Save. Spend. Splurge.

Should you pay rent to your spouse when you get married?

This is such a controversial topic, it instantly divides people.

I am really stubborn and hardheaded so I clearly have my own strong opinions on this matter, which if you are a regular reader, should come to you as NO SURPRISE, means equality as you see fit.

“My fiancé and I live together. I own the house (it’s paid off) and he pays me $500 a month.

The bills for the house are very low and come out to about $300 a month, so essentially he’s paying $200 in rent.

He thinks that once we get married he shouldn’t have to pay rent anymore, and that we should split the bills evenly.

He’s also stressed because he has accrued some debt (about $15,000) since we’ve been together, which is partly why he thinks he should pay less.”

Some more background:

  • She also believes men should make more money and contribute more <— I definitely do not agree with this

What kind of BS is that, that you want equality in a relationship but then want the guy to make more and contribute more?

Pardon me, equality is simple — EQUAL. Not unequal.

I am not on board with her on that, for the record. I like true equality, and with it comes the good and the bad.

Moving on — I do not know the whole financial budget, situation, etc, only what I am reading, but so far this is what I am thinking:

Of COURSE he should pay something!

$500 a month that covers half of the utilities, and then $200 left, sounds like a great deal to me.

He didn’t contribute to the down payment, or the mortgage she cleared, and quite frankly, where are you going to find a place where you can pay $200 in rent and live?

He is paying basically, for the capital she invested in the home. If they get married and then he basically “pays her back” until it is 50%, THEN I completely agree with him being on the house deed as an equal half, and not paying an extra $200 in rent.

I am imagining myself in that situation, and let’s say I paid $300K for my home and cleared it myself.

Would I want someone to come along and basically take half of that?

Not having saved the money, worked for the equity, etc? NO.

I earned every dollar and I really don’t care what anyone says, I WILL feel resentment that someone just waltzes along and claims half.

I am certain I am not the only one, and you may be a saint if you worked like that and then decided to just let it all be taken.

Love doesn’t solve everything, and just because you are in love, doesn’t mean I am going to forgive everything and be dumb about it.

Maybe we don’t call it rent, but it is definitely “household”

I think it’s semantics. Stop calling it ‘rent’. This is household repayment, that goes towards earning your half of the house, and/or household maintenance and upkeep.

She isn’t “making money” off him as many commenters in that post were outraged by.

If she was profiting, she would have had him pay the whole house and taken half without contributing a dime!

Oh wait. That’s what HE IS DOING.

It isn’t profit until you make money. Her expenses were let’s say $300,000 for the house which she paid.

How is taking $200 a month towards what she paid, and using that money towards household maintenance, taxes, utilities.. considered “profiting”?

She isn’t making anything, frankly.

Most concerning to me is the $15K debt

During the time together, they mention that he racked up $15,000 of debt and is stressed, and doesn’t think he should give her that extra $200 a month for the home she paid for.

I also read something strange about how the bills weren’t equal (??) but I have no details on this and therefore cannot comment.

Bottom line to me – yes he should pay something relative to his income and it shouldn’t be a free ride especially if he is working full-time, and healthy … and bills SHOULD be split 50/50.

What I am most concerned about is money management, or the lack thereof.

$15,000 is a nice chunk of change.

Why? How? Was he paying MORE than he could afford? In which case, I am not on board with the situation, and will reconsider my $200 stance, but was it all just consumer debt for splashy vacations and dinners he couldn’t afford?

Whatever the case is, that debt being racked up is more concerning to me, if you are planning on getting married to someone.

How? Why? Where did it go? Is this going to be like this forever?

If you cannot live with the result of being with a debt-happy spender, when you are a frugal, debt-avoiding saver.. you need to say something.

You need to be on the SAME PAGE. The same MONEY PAGE so that you don’t split or divorce because of money.

Money is all about emotions

If you don’t get your money life in check, your emotions get all tangled up in it.

One person wants to spend $5000 on a vacation because they are stressed and need a break. The other wants that money for a downpayment on a home and are stressed that they don’t own any assets yet.

One person wants a new SUV. The other doesn’t agree and wants a more economical car because of the cost of gas.

You see how none of this is really about money?

The money is there — but the decisions and emotions around it, is the REAL conversation they should be having.

If you know your budget is $30,000 for a new car, let’s say, then you need to talk about how to spend that money.

Do you both agree to spend the entire $30,000 on a new car? Or $30,000 on a used car that is nicer?

Or spend half of that, buy a wreck and run it down, and take the other half and use it towards a home?

The budget of $30,000 stays the same, but the decisions around it, have to do with what you both want out of your money and life. This is what money management is.

Love doesn’t cure all

People change. Relationships change, people become different. You may fall out of love, HE may fall out of love.

Things happen for better or for worse, and hopefully for the better.

Whatever it is, you want to be sure you don’t get into a situation where your house is paid, you want to break up, and he ends up taking half because.. well.. you didn’t take care of your assets before you moved in together by having a prenup done.

The same goes, for the other side with guys.

I have heard many a horror story from men and women alike, of their spouses basically f*&@ing them over.

I know a guy who was paying the mortgage on his own, and his wife walked out on him, but cleverly had her name on the deed but NOT THE MORTGAGE.

He had to take a SECOND mortgage out on the home to deplete his equity, to pay her, what she was owed or “her half”.

Isn’t that some f*#$d up nonsense?

You may think your partner would never do that to you. I think that now of my own relationship, but when you are in the throes of a messy breakup, ugly things are said and ugly things happen.

People start feeling resentful, angry, calling a lawyer, and starting fights you never thought in a million years would happen.

You start wondering how you ever ended up with this person, seeing them in bulldog fight mode. Not everyone is like this, but when you have zero interest left in the relationship or incentive to be kind or generous, things get out of control pretty quickly.

If this has never happened to you where you feel resentful, and/or were ever in this situation of someone trying to take half of what you worked for without any regard, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t, then you are lucky and very fortunate. VERY fortunate.

I have had this happen of course.

Looking back, I was a dumb idiot. I really was. I am only happy it was a small, but expensive-at-that-time lesson to pay, and I got out of it relatively unscathed, because now I am stronger than ever before, and not as naive as before.

It is why I shake my head when people say things like:

What’s mine is yours

Love conquers all

A marriage is a union and an equal partnership of everything!

I agree with the SENTIMENT of the above, but when someone has worked hard and paid a house in full on their own with NO HELP from you, how is that an equal partnership if they don’t also come along and contribute equally to pay back and be on equal footing, not to mention racking up debt in the meantime?

I am also firmly in the camp of that this has nothing to do with love and romance.

Love and romance is all well and good until something goes wrong. Then suddenly, love doesn’t pay the bills, or puts food on the table.

Love doesn’t do any of that — proper money management and careful, unified planning is what does.

This for me, is more a partnership if you are both on the same page, and decide between the two of you what you want to do with your money, be it that someone pays more because they make more, or we are hardcore 50/50 (like us).


What I don’t love, is people blindly thinking love will see everything through. This to me, is a modern phenomenon, love and so on. We expect so much out of one emotion that we are devastated when it doesn’t live up to what we wanted or expected.

All of this scares the F out of me.

I hope it works out for them, but I am certainly not going to be surprised if it doesn’t, only because they are clearly not on the same money page as each other.

50% of marriages end in divorce.

#1 cause of divorce?

You guessed it —




  • Rebecca Horn

    I moved in with my husband before marrying him. I liked being with him and grew to love his animals. I paid above and beyond what his mortgage was to help with household maintenance vet costs etc. I did this because I could and I was actually saving money compared to paying rent and living on my own. We have been able to pay off the mortgage and all debt. We are both of us able to save money now. However the house is small and in desperate need of renovation. Doors, windows are old, stained and damaged, kitchen cabinets in really bad shape etc. We are talking about remodeling which we hope will only cost 30k, but I fear could cost as much 50k which my husband does not want to spend and he is trying to figure out short cuts to save money which will not enhance the value or livability of the house. We are arguing about how to do the renovation. He expects me to contribute as I did before the mortgage was paid off. I also contribute to maintenance and food, pet food vets and buy furniture and other house hold necessities. He says that he will assume the debt for the loan to remodel and I can assist him with paying the mortgage. There has been no discussion about me being on the title. He has told me that he has told his sister that if anything should happen to him that I should get the house. I want to retire soon and my income will drop to at least half of my current income. I am not feeling secure. My husband is generous to help out his family when they get into a situation and need money for legal fees etc. I ask nothing of him financially and don’t feel as though I can trust him to help me in the future should I need it. For health reasons, I feel I should retire, but don’t feel secure enough to do so. Does anyone know where I can turn for money management advice?

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      This one is very tricky. On the one hand, you are married to him. I do not know the laws where you are, but even if your name is not on the title, do you get half? I’d even consult a lawyer who deals in marriage / divorces to understand the laws there (not that I am suggesting divorce or anything, but those lawyers REALLY KNOW THEIR STUFF).

      He is also saying a lot of hearsay, as in “I told my sister..” but if nothing is on paper, it means a lot less, to .. well, nothing at all. You need to have all of this in writing.

      I can only carefully advise you to seek some advice from a lawyer to understand your situation better, and to see if your financial matters are up to date and ready for any storms.

      Before doing anything drastic, it does sound like you’ve talked to him, but maybe you need to both sit down and write down the numbers of what you are discussing. I do not know your situation or budget, but he should at least be open to talking to you about the numbers.

  • Confused

    My fiancé bought his own house a little over a year ago. I did ask him to consider this carefully at the time because we were already thinking about a future together (we weren’t engaged at the time) and I thought it would have been cleaner and easier if we just bought a house together in the future rather than him buying his own then. But he was adament he wanted to buy.

    We are getting married soon and our plan is to buy a house together in the next couple of years but for the time being live together in his house. While discussing finances he mentioned about me giving him money every month to pay for bills and rent. Of course I completely agree with splitting bills, utilities etc 50/50 however, I don’t know where I stand on the ‘rent’ side of things. It makes me feel like he would be my landlord and not my husband.

    When we move into our own house that we buy together I have no problem splitting everything 50/50 including the mortgage because it will be ours. But, for the current house I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I am being unfair thinking I can move in and only pay bills or if he’s wrong asking me to pay rent which is basically paying towards his mortgage so in effect I’m paying a mortgage of a property I will never own to my husband and not a ‘normal landlord’. (I am aware rent is paying money to someone which often goes to pay off their mortgage without any entitlement to the property)

    I know we have some talking to do and I can see arguments for both sides but I don’t know who’s wrong or who’s right in this situation.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Nobody is right or wrong in this case. You need to sit down and really talk to him about how uncomfortable this ‘rent’ thing is making you, that you pay him rent towards that.

      Alternatively, you could not call it “rent” if it’s the word that makes you uncomfortable, and consider it as “contribution to the household”.

      So imagine what you’d pay in an apartment together, let’s say $1000, and your half is $500 (including utilities let’s say). You could give him the $500 plus half of the other bills like food and so on.

      OR.. maybe you don’t do any of that. Maybe you sit down and discuss the whole situation together because it seems to me like there is more you need to unpack here, especially if you are both not on the same money page together and are about to get married (please don’t take this the wrong way but it is something to consider as money is the #1 reason couples divorce).

      You could also try and see his side of things, maybe he might explain to you how he put down a 20% down payment (a significant amount of money), how much his mortgage costs plus interest, and how basically living for ‘free’ in the home while he shoulders the entire cost of living, may not be quite as equitable.

      And in turn, he could see your side of things – how the word ‘rent’, or the idea of everything being like a landlord/tenant situation doesn’t sit well with you (which brings me back up in a nice neat loop to calling it something other than rent).

      You could even consider alternate arrangements like saying: Hey, instead of rent, I have to cover _________ in total, which in the end works out to be “like” rent but it isn’t rent, and therefore feels better in your heart/head.

      Lots of options. Please talk it out with him.

    • Ygg

      Let’s make the case easy and assume that the whole mortgage is paid and that all other bills (electricity, phone, local taxes,…), chores and duties are fairly *) shared.

      So he provides all the finances to have home for you as a couple or family. So you are now having a living space that otherwise would cost you 1000 (nice round number) per month. This is exactly what is is bringing to the table each and every month now. This is what he could contribute if he would let the huouse to tennats and bring in the rent for your joint living space. What do you contribute that is worth 1/2 of these 1000? You may pay parts into a fund for home improvement and repairs and in addition pay for the main vacation-trip. If you end up with 6000 +/- a few per year this may be fine. I had been in his position and would have had been fine with that as I thought a marriage is not the place to count pennies on a daily basis but to have a fair contribution from both partners.

      *) fair: This may be 50-50 in the beginning and be adapted to the case in question, e.g. one partner earning substantially more or one partner substantially doing more care work for the couples children. This is entirely up to every couple.

  • SP

    I definitely have more of a “one pot” view of married finances, so the idea of him paying her $200 in rent (above and beyond the household bills) makes little sense to my concept of finances. Also, that is legally how marriage works in most US states: money earned by either partner during the marriage is joint property, 50/50, regardless of who earned it. Literally, what is mine is also my husband’s. Whether I like it or not.

    I do get what you are saying, though. Most adults have housing costs, and she has chosen to use her assets to pay of the mortgage. There is an opportunity cost that she is paying in order to have a paid off house. The assets that went to the home could have been invested in the market earning her profits, but she instead chose to eliminate her monthly payment and free up cash. He is benefiting from that without paying the opportunity cost.

    I agree the debt is very concerning, and that couples need to be on the same page about money and find a system that works for them.

    This most closely describes my feelings, where marriage is mini-socialism:

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      You had the right word — OPPORTUNITY COST! I knew I had a term and was searching for it in my head but couldn’t find it from my Econ 101 classes lol…

      Even with a prenup it is 50/50? I’m thinking for assets that were there before the marriage.

      After, I could see 50/50 being correct as you’re together after you joined assets and have a joint stake in each others’ incomes.

  • Lynx

    Hmmmm as a single person I own my place outright paid all by me. I would definitely be resentful if I get married and it becomes joint property to split in a divorce if the spouse did not contribute to any of the equity. Call me selfish but the key is to know thyself and I know me.

    This situation brings a few red flags including the debt acquired in the relationship. My personal solution would be to move out of my place and rent or buy a place together. We will then go 50/50 or what ever ratio decided based on income and there will be no animosity about what each of us brought into the relationship.

    • Kimberly

      Yes, I think buying something together is the best solution. I’d sign a prenup to protect pre-marriage assets (my 401k is small, but I’ve worked hard for it dammit!), then go 50/50 in a new home.

      In this case, it sounds like the guy isn’t capable of saving for a down payment though. That plus her expectations of men, this relationship sounds DOA.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Yep. Exactly. I’d agree with this 100%.

  • Sense

    Hmmm, I think I disagree. My first thought was that after marriage, that $200/mo going into her savings account (or to buy stuff) would be split among them if they divorced, anyway, right? Just like the responsibility for the debt he incurs post-vows (YIKES, that $15K is a red flag from me). The abode would become the ‘marital residence’ and therefore be legally partly his anyway. So what does it matter, then?

    It also is fishy that he is paying for 100% of the household bills and then $200 on top of that. Why isn’t she paying half of the household bills? Do those bills include any home insurance, HOA, maintenance, stuff associated with home ownership? Is she paying taxes on that rental income?

    I think it totally makes sense for him (once he is her husband) to pay half (or a proportion by salary) of the house maintenance, insurance, utilities, etc etc etc, but her wanting him to pay over and above that to her and calling it ‘rent’ seems really petty and is possibly illegal. It also invites weird power struggles and blurred lines. She’s his wife, not his landlord. That is a huge sticking point for me–if he is paying rent, what are his rights as a tenant in the household? Is she going to pay him to do household repairs or mow the lawn or anything that a tenant wouldn’t normally have to do?! Are they going to have a rental contract? Is she paying for ALL of the household maintenance? If not, she doesn’t have a leg to stand on here. And what happens if he simply doesn’t pay it?

    In my personal life, I am 100% with you on the 50/50 thing in relationships. So far I’m unmarried and have implemented that 50/50 strategy–it is how I feel most comfortable. However, if my future husband owned a house, made living together a condition for the relationship, and wanted to charge me rent once I moved in, I would have SERIOUS doubts about marrying him. As a long-term partner/wife, I would of course be contributing to the household upkeep/maintenance, expect to be put on the mortgage, and pay a portion of it, if it existed (I can’t say that I would pay half of it, because I didn’t choose the house, and what if the mortgage is more than I can afford/would normally spend on rent?!). If I’m on the mortgage, I would expect to be named on the deed so that the life I’ve built and shared with my husband/long-term partner wasn’t taken away if he passed away, and so that I’m somewhat protected financially if he strayed/became abusive or left me. If I’m not on the mortgage, I am a tenant, and damn well better be protected by law in that case.

    I just can’t imagine being married/partnered to someone for 5, 10, 20+ years and not have any ownership over the house/home we’d have built together!!! I would also do the same if roles were reversed–at a certain point, it’s as much their house/responsibility as yours.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I completely agree. But I see more of the fact that she paid it in full, and he is just moving in. I don’t know what the split of the household bills are though — is he paying 100%? I’m not sure he is.

      At any rate, it doesn’t sound equitable on either side, red flag for sure on the 15K debt.

      As for the equity in the home, I’d prefer money paid back / into a fund that is equal to the cost of the half of the home before being put on a deed…

      • Randy

        I recently married and we both owned our housed outright. we decided to move to her house because it was closer to her kids by 10 miles. We both regret the decision since mine was a beautiful cape cod in the country on a couple acres, but that’s beside the point. What she is proposing to me know is that I either buy out half the house or start paying to live there. I already pay 70% of the bills and i just think if anything were to happen Death/divorce it would be cleaner for her to keep the house without having to give my portion to my kid or back to me!! she has kids also. I quess the other way I would have never asked her to pay rent and I wouldnt want her to own half the house I worked so hard to payoff.

        • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

          This is rough. I am really sorry you’re dealing with this. I wish you two had talked it over before.

          I suppose the only thing is to work out what you think is fair then. If you’re going to start paying “rent”, you no longer pay the bills.

          OR.. you figure out what it would cost to “rent” there, you pay half of that, and then half the bills. In that way, it’s like 50% of living expenses.

          I get what you mean by assets being cleaner that she keeps the home, but keep in mind unless this is in a contract, or a post-nup in this case, you may run into issues of estate battles if not everyone agrees with it (e.g. your kids think it’s unfair).

          I also understand your position about not wanting to ask her to pay rent either – May I suggest just sitting down and airing out the money situation? Telling her that you wouldn’t have made her pay rent?

          To be frank, I’d see if it was feasible to pay for half of the home if you decide not to do a post-nup. It seems “cleaner” that way in the sense that it is now balanced and 50/50 for assets.

          Where I think you may run into issues with, if you decide to do “rent” + 50% of bills, is that you may realize over time, the “rent” was more than the half of the home itself (do the math), and may end up resentful and/or without a post-nup, demand your half of the home. You know what I mean?

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