Splitting expenses with partner who has inconsistent income

My partner has inconsistent income because he is in a sales/production oriented role. He actually doesn't get a salary but only makes money through production numbers. He has the potential to make a lot, but it's just inconsistent. Some months he might bring in $2k and other months he could bring in $50k.

Im having a hard time figuring out how to do our expenses. i make a nice, consistent salary and could afford to pay for most of our expenses (rent, utilities, food etc) by myself if needed (albeit, without much room for fun stuff). right now we're waiting for a big check to come in so he can pay me back for some of the past months of rent he missed.

Anyway, curious if others have suggestions for managing finances in these situations. I feel like a normal "we each put X into a joint bank account at the end of the month" just isn't going to work. Thanks!

Larissa88's profile thumbnail
I’m your partner in my situation and honestly we just share finances as if they both belong to us equally. My partner has a consistent income which keeps us fed and housed and alive. I provide the gravy and cover big expenses like travel and car maintenance and dentist appointments. There’s no accounting. None of that. We do each have an investment account which I try to keep relatively equal but the money goes into them from our joint money, not based on earnings. Granted we are together 6 and a half years and very committed, so this obviously depends on your situation. If your partner is a person who might be irresponsible with money and so on, then you may need a different solution. But my philosophy has always been to share and share alike. Money is a tool. Turning it into a point of conflict or stress just makes things unpleasant.
A few considerations that spring to mind reading this (apologies if these all seem a bit strict or negative, but finances are/should be objective and can easily get blurred by emotions)1. Protect yourself first and foremost. It's not romantic or a nice thought, but your partner could leave you or pass away at any time, and if you're left with debts for paying their way, that's going to add resentment and frustration. Until you have legal rights to joint assets (e.g. outlined in a prenup), any money you pay on their behalf may end up being forever2. If they really are making 50k some months, they can definitely afford to put money into savings/an account from which they can drip feed into a joint savings account. If they're unable to do that, that suggests they have very concerning spending habits which need to be addressed - 50k should easily contribute to 12 months expenses in my mind (depending on lifestyle, but even this feels like a very conservative estimate to me)3. Agree upfront what's shared and not shared. My partner and I agree all groceries are covered (including any snacks/treats we buy for ourselves, we assume they'll even out), meals out together are covered, bills are covered. However, we discuss any one off payments such as furniture purchases (if he wants a super expensive office chair and I am happy with my free one from work, he can cover the cost!), manage our own medical costs, subscriptions to services etc. I earn less than my partner so can afford to do less with friends, buy fewer clothes, go for fewer meals etc but that makes sense to me - if I earned more it would be the same in reverse.4. If you do want to loan them money, agree it in writing just in case (particularly for large sums). It feels like a lack of trust, but it's really not, it's about protecting you both - in the instance of their death, for example, you may be able to claim back money they can't tell anyone they owed you.Hope that's helps x
danipach's profile thumbnail
I agree with Leilani. On point #2, you should still be able to split expenses equally if your partner plans for his inconsistent income (as he would need to if he lived alone). He should have a reserve in case of a down month.On point #1, definitely protect yourself. Before my husband and I were married, he bought an apartment and since we were living in it together, I paid him half of the mortgage and maintenance each month. I remember my dad being less than thrilled that I was paying equally into an asset I didn’t own: Years earlier, his business partner had done this with her boyfriend PLUS paid paid for a lot of home repairs. When she and the boyfriend broke up, that was a loss for her. If your partner respects your financial interests, he should be cool with planning ahead for the down months and splitting everything down the middle.
Do you have enough historical data to consider what your partner makes in a year, on average, and account for that on a monthly contribution basis to cover joint costs and savings/investment goals?Such as, in the month that your partner made 2k, maybe that's literally everything that goes into the contribution, and 2k in the next month of 50k earnings, because 2k is what averages out per month.+1 to protecting yourself if there are no legal rights to assets.
This might be an unpopular opinion here so I’ll keep myself anonymous and keep this as neutral as possible, but I think that as a woman, many of us in hetero partnerships end up taking on more than our fair share of the emotional labor in a relationship, more than our fair share of domestic labor, while on a personal front concurrently suffering from a pay gap and going for less risky professions overall in favor of steady income. (All of this is still not accounting for pregnancy risk and responsibility and disproportionate child rearing responsibility because that doesn’t seem to be your situation at the moment).Keeping that in mind, my opinion is that any living situation with a partner should - at minimum - be financially beneficial to the woman, and if that is not happening right now, you need to actively make an effort to start protecting your income and future, regardless of the health of your relationship.I also think that the financial planning aspect of managing expenses while making inconsistent income should be relatively easy if it comes from your partner - if you were not cohabiting with him (or before you were cohabiting with him), how would he be paying for rent and expenses? I’m sure there is some planning he would do to make sure his 50k months would cover his 2k months - that plan should be easily replicable here.PS - I do not discount the need for and importance of emotional connection, safety, commitment etc. If you’re in a situation where money simply does not matter and you’re living the type of extremely comfortable life that paying for his expenses would be no problem at all, my initial response doesn’t apply. But judging by the fact that you did post something on here asking for advice, that does not seem to be the case.
probably start with current, liquid, and illiquid "net-worth": that has to be a foundation; curious, whats the difference between your and his networth, and agree about suggestions below about esp: safety. ... but also agree money is just a tool, is 50-50 the right fit, or is it 75-25. net-net finding a loving partner is as impractical, as practical is making more income.if your net-worth is say $1M and his is $100k and lives this style of income gen, does it make sense to worry too much about the accounting at the moment. .... or some better plans?
I've been meaning to look up different strategies on sharing expenses with a partner so thanks for bringing it up!In my last relationship with a wealthy partner, we built a budget with Mint (tool from Intuit/quickbooks). After knowing what our monthly expenses were and because we were making many lifestyle choices based on his income, he would pay the greater portion. We actually split it proportionally to our income. This worked out great for us. We could both feel the sting of a ritzy night out and the comfort of having our own money outside of the joint expenses, admittedly not much for me, but it worked.He generously included everything in this budget; gym, haircuts, restaurants, coffee, and *some travel. We would both contribute monthly to a travel fund and if we spent beyond that budget we'd split the excess 50/50. Sometimes this was hard because the only reason we would go over on expenses was because of his standards for hotels, rental cars, dining, etc, but I was living a lifestyle that I could never afford for myself so I wasn't complaining. We did not have a joint savings plan.When he suddenly wasn't making as much money in 2020 and shifted our expenses to 50/50 I was more than willing to help out but my savings were completely depleted after only a few months of paying 50% of an NYC apartment and everything else that he was liable for. So when he came to me one day in this 2020 crisis and wanted to talk about buying a Tesla and a plane(!) with his spare cash I nearly had a meltdown. Here I was sacrificing everything I had for him, even though he truly wasn't making money, I didn't know how big his nest egg was. Needless to say, he didn't need to worry, at all, like could have retired at age 30. Fine. So I was pissed that he would knowingly put me in that vulnerable of a financial situation. In the end, I didn't feel like he had my best interest at heart(in this and in many more situations), so we ended things. I felt so betrayed and penniless. He ended up reimbursing me for some of it after I conveyed just how badly he had ruined my financial future and investment opportunity.So I guess, my advice is to account for their whole net worth in the equation, not just your monthly income and spending. I still don't have the answer to this. As I am now in a new relationship I am still left wondering how to avoid this same situation in the future.I'm again stepping into a relationship where my partner owns everything and I personally won't get any equity or future perks for paying my portion. How do you account for who has ownership and who will get the return on investment? I'm pretty convinced I'm going to marry this one, so I'm less concerned about who's is who's but ... that's how I got caught up in the last situation. I want to stop depending on them for my financial future, and I also don't want to be a needy/greedy roommate. If I wasn't in a relationship I'd have a property I was investing in, building my own net worth, but I can't afford to pay their mortgage and for my own side property. So I just invest as much as I can into my 401K and in stocks, then pay my portion like a good roommate. I'll continue to look for strategies and ideas to protect myself and earn an investment just like they do on my dollar. Appreciate any advice! Links to advice! Thoughts!Thanks!
it's about the "ratio of the split" expenses ... has to be networth at all times. thats when its getting serious or sincere. in this case, your ex was prolifagate which is unfortunate esp to you. one way to do that is share 3$'s for every $10 in a shared credit or debit account (if say your networth is 30-70).esp if someones living a bit of a larger life, they can do better by expense management, and catch up networth wise. frankly wouldnt worry about not having a mortgage to contribute towards to build great financial profile, make sure you invest supremely well. real-estate is illiquid, using a balanced portfolio to compound your networth is a better idea. .... building a great credit score all along is more important along with that, than being seduced by real-estate.lots of articles on it on investopedia or google, and these days with or your 401, +trusted tax accountant, you can easily build/compound networth dramatically.
aishwaryarao's profile thumbnail
I’m curious - with your current partner, if you are going to live together in a space that he owns before marriage/before adding yourself to mortgage, what would happen if you were to say that you do not want to pay for it until you are a part of the mortgage? I feel like that seems reasonable (but I might be partial to the idea of a woman protecting herself). He would have to pay the mortgage whether or not you lived there, and he didn’t buy the house with you or for you so it’s not like your living there should change that. I haven’t been in this situation myself, following to see what other women say!
Celia's profile thumbnail
Yes, we live togther. I haven't thought about adding myself to his mortgage. I just pay him with Venmo. Is that something I should request once married or is that a shared asset through married anyways?
MeganWinters's profile thumbnail
is there a reason he cannot put away one of the 50k paychecks and use it for the months he earns 2k? how can he earn so much and still be in rent arrears to you? It sounds like you're trying to solve a problem that is his own