Feeld Guide: The economics of non-monogamy

Sara Youngblood Gregory

February 26th, 2024

Open relationships can get…expensive. How can we balance emotional dynamics with the financial ones?

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to finances and relationships—but it is fair to say that non-monogamy can get expensive. Depending on the number of partnerships you have, there may be multiple date nights a month (or even week) to consider. If you’re in a LDR, there are flights, weekend trips, and maybe even hotel rooms to plan for. And, of course, there are the more day-to-day commitments of simply caring for loved ones, which may include rent, car payments, medical expenses, and groceries. With the potential for so many different emotional and financial dynamics, it’s important for non-monogamous people to not only budget, but communicate effectively around money.

This Feeld Guide explores the basics of navigating money in non-monogamy, including understanding your relationship to money, budgeting, and spending, and creating realistic boundaries and expectations around money.

Understanding your relationship with money

Addressing your relationship with money isn’t just logistical—it’s also deeply emotional work. For most people, money isn’t just a way to pay bills, it can also be a measure of safety, precarity, and self-worth.

In fact, many people are taught to think about money the same way they’re taught to think about love—as a scarce resource. “We're taught that we're not worthy of money. We're taught that we have to work so hard for it. We have to work hard for pleasure [and] we have to work hard to receive love,” says Sunny DeLeon, a pleasure activist and money relationship coach for queer and trans entrepreneurs. 

To uncover your emotional relationship to money, DeLeon recommends writing a letter directly to money, as if it were a person. “It could be a love letter, [it could] express gratitude or your fears,” says DeLeon. The exercise is an opportunity to identify the narratives and early messages you received around money and actively decide if those stories and values are truly yours, or if they were imposed on you.

From there, you can begin to shift your perspective and take a more active role in creating a healthier relationship to money. For example, to shift away from fear or a scarcity mindset, you may budget around what you do want (like reliable transportation), rather than a budget based on what you can’t have or don’t “deserve” (like an Uber ride to see your partner.) 

Thinking about budgeting and spending


Once you have a handle on your emotional connection to money, it’s time to think about a budget that will align with your goals. Ada Vargas, founder of Queer Money Coach, says the best strategy is to sit down and go through your real (rather than hypothetical) spending habits. Take a look at your last three months of spending, and place your purchases and expenses into different categories. The point here isn’t to feel guilt or shame, but to get a better understanding of where your money goes and how it could better serve you. From there, you can decide on realistic baby steps, rather than extreme or shame-based changes. 

Of course, it can be overly simplistic to say, “budget better and save more.” Setting aside extra money for a savings account is challenging, especially given recent layoffs, inflation, and the high cost of living. But in non-monogamy, you don’t have to do it all alone.

Jules Purnell, a non-monogamy and sex educator, says one of the benefits of non-monogamy is the ability to share costs with more than just one other person, allowing everyone to live a bit more comfortably. “If you have multiple partners who like to do things together, it may be worth setting up a kind of ‘slush fund’ where everyone periodically pitches in what they can into a bank account, [or a] cigar box under the bed, [or] whatever, and use that for shared trips and gifts,” they say. 

Creating agreements and boundaries around money

When it comes to talking about money, there are a few strategies you can consider to make the process less intimidating and more collaborative:

Have the conversation early.

Having conversations about money is important for folks in any kind of intimate relationship because money is a crucial part of our lived realities and can dictate a lot of our decision making,” says Sarah Simon, a radical communication coach and non-monogamy educator. Starting the conversation can be as simple as saying something like, “I’ve been thinking a lot about my future self and connecting with my financial goals. Do you ever think about that?” Remember: talking about money shows that you are emotionally invested in your loved ones, and offers an opportunity for connection, negotiation, and alignment. 

Incorporate pleasure.

Talking about money doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Instead, it can be something much more celebratory and playful. DeLeon recommends making money conversations sexy—taking your money, yourself, and your loved one(s) out on a date and creating an intentional space for conversation. Pick a neutral spot to have the conversation, away from the stress and clutter of home, and set a goal for yourselves. You don’t have to solve everything all at once, so focus on easing into conversation and creating an intimate environment. Perhaps you want to discuss your emotional relationships to money, communicate your expectations around spending, or simply make an agreement about how to split grocery bills from now on. Before jumping into the conversation, DeLeon recommends agreeing on a safe word together and setting a timer for your discussion.

Focus on honesty.

“Being honest about where you are financially, what matters to you as far as savings and financial goals [go], taking into account each other’s earning opportunities, and what the shared financial responsibilities are and are not is the most important thing you can do,” says Simon. This includes thinking about debt, your spending habits, and how money plays a part in your intimate relationships. Likewise, honesty means you approach your partners with curiosity and openness—and avoid assumptions about their relationship to money. This can look like “challenging assumptions that everyone wants to build wealth, that everyone wants to purchase property, that everyone has equal opportunities when it comes to earning power, and that everyone is coming from similar financial backgrounds,” says Simon. 

Consider equity over equality.

When talking about money, it’s important to acknowledge that people not only have differences in income and salaries, but also different levels of access and privilege when it comes to wealth. Financial, housing, and employment discrimination as well as a lack of intergenerational wealth and healthcare access can disproportionately impact people of color, disabled people, and LGBTQ+ people—and this disadvantage can compound as identities intersect. This means it’s important to think about creating equitable agreements around money, as opposed to thinking everyone should just pay an “equal” amount of a bill or expense. 

Additionally, “there may be some partners that will be unable to contribute financially, period,” says Purnell, “It's worth us all taking into consideration what it means to value someone in our lives. Perhaps there can be some kind of ‘fair play’ arrangement where the partner(s) who can't contribute financially are the ones who do the logistics or planning for trips and gifts. Or it may just be worth saying, ‘I value you as a partner, and my desire to have fun with you and have you in my life doesn't depend upon your ability to be 'productive' or contribute financially.’”

Communicate your boundaries.

It can be tempting to try and “keep up” with partners who make more than you, overspend, or act outside of your personal values around money. Boundaries help you know where you stand, and it’s important to communicate them clearly to your loved ones. If you can’t afford something, or simply don’t want to spend money on a certain activity or plan, communicate that early on. This can be as simple as, “I really care about you and our relationship, but I want you to know I don’t spend lavishly on gifts. Instead, I focus on smaller, sentimental gifts for special occasions or intentional time together.” Try not to catch your partners off guard with these boundaries (like saying this right before a big birthday party, for example). Boundaries are a chance to think about how you and your loved ones can work together to create a relationship where you both feel valued and aligned with your budget. 

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