One thing that drives me crazy about life in Singapore is the fact that young, unmarried Singaporeans often can’t afford to move out of the parental home. The rule that HDB property can only be bought by singles aged 35 and above just rubs salt in the wound. Filial piety notwithstanding, there is a time and place to learn to be independent, and for most people that time comes way before age 35.
Many of my friends who found jobs overseas refused to move back because they didn’t think they would be able to readapt to living with their parents again.
If you’ve decided to take the plunge and move out with your a significant other, or if you’re actually about to get married and move into your new love nest, don’t get so busy planning your first house party that you ignore these money mistakes that can throw a spanner into your hitherto blissful relationship.
Not having a sit-down discussion about all expenses that should be shared
When you’re living with your parents, costs that are shared by all the people in the house start out being borne by the parents, and then (in Singapore anyway) shift to the children when they enter the workforce.
When you move out with your significant other, especially if it’s the first time you’re living outside of the family home, it can be hard to know exactly which expenses need to be divided and which don’t. While it’s quite obvious that rent and utilities should be shared, it’s harder to decide whether you want to split the grocery bill in half as well, or who is going to pay for expenses related to the cat.
Spare yourself the agony of feeling resentful by having a sit-down discussion, documenting all the expenses you’ll incur and deciding what needs to be split and what shouldn’t be shared.
For instance, you might agree to split the cost of shared toiletries like shower gel, but not your partner’s expensive facial products. If one of you wants cable TV channels while the other detests watching television, it might make more sense not to share the cost of the subscription.
Not realising that your spending habits affect the other person
When you and your significant other live apart, you can maintain whatever lifestyle you wish without being nagged. Whether you like to pamper yourself with weekly spa sessions, eat out every day or take taxis home after work, you can rest assured that your partner is largely cushioned from your excesses.
But when you move in together, your spending directly affects the other person, and this can be an unpleasant shock for some. If you’re accustomed to eating home-cooked food, eating out daily can seem like an unnecessary addition to your already much-increased expenses.
It’s impossible to completely anticipate all the little lifestyle differences you’ll inevitably uncover when you move in together. If your partner is coming fresh from the family home, he or she may be just as clueless as to how much his or her lifestyle will cost when out in the real world.
The important thing is to keep the lines of communication open and be ready to discuss things when clashes do (and they will) happen.
Not having a discussion about cutting spending when it’s necessary
When you’re part of a pair, it can be easy to overlook serious issues such as constant overspending. Having someone else shoulder half the responsibilities can make you underestimate the severity of your financial issues—after all, if you were in such a dire situation, you partner would have said something, right?
When you’re living together and have certain shared budgets, never assume the other person will be the one to monitor your spending. Either take it upon yourself to check the numbers regularly or sit down to regular meetings to review your spending and make cuts where necessary.
After a few months of living together you might realise that your shared expenses are extremely high. Review your shared bills to pick out the problem areas.
For instance, you might face a huge grocery bill each month because you rely too much on expensive pre-made food like frozen pizzas and microwaveable meals. Or you might have too many unnecessary subscriptions like cable TV, newspaper and magazine deliveries and a land line.
Budgeting is definitely more complicated when there are two people involved rather than one. Be prepared to put in the extra effort or pay for it.
What were the biggest financial issues you faced when you first moved out of your parents’ place? Tell us in the comments!
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