Articles / Money management

How to split household bills fairly for couples on different salaries

12 May 2022 | Posted by Claro Money

Among the most common things couples usually argue about are chores, communication, in-laws, whose turn it is to wash the stinky dog and where to spend the holidays. Often taking the number one spot of arguments is money, namely, figuring out the fairest way to split household bills.

Particularly when two people in a relationship are on different salaries, finances can be a sore spot that tends to flare up again and again. Whether it’s figuring out who’s paying the bill online this time, arranging the plumber’s call-out fee or sorting out the internet bill, couples rarely find a foolproof system that leaves each party satisfied that they’re paying and doing a fair amount.

At Claro, we’re all about making life easier when it comes to managing your money. So we’ve chatted to our expert financial coaches to get some advice for couples who are trying to split household bills in an equitable way when they’re on substantially different salaries.

Split household bills based on how much each of you earns to keep things fair

One such way to do this is to work out each person’s percentage of the household income. If you and your partner add together your annual salary, you’ll get the total amount of your household’s income. Then, work out each salary’s percentage in relation to the total amount. For example, if Lover A earns £30,000 a year and Lover B earns £20,000 a year, that’s a total of £50,000 (pre-tax, obviously) coming into the Loveshack per annum. Lover A is bringing in 60% of that income and Lover B is bringing in 40%. If they were to split the bills right down the middle, Lover B is going to have a bit less disposable income and money left over for savings compared to Lover A, even if you incorporate the difference in salary. It might sound a bit pedantic to the uninitiated, but this is just one approach to promote even expenditure in the house.

Once you know the percentage, you can calculate bill contributions accordingly. Let’s say the monthly Loveshack bill for gas and heating comes in at a conveniently well-rounded £200. Lover A (who’s on 30k) would pay 60% of the bill, so £120 and Lover B (on 20k) pays 40%, so £80. That way, it’s relative to their income. Lover A can afford to spend a bit more without denting their savings too much, and Lover B can contribute in a way that leaves them with a proportional amount left over, too.

Figure out each of your financial goals so you can help each other achieve them

It’s always a good idea to know where the future is headed, at least when it comes to the financial requirements you’ll have. If you’re saving for something important together, a 50/50 split on bills will lead to disproportionate savings. That could be a situation that both parties are comfortable with (and make allowances elsewhere with expenditure so it all evens out), but it’s important to have the discussions around it first.

So long as each person feels that they are contributing a fair amount to the day-to-day running costs of the household, you may not need a system as pragmatic as the percentage one. Perhaps you split bills down the middle, but one pays for groceries and the other covers entertainment. The percentage bill split can be a bit pedantic, but may save some arguments in the long run, depending on how you approach other outgoing expenditure. Communication is key, along with a trusty calculator.

Consider setting up a joint account for ease of paying household bills

It may be an act more intimate than marriage for some, but a joint account can be a good solution for couples trying to navigate their finances together. Again, the amount that each person contributes may vary depending on income, but it can make bill-paying a more seamless process and remove the hassle of person-to-person transfers each time. Picking an emoji and category for the payment can get tiresome, too.

Don’t forget to leave room for spontaneity

Part of the fun of being in a relationship is treating each other to nice things and surprises every so often. Applying the percentage split theory can work for household bills, but could cause a nightmare with the calculator app in bars and restaurants. Don’t let the rules dictate your fun, or your relationship could drift into feeling like a business partnership.

Consider setting up a Fun Fund together (maybe think of a catchier name for it), which you both are allowed to contribute as much as you’d like and can dip into so long as you both get to enjoy the fruits of your labour together. It’ll take the sting out of the more logistical aspect of bills, and you’ll be able to see at a glance how much you’ve got to play around with. 

If you struggle to broach the subject of money with your partner, try some conversation starters to establish what each of you want to get out of your finances. Figure out what money means to you personally, then work out what that means together and set some goals for the future. Consider speaking with a financial coach to get more information on the options that are available to you, based on those goals.

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