No matter how well you and your friends get along, some tensions may occur once you start living under one roof during college and sharing expenses. Establishing fair rules from the beginning will help you maintain open communication with the group while minimizing money-related disagreements.
Discuss in advance
Whether you plan to live off-campus or in a dorm room, it’s best to talk with your future roommates in advance. Then, you can start discussing how the expenses will be split or who will be paying for what. This is particularly important if you are looking for an off-campus apartment, as all the living expenses will be entirely your (and any housemates’) responsibility.
The sooner you find an agreement, the sooner each of you will be accountable for any bills – this will also avoid awkwardness on move-in day. Bear in mind that discussing money with roommates shouldn’t be a one-time event. It’s essential to open the topic regularly, ensuring everyone is still comfortable with the original terms.
Begin with fixed expenses
Fixed expenses are easy to manage because they only involve one recurring payment every month. Yet, deciding how this bill will be divided among each roommate will avoid conflicts in the future. Rent is probably the biggest fixed expense to deal with, followed by the internet, streaming services, and garbage disposal.
When it comes to renting, on-time payments are not negotiable. Since most landlords expect one main cheque every month, one person can collect the money from the rest of the group with a Shared Pocket, ensuring that everyone has paid accordingly. If you are splitting any advanced payments or security deposits, discuss how this money will be reimbursed if one of you decides to leave.
Reflect on fluctuating expenses
Unlike fixed payments, variable expenses are trickier because they fluctuate based on consumption. Water, gas, and electricity are the main bills to account for. Since the total amounts change from month to month, each roommate should pay a fair amount based on their consumption – if one roommate blasts the air conditioning all day in their bedroom, they should pay more on the next electricity bill.
If you’re living with multiple roommates, you also have to handle many different due dates. To ensure none of you misses a payment, setting up Scheduled Transfers to a Shared Pocket can help ensure the money is available when the bill needs to be paid. Whenever you can, try to spend with the virtual card from that Shared Pocket– this will help you keep a payment trail and avoid any money disputes because everyone who joins the Pocket can view the transactions inside.
Decide on how to handle other shared expenses
The money conversations with your roommates should also cover shared expenses like soap, toilet paper, bathroom cleaners, or laundry detergents. Again, minimize arguments by sharing a Pocket that every roommate can spend from the pool of money. You can also assign each roommate a specific supply to buy every time from that Shared Pocket. Write down a list of essential items and who is responsible for buying them; then everyone can assign their One card to that Pocket to spend from when buying shared paper goods or soaps.
Aside from housing essentials, food is another component of shared living. Having a candid discussion about groceries will help you share (or not share) kitchen expenses properly. For example, one of you may be good with a simple plate of pasta, while someone else prefers a more sophisticated meal. You can find a middle ground by going to the supermarket together; split the cost of the items you both use, like butter, eggs, and milk, and pay for specialty ingredients separately.
Talk about the “extras”
Sharing a living space means that each of you will want to personalize the common areas. However, you want to make sure the “extra” purchases do not affect your budget for necessary expenses. Let’s say one of your roommates cannot take his eyes off of that $500 espresso machine, but you cannot afford to split the price. All is left to do is be honest and let them know that you cannot pitch in to pay for it. You will need to speak up when such issues arise. Sometimes, there is no way around it.
Check your overall budget regularly
Sharing expenses with roommates can be fertile ground for awkward situations. To minimize the embarrassment of the money talks, make sure you check the household budget regularly and communicate if you notice significant discrepancies. In addition, consider checking in on your Shared Pockets for everyday household bills, even those that have already been paid. This helps you keep a record of all money outflows and avoid misunderstanding with the other cohabitants.
Things to avoid when talking to roommates about money
Keeping open communication with your roommates about shared living expenses is just as crucial as paying your bills on time. As you discuss, you should avoid three things:
Not telling the truth about what you can or can’t afford
Although disclosing your exact income (salary, paycheck, or help from parents or guardians) is unnecessary, you should always be honest about what you cannot afford and how much money you can put into the common living expenses. Then, simply speak up when a problem arises, and do not act in a passive-aggressive way when you are short on money.
Not timing it right
Help make sure all roommates meet the due payment dates. One person’s delay can cause trouble for the rest of the group.
Having a closed mindset
Don’t act defensively – nobody is looking for a fight; you’re friends after all! Instead, each roommate should have the opportunity to discuss a problem or concern and be open to finding solutions for their personal needs and for the whole group, too.