As anyone who has ever had the pleasure of having a roommate can attest to, figuring out how to split bills with roommates can be a frustrating and trying experience.
Some people don’t want to nickel and dime the person or people they cohabitate with, nor do they want to be nickeled and dimed, while others want to see every last cent from the person whom they share a weekly bottle of milk with, and will happily do a sheet-by-sheet cost breakdown of each toilet paper roll.
So yes, taking a look at bills and how people approach them differently makes it easy to see how friendships get ruined and otherwise happy households turn bleak.
However, there are ways to ensure bills and other household costs don’t get in the way of roommate harmony. Here are a few simple solutions to figuring out how to split costs with roommates to keep the peace, ensure nobody feels financially screwed, and to ensure the weekly game nights remain as fun and festive as ever.
Creating Clear Guidelines on Which Bills to Split
Over the years it is found that one of the easiest ways to ensure everyone feels satisfied with how the household bills are handled is to be direct and upfront with financial expectations. And this means being straightforward about what those expectations are before anyone moves in.
When negotiating moving into a new home, consider asking how bills are handled now and how it will change when you or someone else moves in. Additional questions like, whose name is currently on the utilities?
Will I be expected to put my name on any utilities? When is money collected to split the bills? Are the bills divided equally, or by room size? are also helpful, because everyone can understand what’s expected. It also sets ground rules moving forward.
Deciding How Everyone Wants to Split Bills
As for the best way to split bills, that may depend on the household situation. For example, if the home has two evenly-sized rooms and a shared bathroom, kitchen, and living area, it may be easiest to simply split the bills down the middle as everyone has an equal space. But, if one room is exponentially larger than the other and has its own en suite bath, the bills could be split proportionally to accommodate the extra space for one roommate versus the other.
It is a good idea to tackle the grocery issue head on. Is the house going to split groceries, is everyone going to enjoy one shared meal together, are the roommates going to split common goods like cleaner and toilet paper, or is it every person for themselves?
Any way you choose to go about it is fine, as long as it’s all out in the open—before someone accidentally finishes someone else’s ice cream without asking.
Picking Who Is Responsible for Which Bill
Once it’s decided how a bill will be divided, one other idea may be assigning each roommate ownership of bills for things like the electricity, heating, gas, water, trash, cable and internet, and more, depending on the rental agreement. If you’re able to get a better deal based on a roommate’s existing account with that biller that may be one way to decide.
Or, another common method is to have the roommates divide up the bills evenly in order to distribute the responsibility. Doing things this way may also ensure everyone pays bills on time; otherwise, fellow roommates could be surprised with a service being interrupted.
Creating a Roommate Bills Contract
Once the lease has been negotiated, the bills have all been cleared up, and everyone is in agreement, you may be considering some sort of “roommate contract” spelling out exactly what was decided upon, which everyone reads and signs.
That way, no one can ever claim they were confused about how bills are split, when money is owed, and who is responsible for what. It is recommended to share the fully executed contract electronically and then a printed out copy for all to review and retain.
Sharing a Spreadsheet of Expenses
Settling into a new home and arrangement might be a good time to finish up the admin work by creating and sharing a monthly spreadsheet of expenses.
This spreadsheet could be kept in a common gathering area for easy reference and shared online as well. In the spreadsheet, each roommate can keep track of the expenses they are responsible for, as well as who has paid and what is outstanding.
This spreadsheet may also come in handy for adding in those aforementioned shared groceries and necessities like milk, eggs, toilet paper, and paper towels. That way, everyone can keep track of who bought the last batch to avoid an argument later.
Sitting Down Together at the End of Each Month
It is said that one of the quickest ways to ruin a roommate relationship is for one person to get passive aggressive about the bills. That’s why it’s recommended to avoid leaving little notes around the house about who owes what (or who hasn’t done the dishes in far too long) and instead face those issues head on.
At a good time for everyone, perhaps toward the end of each month might be a good time to, try and schedule a 10-minute roommate check-in where everyone can share household happenings, announcements, and any updates on household bills.
By sitting down in person, no one can avoid possible uncomfortable questions about money and everyone can figure out potential sticky situations together. As a bonus, roommates can also use this time to go over any other to-dos around the house.
Keeping Some Personal Purchases Separate
Though some may be tempted to fully invest in a roommate relationship by sharing the financial burden on just about everything, there are some items that are better left in a budget’s personal spending category.
That includes the purchase of any big-ticket items you’d like to take with you if you ever move out such as a TV, couch, tables, glasses, or an expensive Crockpot purchased on a whim.
It may also be helpful to corner off an area in cabinets and the fridge for each individual roommate to place specialty or expensive food items they do not want to share.
If one roommate has a pet he or she adopted on their own, it is considered a good idea to keep those bills completely separate as it’s rather easy to become emotionally involved in the wellbeing of an animal.
Another common recommendation is for everyone to invest in their own renter’s insurance. This will protect all their items in case of a fire, flood, burglary, or more. This type of insurance could save everyone a lot of money and heartache if disaster strikes.
Using Modern Technology to Split Bills with Roommates
Fortunately, we live in the 21st century and technology is here to help. At least when it comes to the annoyance of splitting bills with roommates, thanks to the advent of payment apps.
With products like SoFi Money®, a mobile-first cash management account, users not only can access their money at any time from anywhere, but can also transfer money straight to their utility service providers when they need to pay bills directly online. And, to make things even smoother, the app also allows peer-to-peer transfers between SoFi Money members and non-members any time.
However, if both roommates happen to be SoFi Money members, that transfer happens instantly, meaning no more waiting days for transfers to arrive. (Note: This can also be a handy tool to use when splitting bills with friends at dinner, on vacation rentals, nights out at the bar, and more.)
Both parties using the app may either “send” or “request” payments from roommates when the bills are due. It’s extremely convenient and requires very little work, and absolutely no physical cash changing hands.
The app has a number of other useful features, like the ability to track weekly spending right in the app’s integrated dashboard, and even the ability to stash cash in Vaults, where it will also be put to work and earn monthly interest.