Splitting the Bills: How to Share Expenses with a Roommate
Whether you move into your first place during or right after college, having a roommate makes the move cost effective. But before you find a place and sign a lease, make sure you and your future roommate are on the same page when it comes to sharing expenses.
Sharing the rent can mean splitting it 50/50, but if the place you want to rent has one bedroom that you and your roommate both want, a good compromise would be to have the person who gets that room pay a slightly higher portion of the rent.
Since both of you use electricity, water and in some cases natural gas and a trash service, those are things you may want to split evenly. If you both use the Internet, this can be split evenly as well. However, you may run into conflict if you both want cable or satellite television and one wants premium channels but the other one doesn't. If this is truly the case, the person who wants the premium channels should pay the difference. However, the roommate who does not want those channels shouldn't watch them unless they offer to help pay the difference that month.
Groceries are a common source of contention between roommates unless an understanding is reached before your first trip to the market. You might consider sharing things that you don't run out of as often like certain cleaning supplies, paper towels, trash bags, light bulbs, condiments, butter, cooking oils, spices, sugar, flour, etc. If one of you buys one of these staples the first time, the other one should buy it next time. Buy other food items separately, and be considerate. If you see something you'd like to eat but you know you didn't buy it, ask your roommate if you can have some of it and always be sure to replace it.
The Name Game
Another consideration you will run into is whose name goes on the lease, whose name goes on the utilities, etc. Most landlords will want everyone living in the unit to be named on the lease and this will likely be outlined when the lease is reviewed with you. This is also a good time to ask the landlord how and when the rent should be paid. Some landlords will accept payment from each roommate for their half of the rent. This is convenient for the renters because if your rent is on time but your roommate's is late, the landlord may just contact your roommate for his or her portion of the rent. Of course, this isn't always the case because it's more hassle for the landlord if one renter's check is late. If he wants one check, you and your roommate will need to decide who will write the check and get payment from the other for his or her half.
When it comes to utilities, it doesn't matter which person's name is on the bill. However, if you and your roommate are out on your own for the first time, it's a good idea for each of you to have a utility in your name. For example, if the electric bill is in your name, the water bill could be in your roommate's name. This will help both of you establish a history so future deposits for utilities will be lower.
It's a different situation when it comes to cable and internet. Cable and Internet providers consider credit scores when you sign up for their services. If one roommate's credit score is low, you may have to pay a bigger deposit, so it's smart to put those bills in the name of the person with the best credit score.
Insure Your Stuff
What would you do if your roommate accidentally started a fire in your apartment that caused the entire building to burn and you lost everything? You might not think you own much stuff, but it you had to replace all of your clothing, furniture, toiletries and other personal belongings, would you have the money on hand to do it? What if the fire was your fault? You may be responsible for more than just your own stuff. Before you rent, whether you have a roommate or not, you should consider purchasing renter's insurance. Shelter's renters insurance coverage is affordable, and discounts are available.
Have a Chat
Expenses are only one thing you need to talk about before you move in with someone. If you hate smoking and pets, but your best friend is a smoker and has a dog, you might not be the best roommates. Other things to consider is how you'll split cleaning responsibilities, rules about significant others, being quiet when your roommate is sleeping, who will replace smoke detector batteries, etc. As well as you might think you know your best friend, you might discover they are not easy to live with. A simple discussion prior to moving in can help avoid a lot of problems down the road—it may even save your friendship.