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A Guide to Budgeting With Roommates

AJ Smith

Deciding how much rent you can afford can be tricky – and a great way to cut back on costs can be splitting the rent with another person. But when sharing a home with someone, you are inevitably sharing even more (food, utilities, living space, etc.).

It’s a good idea to discuss all expectations of personal boundaries and financial ground rules before you shake on it. Though talking money with friends and significant others can be awkward, it’s important to have an open line of communication between roommates right from the beginning. Fights and problems are more likely to occur as a result of unpaid bills or dishonest financial discussions among people living together. These problems can cause a real kink in your life and affect your finances adversely, but can be prevented by discussing a budget together before you start unpacking your boxes. Here are some ways to ensure you live successfully with a roommate or roommates.

Create a Personal & Group Budget

While you and your roommate likely have a lot in common, budgeting is very personal. Creating your own budget involves allocating funds for all costs you encounter. A great way to begin is tracking all your purchases, establishing a breakdown of needs and wants, and setting a plan you can stick to.

When it comes to splitting up the living costs, you’ve got some options. Some communal costs to consider include rent, utilities, water, cable and Internet. One plan would have each roommate pay a portion of each bill. Another plan would be splitting up the bills among the roommates so one person might pay utilities while another might pay cable. This works best when bills are about equal.

However you decide to split living costs, it’s a good idea to have everyone involved in the home sign your lease agreement with the landlord, so one person is not solely financially responsible if someone else does not follow through. If you can only put one name on the lease or it has already been signed, you should sign a roommate agreement so everyone is on the same page and protected equally. If you’re the only person on the lease, you could be held liable and your landlord could even get a judgment against you if one of your roommates doesn’t pay their rent, which can have long-term consequences on your credit. (If you want to see where your credit currently stands, you can check two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.)

Once the budget is determined, be sure you and your roommate(s) are establishing money habits that help you stick to your budget.

Come to a Consensus

When living with roommates, it is important to agree on what you want to share and what are independent purchases. Some bills like electricity and water are easily and logically divided equally, but groceries, cleaning supplies, toiletries, furniture in common rooms and decorations are more of a gray area.

It’s a good idea to discuss responsibilities and regulations with roommates from the onset and even put the agreements into writing in case of future disputes. While food and hygiene products can be particularly tricky, try labeling your own stuff or assign spaces per roommate. You could also alternate on certain necessities or take turns buying shared food or even cooking. Consider setting aside a regular time for you and your roommate to discuss the living situation every so often (perhaps once a month) in case your schedules do not sync up as much as you expected. Checking in regularly about bills, personal roommate issues and irregular costs can help you get your feelings and struggles into the open while avoiding a full-blown argument.

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