Moving in Together: Your Guide to Living as a Couple

Evelyn Long

Apr 2, 2019


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Moving in together with your partner marks an important milestone. You’ve taken the next step in your relationship and are planning a shared future, and the transition is exciting. It can also feel a little overwhelming, especially if you don’t feel prepared for some of your new responsibilities.

As you acclimate to an unfamiliar living situation, you have to account for details you wouldn’t otherwise consider. You need to discuss the high-priority subject of shared expenses and set aside time to sit down with your significant other. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration and confusion down the road if you set a clear standard for communication right away.

With this in mind, what should you focus on as you get closer to the move? How should you approach your finances with your partner, and what other challenges of living together as a couple should you anticipate? Here’s everything you need to know as you make this kind of commitment.

1. Have a Conversation About Finances

Money can cause serious friction in a relationship. It’s the second-highest cause of divorce in the United States, a statistic that supports the necessity of an honest conversation. Take time to talk with your partner about your plan to share expenses and write an outline of what each of you is going to pay.

You might see the appeal in splitting rent and utilities bills equally, taking on half of the total expenses. Other couples will divide these expenses as a percentage of their respective incomes, trying to account for the fact that one of them may make more than the other.

  • Equal: You and your partner split rent, utilities and other shared expenses 50/50
  • Balanced: You and your partner divvy up rent and utilities based on income. If you make 20% more than your partner, you pay rent proportionally.

You also have to decide how you’ll treat expenses that may or may not be shared. Groceries, food and entertainment are a big one for couples. You’re probably cooking, eating out and going to movies together, so how do you account for that? One option is to go over these shared expenses at the end of the month and split them 50/50. This works well if you’re eating similar amounts of food and going out together.

You could also get scientific. One WiseBread contributor started tracking his and his girlfriend’s individual food expenses for two months. Then, they calculated what percentage of their budgets they spent and used it to set up a money pool for groceries and eating out. Each contributed equal funds using a cash envelope system, and stopped spending when they ran out.

Either way, it’s advised to cover personal expenses, like new clothes, cell phone bills and happy hours, with your own money.

Beyond splitting expenses, take the time to create some financial breathing room. It’s always advisable to allocate some of your income toward an emergency fund. As mentioned earlier, money can cause serious friction, and you don’t want an emergency to create a rift between you and your significant other. Having a little extra cash in your collective savings will pre-empt problems.

2. Decide Where You and Your Partner Will Live

Now that you have money figured out, it’s time to figure out where you’re going to live. You might decide to move into one of your current apartments or homes, which can make the transition a little easier. But if you’re struggling with size, location or lease restrictions, then it might be a good idea to start fresh.

If you’re hunting for a new place, decide your requirements early on. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What size apartment do you need? Two bedrooms?
  • Do either of you have a pet moving with you?
  • What’s your max budget for rent? Can you both afford it comfortably?
  • What’s your ideal location? What will your commutes look like?

Of course, you might have to make a few compromises in an apartment search. But if you both decide what will be important, then you can be even more excited about the chance to find a place of your own. Your shared pad should meet both of your needs, so you can fully enjoy your fresh start.

3. Avoid Some Common Financial Mistakes

You might be sharing your life with your partner, but that doesn’t mean you should share everything. There are a few common financial mistakes couples make that could cause complications later on. When splitting costs with your partner, for one, you shouldn’t share assets. Don’t buy anything major together, like cars, a crucial consideration outside of your joint budget. If anything unfortunate happens, deciding how to split these items will only create more drama and stress.

You also shouldn’t share debts with your partner, such as co-signing on a loan. Whether you stay with your partner or not, if they default, you’ll either have to pay or lose your credit. That places you in an uncomfortable position that can prove damaging to your relationship.

When you’re discussing moving in together, bring these topics up. Sure, it can be a sticky conversation. But if you can make your stance clear, you can create financial ground rules that are easier to respect. No matter how confident you are in your relationship, it’s important not to risk your financial security.

4. Create a Cohabitation Agreement

It’s important to remain positive, but it’s also important to be realistic. Things don’t always work out, and even the strongest relationships can end, regardless of whether you plan or prepare. It’s a simple fact of life, and you should account for it with a “household prenup” that keeps you financially secure.

This written agreement should clarify which of you will receive certain items if you decide to part ways. You should also work out the details of your rent payments, debt accumulated during the course of your relationship and shared bank accounts, among other factors. Think of it like an insurance policy.

Look, it’s not a fun conversation, but it doesn’t make you a pessimist to prepare a contingency plan. Approach the subject with honesty. Let your partner know that you have absolute faith in your relationship, but you want to protect everyone from stress in a worst-case scenario.

Remember that a written agreement is a smart precaution from an objective viewpoint. Relationship experts and legal professionals both suggest this measure before moving in, and it makes sense when you consider the benefits.

5. Adjust to Living With a Partner

If you’re moving in together, then you’re likely confident about your compatibility. At the same time, sharing a space can present challenges you weren’t expecting. You’ll find deviations between your daily life and your partner’s routine regardless of how well you get along.

Let’s say your partner might have to wake up at 6 a.m. every morning for work, where you prefer to wake up at 7. While this is a small difference, you might begin to feel resentment, even if you know it’s completely baseless. When this happens, don’t repress those feelings. Instead, work out a solution.

Maybe you can find ways for your significant other to get ready more quietly, so you’re not disturbed. Or maybe you can adjust your own schedule to wake up at the same time, making a slight compromise to start the day beside your significant other. Addressing points of conflict is critical for the health of your relationship, and it will help the two of you tackle lifestyle differences that might become bigger problems over time.

6. Make Decisions About Your Stuff

Let’s face it. Many of us hold on to stuff for years, cluttering our living spaces with old clothes, books and furniture pieces from our college dorm rooms. When you’re thinking about moving in together, you’ll suddenly have two collections of stuff to contend with. When you create a shared living space, how do you decide what to keep and what to ditch?

You might not realize how emotionally attached you and your partner are to your stuff until you try to sort through it. You might hate that your boyfriend wants to decorate with movie posters, but they remind him of his favorite cinematic experiences. Or, your girlfriend could be hoarding all of her textbooks, taking up space because she likes the reminder of how hard she’s worked. When this happens, be empathetic.

Again, compromise can make a huge difference. Maybe movie posters are acceptable home decor if put in nice frames, and the top 10 textbooks can have space on a shelf. When you’re moving, unpacking and decorating, listen to each other’s reasons for keeping or ditching items and work toward agreements that satisfy you both.

Moving in together means you’re making a fresh start. Don’t let your attachment to old stuff create friction. If you really want to carve out a space for you and your partner, try to sell off old pieces online and decide to furnish your space with new furniture you both like. You can divvy the expenses up so you each spend a similar amount on tables, chairs and other necessities.

Your Guide to Moving in Together

Moving in together with your partner is a big step in your relationship. You’ll want it to be as smooth a transition as possible, so you can start a happy new stage in life. As long as you follow some of these suggestions, you can continue with confidence and be excited about the future.

Not all of these conversations will be easy. But they’ll teach you the importance of communication and conflict management early on. Build your relationship on a foundation of planning and preparation, and you’ll enjoy lasting comfort with the person you love.

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