First Person: Splitting Our Family Bills

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Personally, I feel it's important to keep things fair when it comes to relationships and money. Money issues are a leading cause of divorce; therefore, having a system in place to regulate the spending of family money can be critical to a healthy relationship. Some couples split things 50/50, and that can work well, especially if both spouses earn about the same amount and keep their personal discretionary spending reasonable. It seems to be when one spouse earns or spends significantly more than the other that the problems with that sort of system can arise.

Since my wife earns more than I do, and since I work from home, we've developed a system for paying our regular expenses that works well for us, keeps animosity about spending to a minimum, and helps keep things fair.

Regular Costs (Utilities, Food, Children)

When it comes to items like utilities, food, housing costs, school fees for the kids, and other items that we consume or are responsible for equally, that is how we split them…equally. My wife enjoys the occasional gourmet coffee or lunch out with friends on her own dime and I enjoy the occasional fast food meal on mine. We each have our own preferences when it comes to these separate items; therefore, it's fine with both of us to cover our own such costs.


Besides clothing costs for the kids, our individual clothing costs are kept separate as well. Since my wife works in a more professional setting, and I work from home, you can imagine that there is a significant difference between our annual clothing costs. And since my wife's clothes are for a job in which she earns significantly more than I do, we consider it an investment in her work. This way I'm not paying hundreds of extra dollars each year for clothing that helps her earn much more money than I earn in my pajamas and sweatpants.

Health Insurance/Vehicle Costs

My wife covers our health insurance and vehicle costs. Our vehicle insurance runs about $700 a year. Since we have an older vehicle, it requires a decent amount of repair work each year as well, often running between $1,000 and $1,500. Add in our health insurance costs to this at what will increase from about $127 a week to about $157 a week and she's looking at another $8,164 or a grand total of right around $10,000 a year.

Since my wife is a type 1 diabetic, drives the family vehicle, and has employer-sponsored health insurance, we feel that her covering these related expenses is fair, and since I balance it out with the next portion of our expenses -- childcare -- it actually works out in her favor.


We're able to balance out those higher health insurance and vehicle costs that my wife has to carry, by my bearing the brunt of our childcare needs. Working from home, I'm able to care for the kids. And as our first child moves into the public school system, our second has just been born. With daycare costs often ranging from around $9,000 to $13,000 a year -- depending upon the age and needs of the child, as well as amount of time spent there -- my ability to negate this cost saves us a huge amount of money each year and more than balances the amount my wife my pays to cover vehicle costs and health insurance.

Therefore, even though we make different amounts of income and have different spending needs, we are able to create a plan that balances those differences and I'm able to make up the difference in annual salary through non-monetary actions and cost cutting. This leaves us both satisfied with our bill splitting, and neither of us feels guilty or angry about one of us spending more.

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The author is not a licensed financial professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.


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