Splitting Finances with Roommates

Women sitting on couch in living room. Turtle Ridge Talent shoot. Mitchell 2007.

Moving in with roommates allows college students to rent a bigger house and split the costs of living. Roommates provide friendship for all those late night masquerades and weekend game days.

But not everything is all sweet and dandy. Roommates are often messy, lazy deadbeats. Just in case you get stuck with one of these slackers, here are some tips to make sure you don’t get stuck with all the bills.


Plan ahead of time

Planning Your College Schedule
Planning Your College Schedule

The best way to avoid any financial conflicts down the road is to plan everything out ahead of time. This can be a touchy situation, especially if your roommate is a lifelong friend or significant other. If any problems arise, explain to your roommate that you just want to avoid any major fights down the road and would rather get things straightened out now. (For the sake of the relationship, of course.) Items you want to discuss:

  • Cable bill
  • Utilities
  • Rent schedule
  • Internet and phone service

Some things can get tricky. Say you are willing to pay for basic Internet, but after a while, your roommate wants high speed. Discuss changes in advance.



What You Can Do over the Christmas Break
What You Can Do over the Christmas Break

Relationships are another hot topic. Most of the time problems stem from one partner getting into a relationship with a person that doesn’t leave. Will the roommate cover the costs of having an extra person around 24 hours a day? If this situation comes up, sit down and talk to your roommate. Show them bills from before and after the relationship. Make a list of all your food that gets eaten when you aren’t there and confront them on this.


Divide Equally

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44715644 – three happy friends shopping online with a credit card and a laptop in a coffee shop

Sometimes one roommate uses way more things than another. Say your roommate has a collection of giant fish tanks that use tons of water and electricity. You can get to the bottom of this without coming off like a cheapskate. (Unless of course you are the over-user.) First, split the costs of everything that is used equally.

Then, bring up how you are sick of working to pay for the stupid fish tanks, but if you can throw a party this weekend, and he will pay for the booze you will call it even. Since your roommate is paying for something you both benefit from, he will be more likely to fork over the extra dough. Or, just try and squeeze him for the extra utility money.