College roommates are a fact of life. You get to make potential life long friends, but you also have to learn how to manage and share expenses. The best way to split expenses might seem like a no-brainer. However, your idea of what’s reasonable may be completely different from what your roommates think; keep these tips in mind to help you manage your shared roommate expenses.
Set Rules Ahead of Time
Your bill payments will go by more smoothly if you and your roommates have a plan. You’ll need to decide who pays for what, how much each person pays, and when payments are due. Costs to consider include utilities, cable, Wi-Fi, and groceries.
Rent is the biggest consideration. Typically, rent is split evenly between roommates. This arrangement may not work, however, if one person’s room is significantly smaller than the other rooms. That roommate might not want to pay as much as everyone else. If that’s your situation, you can use an online rent splitter calculator to figure out a fair price.
You may also want to create an overnight guest policy. A common issue for roommates is the new girlfriend or boyfriend who suddenly starts sleeping over all the time. How much is too much? At what point — if any — should that person start contributing to the household bills? These are the sort of rules you should set ahead of time to help prevent arguments later.
Keep Some Costs Separate
When it comes to splitting costs, groceries fall into a gray area. You might all agree that common items, such as milk or bread, should be shared, while other items should be purchased separately. For example, your vegetarian roommate will never eat your box of frozen chicken wings, so it makes more sense to buy it yourself. Likewise, you shouldn’t have to pay for her almond butter that you don’t eat.
You should also avoid splitting the cost of furniture and electronics. That way, when it’s time to move out, you won’t have to decide who gets to keep the PlayStation 4. Talk to your roommates ahead of time about what shared items you need and figure out who should pay for what.
Hold Each Other Accountable
Nobody likes confrontation. However, if your roommate is behind on a payment, you can’t just ignore it. Try to bring it up without attacking them. It’s possible that they just forgot or had something come up. If forgetfulness is a common issue, you may want to use a money app such as Splitwise. It helps you keep track and split expenses. It also lets you send reminders for upcoming bills and notifications for outstanding IOUs.
Does one person have a habit of blasting the A/C, and now the utility bill is sky-high? Or maybe you’re the one who keeps eating all the cereal that everyone else pays for? Nobody is perfect, which is why you’ll need to hold each other accountable to keep your finances on track.
Living with roommates helps keep your living costs low, so long as you do it right. Follow these tips, and make sure you’re splitting the expenses fairly.