What should be a happy occasion, moving in with my girlfriend of two years, has become a hot mess. To my utter surprise, because I wouldn’t have guessed it from our relationship, my girlfriend has no idea how to manage money. She was panicky about writing out checks for our apartment and said she was going to be short cause someone cashed a check she wrote six months earlier. I paid the $200 she was short and didn’t think twice. Since moving in, though, she’s constantly short on cash. I’ll ask her to pick up some things while she’s out and she almost never does, claiming she forgets. When we go to the store together, she gets really anxious about the cost of groceries — and we’re not buying fancy cheese and gourmet products, or shopping at the organic grocery store, we’re getting basics like ravioli, stir fry ingredients, salad stuff. This is all really mystifying because she didn’t seem so hung up on money before we moved in together. Her behavior is making me anxious. I dread telling her when the internet bill comes or rent is due because I anticipate that she’s not going to have the cash to pay it. I can’t pay for us both all the time, and she hasn’t asked me to except the one time (and I still haven’t been repaid, but I’m ok with it). I don’t know what to do because she won’t acknowledge her feelings.
Hey Finance-Savvy Femme,
Congrats on moving in together and I wish you two happiness. I agree that getting to the bottom of this financial mess will help you both out – your girlfriend is obviously having troubles and you’ve started to police your behavior so you don’t upset her.
Is your new place a stretch for her budget, or has she had other recent expenses she’s mentioned? If she’s financially strapped because of life emergencies, your woes could be temporary. You could go on a budget together where you nix the spendy nights out in favor of game nights in with cheap take-out. You don’t have to financially support her to help her get those expenses paid off.
If your new place is not something she can afford, then it might be time for her to get some extra income because you’re locked into a lease. Pick up a side hustle. Get a roommate (if there’s an extra room). Or perhaps you pay more of the rent until your lease is up, then you move somewhere cheaper.
Are there things your girlfriend splurges on as she’s price checking all the groceries and ducking shared expenses? If so, then she needs money help because she’s hurting herself and you in the process. But nothing is going to shut down your love faster than you giving her some Suze Orman book and lecturing her about the size of her makeup hoard.
You might gamify it into some sort of financial challenge. Or pick a reward like a weekend away or concert tickets and talk through ways you can save up for that, broaching the topic sideways to let her.
Cover your ass. This means you pay the bills, so you don’t have to worry about the power getting shut off one day because she “forgot to pay.” You pay the rent. You keep your finances 100 percent separate from hers.
Don’t cover her share of the bills again as this teaches her that you’ll step in and do that. If she is financially clueless rather than temporarily in a tight spot, she needs to learn some hard lessons. If she keeps making weak excuses, well, the bright side is that she’s telling you about her suitability as a partner for you, and you can stick this out or find someone who can support themselves.