6 Tips For Splitting Expenses With a Roommate

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Living with a roommate has its pros and cons, but one of the biggest advantages is the ability to reduce costs. From the big stuff like rent and utilities to smaller expenses such as cable TV or some grocery items, sharing costs with a roommate makes everyday life cheaper for many people. While things are somewhat more complex for roommates during the COVID-19 pandemic — requiring the need for ground rules around safety protocols — the benefits may still outweigh the risks. Of course, you’ll want to choose your roommate carefully and have a sense of their ability to maintain a job and pay bills on time, so pick someone who doesn’t raise red flags. Here are tips on how to best split your expenses with a roommate.

Find Out: Surprising Ways Gen Z and Millennials Are Worlds Apart Financially

Agree on How To Split Bills and Who Will Pay

The time to figure out which bills you’re going to split and when should be done before you move in together. You don’t want to be caught off guard, so try to anticipate all shared costs, from the obvious ones like rent and utilities to portions of such things as entertainment subscriptions, as well as their due dates. If your roommate is using something potentially shared (like a streaming subscription or Wi-Fi service) more than you, negotiate a lower amount for yourself. Additionally, determine who will be in charge of actually paying which bills, and try to split that as evenly as possible so all the labor doesn’t fall on one roommate, which can breed resentment.

Make Your Money Work for You

Read: Americans’ Savings Drop to Lowest Point in Years

Put It in Writing

Once you’ve listed every shared bill you can think of and agreed to a split, put it in writing so there are no questions and no one forgets what they agreed to. An old-fashioned spreadsheet can work fine, or you can use an app like IOU that reminds you of what you owe and when. Another app, Splitwise, can tally small IOUs into one big lump sum, making it easier to reimburse once rather than many small amounts.

See: 30 Things You Do That Can Mess Up Your Credit Score

Not All Expenses Must Be Shared

Keep in mind that just because you share space together doesn’t mean all your purchases have to be shared. There will be many things you don’t both use or need. Stick to sharing costs for things like house cleaning supplies and toilet paper and keep your ice cream, wine or steak habits separate.

Make Your Money Work for You

Buy Your Own Furniture

Say you need new furniture, but you know you may not continue living together forever. You could agree to buy the table and chairs while your roommate buys the couch, with the understanding that when you go your separate ways, you’ll take what you purchase with you. Buying furniture together means that you’ll have to eventually “buy out” the other party or risk them taking something you bought.

More: The 6 Most Important Tax Deductions You Need to Claim

Pay For Your Own Groceries

Food can also be a tricky area of shared costs. You might eat some similar things but not others. Your roommate might be on a diet or have special eating habits while you’re up for anything at any time. Best not to try and share grocery costs unless it’s something you truly can split down the middle — maybe a big bag of rice or pasta. You can, however, carpool to the store together to save time and gas.

Make Your Money Work for You

Find Out: How I Spent $25 for One Week of Groceries

Use Payment Apps To Collect Money

Paying your roommate (or taking payment) is way easier than it was for your parents thanks to payment apps such as Venmo and Paypal. Instead of having to write a paper check, just make sure you’ve got the cash in your account and send it instantly.

Read: Cutting Out These 25 Expenses Will Save You $16,142.08 a Year

The key to a strong financial relationship with any roommate is communication. The clearer you are upfront and the more direct you are in conversations about money, the smoother it will go for all parties involved.

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Last updated: Feb. 19, 2021

About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.


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