Making Financial Peace with Your Roommates




While it may be the fantasy of many young people on the verge of adulthood to bust out of their parents’ houses and into their own places, the reality for many is far less glamorous. Young adults leaving home for school are generally destined to share living quarters, at least for a while, or to be on the hook for a few thousand extra dollars in housing costs if they choose not to share. According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of adults aged 25 to 34 who live with their parents has also been trending upward as the economy has weakened.

Financially, living alone usually makes less since than sharing, and, as some people have discovered, living with roommates can be a preferable way of life to the solitude of having one’s own place. Sharing living space does come with a unique set of financial issues, though, and working through how you’ll deal with those issues in advance can save on arguments and resentment later.


It goes without question that roommates will be sharing on rent, but it’s less cut-and-dry when it comes down to who should be paying how much. Generally, you’ll be sharing the common spaces, but the likelihood that all bedrooms are the same size is slim, as is the likelihood that every bedroom in a house or apartment will have en-suite bathrooms. These things should factor into each person’s rent share. Decide up front the prices for each room, and see if you can make a decision on who gets what based on price. The person making the least amount of money may be happy with the smallest room for the cheapest rent, for instance. If everybody wants the biggest bedroom, however, the most diplomatic way to decide is by luck. Just put everyone’s name in a hat and draw.


In many cases, an even split for utilities should suffice, though it’s wise to discuss the utility costs in advance and choose utility packages together. Start by discussing what will and won’t be part of the expected expenses. Trying to share with one person who doesn’t want cable while everyone else wants the full package can be tricky, since the person who doesn’t want cable will probably still use it if it’s there. It’s better to opt for a roommate who is cool with paying their share of all common resources.

Once you know what you want, sit down together and call the local cable providers to get a quote or use a site like to compare packages. Choose utility packages together, so everyone knows what they’re getting and will be expected to pay up front.

If one person works from home, while the other roommates are out for the day, some adjustments should be made when it comes to electricity and heating costs, since a single person is responsible for these additional utility expenses. Discuss this up front and make sure everyone agrees.

Food & Household Products

In roommate situations, having everyone buy their own food is often the best way to minimize issues. That doesn’t mean people should do without something if it’s in the house. The rules of one roommate taking from another’s food supply should be talked out and abided by, and at the very least, make a rule that one person should never take from someone else’s food supply if the other person might need the item before it can be replaced.

Since paper towels, toilet paper and cleaning products will be used in common spaces for the most part, it’s best to split these costs evenly. U.S. News Money recommends a monthly joint store trip to buy shared household items.

Essential Tools

Keeping track of expenses and making sure everyone pays on time proves the most frustrating aspect of house-sharing for many, but several online tools and apps, such as Splitwise, RentShare and Venmo, provide a simple solution for tracking what each person owes and reminding each roommate when those expenses are due.

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