Ways In Which My Relationship Costs Me Money

There’s a lot of talk in the financial world about the singleton’s penalty. Economies of scale, you know. Two is better than one when you can split the bills and buy in bulk. And so on and so forth.

The thing is, while that may be true for some, my relationship actually costs me money. Here’s how:

Things I’ve helped him pay off

The recession wasn’t kind to us. He lost his job, and I (a full-time student) had to shoulder the bulk of our financial burden—bills, his car loan, repairs, etc. I can tell you no money was saved as a result of us being a couple during that time. Some of that I took on the shoulder, some is earmarked for repayment, though not with interest.



Yep, we pay for cable TV to the tune of $50 a month. I held out as long as I could, but after a stint in a shared house where pay TV was just one of the bills, there was no going back to the desolate world of free-to-air channels. The boy is one of the few people I actually know who watches channels like History, Documentary, BBC, CI, National Geographic and Animal Planet. (I suppose it makes up for his total lack of interest in books. Don’t worry, he also gets in plenty of brain rottage through wrestling and cartoons.) We also add on the movies package (about $20) from time to time as we see fit, which really, equals pretty darn cheap entertainment.

We’re also in the odd place of having higher utility bills in the summer because he has the fan on constantly. Me, I’m cold year-round, winter or summer, and I’m used to bundling up and ignoring the shivers.



Were I not living with him, I’d still be living with flatmates. We moved to our current place (a 1.5 bedroom with garage) at his behest, mostly, and it costs $320 a week. I could probably save up to $40 a week on rent if I was still single and living in a shared house, but I’ll be honest, it’s so worth it not to. Don’t get me started on the flatmate horror stories I’ve accumulated over the years.



I didn’t have my license when we first got together, let alone a car. Public transport and I are tight. I was all about living within 10 minutes of a bus stop and knew the bus and train routes and timetables like the back of my hand. But now, we have one car between us, which he uses the vast majority of the time (he drives to work, I walk) and we split the costs of running it—petrol, insurance, maintenance, registration, etc. Because I am a total nerd, I tracked all our spending for the year in 2010, and calculated that our car cost us about $4,000.

Obviously, I have some rather miserly tendencies. (That’s not to say I never spend money—but it’s usually on food, travel, or both.) But I’m happy with all the choices above-property prices are insane in Auckland, and there’s no way I’d ever rent a one-bedroom alone. Life here is pretty tough without a car, and sharing one is the perfect solution for now. Did I mention that I really, really hate driving? Having a built-in chauffeur is excellent. I highly recommend it.

Due to the current gap between our incomes, I’m essentially paying for more than half of our expenses at the moment. (I hasten to note that while I was studying and he was making more than me-before the Global Financial Crisis and the Great Layoff that followed, that is-he paid for most things, happily.) This is fine by me, though given that I’m naturally a saver and he the spender, I won’t lie: It does cause problems from time to time. If it was the other way around—the person earning more was also the bigger spender-then hey, it’s your money, your decision.

Our financial styles are different, and occasionally we clash, but by and large we’ve developed a system over time that works. Would I prefer he made more money? Of course, and it’s a goal of his too-the more we can bring in the better. Would I prefer he was more frugal? Sure, but then he wouldn’t be who he is. Since we’ve been together, he has gotten a lot less impulsive about spending money and conscious of value as well as price. If he was as big a penny pincher as me, I doubt we’d have much fun. What’s the price of love and companionship?


Esther Goh is a writer and blogger who currently has money on the brain. Photo: emilio labrador


26 Comments / Post A Comment

ThatJenn (#916)

I know being with me costs my partner a bunch of money, because before he got together with me he lived in a tent on a friend’s property and his only costs were his $15 per month cell phone bill (he was on a joint plan and only paid for his part), minimal food (no refrigerator… lots of cereal), and gas for getting to work and back. Now, he pays me rent and a part of utilities and we go out and do stuff together, and that all requires decidedly more money (though I only charge him $300/month in rent, a low-end cost to rent a room around here, and I don’t require a lot of gifts or expensive entertainment, so I’m not a high-cost girlfriend by most standards). But on the other hand, he definitely saves me money, so maybe there’s a net savings somehow?

ThatJenn (#916)

@ThatJenn To deal with this, I’ve found myself volunteering to pick up the Netflix/Hulu bills, giving him access to my iTunes apps, driving most places (so picking up the gas to go most places), and trying to generally pay more of our entertainment, food, and travel stuff. I am also committed to covering more of that lifestyle stuff because I make 3-5 times more than he does, depending on how many hours he’s getting, but we have different financial obligations, too (I have a car payment and he owns his outright; I have a mortgage and homeowner costs; and so on).

inspector_tiger (#2,651)

@ThatJenn He lived in a TENT?

ThatJenn (#916)

@inspector_tiger Yup. When it came time to move in together it was pretty clear whose place we were keeping. His is just a vacation home now.

ThatJenn (#916)

@inspector_tiger I should also say, he did have a job and had references (that is, we had friends in common who could vouch for him). I wouldn’t have randomly dated a guy I wasn’t sure could hold down a place to live. He did this on purpose because he liked it – we live in Florida, where it’s possible to mostly not freeze (though in the winter he says he had to eat 4,000 calories a day to offset shivering?!), and he’d lived in tents for long periods of time a few times before because he’s an outdoor educator and worked at summer camps where that was the arrangement.

inspector_tiger (#2,651)

@ThatJenn Wow, that is so interesting. I live in a very cold climate, it’s actually snowing right now, so that wouldn’t be possible, but I do adore outdoorsy guys :) (Also I laughed out loud at “His is just a vacation home now.”, I will from now on adress my tent this way too :))

ThatJenn (#916)

@inspector_tiger I’ve got him pretty well house-trained and socialized now, but I love my outdoorsy dude. I mean, he had kind of decided to spend the rest of his life alone in the woods, but he got me instead, and he seems happy with that. We just try to go camping a lot. :)

cmcm (#267)

@ThatJenn But… how did he shower…?

ThatJenn (#916)

@cmcm If it was cold: at his friend’s house or a family member’s house (he showers every other day, or occasionally every three days, and it works for him – I have a sensitive nose and will vouch for him, he doesn’t get stinky quickly). If it was warm: the outdoor shower on the property where he was living.

readyornot (#816)

Well, what the author seems to be saying is that she spent more in the relationship than she would have alone by shouldering part of her boyfriend’s expenses. But the comparison probably should be: did the two of them spend more together than the sum of what each of them would have spent separately? And she probably saved the boyfriend some late fees, interest, penalties as he weathered the recession. And it seems like the boyfriend would have been paying for cable, a car, and the utilities on his own regardless. So it’s not altogether clear there really is an overall penalty, just that they’re providing each other some insurance for rough times. That’s what I usually think of as an advantage of relationships.

MissMushkila (#1,044)

@readyornot I kept thinking this too. For me, a big part of being in love with and living with my boyfriend is that we see ourselves as a unit. His costs are my costs, and vice versa. Right now I make more than him (I am a hs teacher, he is a graduate assistant/PhD candidate in a fully funded program). My weekly income after taxes is 550 and his is about 440. So really, we are both poor, but a $110 difference per week is fairly significant. I have never once thought of him “costing me money” though, even though I shoulder a greater portion of our expenses, because we have to pay for things. And in a few years he will probably make way more than me.

mbmargarita (#781)

So this article is about how your boyfriend saved by being in a relationship.

chic noir (#713)

@mbmargarita – Ouch!

I guess it’s true. Most ladies resent when we have to pay a man’s way.

@mbmargarita yes, she is quite a selfless chauffeur/girlfriend

Blondsak (#2,299)

My partner drives to work (I take public transportation) and the way it works for us is that he pays all gas for the car, and when we embark on any drives longer than 10 miles together, I pay him back my half of the gas for that trip (he keeps receipts and tallies his mpg and cost per gallon after every fill-up, so it’s not too hard to figure out what I owe). It seems crazy to me that you should be paying for him to drive to work! But maybe this is how it works in other relationships?

On a broader note, I am so incredibly happy that my partner and I are both adamant that we 1) don’t want to ever mix any finances and 2) always separate all shared expenditures equally. Even when he was unemployed for 9 months, he did his best to make sure I wouldn’t shoulder any of his financial burden (he spent next to nothing and took whatever temp jobs he could get while applying like mad for FT jobs in his field, and managed to scrape by without my help). In 4 years we have never had even a tense discussion about money, and I attribute that entirely to keeping things separate and (when shared) equal.

Catface (#1,106)

My gentleman friend likes to go out to dinner, and drink more wine at dinner, than I do. We take turns picking up the tab, which occasionally rankles. (We are longtime cohabitants, earning almost exactly the same amount, and our finances are separate except for a shared grocery account, an arrangement I find glorious.) But left to my own devices, as when I was single, I find it too easy to say no to invitations because they would cost money. I have spent a lot of Friday nights ginning up a false sense of pride that I was sitting at home in a sweater eating leftover lentil soup. So I prefer to think of the dinner imbalance as the cost to me of being saved from my bad, self-isolating tendencies, and that is something I am glad to pay.

EM (#1,012)

I will be increasing my rent costs to move in with my partner next week (from $610 a month everything included to $700 a month plus my share of laundry/internet/hydro) but that’s pretty negligible and WORTH IT to save the time and inconvenience of: going back and forth between our current places, bringing clothes and makeup back and forth, having weather-inappropriate attire when I’ve left my warmest coat and waterproof boots at the wrong place the night before, having to buy doubles of all my toiletries, being unable to remember in which house I left my laptop charger… eliminating these tiny but frustrating issues is PRICELESS.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Michelle this was my situation exactly about a year ago, and I don’t regret a single cent of that extra rent and utilities money. more time, less stress > more money.

EM (#1,012)

@bgprincipessa “Having all your shit in one place” is the ultimate luxury. Also dishwashers.

After a series of boyfriends who made less money than me and whom I supported to various degrees, I can honestly say I’m very happy to live alone. Women supporting unemployed boyfriends is my least favorite side-effect of feminism.

Laurabean (#3,040)

@sharilyn@twitter Women being able to support themselves, own their own property and live independently is your favorite, I trust.

chic noir (#713)

@sharilyn@twitter OMG- I’ve got to say I agree.

rorow (#1,665)

i can’t speak to a relationship at the moment, but i will say i find dating to be expensive. i want to be fun, and do fun things, and go to fun places – and yes, sometimes the dude will pay, but i am a Modern Woman so sometimes i’ll pay… and it invariably ends up being a lot more than if i’d stayed in and cooked, because i live in New York and like nice restaurants and the ballet.

i’m attempting to remedy this by limiting myself to one date night a week.

kowl (#3,334)

“Two can live cheaper than one” has never worked out for me either…I’ve lived with 2 men at different times in my life, and both times I spent FAR more just because I was living with them than I would have if I continued living alone. Food and drink alone were a huge expense. A typical man eats at least twice as much as I do and usually needs a real meal instead of just ramen or a salad like I would eat. And he drinks about six times as much as I do. Unfortunately, I also tended to go for guys who also had a lot of things they considered “necessary” such as top of the line bicycles, guitars, amps, telescopes, sports tix, as well as frequent foreign travel. And no, these were not men who had their own means… :( Why can’t I fall for a rich dude sometime?!?

Blondsak (#2,299)

@kowl My advice, at least on food, is buy your own groceries. Plan out meals – maybe 3? Or just dinners? – each week that you will share, and separate who will buy what items as fairly as you can (or just have one person buy all the items and the other person pay them back half the cost <— this is what we do). Then, go to town on your own groceries! This works out immensely well for my partner and myself, as his groceries usually cost half of what mine do.

Another tip: for Christmas each year, we ask our parents only for grocery store gift cards. This usually amounts to $300-400, which we then use solely for joint groceries. We can usually make the cards last at least 6-9 months of the next year if we plan carefully. Just an idea!

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