Living with roommates can be both a blessing and a struggle. After all, teaming up with a roommate could mean a bigger apartment with a little more space.
If you’re lucky, roommates can sometimes even turn into built-in friends—people who will be there for you at 3 am when you need to cry on the couch after a bad breakup or complain about a work project gone wrong. But roommates might also come with their own dirty dishes, weird habits, and unusual sleeping hours.
Luckily, whether you already won the roommate lottery or are just trying to make the best of living with a near-stranger, figuring out how to share roommate expenses doesn’t have to be hard.
Deciding What Not to Share
One of the first negotiations you might have when moving in with a new roommate is who is bringing what, and what each of you expects to contribute to the household.
There’s no right way to allocate roommate expenses, but deciding in advance what is communal and what is off-limits could help set the stage for a healthy and drama-free roommate relationship.
One thing it can be essential to keep in mind is that it might not be a good idea to share absolutely everything with your roommate. And no, I’m not talking about keeping secrets.
When you’re first moving in, it might be tempting to make one massive trip to a big box store for things like cookware, furniture, and potted plants, and then split the cost right down the middle.
But before you and your roommate decide to go halfsies on that perfect mid-century sectional, consider this: who is going to take it when you move out?
Will one of you get the set of cast iron skillets and the other one will take the silverware or will you end up sawing a sheet pan in half during move out?
Difficult questions like this are one reason that, while roommates often end up sharing a lot, you might not want to share everything.
Instead, consider sitting down with your roommate and making a list of what you both already own and can bring to the apartment for communal use (for example, if your roommate has a stand mixer and you have a vast collection of bread tins, you’re going to be able to use both to make some killer baked goods).
If you can contribute a couch, your roommate might be able to find a kitchen table. Avoiding splitting big purchases 50/50 might help you maintain a more harmonious relationship when your lease is up because it can be easier to determine whose stuff is whose.
Setting Ground Rules
Okay, so you might not split the cost of a sofa, but what will you share? Many roommates find that part of sharing a household might mean sharing more than just rent and utility bills.
You may want to consider sitting down with your roomie to figure out what items will be communal and how you will split up the costs of those monthly expenses.
It might make sense to start first by looking at the costs of living in your apartment: rent, utilities, and any subscription services like cable or video streaming.
Whether you split each cost evenly, or by a percentage of use, it makes sense to keep a written document where you keep track of each person’s share of expenses—so no one is blindsided when it comes time to pay the bills.
Once you have the details of the non-negotiable bills nailed down, look at what else you want to share. For example, while some roommates do each tote their own roll of toilet paper into the bathroom, many find that it is easier and more economical to split the cost of a bulk package.
Ditto with things like cleaning supplies, trash bags, and paper towels. Likewise, some roommates find that sharing basic groceries like bags of quinoa, gallons of milk, or coffee grounds is more economical, even if they purchase the majority of their groceries separately.
If you and your roomie have very similar tastes and budgets, you may even choose to share all your groceries, splitting the cost in half. While this may work for some roommates, it can be difficult if you have different tastes or cooking routines.
Luckily, you and your roommate can decide to share as much or as little as works for you, depending on your personal preferences. Whatever you decide, making those choices up front, and with the input from all the roommates, might help make sharing a household a little easier.
Make Paying Each Other Easy
Still wondering how to split rent between roommates? Luckily, sharing roommate expenses has never been easier.
Gone are the days of keeping meticulous handwritten lists of costs and saving receipts from the grocery store or the Thai take out place down the road, and then sitting down once a month with a calculator to figure out who owes who what.
Now, with easy-to-use apps and tracking programs and peer to peer money transfers, paying each other can be a snap.
With a SoFi Money® cash management account, you can even track your spending, which can help you easily keep track of what you spend on communal expenses, all on a convenient dashboard within your account. Once you can see and monitor your costs, divvying up shared costs will be no problem.
And when it comes time to pay? Modern technology can help there as well. One other benefit of an account like SoFi Money is that you can easily integrate your account with peer to peer transfer services.
Using peer to peer transfer allows you to almost instantaneously transfer money back and forth between roommates, eliminating the need for checkbooks or stacks of cash to change hands.
When paying each other back or splitting costs is more manageable, it is easier to focus on the fun part of having a roommate, like rearranging the living room and planning that series finale watch party.
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