Mistakes We Made When Splitting Finances (& How We Fixed Them)

photo kaie harp

Maybe you’ll get me (and maybe you won’t, which is cool), but talking about money makes me nauseous and uncomfortable. Maybe it stems from my Southern upbringing. Discussing money among people other than your family is considered bad manners. Tacky, even.

But, when Chris asked me to sail to Mexico three years ago, money was the second thing I brought up right after confirming the bigger news; that he was actually asking to move in together.

WAY BIGGER DEAL FOR ONE REASON:

I had never before lived with a dude or split bills with a dude (well, a dude who I am in a committed relationship with), and since this amazing man wanted to share his dreams with me, we needed to discuss financials first.

money world map

So, I asked Chris something like:

“I have some savings, but you would have to support us both if you want to go this summer. I’d have to quit my editing job and rely on freelance work. Are you sure you’re okay this?” 

And, he said something like:

“Yes! I’ve dreamed of this my entire life! I’ve made good money in Alaska this summer to support us both. Let’s just jump on the boat, and get the f*ck outta here!”

After contemplating this big decision for five days while in Big Sur, I decided to, in lack of better words, “get the f*ck outta here.”

I drove to the Henry Miller Library on my final day to find cell signal. And, while pacing on the large wooden deck with the sun trickling down from the tops of giant redwood trees, I called the publisher of the Santa Barbara Sentinel and quit my job.

Two weeks later I moved out of my bachelorette pad in Carpinteria, CA, packed my car, and headed north to Bellingham, Washington to sail to Mexico on a 34′ sailboat.

Megan Waldrep Mount Shasta
Me manifesting good vibes during a full moon on Mount Shasta during my move from CA to WA. I forgot to mention the part about money. (This was mid-August 2016.)

But, plans changed – We didn’t go to Mexico that year.

I was devastated and disappointed. Then, after the shock of living in Washington for an entire winter started to wear off, a strange financial situation was in front of me. It was one thing to travel with shared funds while living on a sailboat, but it was quite another to have just quit your job and spent your last savings on supplies for a boat that isn’t leaving the dock.

“It’s all the same money,” he said. “Nothing to worry about,” he said.

Famous. Last. Words.

money counter

Even after warnings from girlfriends to stash a little cash “just in case,” I ignored the signs and put all my money into Mexico and lost hard.

I found myself in a situation many women in relationships face: I was dependent. On a man.

This was not good, I told my friend. But, she assured I needed to value my contributions to our boat life as I would for hourly pay. Many women would jump at the chance to be financially supported. Why not give it a try?

money change wallet

I tried but felt like a child asking for an allowance.

So, after extended visits to see family in California and North Carolina, and a stupid argument about what I did with twenty bucks (I got gas, bought a chocolate croissant, and drove to Artist Point at the top of Mount Baker – get off my nuts!), I got a job as checker at a grocery store (my worst job EVER), and flipped the financial script. No more arguments about money. For a while, anyway.

Though the cashier job was undesirable – and left me with a severe case of tennis elbow from scanning 12-packs of beer over and over – I felt better having my own income again.

But, there was still an imbalance. Chris worked with a marine electrical company at that time, making way more than my $11.10 minimum wage. And after a few months of splitting the bills 50/50 (boat slip, electricity, YMCA membership to take showers and yoga, food, gas, etc.), the money/power shift was evident and I was still behind.

Basically, I was broke and drinking black coffee in cafe’s while Chris drank Lavender Honey Lattes and nibbled on cranberry almond scones. There had to be a better way, I thought, so I searched the internet desperate for help.

Then, I found the answer.

I found the holy grail of financial advice for a two-income household and I can’t wait to share it with you!

(Drumroll, please…..)

It’s Suze Orman, y’all! Before you roll your eyes, bear with me…

I knew of her, but I didn’t really know what she did. (Which, I guess, explains my past financial situations?) 🙂 But now, she’s my money talkin’ guru with an incredibly helpful way to split finances that I hope will help you, too!

(Editor’s Note: When you watch this video, the heavens may part and angels may sing.)

GENIUS! Here’s the breakdown:

Monthly Expenses: $3K

Combined Monthly Income: $7K + $3K = $10K

$3k Monthly Expenses / $10k Combined Income = 30%

30% of 3K = $900

30% of 7K = $2100

$2100 = $900 = 3K for Monthly Expenses

Equal percentages, not equal payments – THANK YOU, SUZE ORMAN!!

This has completely changed the way Chris and I handle money. Today, we both contribute to our lives together confidently and equally.

Only now, I’m drinking a Lavender Honey Latte, too.

Katie Harp picture

Did you find this helpful? What’s your experience with sharing finances with your partner? What works and what hasn’t worked for you? We’d love to know! Please share in the comments below!

Let’s keep going! For next article, click here: Money Talk: How Does a Freelance Writer and a Commercial Fisherman Make it Work?

And even more relationship stories for you…

Sex & Dating a Commercial Fisherman

Dating A Commercial Fisherman: Q&A w/ Photographer Bri Dwyer

How-To Long-Distance Date a Commercial Fisherman

[UPDATE] 9 Things To Know When Dating a Fisherman

Epilogue: An Unperfect Love Story

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