Having a roommate can be great; you have companionship and someone to split the bills with. But that sharing of expenses can sometimes get challenging and tense even. Roomies can wind up arguing over who is using up all the toilet paper or sending the electricity bill through the roof.
To help keep the peace and control costs, there are smart tactics you can use. Try some or all of these tips to keep your household as fun and argument-free as ever.
Creating Clear Guidelines on Which Bills to Split
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 to wrangle can include:
• 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?
These can be helpful, because everyone can understand what’s expected. It also sets ground rules moving forward.
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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 reflect the extra space for one roommate versus the other.
It is a good idea to tackle the grocery issue head on. For instance, address such questions as:
• Is the house going to split groceries?
• Is everyone going to enjoy one shared meal together at night?
• Are the roommates going to split common goods like cleaner and toilet paper?
• Or is each person going to fend 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. Perhaps you’re able to get a better deal based on a roommate’s existing account with a certain biller. That may be one way to decide and to lower expenses.
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. Being late with bills can lead to fellow roommates being surprised with a service being interrupted and their credit being dinged if they are listed on the account that’s unpaid.
You might also look into changing the due date on bills; this can sometimes be accomplished and can ease cash flow.
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 the household budget and 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.
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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 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. You’ll also see how much your household is spending on groceries per month and other expenses.
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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, schedule a 10-minute roommate check-in. In this meeting, 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. You all 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. You might also discuss ways to economize, such as saving money on water bills.
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. These might include such items as a TV, couch, tables, glasses, or an expensive Crockpot purchased on a whim.
It may also be helpful to distinguish 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 they adopted on their own, it is a good idea to keep those bills completely separate.
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Another common recommendation is for everyone to invest in their own renters 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, splitting bills with roommates is easier than ever, thanks to the advent of P2P transfers. You might all pay bills via PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle, and then one person transfers the appropriate amount to the payee. Your bank may also have tools you can use to quickly send funds to others.
It can be fast and free to transfer money this way and can make the bill-paying routine quick and simple.
If you need flexible banking (whether or not you have roommates), consider what SoFi offers. With an online checking and savings account, you can not only access your money at any time from anywhere but also transfer money to pay bills directly online. Plus, you can complete peer-to-peer transfers between SoFi Checking and Savings members and non-members.
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