Dear Penny,

My boyfriend of almost two years has recently asked me to start paying the electric and water bills at his place. I live about an hour’s drive from him, so I really only spend the weekends with him. I’ve washed my clothes there three times max in the almost two years, and I washed his clothes with mine those times. 

I clean his house, watch his dogs, buy food and share the cost of going out, vacations, etc. I feel that he is not acknowledging my contributions in any way. So how should I handle this situation?  

-S.

Dear S.,

You could offer to bring your own bottled water and a generator for your weekends together. You could research the going rates for cleaning and dog-sitting in your area, then invoice your boyfriend for your services. Ask him to reimburse you for transportation at the IRS standard mileage rate.

Better yet, you could not visit your boyfriend this weekend. Or next weekend. Or the weekend after that.

At most, he’ll free up a few bucks in his budget if you’re not there using his utilities. More importantly, you’ll free up your time. Then you can pursue someone who actually values your companionship.


At best, your boyfriend is being an extreme cheapskate. But I can’t help but feel that he’s being manipulative by trying to make you responsible for his bills. Regardless, the proper way to handle this situation is to tell your boyfriend, “No, I’m not paying your utility bills. This is a completely ridiculous request.” This isn’t up for debate.

You can tell him why it’s so absurd on a financial level. You’re paying for gas and wear-and-tear on your vehicle from driving an hour each way to visit your boyfriend. I’m sure those costs alone are much higher than the tiny bit extra you’re adding to his utilities.

But also tell him how what he’s asking makes you feel. I think you’re spot on when you say your boyfriend isn’t acknowledging your contributions. This isn’t just about what you do around the house. You want someone who appreciates your time and company.

This relationship sounds one-sided, even when we put aside the fact that your boyfriend wants you to pay his bills. You drive an hour to see him, then you buy groceries, clean his house and care for his dogs. Instead of being grateful, your boyfriend is trying to stick you with his bills for the privilege of spending time with him.

What I’m curious about is whether this request is out of character for your boyfriend. I suppose one extremely charitable explanation could be that he’s stressed about money. That doesn’t let him off the hook, of course. If money is a big worry for your boyfriend, he needs to be honest about that and cut back on things like going out, rather than trying to make you responsible for his bills.

But given all the work you’re doing in this relationship, I can’t help but think this may be typical of him. If that’s the case, listen carefully. This isn’t about the costs of water and electricity. This is about how he values your relationship.

Assuming you want to make this work, you need to adopt a new mantra: You’re only going to give what you’re getting out of a relationship. That applies to your current relationship, as well as any relationships you pursue in the future.

Quit doing your boyfriend’s house cleaning and laundry and grocery shopping on your weekends. He can do his own chores like a responsible adult. He could also pay you a visit for a change to save you some time and gas money.

Your boyfriend’s reaction will be very telling. If he argues with you when you tell him you’re not paying his bills, or if he expects you to do his housework when you visit, I think it’s time to dump him. Better to end things now, before you’ve combined your lives any further, than to keep wasting time on someone who will never appreciate you.

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.





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