Split the Bills but Keep the Peace: A Guide to Cost Sharing with Roommates

By Andrea Ditter-Middleton

A 2013 study by Sonya Britt, assistant professor of family studies and human services and program director of personal financial planning at Kansas State University, found that fighting about money has a direct correlation to divorce rates among married couples. However, many people fail to realize the strain of mismanaged finances on other codependent relationships, including roommates.

It’s easy to focus solely on the financial benefit of living with another person (splitting bills means affordable bills) without taking time to recognize the importance of managing that decision. Fortunately, there are several simple ways to maintain healthy relationships and decrease the stress associated with sharing your space and your expenses with another person.

Make a Plan Before You Sign

Being proactive is one of the best ways to prevent conflict between roommates, especially when it comes to money. That means planning ahead and deciding on a cost-sharing strategy before signing a lease or roommate agreement. This includes focusing on both the large and small aspects of splitting the bills, including the following:

  • Rent: A 50/50 split may seem like the easiest solution, but it’s not always fair. If one room is larger than the other or has a private bathroom, you may want to negotiate the true “value” of each person’s space. Sometimes splitting the rent 60/40, for example, makes more financial sense.
  • Food: Everyone has different tastes, dietary needs, and philosophies when it comes to food (i.e. buying all organic vs. couponing for the best prices). Popular splitting options include only buying and consuming your own food, sharing “staples” such as bread and milk while individually buying other items, taking turns cooking and buying, and splitting the weekly bill down the middle.
  • Utilities: Unlike rent where there is a clear division regarding space, calculating who uses more Wi-Fi bandwidth or who watches more cable is difficult and imprecise. Most roommates decide to simply split these bills each month or take turns paying them.
  • Furniture: Splitting the cost of buying furniture can cause a huge headache when it comes time to separate belongings. This is especially true if there is abnormal wear and tear on one piece or a conflict arises over who gets what. Furniture rental eliminates the need for large cash purchases up front and allows roommates to split the monthly cost just like a utility bill.

Budgets Matter — A Lot

Working to maintain financial harmony must continue after the lease is signed. Like any aspect of any relationship, you need to work hard to communicate and reassess when needed. As with any financial matter, creating a budget is the best and most efficient way to do this. Create a personal budget as well as a shared budget that clearly outlines who is paying what and when. Budget apps that link together are an easy, modern way to sync bill-paying schedules to reduce stress and provide everyone with peace of mind.

Stress-Free Living

When it comes to responsible financial management, living with another person and splitting expenses is a simple and popular option. Just as with marriages, maintaining a relationship with finances involved takes work. Put some effort into planning, and take advantage of convenient services like CORT Furniture Rental to help alleviate financial stress and prevent conflict before it starts.