Dear Penny: I Dumped My Live-in Boyfriend. Do I Owe Half of the Bills?

Dear Penny,

I started dating a guy I really liked about 10 months ago. Into our third month of dating, he received an amazing job offer in another state and asked me if I would be down to move with him. 

It was a big commitment, but I decided I would like to get away from my tiny hometown, so I agreed to move with him. I have two young children as well from a previous relationship. (Their dad is not involved, so it was an easy move.) 

He decided before we moved to sell his car because the payments were insane, so he was looking at cheaper cars. I put the down payment on the vehicle he selected. It was significantly cheaper than the other car he had, and we were going to share it when we moved.

It was a fairly large effort to find housing, but we finally found a house we liked. Rent is expensive where we are, so it was a hefty price just to move in alone. It cost us about $9,500 to move, not including the U-Haul we had to rent. I spent a little more than he did, however. I had a large lump sum of money saved up from my previous job and didn’t really think anything of it. 

He bought a cheap living room set shortly after we moved in. When I say cheap, I mean CHEAP. I bought everything else for the house: decorations, rugs, towels, kitchen stuff, silverware, everything else. Keep in mind, I have two toddlers and yet I still paid more for this house and the things in it.

Upon moving, he started his job and I stayed home with the kids. With the money I had saved, I bought groceries and other things we needed for the house. Every day he went to work, I stayed home with the kids, took care of the house, cleaned everything, and always had dinner cooked and ready for him when he got home. 

I started to try to look for a job as well, but with two young kids, it is very difficult and the area we moved to doesn’t exactly have very secure-looking childcare. He paid the bills while I paid for groceries and other things we needed. But the money obviously started to dissipate on my end. 

After living with him for a few months, I realized he wasn’t someone I wanted to stay with. I care for him, but I just can’t deal with him rambling on and on anymore. He’s so needy and he constantly wants my attention, but I can’t always give it to him because I have children who need me, too. 

He got fired from his job shortly after. Then, something bad happened back home with his family. We decided to move back home before our lease was up. I’m relieved in a way, I am excited to go home, and I feel like this is my out with this guy. But I’m trying to sort out the money situation. 

Considering the $3,000 down payment I put down on the car and all of the money I dropped on stuff for the house and groceries, do you think I owe him for half of our bills for three months there? Or do you think he owes me for the car since he’s the one driving it and taking it home with him?


Dear D.,

It’s easy to split things 50/50 when you’re on a date. But when you blend households, it becomes complicated, especially when you factor in the support for children from past relationships.

I can’t say for sure who spent more on this attempt at living together. Presumably, you’ll each get to keep the items you purchased for the home. If you paid $3,000 for the car down payment but he paid for the bulk of expenses for you and your kids for three months, it doesn’t really sound like either of you is screwing the other over here.

Moreover, if he’s lost his job and your savings is dwindling, it doesn’t really matter what I think is fair. Each of you needs to focus on re-establishing separate residences instead of splitting hairs.

My advice is to use this as a learning experience. In the future if you decide to combine finances with someone — whether you’re moving in together or making a major purchase — it’s essential that you spell out in writing who gets what if the relationship ends. One of the big benefits of marriage is that it’s a contract. There’s a process for when it ends, i.e., divorce. But when you’re not married, it’s up to you to set the terms for what happens if things don’t work.

This may have been an expensive lesson. But fortunately, you learned this relationship wasn’t viable within three months. In terms of the time it cost you, I’d say that’s a pretty darn cheap lesson.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected] or chat with her in The Penny Hoarder Community.