7 Smart Things to Know Before Moving in with Your S/O

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So, you want to move in with your significant other? This is a big step for your relationship and an important time in your life. This is an exciting time, and it should be a fun experience for both of you.

Something this big, though, requires some serious thinking because your S/O will be there when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night. They’ll be by your side when things are going great, and they may be too close when you want to be left alone.

You’ll get to know each other intimately, all the good, bad, and ugly. To make sure this is the right decision and to make sure you do it right, here are the top seven things to know before you move in with your S/O.

1. Where will your home be?

Start this conversation with something fun. Fantasizing about your new home and your new life together can be exciting. You’ll, also, want to be sure that you and your S/O are on the same page with where you’ll live.

One consideration; is it conducive to both of your jobs and other responsibilities, such as family, children, and pets? Unless there are extenuating circumstances, it’s not fair if one person must drive 45-minutes to get to work and the other drives for 15-minutes. It, also, won’t be fun if either of you has responsibilities across a region that will keep one or both of you in the car all day.

Considering these, along with finding a home that fits your budgets may take time and research. If your goal is to find a place that will keep you both happy, this investment of time will be worth it. While moving into a high-end apartment or neighborhood may be enticing, making the month-to-month payments could create stress in your relationship if one of you is struggling to meet them.

Another variable to consider is where you’ll live that meets each other’s comfort and lifestyle needs. You might prefer to live near an exercise facility or a park. Your partner might want a place big enough for his/her home theater. It’s likely that each of you will have “must haves.” Hashing these out in advance will make your search easier.

Pro Tip: Just as the healthiest foods are typically on the perimeter of a grocery store, the more cost-effective apartment units tend to be on the middle floors. Those willing to pay more often prefer the easy access of the bottom units or the better views of higher units.

2. How will you divide and pay for expenses?

A leading cause of broken relationships is money problems, so give yourself the best chance to have this new adventure be the best experience. Discuss your money situation first.

Sharing your expenses evenly is certainly the simplest way to divide costs, but it’s not necessarily the fairest way. It’s likely that you and your S/O have a lot in common, but it’s also likely you have some differences. For example, one of you may have a penchant for high-end foods, while the other eats simply. One of you may have an expensive hobby, like skydiving, and the other’s happy reading a free book from the library.

Another consideration is your incomes unless you have similar salaries. If you have disparate incomes, knowing how you’ll divide expenses will help avoid problems.

The more common ways to divide incomes are 50/50 when you both split all expenses down the middle. Another is to split some expenses down the middle with each of you being individually responsible for other expenses. Or you can pay for expenses in proportion to your incomes. Here are some tips on how to do this the right way.

Whatever you decide, knowing if and how you’ll divide expenses before moving in together will go a long way to ensuring everything starts off smoothly. Likewise, knowing in advance how you’ll pay for expenses is important.

You likely both have your own bank accounts and systems to pay for your current bills. Knowing if you’ll keep your individual accounts or open a joint account is an important decision. If you choose to open a joint account, then determine how the account will be funded. It’s usually easiest to allocate a percentage or specified dollar amount of your direct deposit from your employer into your new, joint account.

Pro Tip: The free Mint app is a great tool to help you manage your budget partner.

3. What’s your current financial state?

Understanding the money situation goes deeper than dividing and paying bills. While moving in with your S/O is close to marriage, it’s not exactly the same thing. Therefore, it’s a good time to disclose your financial health to each other. The best place to start that is disclosing your credit scores to each other.

If you’ll be renting a home, it’s likely prospective landlords will pull your credit scores anyway. Knowing each other’s scores will help you prepare for what to expect. If you borrow money or open a joint credit card together, knowing each other’s credit scores and parts of your financial state prevents surprises.  
In addition to disclosing your credit scores, share each other’s incomes. This will help you shop for an appropriate home.

You’ll also want to know if either of you requires certain products or services that the other may not need or want. For example, one of you may have cut the cord years ago and, at most pays $20 a month for television entertainment while the other needs the most expensive cable package in order to catch all the big games. Again, knowing how you’ll divide and pay these expenses in advance of move-in day will alleviate frustrations in the future.

Pro Tip: Don’t pay to find out your credit scores. The Mint app, as well as most banks, credit unions and credit card companies, provide their clients with free credit score information. Note that this type of check is not a hard credit check and won’t affect your score.

4. How, if at all, will you need to prepare for common law marriage?

Most states don’t have common law marriage and states that do have different stipulations to qualify for common law marriage. If you don’t know the law and don’t prepare you could find yourself in a sticky situation, such as divorce.

Common law marriages could trigger after you move in with your S/O and present yourselves as married. So, that urge to refer to yourselves as spouses or talking about “the wife” or “my husband” runs the risk of qualifying for common law marriage.

If it turns out you’ve met the requirements in your state for a common law marriage and eventually break up with your S/O, they could file for divorce, and without a proper marriage agreement, your ex-S/O could claim rights to your assets and income.

Pro Tip: If you don’t yet plan on getting married, don’t hold yourself out as a married couple as mentioned above. If you’ve already done this, a postnuptial contingent on the common law marriage requirements in your state would make clear what assets remain separate.

5. What are your debt situations?

Debt is a growing problem today and making a wrong decision could be detrimental to your financial condition. For example, and continuing with the theme of common law marriage, if you or your S/O are on an income-adjusted student loan repayment plan be careful with how you both file your taxes. Should the higher-earner file as “head of household” and claims the other as a dependent, the minimum student loan payment could significantly increase.

Likewise, and depending on where you are in your relationship with your S/O, adding each other as owners on each other’s credit cards would make you responsible for the debt on that credit card. An alternative, if needed, is adding each other as co-signers to your credit cards. Being a co-signer permits you to use each other’s credit cards, which may be convenient, and doesn’t make you responsible for the debt.

Pro Tip: To pay off your credit card debt fast and effectively, avoid the common mistakes for paying off debt.

6. Can you live with each other’s habits and idiosyncrasies?

There’s a possibility that if you’re moving in with your S/O, you know them quite well. But there are some quirks that you simply don’t learn until you live with someone.

It’s one thing to be in love with someone, it’s another to live with someone who puts the toilet paper roll on upside down. Some people let the dishes piled in the sink before they load the dishwasher. More people than you’d suspect don’t close closet and cabinet doors.

It’s these kinds of quirks that you’ll want to be aware of before moving in with your S/O. Often these are non-issues but can amplify a stressful or unhappy situation should things go sour.

One way to uncover this is to share with each other the weird traits you already know about yourselves. Another way is by talking with friends and family with whom you’ve each lived. Finally, it’s also helpful to know how tolerant you both are with individual nuances and to be as tolerant as you can.

Pro Tip: Approaching this topic in a lighthearted way in a fun environment with your S/O, your friends and families will disclose as much as you’ll need to know without coming across as sneaky.

7. What’s your S/O’s income security?

One of the most important considerations when moving in with someone is their income security. It’s impossible to be certain neither of you will lose your jobs or be demoted. But it’s often possible to know if there are risks on the horizon.

Whether the economy is doing poorly, there are layoffs in either of your industries or your company’s fallen on hard times, taking these circumstances into consideration and talking about them with each other will help you make an informed decision about moving in with your S/O.

Other red flags to look out for are if your S/O changes jobs frequently, or they recently started a new job at a new company. The inability to hold down a job or stay with the same company for, at least, a little while may also indicate their capability for long-term commitments.

Pro Tip: Reduce the systemic risk of each of you having a single employer by taking advantage of the gig-economy and starting your own part-time or small business. With the resources available at your fingertips, the barrier to entry to start a side hustle has never been lower.

Though discussing these and similar questions may seem like less fun than the romance of living with the person you love, doing so will make this big transition easier and life after you move more enjoyable. Save yourself future frustration and do the work now.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further