It’s important to have conversations with your roommates about how you'd like to split costs to avoid conflicts down the road. From dividing the rent of your rental unit to splitting the cost of toilet paper, the following tips and tools will help you manage recurring and unexpected expenses with your roommates.
Create a Roommate Agreement
Be upfront and direct with your roommates early on by setting up boundaries and guidelines on how you'd like to split the rent and utility expenses that are not included in your payment to the landlord. Creating a roommate agreement is useful as it provides clear expectations if issues come up in the future. Whether you are moving in with friends or rooming with someone you don’t know, the agreement will help you to be respectful of each other.
Also known as a Shared Living Agreement, the document helps outline rules for unexpected expenses such as damaged property in the rental unit, and circumstances such as subletting a room in the event one of your roommates decides to travel for a few months for leisure or work. Regardless of the situation, creating this document will only benefit and protect everyone, ensuring expenses are covered in a fair way.
Stay organized and use an App!
Using an App is a great way to track expenses while on-the-go. Snap a photo of your receipt and enter the details on how you want to split the cost of anything. From tracking rent to the cost of cleaning supplies and your shared Netflix account, try one of these great tools to help you stay on top of your shared costs with your roommates.
Who will be paying for the next round of toilet papers? Who paid last time? It’s hard to keep track of these details when you are sharing your living space and home expenses. Splitwise is a user-friendly app that allows you to easily set up custom groups with people and add a variety of expense types. Bucket each expense into new or existing categories and identify who made the payment and how you'd like to split the expenses. You can split an exact amount, percentage, number of shares, or classify it as a reimbursement, or itemized split.
What’s great about Splitwise is that it automatically calculates your remaining balances with each other. It’s a great app for those who are looking for a catch-all tool to track shared expenses across roommates and friends that you dine or travel with. If your shared users overlap in various ways, Splitwise automatically accounts for all expenses and balances owed to you and owed by you across your custom groups.
If you’re looking for a great tool to help you split your rent with your roommates in a fair way, check out Splitwise’s Rent Calculator. This calculator accounts for room size, closets, bathrooms, and more.
Acquired by PayPal, Venmo is a great option for those looking to easily make and share payments instantly. The app is simple to use and integrates directly with your bank account or debit card. Since it transfers money from your bank into another, it’s easier than setting up e-transfers with multiple people through your online banking.
Creating a Venmo account is free, but they charge a 3% fee if you are sending money to people using your credit card.
This app is catered to people trying to settle up costs with their friends while travelling. Though this app was designed for this purpose, it can work with roommates as well. It mimics the way that Splitwise does and allows you to sync your expenses across members of different groups. One great benefit of Settle Up is that not everyone needs to sign up for an account with them. Guest users can access the group through a direct link via email or social media, or synced to a nearby device via Bluetooth.
The free version is great to use, but displays ads occasionally which can be disruptive for heavy users. The premium version of Settle Up does not display ads and allows you to add receipt photos, categories, view detailed stats, and set up recurring transactions.
Go Old-School and Save Money in a Jar!
Contribute every month by setting aside an amount to cover household costs. Much like an emergency fund, you can decide as roommates how much you'd like to add money to a jar. This can be figuratively or literally! It is important you all agree on a certain amount or frequency in the event there is an unexpected expense to cover. It also ensures that you always have enough change on hand to household supplies like the dish soap or light bulbs.
Although it’s a less precise method of covering expenses, this is a helpful way of pooling resources and allowing the amount to grow over time. This method is suitable for roommates who have built trust over time and are looking for a less strict way of covering household expenses. Add transparency by leaving the receipts in the jar for reference. You can get creative by returning cans and empty bottles for a refund and putting it towards the pooled fund.
Expenses Not Worth Sharing
Unless you’re cohabiting with a partner, a few examples of expenses you should consider not sharing include groceries and furniture. Splitting food is challenging since it is hard to track who is eating how much of what. Sharing groceries can work if you are cooking a meal together and sharing it equally. When sharing the cost of furniture and appliances, you have to consider who keeps it if one of you moves out.
Sharing is Caring
There are many ways you can track and organize how you split costs with your roommates and there is no right or wrong answer. You have to find a method that works for everyone. Communicate and be clear with each other by setting these guidelines to better handle sensitive conversations if they arise.
With the right conversations and tools in place, any expense can be possible to track and split. Try one of these tips and tools to help you share expenses with your roommates.
Emily Wong is a marketing professional by day and an avid volunteer in her community by night. Through writing, she shares her passions, learnings and experiences with others including tips on living with roommates, and home improvement ideas to help make your rental feel like a home.
*Contributions are solely guest opinions and don’t reflect the opinions of or are endorsed by WYL, our staff, clients or other interested parties.