How my financial habits changed after moving in with my partner

By: Nicole Ballantyne-Choo on April 16, 2018
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One year ago, I took the plunge and moved in with my boyfriend, Chris.

Before moving in, my only concern was whether or not our relationship could survive living together. In hindsight, that was energy wasted. Instead, I should have put more thought into my finances because looking back, my bank account took the biggest hit, and keeping good financial habits wasn’t easy.

I learned a lot about my financial habits in that first year, and as we move on to year two of living together, I now know what needs to change.

Before the move

After university, I moved back in with my parents for a few years. Luckily for me, they didn’t charge me rent and my only expenses were my cell phone bill, my commuting costs and “fun money”. Not having to pay for much, I was able to put away a decent amount (it varied depending on the month) of each paycheck into my savings account. This lifestyle also allowed me to be financially responsible and develop good habits.

I knew once I moved out (whether it was with Chris or not) I’d have more expenses to budget for such as groceries, utilities, and rent. However, what I didn’t properly budget for was the increase in “fun” money I’d be spending living with a partner.

How much did I spend this month?!

With my added expenses, I couldn’t put as much away into my savings account as I did when I lived at home. You’d think this meant I’d be better at budgeting. In fact, the opposite happened, and I became pretty dependent on my credit card to afford the lifestyle I wanted and make it to the next month.

Since Chris and I live together, our place has become common ground for both of us to have friends over two reasons: we’re in the same friend group and we both suffer from FOMO. Not a good combination. While it’s fun to be a “hostess with the mostess,” my credit card statement also became an endless sea of of wine and pizza. That’s when I had to face the music and realize I was irresponsibly spending more money on things I shouldn’t be.

Also, Chris and I both agreed that even though we live together, it’s important to spend time with our own friends separate of each other. After all, we didn’t want to be that couple that brings their partner to everything, and “girls night” is important to me. A lot of my friends live in Toronto, but because we live in Mississauga, there was the added costs of Uber rides home after a night out — I used to crash on my friends’ couches, but old age has crept up on me and if I have to sleep on a couch I’m in pain for days. Seeing a lot of Uber trips on my credit card was also a tough pill to swallow and made me realize if I want to keep seeing my friends as much as I do, I have to leave a bit earlier to catch the last subway home.

Another added expense that has grown since I moved out is the money spent on food. While buying groceries is part of our current budget, the dinners out and the meals we order from food delivery apps are not. We are our own worst enemies and if one of us is too lazy to cook, the other instantly becomes lazy too. When we don’t meal prep on Sundays, we often order dinner from Skip the Dishes out of convenience. Although we split the costs, ordering from food delivery apps is expensive (delivery fees and tips on top of the order add up), especially when we’ve already bought groceries. When I lived at home, I never once used an app to order food, but this year, it was one of the most common charges on my credit card bill.

What I learned

I’m happy to say our relationship survived living together. My finances survived too, but not without a few bumps in the road. While these bumps caused me stress, they also taught me a lot about my spending habits and have forced me to make a conscious effort to improve my financial situation.

As I enter year two of living with Chris, I’ve become more organized and we’ve become more comfortable talking about money. I limit my food delivery meals to once a month — if he wants to order from an app more than that, I cannot cave. Also, since my friends also want to save money, we’ve collectively agreed to have more nights in hanging out rather than always going out to spend time together. Finally, I’ve given myself a stricter “fun money” monthly budget that I’m only allowed to go over if it’s a special occasion. If I go over, I reduce the amount I can give myself for the following month.