It’s fairly common for recent grads to begin their young adult lives with a roommate or two. After all, what could be better than constant companionship AND cheaper rent?
But before you sign the lease and pay your security deposit, it’s important to discuss all of the financial decisions involved in living with another person. And while living together, there are a few things that should be established so your cohabitation runs smoothly.
Although it may feel awkward to talk about money for the first time with a friend (or acquaintance!), you’ll be thanking yourself later when the bills are paid on time and you’re not wondering whether or not it would be weird to send your roomie a Venmo request.
Here are the most important things to cover now to avoid financial problems with roommates down the line:
Before Move-In Day
Talk about your finances upfront
Once you’ve found your soon-to-be roomie(s), plan to have a conversation about where you currently stand financially. Ensure you’re all on the same page about what you can afford and how you’ll pay your share each month. Do you all have steady employment? What about emergency funds?
If everyone’s financial situations are drastically different, consider if that will affect your decision to live together – or what adjustments you’ll need to make for your housing costs to be affordable for everyone.
Establish an apartment-hunting budget
It’s important to set expectations on what everyone can afford in terms of rent, utilities, and other shared expenses before you begin searching for the perfect place to live. Make sure you know the exact dollar amount you and your roommate(s) can afford – then only pursue options within budget.
Remember: most rentals require first and last months’ rent before move-in along with any pet fees or other one-time deposits. Also consider the cost of any furniture you’ll need right away.
Determine responsibilities and systems
Now that you’ve got the what figured out, it’s just a matter of who and how. Determine who will have the utilities in their name (as it’s usually just one person) and who is in charge of paying which bills each month.
You’ll also want to establish a system of how you’ll pay one another for your respective share (see our favorite tools at the end of this article!) Whatever you use, figure out a system and determine when everyone should send their payments each month. Having a plan in place beforehand makes it much easier for everyone to follow through down the line.
Deciding How to Split Costs with Roommates
In many cases, the rent will be split evenly between everyone on the lease. However, you may determine that roommates with pets or extra amenities (such as a larger bedroom, private bathroom, balcony, or a parking space) should be responsible for a little more of the cost. Alternatively, roommates with extras could also be in charge of certain chores around the house or keeping things like garbage bags or paper towels in stock for everyone to use. Be sure to upload your receipts to receipt hog.
Electric, gas, and water bills are also commonly split among roommates. However, it’s important to discuss things that could cause the cost of these bills to go up – such as blasting the air conditioning, keeping the heat high all winter, or frequently doing small loads of laundry. And if one roommate will be gone for an extended period of time, determine if they’re still responsible for their full share of utilities or how it will be split in their absence.
For some, internet is more of a nice-to-have, but for others – especially if they work or attend school from home – it’s non-negotiable. If one roommate insists on a faster wi-fi plan, it may make sense for them to pay the difference between that and the basic package. If you’re purchasing your own equipment, you should also determine how those upfront costs will be split. Don’t forget to consider whether or not the monthly cost will go up after the new customer special expires!
Cable and Streaming Services
Some still can’t live without cable, and that’s okay. Look into internet packages that include cable and calculate the additional cost. If one roommate won’t use it, maybe the other is responsible for the entire cost. If all roommates will use it if it’s available, it may make sense to keep the even split.
Same with streaming services – it’s much cheaper to pay for one Hulu account if two people will use it anyway, but forcing everyone to split it could cause issues. Make a list of the streaming services you all currently have or are interested in getting and then determine financial responsibility from there.
Figuring out how to split groceries with roommates is one of the tricker problems of living with someone – but the best solution is really determined by how you’ll be sharing those groceries. If your plan is to take turns cooking for everyone, it may make sense to split all grocery bills evenly or take turns buying them. If you’ll primarily be eating on your own, plan to pay for your own groceries and only use what’s yours.
However, there will still probably be some communal kitchen staples (think: salt, olive oil, paper towels, etc.) – you can either split those costs or take turns replacing them. Or maybe you just have a realllyyy nice roommate who doesn’t mind grabbing it on their way home.
Financial Tools to Make Your Lives Easier
Luckily, determining how to split costs with roommates is now easier than ever with so many apps designed to help. Here are a few of our favorites to make organizing your group’s finances (mostly) painless.
Who carries cash or writes checks anymore? These apps are great for sending your share of the bills or paying back your roomie after you accidentally eat the food they were definitely saving for later:
Nothing ruins a roommate situation more than not being able to pay the bills you committed to. So before you’re forced to ask mom or dad for a short-term loan, get your finances in order with these great budgeting tools:
Don’t forget to earn rewards on every dollar you spend!
Even with a roommate, living can be quite expensive. But Receipt Hog makes it easy to earn rewards on money you’re already spending. Just snap pictures of your receipts to turn them into cash. Bonus: we’ll also keep track of and store your receipts for easy returns.
Download Receipt Hog today from the App Store or Google Play Store. And, hey, with that bonus, maybe you can be the roommate to pick up more paper towels on the way home – name-brand, even.