Roommate Dilemma: To Split or Not to Split Expenses

Now that our blogger Katherine has settled into her new apartment, she recaps what she and her roommate have decided about buying furniture and other stuff.


It’s a weird relationship, living with someone who you’re not actually in a relationship with. It’s like being in a marriage you are certain will end in divorce; you’re going to part ways eventually, it’s just a matter of time.

So how in the world do you go about furnishing a place when you’re going to break-up? You can’t exactly take half a table and two chairs with you now can you?

The easiest and most successful soltion is to buy things piece by piece. What I mean by that is, one of you buys the kitchen table and chairs and one of you springs for the couch, assuming that in the end the roommate who bought the table will take it with him/her to their next place. For things like paint, or drawer liners, or weirdo flea market paintings that will probably be thrown out in the move, you should split 50/50.

At least, this is how my roommate and I are doing it. She already had the couches and TV when we changed locales and so I bought the kitchen table and chairs and the butcher block that we store our microwave on. Other things, like the cutsie Anthropologie knobs we put throughout the kitchen we split. However, since these aren’t disposable like paint,  we kept the receipt and will deal with it in “the divorce.” Little items like this I think are great to split because you might not want them in the future and they are nominal in up front cost. For all the knobs we spent a total of $20 each, so when we move out, if I want to take the knobs, I’ll buy her out by paying her the half she spent on them in the first place. And vice versa for her. We also did this with the curtains and the curtain rods. They were things we needed for the apartment, but so generic that no one could commit to take them with them in 2+ years.

Now, this is all fine and dandy, but what do you do when you have different tastes? Let’s take my kitchen table and chairs for example: I will be taking them with me in the future, so I want them to be my style. But my roommate has to look at them for at least the next year, so she should like the design too.  Bottom line: you have the ultimate say because you are putting up the money, but it’s nice and considerate and will do wonders for your roommate future to take his or her opinion into account when you’re purchasing the item.  In our house, we make the decision jointly but the purchase separately.

For food and cleaning items we’ve decided to buy our own food (it’s just easier that way, trust me) and split the cleaning items. The reasoning behind this is easy: you’re never upset that you have run out of Kaboom! But you’re always upset if you had your heart set on a tuna sandwich and your household companion used the last of the mayo and didn’t replace it. Wars have been fought over less.

So here’s the gist: split the small stuff, buy big stuff separately.  Never share food.

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Comments (1)

  1. Avatar Gale

    I really enjoyed this post! I’m a first-time visitor to My First Apartment and have been meandering around for only a few minutes. Living with a roommate is a real pain and it is always nice to read the accounts of how others handle the more difficult side of the situation.

    I have a post up on my blog that might interest you at Keep in mind that the blog is brand spankin’ new! So it is still a little sore on the eyes, but I aspire to make it more like yours in the near future.