouse may seem like a bed of roses, it isn’t always as easy as it seems. Here’s what they shared about how they navigate finances as a couple.
#1 Having your own money is important
The one thing that couples can’t stress enough is the importance of having their own money in their own bank accounts. While it’s common to have a shared pool of funds in a joint savings account, ensure that you have your own stash as well. Some even advise avoiding sharing your personal PIN with your partner.
Your own money that you’re in charge of gives you the freedom of spending on your own purchases, like clothes or material goods — it won’t be fair if you use your shared finances to spend on yourself. Regardless of how similar your spending habits are, it’s crucial to have your own money.
This gives you a sense of individuality and ownership even after you’re married to your partner. It also continues making you stay motivated to work hard for yourself, knowing that you have control over your hard-earned money, instead of solely going into the joint account. On top of that, managing your own finances also protects you from life’s uncertainties — at least you’ll have your own money to sustain yourself.
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#2 Splitting 50/50 isn’t always as simple as it seems
Splitting the expenses fairly may seem relatively simple, especially if you and your partner contribute the same amount to a joint account each month. However, this is not always the case.
There may be some expenses that you just aren’t sure whether or not should be split equally by both parties. Groceries and electricity bills are fairly straightforward as a shared expense. But what if you want to buy a big-ticket item that your spouse thinks he could do without, such as a massage chair or a nice piece of artwork? Or something pricier like a car that will mainly be used for your spouse’s commute to and from work.
On top of that, if there is a huge disparity between your spouse’s income and yours, it is not practical to assume both parties will be contributing the same amount of money to your shared expenses. Say you and your partner contribute S$500 per month. It is 10% of one party’s income if they earn S$5,000 and 5% of the other if they earn S$10,000.
Thus, open communication is necessary to avoid potential conflicts. You and your partner should clearly draw out what falls in shared expenses and what should come out of your own pockets, as well as an agreed amount that both parties should contribute. Whether you two prefer it to be split 50/50 or a percentage of your incomes should be decided beforehand.
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#3 You can maximise rewards by using the same credit card
Instead of using separate credit cards, one of the couples we talked to used the same credit card to pay for all expenses to chalk up on miles. What they have done is to link the credit card to their respective apple pay accounts on their phones, eliminating the need for a supplementary card.
Since the credit card belongs to one party, they both utilise an app called Splitwise to split bills, send payments, and request payment. If it is spent on shared expenses, they will just deduct the money from their shared account. Chasing miles and accumulating cashback may seem a lot of work, but they have impressively collected enough miles over the years to redeem two first-class tickets to anywhere in the world!
Sign up for a credit card instead that gives you competitive cashback rates, miles and points.
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#4 Regular financial check-ins are important
With the additional responsibility of managing their finances together, couples cannot emphasise enough the importance of having financial check-ins. Many couples share that they schedule regular financial meetings at least once a month to iron out any concerns regarding money.
It doesn’t have to be anything serious where minutes are involved, the key is to set aside time and create a safe space to talk about financial matters. Is the joint account working out? Is the budget set aside for household items too little? Is one party struggling with debt payments?
Make sure that you and your partner use this time as a judgement-free zone to freely talk about what's bothering them, as money is such a sensitive topic. Discuss any financial goals that you both have and if you’re both on track to reaching them. This will help to facilitate open communication and transparency between both parties, which is crucial to avoid issues from snowballing.
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#5 Money can sometimes solve petty arguments
The biggest takeaway that a few couples shared was the fact that money can sometimes bring happiness. When couples move in together, there are bound to be issues that will arise that wouldn’t have surfaced before. Such issues could be revolving around household chores or different living habits.
If you find you and your spouse arguing over the same thing over and over again, sometimes forking out the extra money per month may do your relationship a favour. If you’re constantly arguing about household chores, hire a helper to eliminate the problem altogether. If none of you has time to grocery shop, order groceries online instead.
Though these solutions are sometimes additional costs that can be avoided, think about it this way: a couple of extra dollars may be worth it if it helps to get rid of petty bickering in the relationship. But of course, do your financial planning to see if you can afford it. If you can’t figure out a way and communicate with your partner on a compromise.
Thinking of hiring a helper? Check out these maid insurance plans.
#6 Groceries instead of packed food are a godsend
This point is not specific to moving out with your partner per se, but it applies to anyone who has their own place. Groceries. Are. Way. Cheaper. If you’re someone who enjoys eating out or ordering food delivery, maybe it’s time to cut down and cook more to save money. While this is definitely a lot more time-consuming, the extra bucks saved can go a long way.
Only after moving out, you will realise that these costs can accumulate to a significant amount. Whether it’s food, electricity bills or household necessities, more often than not you’ll find yourself wondering where all this money went. Having a monthly or weekly budget can help you maximise your savings in the long run.
SingSaver has published an article on a cost comparison between doing meal preps vs buying food, so do yourself a favour by eating out less. Warning, the numbers are shocking. To save more money, maximise cashback by checking out the best credit cards for grocery shopping.
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#7 Keep debt separate
Though it might seem like “his money is my money and my money is his money”, debt should definitely be excluded from the equation. Unless you’re talking about a shared loan like a house mortgage or a loan to finance your shared car, other individual debts should strictly only be burdened by the party who took up the loan.
Whether it’s your credit card debt or an existing education loan for your university tuition fees, you should not expect your partner to chip in for you, unless they have willingly offered. This debt was taken up by you, so you should remain accountable for it. Likewise, you shouldn’t be obligated to help your partner pay off his debt either.
If you’re struggling with paying off your debts, you can consider getting a debt consolidation plan to manage your debts. Check the best rates here.