Roommates: How To Share Expenses (And How Not To!)

Thursday, September 26 at 09:00 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Thinking about getting a roommate? Or two, or three? Splitting rent and expenses can be the smartest way to get a lot more out of your money and build some savings for your future.

Living with roommates is not for everyone. And there can be disadvantages to sharing your space. But the financial advantages, alone, may outweigh any drawbacks if you have the right roommates.

So who are the right roommates? They’ll be people you think can work out household issues together. You’ll each need to be willing to communicate openly. And you’ll need to treat each other with respect, even when personal needs clash.

Once you’ve found the right people, how do you set up for success?

Here are six keys tips for starting off right: 

  1. Decide ahead of time who pays for what. Sit down with your roommates well before move-in day and plan it out. List all the expenses you can think of, and decide together how you’ll handle them. Who will owe what share of what? Who will collect it from the others on what date? And who will actually make the payment to the landlord, utility company, internet service, Netflix, etc.?

    Also decide together how you want to handle general household needs like paper towels, dish soap, trash bags and cleaning supplies.

    Smart tip: Wait to pay the rent or bills until you have your roommates’ shares in hand. Don’t pay out of pocket, just in case they don’t come through on time.
     
  2. Post due dates on a central calendar. Hang a calendar in a common place to remind everyone when bills are due. List how much each roommate owes, and mark it off when it’s paid. Or use a free online system like Google Calendar.
  3. Know your schedules. If you are all students, it makes sense to have a basic understanding of your daily routines. This is especially helpful when roommates have different sleep schedules, or if you have certain times of the day for study.
  4. Use Arvest to Arvest Transfers. If you and your roommate both bank at Arvest, you can also make free Arvest to Arvest Transfers to each other’s bank accounts. These process immediately, when made by the 8 p.m. cutoff time. Or, you can set them up to process on a future date or recurring date. And you can do it all straight from your Arvest Go mobile app or Online Banking With Blue IQ.

    One extra advantage of paying friends digitally over using cash: You’ll have the digital record of exactly when you paid them and how much.
     
  5. Don’t try to split the couch. Keep in mind it’s much easier to own furniture, electronics and appliances individually, instead of buying them together. Example: Maybe you bring the couch and your roommate brings the TV. Then when you move out, you each take what you brought. No hassles over what it’s worth or who gets what.
     
  6. Beware of groceries. From many people who’ve been there, consensus is that it’s too complicated to share everyday food and grocery bills. Mostly, because people like to eat different things. Also, it’s too hard to calculate fair share. How do you measure who drinks what portion of the milk? And preferences are personal: Your roommate likes generic ketchup, but you can’t stand it!

    It likely works best to keep your weekly groceries separate. But that’s not to say you won’t find ways you like to collaborate. Example: Your group might enjoy planning certain meals together that you’ll all chip in for.
     
  7. Do your part to communicate. It’s just natural that at least minor annoyances or tensions will come up between roommates, even if you’re best friends. A good mindset to have is to just expect this. Then you can be prepared to do your part by communicating calmly and fairly.

When everyone shows respect and goodwill, you can almost always negotiate systems and solutions that work for everyone. So look forward to life as a roomie and all the savings benefits!


 

Tags: A Spin on Spending, Financial Education
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