Sharing Costs With Friends and Lovers

Perhaps you’re moving to a new apartment with new roomies, or just headed to a new bar and want a tab open, or maybe you found that perfect someone over Pride Weekend and are moving in together for a new level in your relationship… all kinds of relationships eventually require ways to figure out how to share costs. Here’s some info on how to do that!


Sharing drinks and meals with other humans & making the cost split clear and equitable.

If Cherry gets the drinks today and Ginger gets them tomorrow and that’s amenable, you’re all set. But what about when Tom forgets her card at the last club?

I’m sure you know about Venmo and Cash, but if you want to track money shared among friends,  there’s the free Splitwise (app and web) where you track who’s spent what and who owes what to who, and the similar Splittr ($2, iPhone app). Good for friends who go out alot together or roommates for bills!

If you want to track a weekend away (PRIDE SF anyone!?) try SettleUp – which allows for in-app money movement via Google Wallet, or SpotMe for iPhone which uses your contacts to remind everyone who owes the driver for gas and tolls, or the hotel-reservation what happened, or KittySplit (web browser, no app, and best name!) to do the math and track payments.

Another app (iPhone only) I enjoyed hearing about recently is EquiTable, which allows you to split meals (and probably other things) to account for the pay equity gaps in US society. So if you’re white, you pay more. If you’re a man, you pay more.


Sharing an apartment with one(s) you love (or at least hopefully like).

That moment comes in many an adults’ life when it’s time to live with people who are not your parents, people who – even if you share a bed – will not pay the rent for you. Roommates and live-together partners share similar challenges. For starts: who pays exactly what?

For about 80% of people, an even split based on number (50/50 for a 2-person, 33.3/33.3/33.3 for a 3-person) will do. But, what about when it won’t do? One of the rooms in the apartment is way small? Or, one of you in the relationship makes way less money than the other and a split would cause strain?

If you want to deal by accounting for wonky room sizes or amenities, Splitwise has a rent calculator. (They did a whole rent split a fairness study which you might find useful.) It does not take into account differences in the roommates’ class, income, or resources, but does give a starting point for what a fair rent would be for in which rooms in an apartment.

However, if you want to account for your differences, some roomies and couples split shared costs based on income. It’s just another way to work out the numbers that accounts for income equity.

So for example, I make $25k/yr and you make $50k/yr. That means I make 50% of what you do (more like 60% after taxes). So, we might decide that I pay 40% and you pay 60% of the costs.

But, that might not actually be equity. Consider this scenario:

  • I make $25k because I choose to work part time and my family can support me
  • You make $50k because you are a first-generation college student with giant loans.
  • In this instance, the 40/60 model might not be equitable after all.

One couple I worked with tallied up all their personal costs (debt, wellness, food, personal savings goals) and saw that while their costs were the same, one partner had lots more left since she made more. They used this comparison of their two monthly cost amounts to understand how to decide to divide shared costs. (They went with 45%/55%).

So, if you’re living with a partner and want to split costs equitably and unequally, try taking into account:

  • the debt and health cost needs of the partners
  • the income of the partners, and how they got there
  • the savings goals of the partners


What’s a relationship without it’s culture of communication?
I’m going to impart three concepts that have served me well in the realm of talking about money with people:

  1. Check in first. Something like “Hey, can we figure out the bills?” This gives space for the other person to say yes or no, because hey you never know if your roommate just got a shitty bill in the mail and are upset & not ready to give you $60 this minute for the electric last month.
  2. Keep it easy! It’s just money. E.g. something you probably use and think about every day. Unless you’re sitting down with your partner to discuss wills (and perhaps, especially then) find some ease and levity. This will make whatever you’re figuring out easier to do.
  3. Acknowledge that reality is not shared. What’s normal to me is not normal to you. That’s why there’s all those funny bumper stickers about normalcy being dumb, and that’s also why making convos about money, class, and needs super regular is helpful; so we can understand each others’ reality.

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