Budgeting with Roommates

Learn how to set a fair budget with your roommates.|

Living with roommates is no longer reserved for college days. In today’s economy, it makes sense to split expenses by budgeting with roommates, especially if you are just starting out in your career or are trying to save money to eventually rent your own apartment or buy a house. In addition to saving money, some people just enjoy companionship. Just keep in mind that expenses are the major cause of disagreements among roommates, so it makes sense to have everything in writing by drawing up a roommate agreement — which we will get to in a few paragraphs. Also, when you are looking for roommates, aim to select people who have a solid job and the income to afford the apartment. Obviously, life happens, so your roommate agreement should address contingency plans in case of job loss, relocation, etc.

Here are some of the main expenses of apartment living that you will be budgeting with roommates:

Rent

It’s usually easiest to divide the rent between each roommate. However, if one roommate has a bigger bedroom or separate bathroom, then they should pay a larger share of the rent. Double-check the clause of your lease about other residents in the apartment. Inform your property manager when new roommates move in or out. The person whose name is on the lease should be the one to pay the rent; they can collect their other roommates’ shares.

Utilities

This category is more flexible. Typically, roommates evenly divide the cost of electricity, gas, and cable/internet. A popular practice is to divvy up the smaller expenses and have each roommate pay the entire bill. This could include streaming services, water, and trash.

Pet rent

If each roommate has a pet, then split this fee evenly. If only one person has a pet, then they should pay the full amount.

Groceries and miscellaneous expenses

Food is probably the second major cause of roommate showdowns and is usually resolved by having each person buy their own food. If you are having a party or want to have a fancy dinner, then you can split up the grocery bill. Otherwise, it’s best to keep food (including condiments) completely separate. Roommates can divide the cost of cleaning supplies or you can have each person be responsible for the cleaning supply inventory for a specific room.

Finally, get this all down in writing by initiating a roommate agreement. This is a document that spells out who is financially responsible for what. It can be a simple Google doc or you can go online and find more formal templates (full of legalese). Everybody should agree to the terms and sign the roommate agreement. And if any problems surface, you have a written record to refer to when you sit down to talk.

It’s a pretty open field for tracking expenses. There are Google and Excel spreadsheets and numerous apps you can use. Some apps link to your bank and will even transfer money between roommates’ accounts for bill paying or reimbursement.

Living with roommates has many advantages. If everybody is on the same page, then your apartment life should run smoothly and harmoniously.

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