Recently, I spoke to a couple who have vastly different incomes. One partner makes over 30 percent more than the other, and the one who makes less is also about to take out student loans for graduate school. So, they decided to each put 20 percent of their income toward bills to be fair. And this got me wondering: How do other couples make their money work?
1. "I make more than my boyfriend. I also have three children from a previous marriage who live with us full time. I never thought it was 'fair' to split the bills 50/50. He pays one third of the rent and one fourth of the utilities and food.
"We have a joint credit card for household expenses we split the payment on. But he also offers to help with money for the kids' extracurricular activities and family trips. We do not share bank accounts. This works for us, and we never argue about money."
2. "We contribute based on our portion of the household income. So instead of 50/50, it’s closer to 65/35. I make 65 percent of our combined income, so I contribute more to the bills.
"We’ve been doing it for a year, and it works for us. We have all the bills come out of a joint account, and we each make a payment to the account when we get paid. A lot of people thought we were making it too complicated, but really, it’s so much more simplified. It just feels more equitable for us."
3. "My fiancée and I are in a bit of a strange situation. He isn’t American, so in order for us to be together, he had to get a US visa, and now we're waiting for his work permit to process. So essentially, he will have no income, and I will pay 100 percent of the bills.
"He also hasn’t gotten started working toward his career and will likely need to intern or take low-paying jobs for a couple years to get to where he’d like to be. That’s okay.
"Right now, he does all the housework, and we discuss that eventually, I will cut back some of my hours, but for now, it’s fine. I make the budget and essentially take any money that isn’t fixed, and I let him keep track of or make decisions with it. He has access to my credit cards; I can PayPal him when needed. It’s not the traditional way, but it works for us. What’s most important is that we get to be together."
4. "For my wife and I, I’m the only income earner. I make enough to provide for my family, maintain a good home, and for us to live comfortably. My wife takes care of the house, cooks, and takes care of the homeschooling for both of our daughters.
"She has a degree and CHOOSES to stay home. I fully support her now, just like I supported her when she wanted to work full time.
"My job is very demanding in both time and attention. The truth is I wouldn’t be able to do half of what I do at work, if it wasn’t for what she does at home. We balance each other out perfectly."
5. "Call me old-fashioned, but I just put everything in one account, and my wife does the same. We both consult with each other about spending money, and each of our wants are weighed carefully, and we don't keep count because we trust each other's spending habits.
"She's not worth 20 percent of the relationship, and I'm not worth 80. We're both required to make 100 percent, and alone, we are zero. Works so far."
6. "My ex-husband made $115,000 a year, and I made around $40,000 by the time we divorced. While we were married, our paychecks both were deposited into a joint account.
"There was no accounting for who did what. We had a budget that we stuck to, and that was that. Now that I’m single and in a new career, I’ll probably always keep my finances separate."
7. "I make $70,000, and my fiancé makes $35,000. I work a very busy 8-6, and he is a music teacher who works 3-8. We just share everything.
"We don't have a joint account. I deposit the money I make into my account, and he does the same for his paycheck.
"I pay our rent, utilities, and some other bills. He pays our cell phones, car insurance, and car payments. I can't totally explain why, it just works. We split everything else."
8. "We have one income in the house right now, and the cost of living where we are allows us to live semi-comfortably because we budget. I'm lucky in that I have a very small inheritance I can dip into for emergencies; otherwise, we'd be sunk.
"But, having one person with no or very little income can cause some real problems, feelings of failure, and feelings of resentment. It's important to talk about any issues."
9. "My husband and I don’t share bank accounts. I make around 4x more than him, so I pay for all the bills, groceries, and $700 more a month for our rent.
"He would have no problem splitting everything 50/50, but I would feel terrible since I make more than him in one week than he does in a month. And having separate bank accounts has mitigated any fights over money. Highly recommend."
10. "When my wife and I first moved in together, we were both living paycheck to paycheck as full-time students. After graduating, getting married, over the last decade or so, we've gotten better incomes, but as soon as we were married, I told her I would just direct deposit my paycheck to her account.
"We turned it into a joint account. It's much easier for us this way, as whatever I make is hers and vice versa, and she pays all the bills."
11. "Well, we're a Boomer and Gen X couple, but whoever is making more money works while the other stays home with the children.
"When I was still in school, he was making more and had benefits. I stayed home. Thus, all bills were paid with his income.
"When I re-entered the workforce, I made more than I had before, but still less than my husband with 20+ years of work history. When he was laid off, it was savings and my income that sustained us."
12. "I make over twice what my husband makes. We each contribute 65 percent of our income to a joint bank account. This covers our mortgage, bills, groceries, dining out, pet expenses, vacations, etc. — things we do together.
"The remaining 35 percent of each of our incomes is personal spending — we don’t have access to those accounts or any oversight over how the other person spends that money. For us, this is the most equitable option and is working well right now."
13. "My husband and I have separate accounts and a household account. My husband pays most of our bills because he earns five times more than me. (He’s in tech; I work for a nonprofit.)
"I pay for all food, and I buy our 'home conveniences' like coffee makers, blenders, etc. I also do all of the cooking, because I like it."
14. "I make $90,000, and he makes $30,000 a year. Basically, I pay the bills, and he gives me his check — minus maybe $500 — to pay credit card bills.
"We individually use our excess money for whatever."
15. "My partner and I put everything into shared accounts and pay out of that. Though I make less than half of what he makes, I still see our contributions as equitable because of what we bring to our household and relationship.
"His job is much more stressful than mine, and because he makes more than I do and we need his income to survive, more of that responsibility is on his shoulders."
16. "My husband makes more money, but he has much more debt from student loans. I don’t have any debt except our mortgage, so sometimes, I can manage more of the household bills.
"We reevaluate and discuss finances regularly to see how we can rebalance financial responsibilities. We don’t have a set formula, but the consistent communication is extremely helpful in not just managing our current finances but also working toward future goals like purchasing another property."
17. "My husband and I both added up our individual expenses, including what we agreed was reasonable for us to have as our personal spending each month (for things like clothes I want to buy, lunches out, etc.). We set that aside in our individual accounts, and then put everything else in our shared checking account.
"All of our bills come out of the shared account, which has the added bonus of creditors never being able to come for the other one should something happen. It's a great solution for us."
18. "My last husband just gave me all his money, and I managed it. We never quibbled about who made more (but it was me, by a lot)."
19. "My husband and I got married young and poor, and we do it the old-fashioned way. We both work, and everything we make goes into one account, and bills get paid out of that.
"Anything we want to buy over $500 gets discussed between us before purchasing. I know it's not for everyone, but it works for us."
20. "I am married and happen to be in a line of work that pays a lot more than my husband's ministry position. Our income is probably 80 percent me, 20 percent him. Everything we both make goes into our joint account, and every expense we have is paid from the joint account.
"A job's value or a spouse's contribution to the family cannot be measured in dollars. I know it might not work for everyone, but we never fight about money, and this system works great for us."
21. "My second husband made about three times what I did at the time. Since he already had a house when we met, I eventually moved in there. We decided to have him pay the mortgage, and I paid for the consumables, electricity, gas, and water. I also bought groceries, unless we were having a big party, and then he would.
"He also paid for cable because I didn't care if we had 1,000 channels.
"I should also note we had no kids or debt other than the mortgage. He also paid for vacations, air fare, lodging, and I would buy the meals, drinks, etc. It seemed pretty fair to us both since he made so much more."
22. "When my husband and I got married, I brought some money from previous part-time work and gifts from my parents into the relationship, but I was a housewife for a few years, and he had a full-time job.
"I eventually got a full-time job, but he still makes more than I do. Maybe 70/30. In any case, all the money goes into joint accounts, and all the bills are paid from those accounts. Any expense over $150 or so gets discussed first — even if it's just a conversation like, "Hey, I need new work boots. It's gonna be [price]' and, 'Ok, Sounds good.'"
23. And finally, "When my partner and I moved in together in 2003, he made $40,000 a year, and I made $12 an hour. We decided to split shared expenses based on take-home pay, and we have a spreadsheet with all our shared bills including rent, utilities, groceries, a shared phone family plan, Netflix, and a joint savings plan for home expenses.
"We each enter our monthly income, and the spreadsheet tells us how much money we each owe into a shared account that we use for bills.
"For a few years, he contributed more, and it was, like, 60/40, but we both have had fluctuations in pay, so sometimes, I have covered 90/10 with no bitterness or blame.
"Now, I make $80,000 at a job I love, and we agreed he should quit his high-paying job to pursue his dreams, so he only makes $20,000 now. We've always felt it's fair, because we take the changes life throws at us together."