One of the biggest perks of having roommates is the ability to split many apartment costs 50-50. As long as you have the space, the more roommates, the less your monthly costs should be. But when it comes time to pay the bills, it can get sticky. Who pays for what? And how much?
How can I protect myself?
When moving in, make sure your landlord is aware of how expenses are being split. If possible, set up two separate transfers for monthly rent — one that you pay into for your half, and one for your roommate to pay into. That way, there will never be any question of who has paid what. If your landlord doesn’t care one way or the other (as long as they get paid!), it could be very smart to draft a contract with your roommate dictating what happens if one person is unable to pay their portion of the rent. No matter what, you don’t want to be in a situation that could lead to eviction for not paying rent…because of your roommates.
How do we split bills?
RENT: The simplest answer for two roommates is 50-50. If you and your roommates share the space equally, that shouldn’t be a problem. If you don’t, use a calculation to decide how much each person should pay. For example, say your apartment is 1000 square feet and rent is $1000 per month ($1 per square foot). Your room is 200 square feet, while your roommate’s room is 100. The other 700 square feet is communal space. If your rent is $1000 per month, you should plan to pay $350 (communal) + 200 (your room). Your roommate should pay $350 (communal) + $100 (their room). Those fractions can be applied to apartments of all sizes and prices. Split the “price” of communal space with your roommate, then pay for “your” space.
UTILITIES: Talk this one over with your roommates. Most of the time, it’ll be split evenly because utilities are hard to split into specific usage. But, if you’re hoping to save some money on these expenses, make that known! Think or more creative ways to stay warm instead of turning the heat on in early winter, and make an effort to take shorter showers.
CABLE: As long as all of you spend at least some time in front of the TV or on the internet, plan to split this bill evenly between you. Again, it’s hard to track a single person’s usage, so splitting it evenly is the most fair way to pay.
GROCERIES: This one is up to you — I would recommend paying for your own food yourself, and just making sure you’re about even on shared food. One of the best parts of having roommates is cooking dinners together! If you find yourself supplying the food for communal meals more often than anyone else, bring that to their attention and ask them to contribute as well. Usually, though, you can avoid uncomfortable situations by buying your own food, and leaving your roommates’ food alone.
Ok…but what about the logistics?
Fortunately, there are many easy ways to get money to roommates. When it comes time to collect rent and utilities money at the end of the month, keep these new ideas in mind to help save you time and money!
VENMO: This is my absolute favorite app. It connects to your bank account and allows you to send cash directly to friends (and roommates!) with the tap of your smartphone. You can also request a sum of money from friends (like their portion of rent or utilities) so they don’t forget. You can then “cash out” and the money is sent to your bank account within a few days.
BANK TRANSFERS: If you and your roommates bank at the same place, you can easily transfer money to them online using your bank’s website. This is another easy way and eliminates a third party.
CASH & CHECK: Of course, cash and checks are also always an option to help split payments. Just make sure to remind your roommates to pay up in advance.
Have fun! And let us know of any other tried-and-true ways to split your finances with roommates!