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Splitting Expenses With Your Roommate

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Moving into your new apartment means a lot of new responsibilities, whether it is your first place on your own or your fiftieth. If you have a roommate, no doubt you've pondered how to split your expenses so you both can live comfortably. Sometimes it's as easy as splitting bills down the middle, while other times, it isn't as cut and dry as you would like.

Don't lose any sleep over dividing everything evenly with your roommate(s). Take a look at the following guide for helpful tips and tricks to start off your new living situation in the right direction.

Splitting the Rent

The financial responsibilities required are laid out in your lease, but depending on your landlord, there may only be one name allowed on the lease. Your landlord usually looks for a single payment of the total rent each month, so it is best to have a lawyer draw up a legal agreement stating the portion of rent each renter is responsible for. Some tips to remember:

  • If you have a lease that allows all roommates to sign it, the landlord or apartment association will hold each roommate accountable if rent goes unpaid.


  • A different payment plan may also be put in place for variables like bedroom size or parking garages. Let's say you'll be getting a master bedroom while your roommate's room is half the size - this may mean you pay slightly more in rent per month. The amount in which you and your roommate will be responsible for should be discussed prior to signing the lease.


  • If your rooms are the same size, and you will be sharing the same common space, then typically you would split the rent 50/50.

Splitting the Utilities

There are a few variables that come into play regarding utilities, since it will all depend on the unit you are renting.

Some apartment complexes come with some or all utilities included in the rent. If this is the case for you, it makes it that much easier to split everything down the middle.

Whose name should the bills be under?

There's no right or wrong answer to this question, and if you and your roommate(s) share the costs evenly, it really shouldn't matter. You may want to discuss having one roommate's name on the electric bill, another on the water bill, another on cable/internet services, etc.

The important thing is to come up with a plan that all parties feel comfortable with prior to hooking up the utilities. If your name is the only name on the lease, then maybe it will be a good idea to have your roommate's name on all other bills related to the apartment.

Cable and Internet

Cable and Internet services are generally used for entertainment purposes, but Internet can also be used for school and work as well. With that said, it will depend on you and your roommate to figure out how in-depth you'd like to go when it comes to paying for cable.

Consider the following scenario:

Let's say you will be living with just one other roommate, and your cable bill will be $100 a month for a package you both agree on. Generally speaking, you will each be responsible for $50 per month. But, maybe your roommate decides to add on a premium channel for an extra $15 a month, but you don't watch that channel. Or maybe your roommate hardly ever turns on the TV. This should be addressed to avoid any potential arguments over bills - confront your roommate about it and see where the discussion leads. The same applies for Internet services, online movie rental services like Netflix, and other forms of entertainment that may or may not be shared.

TIP: Cable and Internet providers look at credit scores when opening up new accounts. If you have a lower score, you may be subject to a significant deposit. It may be best to put these types of accounts under the roommate with the best credit score to avoid any deposits.

Splitting the Groceries

The grocery bill is another gray-area subject, that if not handled correctly, can turn a perfectly good co-living situation into sour grapes. The easiest way to tackle the groceries would be to simply split costs evenly, as you would the rent.

This method works well for many people, for couples or for individuals with the same eating habits. Sometimes, however, splitting food bills evenly may cause an unfair balance depending on items purchased.

Consider the following scenario:

Maybe you are an organic vegan while your roommate is a fast food junkie and hardly ever takes the time to sit down for a full meal, much less go grocery shopping or cook. Organic and specialized diet foods can be pretty pricey at times, so it may be best to discuss what food items are common between the two of you, and only split the cost of those items. Or, you just simply agree to replace the item in a rotation as it runs out.

Whatever your specific case may be, the best thing to do is to be open and honest about the situation from the beginning to avoid any future issues. And while you're on the topic, don't forget to discuss related subjects like cooking meals and cleanliness.

Splitting the Furniture Costs

Sometimes apartments come furnished, but more often than not, you will need to supply your own furnishings.

As far as bedrooms are concerned, you and your roommate should be responsible for furnishing them on your own.

Common area furniture:

You will need to discuss the common area furniture situation with your roommate(s). Maybe your roommate has a couch, and you have a coffee table and a television, and agree to share the use of these items while living together. This means you will only need to buy a few more things for the living room area. Most of the time, roommates will buy a piece of furniture for common use and take it with them once the lease is up.

Splitting furniture bills:

You can split the bill for pieces of furniture purchased for the apartment if you so choose, but keep in mind that this could become a potential problem later, because you will have to decide who gets what, and what money is owed to the other person.

The last thing you want is to play tug-of-war regarding furniture and electronics when you're trying to move. If you do decide to co-buy items with your roommate, it is probably best to discuss who takes ownership of each item prior to purchase.

Jenna Farmer  Posted by Jenna Farmer on June 11, 2013

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