How Young Couples Talk About Money in Relationships

Tessa Miller Kiesz, 21, and her partner, Nicholas Brester, 22, had been living together for about two months when they decided to adopt a kitten named Rue. The adoption fee — $300, which included neutering — prompted one of their first conversations about money. They had been working as ranch hands in Montana and earned equal salaries, and Rue was their first bill to split.

The adoption started a shared financial journey that took them from Montana to New York, where Ms. Miller Kiesz started theater school and works in pottery and as a part-time nanny. Mr. Brester freelances on Off Broadway shows, mostly as a technical director.

The volatile nature of life in the performing arts makes it difficult to split everything 50-50.

“When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s really bad,” Mr. Brester said. “And sometimes artists just don’t have that luxury of consistency.”

Ms. Miller Kiesz and Mr. Brester have had to get more granular with their financial discussions, especially around date nights. They try to be more spontaneous, but cost-conscious, by using, for example, the New York Public Library’s Culture Pass program to receive free admission to museums. They also lay out in advance if they’re going to split a date or if one of them will treat the other.

“I think the way that works best with us is always having that almost emotional and financial prep going into it,” Ms. Miller Kiesz said. Bringing up Venmo during a date, she said, would remove the romance from an evening out.

But Ms. Miller Kiesz is comfortable with asking Mr. Brester to pay her back while she’s in line at the grocery store. She said these single-digit conversations opened up a line of communication, allowing them to talk about larger financial issues.

“It does kind of feel like an act of love within itself to open those conversations at the right time, when you know your partner’s in a good space, and to allow those moments to flow a little bit better,” she said.