I’m looking for advice on sharing travel expenses as a couple. My boyfriend and I are leaving for a “rtw” trip this coming November. We have only recently started living together and we currently maintain separate finances. We (aka: ME) are a little stressed and concerned about how deal with our finances on the road. I am very uptight about my money and how “my” money is spent.
What type of advice do you have for a travelling couple who have never shared expenses and both of our “travel funds” have been saved independently of one another?
Somewhere in between the dreaming, the scrolling through photos of idyllic islands, applying for visas, and working a myriad of jobs to fund your travels, comes the budgeting. Oh, yes, money matters! Growing up we’re often discouraged to talk about finances (along with other taboo topics like politics and religion), but if you’re going to be travelling as a couple, there’s no getting around it – you need to discuss budgeting and you need to do so before you set out on your trip.
While there is no right way to go about budgeting for two, here are a few suggestions on ways you can handle your shared or separate finances on the road.
Keeping separate travel funds
If you haven’t been with your significant other too long and are worried about the prospect of combining your finances, that is absolutely okay! No one says you need to pool all your hard earned money together just because you are going travelling as a couple.
Booking your flights and other transportation is the easy part – use your own personal credit cards. The tricky part comes in when it comes to expenses that will vary from one destination to the next, namely food and accommodations. If you aren’t too picky about splitting the costs exactly in half, then you can consider taking turns booking accommodations – one person could pay for the first 3 nights in Paris, and the other could cover the next 4 days in Florence (or whatever averages out). Same with meals – one person can cover breakfast and a quick lunch of Knackwurst with Sauerkraut from a local vendor, and the other person can pay for dinner for two at a little Italian bistro.
Yes, one person is always bound to spend a few more euros or rupees than the other along the way, but if you’re not too bothered about a few bucks here and there, then it’s a relatively fair system.
If you really want to keep things even, here is what I think is an even better system!
Having a partially shared travel fund
Another way to go about it is to set up a travel fund where you both contribute half of the full amount each month. For example, if you think you’ll be spending a grand total of $1,500 for a month of travel in Thailand, then you would each put $750 into the account. This can be used to cover mutual expenses like transportation, accommodations and food, but then when it comes to additional expenses like shopping for cute dresses, picking up souvenirs, and drinking buckets when you go out at night, you can each keep separate tabs and pay for your individual spending.
Common costs are shared and you also eliminate any possible disagreements since you still have your personal fund to do as you please.
Pooling your money together
If you and your hubby are on the same page when it comes to spending, then pooling your travel funds is something to consider. However, I would only recommend this method if you are both in a very very committed place in the relationship. You don’t want finances to be the cause of the rift between the two of you, or even worse, have the other person asking to be repaid for the money they spent on you if the relationship goes sour (which did actually happen to a friend of mine!)
Pooling money together may work for some couples, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. Just because you’re not ready to combine your travel fund with your partner on your first trip doesn’t mean you care for them any less.
These are just a few different ways to go about, but I think the key here is to sit down and talk things through with your partner and see what you both feel most comfortable with.
Interesting post! My hubs and I don’t have separate accounts, but I wouldn’t have married anyone who wasn’t as equally frugal (cheap??) as me. haha. In the end, if he spends more on coffee or I want to buy a fun scarf, in the end it all kind of evens out. I like your idea of a partially shared travel fund. Sounds like a pretty simple way to deal with hostels and bus/train tickets. 😀
I’m on the same page as you. The only reason I’m okay with sharing travel funds with Sam is that we are both equally frugal. We can spot a bargain from miles away.
The partial shared travel fund is great for couples, and even just friends, who are traveling long term together. It helps you talk about budgeting beforehand, have an agreement, and not think too much while paying for most of your expenses. When I’ve traveled with boyfriends before we didn’t so this but alternated paying for things – it worked out okay, but it’s much harder to keep track of how much you’re actually spending on things when you go back and forth paying for things with whoever has their wallet handy.
I’ve done the alternate paying method with friends before, and I agree that one person always ends up paying a bit more than the other. Another way to do it would be to sort through the bills at the end of the week and divvy things up, but that all depends on how much math you want to do on your holiday. 😉
A partially shared fund is a great idea! I just always encourage couples to make sure they’re on the same page about what they want out of the trip. I backpacked through Peru with my boyfriend at the time and there were lots of money arguments because he was funding the majority of the trip, which he thought entitled him to determine the itinerary. I guess that’s sort of fair (?) but we agreed on things we wanted to do before we left, and then when we got there he changed his mind and I got dragged to all kinds of stuff I had no interest in. If I had my own money, I could have gone and seen what I wanted. Always good to keep at least a bit separate, in my opinion 🙂
That’s too bad that the trip didn’t go the way you imagined. I would have also been pretty disappointed if my partner decided to skip out on all these places I had been wanting to visit for so long.
My partner and I have done tons of traveling together. We don’t pool our money, and we don’t have a shared account. Both of those ideas just seem like a nightmare to me. Like, if you withdraw money from the “shared travel account” do you keep it in a special envelope or something? Do you have a separate shared debit card or something? We each just pay for our own things, and when it comes to shared accommodation we either pay half of the bill each at the counter, or keep track of who paid and for how much. If you go the route of one paying for breakfast and the other lunch, it’s easy to end up paying different amounts. But if you just go with “I paid $10 for breakfast and you paid $15 for lunch so here’s $5.” it’s pretty easy. For us, anyways! (We also treat each other at times too so it’s not so “business” all the time.)
Good post. I have more than one these approaches with my partner, but also with friends when travelling together (particularly the shared travel account model). I’m not so much a fan of the alternating paying method, though, as it can get kinda messy remembering whose turn it is and agreeing (or not) on whether one thing is equivalent to another.
Guess I’m in a slightly different position, my girlfriend is from a poor rural background so I supported her through college & subsidise her current job in Bangkok. She really doesn’t earn a great deal!
When we start our year long tour of SE Asia this July then I’ll be paying for everything from various shares I’ve built up & voluntary redundancy. To me this isn’t really an issue and I figure will add about 25% to travelling solo, but also save a ton of money elsewhere (such as not going out chasing the girlies every night :)).
Don’t stress about how to split things and enjoy the experience of travelling together! One of the sure fire ways to wind each other up will be to penny pinch & not compromise. Even though I’m paying for our travels, I’ve made it clear to her that we will compromise, some days she decides what we do, others me, but hopefully we will mainly be choosing together!
I don’t but Warren and Betsy Talbot do and they have separate site directed at expenses (or the lack thereof) at
* Married with Luggage
Two great sites to start with.
I’m pretty thrilled that John and I never bicker about money or disagree about how to spend it when we travel. We’re actually terrible with budgeting but we both think money spent travelling is money well-spent; thankfully!
Thanks for opening this up!
My husband and I keep completely separate bank accounts. Everything is split 50/50. For meals and day to day expenses we both put in a certain amount at the beginning of each week and pay out of that pouch. I was very resistant to anything shared at first, not because we have different attitudes to money but because I like having control over my money! Another couple we met in India had the same situation as us and suggested the pouch. Six months into the travels and it’s going great!
We split every communal expense down the middle. However, since I am really good at keeping track of money, she gives me money before a trip and I make note of everything on an excel file. My gf will not allow me to pay more than my share, and I track if I owe her or she owes me during the trip. Having one person hold on to the money during the trip works for us as she doesnt like carrying things in her pockets.
We dont have many shopping habits, so it isnt much of an issue.
Things that are individual, such as gifts for non-mutual friends are done individually.
Haha I was actually thinking about how people do this the other day even though I’m single (and ready to mingle!) Great idea for a post though.
We had (still have!) a limited budget, so we both withdraw the same amount at the ATM and share expenses. It has always worked fine for us, from the beginning of the relationship. Even now we have separate bank accounts but we share expenses and it evens out. Mind you, we are not big consumers and we don’t have any addiction to shoes, gambling, etc. 😆
My partner and I keep our money separately both at home, and when we travel. The smallest expenses (a coffee here, an ice-cream there…) we don’t tend to worry about so much. For bigger expenses: accommodation, travel etc… we find that it is usually easy to even out, three days in a hostel = the next bus/train ride for example. My partner likes doing the maths, and keeps a budget on a file on his laptop; he always knows how much he’s spent and how much he has left. He keeps a running total of what he owes me, and vice-versa.
Like others have said, we don’t worry about the small stuff, or if something hasn’t worked out by a couple of dollars here and there.
We spend our money in totally different ways: I like spas, salons, desserts and shopping. He’ll hit the buckets in a big way, but we have exactly the same frugal style when it comes to travel, accommodation and activities so it works for us!
Great post Audrey! It’s good to read about the more organizational and less romantic aspects of couples travel for a change! Over the years, I have traveled a lot with my boyfriend and I’ve learned that it is easier to (loosely) take turns in paying things while traveling, but meticulously keep track of what we spend: I always bring a little notebook to write down exactly what we each spent so we can do the math as soon as we get home. If someone paid more than the other, we just transfer the difference to the others bank account and we’re even. This system works well for us and it’s a good way to not worry about money to much during our vacation.
Thanks for the tips (and for the girl who nervously asked the question) I’ve traveled before solo, and a long time ago with an ex boyfriend, but the money issue was never really “discussed” Now my boyfriend and I will be embarking on an extensive RTW on a very tight budget and getting any tips on how to split the bill is helpful 🙂
I’m glad it was helpful, Jade. 🙂 Enjoy your travels!
Great piece Audrey. I’ve been with my other half for 8 years now and he laughs when I say ‘What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is my own!’ We put all our eggs in the same basket long ago and I’m not sure we’d be able to divide up the chickens to find out who owns what! That said we do each have our own accounts that we channel some funds from personal projects into. I think it’s always nice to have your own money. That you can spend without question from anyone else.
Jonathan and I never had a rift due to money issues. If we have a chance we take out the exact amount before the trip and put it into the trip fund. At the end of the trip if there are things that we paid for separately on a Visa then we use Excel and calculate how much one of us overspent. It’s a bit obsessive compulsive for some, but I don’t mind.
These tips can help me when already married later and realize the dream to travel around Indonesia together.
Thank you so much. 🙂
If you sit down with your significant other and are completely honest with yourselves, than you will more than likely realize that the bank accounts should stay separate…but I definitely agree with you on having a partially shared account as well. Having a shared account used for paying for the things that the both of you use (i.e. taxis, hotel rooms, etc.) is a lot more convenient and will probably save the both of you a lot of resentment towards each other. I also find that Apps like “Trip Splitter” and “Trail Wallet” are helpful in keeping track of who owes who! Great post, Audrey!!
I have been in a co-habitation relationship with my girlfriend for three years. I am, by nature, a very generous guy and I make substantially more than she does, though she makes a very nice salary. She also has two young adult children who often travel with us (and live with us).
This most recent trip, I spent over $4k plus provided the airline tickets for all (on points). Near as I can tell, she spent about $500 on “joint” expenses. From the very first time we traveled together, I have felt like the proverbial wallet. I rarely say anything, but it frustrates me. As I see it, things are way out of balance, given that when I pay for something, I’m paying for 3 extra people and when she pays for something she’s paying for one extra person. This extends to our daily lives as well. I pay the vast majority of our living expenses. Additionally, she will periodically “borrow” money and I never see it returned.
We’re now locked in a bit of a “Battle Royale” because I brought up the issue. She feels that she’s contributing and I feel that I’m being used. I’m not cheap and I give generously to those around me. Further, she feels I have some unique emotional attachment to money (I’m an entrepreneur and have built reasonable, although generally unrealized, wealth. She was bankrupt when she entered our relationship).
I’m also ten years her senior.
My simple question is: what’s fair and reasonable and how do I communicate my frustration without sounding cheap (which I am not)?
It sounds like she’s gotten used to having you be the financial provider, and that’s likely not going to be easy to change after three years of you covering all the major costs.
If like you said, she also earns a decent enough salary, I think she should be making more of a contribution, as should her grown children who are travelling with you. (I started chipping in for family vacations and sometimes even paying my full way when I got my first job at sixteen – that certainly taught me the value of hard earned money.)
I know this is easier said than done, but you need to have an honest financial talk together. No finger pointing or accusations, but express how you feel about always being the one to cover the bill, and try to come up with a solution together. With the previous example of you going on a trip, maybe next time one person can be responsible for covering the airfare and the other can cover accommodations and meals, or whatever averages to half of the total cost.
Money issue has destroyed my previous relationship – but I was paying more than my boyfriend ;(
I am planning an extensive, and what I am sure to be an expensive, European vacation for my 40th next September. I have known I would be doing this for four + years but really put it out there a year ago and am now seriously planning and researching a year ahead of time. I am the financially stable one in the relationship and while I get frustrated I recognize I am will probably save 75% more money than he will and I am not going to let it ruin my trip. I have looked in to other financial opportunities, like withdrawing the non-penalized amount from my annuity and a loan from my credit union when the time comes, but I hope to stay away from the high interest credit cards most of all.
I appreciate the suggestions on the separate accounts and splitting things, I imagine we will do what we have done in the past, I set aside money to give him and go from there.
I cannot believe this rubbish! If you’re in love with someone you’re as ONE. There is no mine or yours anymore – it becomes ours. I could spend the last pound and I wouldn’t care and would never say that “this is how much you owe me now”. Splitting the bill with your mate or a work colleague is fine, but not with your other half! What an absurd!
Please someone tell me (us) I’m (we’re) not alone?
Honestly, I think it just depends on the couple and what stage they are at in their relationship. I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for a long time so we do share everything, however, a couple who has only been together for a few weeks and is going on their first trip together may not be willing to do the same. I say do whatever works best for you. The above are only suggestions and there isn’t a right or wrong answer when it comes to sorting finances as a couple. That’s something that the two of you need to agree on regardless of what anyone else says.
I just travelled to Europe (France and Italy) with my boyfriend in June and we did kept our finances separate for own spending, which i felt was good because there would be no guilt if I have to satisfy my coffee addictions all the time from a combined food fund. (it gets heavy)
Even though there might be people who think that being a couple, there is no reason to separate what is mine and yours, but it really depends on the individual. We’ve been together for 9 years now, and I think even if we are married, we will still have our own separate accounts for our own purchases.
I wanted to comment not so much on the financial aspects of this post – because everyone will have a different idea of what works for them as we have seen by the comments. More, I wanted to comment on your responses to people’s comments. I think you always respond so nicely and non-judgementally to all questions/queries and comments. I have read most of the posts you have put up over the last 6 months of so and have been impressed many times over.
In terms of the content of you blog – good job! I think it is always interesting for travellers to read other people’s stories. It’s part of the fun and adventure. You always make it sound interesting without any bragging/boasting/judgement attitude which I have found on some other travel blogs.
I heartily agree with the last comment… Your blog has quickly become my favourite! All of your posts, especially this one, are written with such an easy intelligence and subtle sense of humour that reading them has become addictive!
I recently discovered your blog and I cannot stop reading! Such a great posts. I think that finance matter is quite sensitive topic but also important one. When I started dating my boyfriend, we would each put the same amount of money in our “travel purse”, which we would use for our daily expenses or actually any activity that we’d do together. It never bothered me that he might have had couple of beers more than I did and it never bothered him that I ordered twice as much ice cream than he did 🙂 4 years later we still have the same system and it works just fine. We do have our separate, personal accounts but we have “home purse” or “travel purse” where we each put the same amount of money and pay our daily expenses out of it. It helps that we both are really obsessed with good food and drinks and we both can see a bargain a miles away so there have never been any arguments whether this or that should be paid out of our shared account or not. But If I fancy to buy a dress or new shoes or something that’s only for me, then I’d do it from my personal account because it just doesn’t seems fair to me that my boyfriend should partially pay for something that only I want and will enjoy and vice versa.
Hi! Audrey. I like your post. It’s interesting for me. Sharing expenses with your boyfriend is very generous in your part as a woman. I don’t agree for only men must shoulder all the expenses for the couple, it should be mutual in my own opinion.
I loved this! I’ve briefly traveled with my boyfriend and we’re now saving up to do a big one and the idea of partly sharing your expenses is a great one. Great blog 🙂 Consider me a new follower!!