Sharing Expenses with a Roommate

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Living on your own can be very expensive. If you’re planning on moving out on your own, you have an exciting change awaiting! Choosing to live with a roommate can help make the transition much easier and also bring some great benefits like splitting some of the bills—but Before you find a place and sign a lease, make sure you and your future roommate are on the same page when it comes to sharing expenses.

Your biggest expense will likely be the monthly rent. Sharing rent can mean splitting it 50/50, but if the size and amenities for each room differ, you might have to compromise. For example, a room with a large closet or private bathroom may be worth more than a smaller room with a shared bathroom. A good compromise would be to have the person who gets the “better” room to pay a slightly higher portion of the rent.

Sharing Utilities
Some utilities such as water or gas, may be included in the monthly rent. Determine if one of you will pay the electric bill and the other pay internet and cable or satellite television, etc. or if you will split all the utility bills evenly. It doesn’t matter which person’s name is on different utility bills, but it would be a good idea for each of you to have a utility in your name. This will help both of you establish a history so future deposits for utilities will be lower.

Renters Insurance
Landlords often require you to purchase renters insurance and offer a policy.  You can ask your agent about other options to compare pricing and possible combined discounts. What if you are grilling on your wooden balcony, the grill blows over while it is unattended and the entire building burns down? Everyone in the building will expect you to pay for the personal belongings they lost in the fire. A renters insurance policy may help pay for your liability in that incident. Let’s say your neighbor is the one who caused the fire though, and they don’t have renters insurance. If you do, it may help you replace your things that were lost in the fire. Plus it’s very affordable.

Groceries are a common source of disagreements between roommates, unless there is a mutual understanding before your first trip to the store. You might consider sharing items that don’t run out of as often like cleaning supplies, paper towels, trash bags, etc. If one of you buys these the first time, the other one should buy it next time. For the remaining grocery items such as food and drinks, consider it best for everyone to handle their own shopping and only eat what they purchase themselves. This helps avoid unnecessary disagreements and arguments over who paid for what and who ate the last of a certain item.

Put it in Writing
It’s a good idea to put your agreement for splitting expenses in writing before moving in. This can be put simply in an email to the roommates and have everyone respond that they agree to it, or write up a basic contract that everyone signs.

Use Technology to Transfer Funds
There are numerous apps that can make it quick and easy to request money from a roommate and for them to send it directly to you. You can make the transaction from anywhere, and don’t have to wait to cash a check. Another upside of using technology to transfer funds is that you’ll have a digital record of the payments between you and your roommate.

Have a Chat
Expenses are only one thing you need to talk about before you move in with someone. If your roommate enjoys having frequent guests over and you don’t, it can lead to a strain in that relationship and you might realize you wouldn’t be the best roommates. Other things to consider is how cleaning responsibilities will be split, common house rules, quiet time hours, etc. If you’re moving in with your best friend, you might think you know them well, only to find out they aren’t easy to live with. A simple discussion prior to moving in can help avoid a lot of problems down the road, and save a lifelong friendship while you’re at it.  

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