Dear Penny: I’m Desperate for Money, but My Boyfriend Loathes My Side Gig

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Dear Penny,

My live-in boyfriend and I both work. He makes about two to three times more than I do. 

I love my job, but it’s not making me enough money. I get very anxious about bills and expenses, even though my boyfriend helps with the bills. He pays half of each bill we share, and he is usually fine with paying for other things we need. I am feeling the need to make more money for myself, so I recently signed up for DoorDash to help myself out. 

Here is the issue: We share my car, and we both need it for our primary jobs. My boyfriend is limiting the time I can go out and dash because he is worried something might happen to the car while I am out dashing. 

It seems like he doesn't trust me enough to drive for more money, yet he asks me to trust that he will make sure all the bills get paid. The bills are coming out of my account, and he gives me the cash to deposit for them. 

I don’t want to fight about this, but we have talked about this before. I just don't know what to do.  Any suggestions?

-Broke and Anxious

Dear Broke and Anxious,

Your boyfriend either needs to shoulder a bigger share of the bills, or he needs to stop interfering with your ability to earn more. There’s not much middle ground here.

If something doesn’t change, your worries will only compound over time. You can work with your boyfriend on a compromise, but ultimately, it will boil down to you earning more or him paying more.

But I don’t think the car is the real issue here. The way you’re splitting expenses clearly isn’t working for you. A 50-50 split usually doesn’t make sense when one person significantly outearns the other. Sure, it may work on paper for the months when everything goes as planned, but not when the unexpected expenses creep up.

Think about what it would take for you not to feel broke and anxious. Quantify it if possible. For example, would you sleep soundly if you were earning an extra $500 a month? Or if you had three months’ worth of expenses saved in a joint bank account, would you feel less anxious?

If you can get your boyfriend to agree on a financial goal, the conversation becomes about how you get there.

Your boyfriend probably won’t be thrilled by this suggestion, but if he’s earning two or three times more than you, he should be footing way more than half the bills. Ideally, you’d divide expenses according to income. So if your boyfriend earns twice what you do, he’d be responsible for two-thirds of the bills while you’d cover the other third.

It’s also essential that you make a budget together. This should include a monthly contribution to an emergency fund that’s in both of your names. Keep making that contribution until you have at least three to six months’ worth of basic expenses. You might also want a sinking fund to cover the bills that are irregular but not unexpected, like insurance premiums and holiday gifts. By having money set aside, you won’t constantly have to trust that your boyfriend will be willing and able to pay for any extra expense.

If your boyfriend won’t agree to a compromise, driving for DoorDash is a decent short-term solution. But in that case, you’ve got a bigger problem, which is that you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t value your well-being. The only long-term fix there is to walk away.

Ultimately, this is your vehicle. Your boyfriend has no right to limit your access to it. Don’t let his objections stop you from building financial security.

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