For many students, moving from the dorms into an apartment with friends is a rite of passage. Unfortunately, this path to independence comes with a few rough patches that can wreck newly minted college friendships. Because money is often the biggest source of conflict, The First has some tips for keeping your budget and your relationships intact.
Start with a plan.
Whether it’s an official roommate agreement or a few notes jotted on a piece of scratch paper, write down what is expected from each roommate. Decide early whose name each utility will be under and who will write the rent check after collecting each roommate’s share. Talk about whether you should take turns paying bills (such as cable) that tend to stay constant each month.
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Keep it fair.
Is one roommate getting the master bedroom with bath or a nice walk-in closet? That person should pay a larger percentage of the rent. End of discussion. Allowing one roommate to have more than the others (whether it’s living space or fridge space) leads to hard feelings down the road even if nobody mentions it at first.
Avoid food fights.
Carnivores, omnivores and vegetarians have a better chance of co-existing peacefully if they keep their grocery bills separate. With so many diverse diets and food preferences these days, evenly dividing food expenses has become nearly impossible. Go ahead and assign cabinets and label refrigerated items to avoid mix-ups. It’s kind of a hassle, but this practice has helped college roommates get along since the invention of the beanbag chair.
Trust the technology.
Apps are currently available to help roommates pay bills, determine who owes how much, and even transfer funds between accounts. There are a lot of choices for you to consider, including Splitwise and Venmo. To find the ideal app for your living situation, try visiting appcrawlr or a similar site.
There’s a reason people don’t discuss money in polite conversation—it’s awkward. If one roommate consistently has difficulty paying his or her fair share, it may be time for a discreet discussion. Tactfully ask what the problem is and when it will be resolved. Don’t assume the worst or make accusations. For all you know, there may have been a job loss or illness in your roommate’s family. You might even ask if there’s any way you can help, especially if you know about a part-time job or freelance gig that will solve your roommate’s cash flow problem.
Even if your roommate’s lack of cash is due to over-spending or bad budgeting, it still pays to keep the conversation civil. While you might not want an irresponsible person as a roommate, you may still value him or her as a friend.
How do you make sharing living expenses work? Let us know in the Comments section.