Continuing on with my theme of dramatic, life-changing events happening to me in 2017 (see here): I also moved in with my boyfriend. We moved back in March, so we’ve been living together for ~3 months or so.
It wasn’t exactly a tough choice. We’ve been together since August of 2013, and we’ve been doing pseudo-long-distance (an hour apart) for the past two years, which basically means we’ve been living together every weekend for two years. In March, my boyfriend was moving back to my city, and with both of our leases ending at around the same time, we decided it only made sense to live together full-time.
Thus, I present to you my advice on living with your SO, now that I think I’ve successfully done it for 3 months…
So, you and your partner have decided to take the leap and move in together. By now, you’ve probably realized that there’s a lot more to it than just moving your stuff to a new place – like finding a new place, sorting through your stuff to decide what stays and what goes, talking about money and how much rent you both can afford, and getting mentally prepared to share a space with each other 24/7.
The Obvious Perks of Living Together
I’m just going to list these:
- You get to see each other every day automatically
- No more cooking for one!
- If your SO is like mine, this also means someone else will always eat your leftovers and you never have to
- Going halfsies on all adult chores like grocery shopping, cleaning, etc.
- Little things like taking a walk together or going to see a movie are much easier to plan
- All of your stuff is always available (no more forgetting a toothbrush, pair of shoes, or meds)
- Shared rent is pretty nice (Note: this is not an acceptable reason to move in together if it’s your ONLY reason)
- His queen-sized, super comfy, memory foam mattress is basically your queen-sized, super comfy, memory foam mattress
There are so many other perks of living together, but the important part here is that you’re doing it for reasons other than convenience and money. Living together is a huge commitment and not some sort of marriage test; other than that, the only real requirements are being madly in love, planning to be together for life (even if legal marriage isn’t your thing), and being willing to compromise and communicate.
Before You Search for a New Place
Before you start cruising rental apartment ads (or maybe, homes) on Craigslist, there are some steps that could save you some time, money and stress before the move.
Step 1: Take a good look at all of your stuff
So much about moving is about the stuff in our lives. Most likely you’ll find things that are duplicates between your two apartments – two spatulas, two coffee tables – or things that you don’t want anymore. Then there’s the big stuff, like dressers and sofas that may not fit in the new place. Now’s the time to look at the stuff in both of your apartments and figure out what you have, what you’re keeping, and what you’re selling, donating or tossing before the move.
- Take an inventory of both apartments
- Decide together what you’ll keep, sell, toss or donate
- Measure everything that’s left (furniture, etc.)
- Decide how much square footage you need
For me, this was a little hard. I felt somewhat vulnerable selling my couch and my bed, but hey, what were we going to do with a hand-me-down couch in our new place? Plus, my SO’s couch is so much nicer. Pro tip: whoever has the bigger bed wins.
Step 2: Your place, their place or a new place?
The next question is: will you move into their place, stay in yours or find a new place together? This might be an easy decision if you both live in studio apartments and what you really need is a two-bedroom. If however, one person already lives in a two-bedroom, you’ll still need to take into consideration other factors like commutes to work, accommodations for any pets, neighborhood amenities like parks, restaurants and shopping, and safety. Talk about your must-haves. If either of your places doesn’t make the cut, start brainstorming a short list of locations to start your search.
As for me, I vote new place every time – if only because that gives a fresh start to both of you. You’ll both be able to decorate and set-up a new place with equal weight…instead of simply clearing out that bottom drawer out for the new guy.
Money and Moving In Together
One of the most eye-opening aspects of cohabitation for many couples is the increased involvement in each other’s financial lives. Even if you’ve had a roommate you’ve shared living expenses with, it’s different when suddenly your weekends-and-evenings partner becomes your full-time housemate, and you’re sharing responsibility for basic necessities, like rent and food. As soon as possible, sit down and address fears and worries about money. Talk about what you can afford and decide how to pay shared expenses.
How to discuss financial issues with your SO
It is time to get down n’ dirty with your partner. Set aside time to have a talk with your bae where you lay out your complete financial picture: income, credit score, any credit card debt or student loans, assets like savings and investments, and other financial obligations.
When you move in with someone (anyone), you’re also signing legal documents together. You need to know what it is you’re tying yourself to and what obligations you might have. For example, your boyfriend has some debt and loses his job and you’re both cosigners on a rental agreement. Now, you’re going to be solely responsible for that whole rent, instead of what you originally agreed to, not to mention any other incidental living expenses.
Fair is not always equal
Once couples decide how large an apartment to rent based on what they can afford, the next step is to figure out how much each person is going to contribute because, often, one person makes more money than the other (way more in my case). Because of this, it’s important to remember that fair does not always mean equal when two people make unequal salaries; there are different arrangements couples can make so that each person pays their fair share of living expenses. I talked about this some in my Suze Orman book review.
Her recommendation (and what my boy and I are doing) is a percentage. For example, if someone makes $60,000 per year and the other makes $40,000, one person will pay 60 percent of the expenses and the other will pay 40 percent. I can tell you in the past 3 months, it’s worked out really well for both of us – especially since we both have separate debts we are paying off.
Get a joint bank account
Next up on the list of super-adult activities: get a joint bank account, especially if you’re going to split expenses with the percentage method above. A joint account makes things super easy because each person can automatically deposit their percentage each month, and then all of your bills/utilities/groceries/rent can come out of that account.
You get to decide together whether to splurge on a fancy pizza, you can set of joint savings goals, and you eliminate any arguments over whether someone is paying too much/too little. In my opinion, if you aren’t ready to truly share finances, then you aren’t ready to be living together.
Just remember, the joint account is for joint purchases – no special Starbucks treat because the joint account is flush and your personal one is empty. You should also be maintaining your own separate checking, savings, and retirement accounts for things like car insurance, your cell phone bill, and your own personal security. IF something were to happen (break up, accident, etc.), you still need to be that independent-women-who-ain’t-need-no-man.
Live Together, But Also Separate
Moving in together doesn’t mean two-become-one. You and your SO need to be two-living-together-as-two. Keep your hobbies, your friends, your standing girls’ night, and your Xbox.
It’s more important that you have your own things to do when you’re living with someone than not, because seeing someone every single night and feeling like you don’t have the space to just be totally yourself/alone gets really annoying (anyone with a roommate can attest to this). And, ask the same thing of your SO. The only workaround here is to be respectful, and again, communicate. If you know you’re moody because you’ve had “a day,” let your poor SO know before you nearly decapitate them for suggesting you two ‘Netflix & chill’ for the night. Also, it’s okay to invite friends over – just get the other person’s blessing first.
This is also important for the obvious reason that if someone wants to watch The Bachelor and the other wants to play Xbox…you’re going to need to work it out. For us, my boothang knows that if I’m blogging/on my laptop, he’s safe to be Xboxxing; if I’m 6 minutes into an episode of Law&Order: SVU, he knows he needs to wait. Everything can be worked out, you just have to talk about it. Don’t wait till the 7th night of not being able to sleep because someone (it was me) has decided to read an intense thriller and keeps the light pointed at the other person’s face on accident whilst reading until 2am.