Living with a roommate and splitting expenses can be a money saver. However, people’s attitudes toward spending and responsibility often vary, and this can create tension if one person comes up short when the bills are due. Having a clearly laid out financial plan for a rented house, including how to divide up bills, can help prevent arguments when it comes time to divvy up the money.
Decide whose names the different bills will be in. For example, you can choose to have the cable account in your name, the electric bill in one roommate’s name, the gas bill in another roommate's name, and the DSL account in another roommate's name. This can help spread the responsibility because the person whose name is on the account will be ultimately responsible for the charges.
Determine the proportion that each roommate will pay every month. A common way to divide up bills is to have each roommate pay an equal amount. For example, if there are four people living in your house, then each person would pay 25 percent of every bill.
Analyze everyone’s living habits to determine if any of the bills should be divided proportionate to use. One of your roommates might work at home and have the air conditioning running for much of the day. Therefore, that roommate might pay a higher percentage of the electric bill than everyone else. You might decide that she should pay 40 percent of the bill, while the remaining 60 percent is divided equally among the remaining three roommates.
Decide if there are any services that only one of the roommates is using, and ask her to pay the full amount of that utility. For example, if only one of your roommates likes to watch premium cable channels, then consider requesting that she pay for the service by herself, rather than passing those charges on to the rest of you.
Set up a specific date each month when bills will be due. This might be at the start of the month or the 15th of the month. Have everyone pay her portion of each bill at least a week in advance to ensure the bill gets paid on time, and to give yourselves time to resolve any issues. Communicate the amount through an agreed-upon method, such as a group email or by writing it on a chalkboard located in a common area of the rented house.
Claim one spot in the house where everyone should leave his money or check for the person who will be paying. Common options are under a specific refrigerator magnet or in a folder or envelope located in a kitchen drawer.
- If one roommate has an advantage in living arrangements, such as getting to use the master bedroom with the master bath, you might decide that she should pay a little bit extra for rent.
- In some cases, it makes sense to divide expenses per income level, with the person who has the higher income paying a larger percentage. This method works better in family situation than it does with roommates. When living with friends, an income level distribution method might cause resentment and fights down the line.
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