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How to Handle Shared Expenses with Roommates


Living with roommates can be a minefield.  Particularly when it comes to splitting shared expenses.  Here are a few tips to navigate the situation.

One of the best things about roommates is splitting the expenses.  But it can also be one of the most fraught aspects.  Learn how to do it so everyone feels they’re being treated fairly.

Thomas is currently living with three roommates even though they are all done with school.  So he knows something about how to make this situation work.  They have individualized leases which not everyone may be able to get but is worth asking about.

The utilities are shared and you’ll have to decide in who’s name to open the accounts.  That person should automate the payments to ensure that nothing is ever paid late. Thomas uses Stripe to breakdown the amounts everyone owes and they pay him through it.

Some stuff is just not worth fighting over.  Breaking down who takes longer showers or works from home using the most electricity is petty and probably doesn’t make a huge difference money wise anyway.  This is easier when all of you get along well and none of you are on a starvation budget.

Using a whiteboard to list who was the last one to buy shared things like paper towels and trash bags is an easy, fair way to track things.  Having evidence will cut down on arguments.

When a problem does come up, don’t approach it as, “Hey, you should pay more.”  That will make the other person defensive.  Approach it as a shared problem that you will solve together.

If they're being a super dick, you may have to take off the gloves.

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Sometimes it’s just better to overpay a little if it avoids a lot of stress.  Saving a few bucks is not always worth the head ache. This attitude can relax the dynamic in the home for everyone.

If you’re moving into a place where the roommates have already been living, you have a right to ask to see the rent and utility bills before negotiating how much you will be paying.  Otherwise you may get into a situation where you are subsidizing everyone because you just paid what they asked.

Living with roommates can be a great way to share expenses but go into a situation carefully.

Show Notes

Shipyard IPA:  A single hopped IPA.

Kronenbourg 1664:  The premiere beer of France.

Stripe:  Automated bill pay.

SplitWise: Perhaps the best utilities sharing app for roommates. Found out about it after the fact and wish it existed years ago!

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  • Andrew M

    I’ve heard of this app, though I’ve never needed it myself.

    Personal story here, I insisted my name be on the electric bill with my roommate at the time, in case I needed to pay it. I was dumb and didn’t realize at the time people don’t care where the money comes from if a bill gets paid.
    Needless to say, roommate left months early, and we discovered he didn’t pay several months of electric adding up to about $800. We were able to get help from his parents for half, but I never did that again.

    • Between you and @davis_m on Twitter I’ve been quickly schooled in the awesomeness of SplitWise. Adding it to the show notes.

      Also, that blows dude. My friend Alice who has an all-round shitty roommate also had an issue with being suck with the utilities bill. It seems like a tool like SplitWise levels the playing field quite a bit.

  • woah sorry to hear your friend in Hoboken is getting screwed on the rent. In NYC that’s totally illegal. Rent is supposed to be split down the middle and if its not, you can take them to housing court. Before signing anything, I would have asked for a copy of the lease so I could see the exact agreement.. I always showed my roommates the bills so they could see I wasn’t screwing them. Roommate agreements are also important in some cases.

    • Yea, it sucks and we feel really bad. Instead of fighting we helped her find a new place with people she’s actually friends with that has central air, an elevator and all other fanciness for about the same price. We’re helping move her in tomorrow. I’m all about new beginnings :)

  • Daniel Paschino

    Try Evenfy! It’s a collaborative service available on mobile and web apps.

  • jb1907

    I had roommates that screwed me on the phone bill. All the apps in the world won’t make deadbeats pay the bills.