You and your partner have decided to take the next big step in your relationship: moving in together. Congratulations! It’s an exciting leap forward to be sure, but before you start packing (or making space in the closet) you’ll want to make sure you’re both on the same page.
Moving in together goes far beyond picking paint colors and sharing streaming services. Talking through routines, expectations, finances, chores and the other essentials beforehand can spare you both any surprises come moving day and beyond.
1. Discuss reasons for moving in together
There are lots of reasons you may want to live together, but make sure you and your partner are on the same page before you make the leap. It may make financial sense to cohabitate but consider other aspects of your partnership: such as whether your daily routines might clash, how often do you expect (or want) visitors in your home, or whether there are any pets or kids to consider. You might love for your parents to visit through the summer, but your partner might not.
If you’re moving in together to save money on rent, take a beat before you jump into this big life change. You may be surprised at what you didn’t know about your partner: their routines, habits, that irritating way they leave the light on when they leave the room (you get the idea). Even the healthiest, committed relationships are put to the test when living in close quarters.
Sit down together and write a “pros and cons of moving in together” list, or create the lists individually, then compare. Just make sure to be honest from the beginning before getting yourself too far (personally and financially) into something you aren’t sure you’re ready for.
2. Talk about the future
You’ll also want to think through how your lifestyle may change once you’re living together. What is each person’s expectation for moving in together? Do you both see your relationship moving in the same direction? Do you plan on getting engaged and married, or would you both be happy in just a long-term, committed relationship? Talk about the big picture and the significance of this next step.
And don’t forget the small things, like if you’ll eat dinner together nightly, how often you’d like to go on dates or see friends, and even how you will spend the holidays. These may seem like insignificant details, but they’re still meaningful and could create conflict in the future.
3. Practice cohabitating
Spending one day or evening on a date is quite different from living in the same space day after day. Every person is unique in how they live their daily lives. The way you organize and clean, cook, and even brush your teeth could be a source of irritation for your partner.
Consider whether you’ve spent time together for multiple nights in a row or gone on vacation together. Being together for an extended period of time gives you a peek behind the curtain into your partner’s lifestyle. And once you get a firsthand look at habits and routines, you can decide if any of these are dealbreakers.
4. Discuss finances
Talking about money can be uncomfortable, but if you are planning to spend your future together, the sooner you have an open and honest discussion the better. It’s best to lay it all on the line: debts, income, expenses, credit scores and how much you can afford to spend on housing per month.
Another thing to consider at this time is whether the two of you want to open a joint account for any home expenses, including rent or mortgage payments, furniture, decor, groceries and more.
5. Agree on a budget
Depending on the state of your finances, the two of you should determine a housing budget. Budgeting as a couple can look very different from budgeting on your own. Do not agree to a budget that makes you uncomfortable based on your income or other expenses. Being completely transparent in these conversations upfront can help set you up for greater success moving forward.
When documenting budget information, record estimated additional expenses, like utilities, internet, groceries, etc. Remember that these can add hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month!
Will you split all these expenditures 50/50? If one partner makes a significantly higher income than the other, it may be more sensible to split your bills proportionately with your incomes. And if the “money talk” doesn’t sound like the most romantic exchange, try to add some fun and ease some of the tension with these date night games and challenges.
6. Decide where you want to live
You’ve talked through your plans and where you each stand in terms of finances and expectations. Now you get to decide where you want to live. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to live in an apartment in the city, but your partner has visions of a home in the suburbs. Getting on the same page may take some compromise, but it could be useful when you start looking for places and consider submitting an offer on a home or applying for a lease.
Your agreed-upon budget can also play a role in location options. Renting in the city tends to be more expensive over time (depending on your neighborhood, size of your apartment, etc.) but it also doesn’t require the large upfront cost associated with a down payment on a home.
7. Divide responsibilities
Just like you’ll be splitting up expenses, consider how you will tackle chores that need to be done around your home once you move in. The following are just some examples of tasks to allocate:
- Cleaning toilets and bathrooms
- Washing and folding laundry
- Dusting surfaces
- Vacuuming, sweeping and mopping floors
- Taking out the garbage and recycling
- Mowing the lawn
- Shoveling the driveway and sidewalks in the winter
- Watering indoor and outdoor plants
Keep in mind, this list grows exponentially if you have pets or kids (add in food prep, taking walks, cleaning litter boxes, changing diapers, giving baths — the list goes on and on). Divide and conquer to keep your home and your relationship in tip-top shape.
8. Discuss opinions on pets, kids, etc.
Speaking of children and animals – they can be polarizing topics. It’s crucial to express your thoughts and feelings prior to moving in together. If you feel strongly one way or the other, don’t leave the conversation for later when you’re already cohabitating and have started building a life together. You may dream of a family and a dog, but if your partner doesn’t share that dream, you may have some things to iron out.
9. Have an exit strategy
Developing a breakup plan is by no means an enjoyable subject to breach, but it is important nonetheless, since moving in together requires a financial commitment from both parties. If things don’t go well, what is the protocol for moving out? How will costs be split? If you purchased a home, will one partner buy the other out? If you are in the middle of an apartment lease, will one of you stay and find a subletter?
Nobody wants to think about life not going according to plan, but it’s typically easier to create an arrangement in advance than attempting to do so after things may have become contentious between you and your partner.
Start fresh on the same page
You and your partner are looking forward to starting the next chapter in your lives as a couple. Spare yourselves any future surprises by having these (sometimes difficult) conversations now. Not only will honest communication set you up for a lifetime of financial success, it can bring the two of you even closer during this exciting time.
Get the discussion started and keep it moving in a healthy direction with these financial conversation starters: