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How to Avoid Financial Disputes with Roommates

Living with roommates isn’t just for college students anymore. There are plenty of reasons to split the costs of housing and living expenses at any age. But anytime two or more people are involved in a financial transaction, problems and misunderstandings can arise. Here are some ways you can avoid getting into financial conflicts with roommates.

Choose Wisely

Of course, there’s no way to guarantee you’ll get along with anyone you choose live with, or that they’ll have the rent on time every month. But you can help minimize the chance of financial conflict by choosing a roommate who shows signs of being a financially responsible person. Do they bring in steady income? Have decent, reliable transportation? Do they use cash or a debit card to pay for everyday purchases? These are good signs they probably have their financial affairs under control.                                                 group of roommates celebrating their new place

Establish Expectations Up Front

Positive roommate relationships start with good communication. Establish clear expectations regarding financial matters up front, including how, when, and who is responsible for paying the bills. You may also want to consider writing up a roommate agreement, separate from your lease, that lays out the things you agree upon. Having everyone involved sign a document like this makes informal conversations feel more official, and will give you a neutral document to refer to when you have disagreements.

Split Expenses Evenly

It’s easy enough to divide the cost of rent by two (or more), but what about things like utilities, cable and internet? Many roommates make the mistake of trying to get everyone to pay their share to the penny. For example, one roommate might take long, hot showers, while the other spends hours at a time online, and it would seem to make sense that one should pay more of the water and electric, while the other should bear the burden for internet access. But it’s easier to split those the same way you split the rent. Ultimately, it’s all going to even out in the end.

Shop Together for Shared Items

Decide up front which household items you’re going to share, then shop for them together. Things like trash bags, light bulbs, paper goods, cleaning supplies and other mutually beneficial items come to mind. Shopping together will ensure you spend only as much as the other person is comfortable with. It also gives you the chance to split the bill at the time of purchase, rather than divvying it up later. Try shopping at a warehouse club for household basics to get the most bang for your bucks.

Ready to leave the roommate life behind and buy a house? Our Rent or Buy Calculator can help you decide if you’re prepared to make the move.

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