Roommates and MoneySimple strategies for managing your financial relationship with roommates.

Many people and recent graduates need a roommate to make ends meet. After all, what could be better than having someone pay half of your bills? Unfortunately, the realities of sharing the financial responsibilities of running a home can cause friction even among friends. Some people are meticulous in their record keeping and always plan to have enough money available to pay the bill. Others have more difficulty in doing so.

The best way to ensure an equitable relationship is to develop a plan for ensuring fairness in financial aspects of your relationship.

  • Divide responsibility for bills equally - A common situation is that one roommate sets up all the utility bills (and even the lease itself) in his or her name alone, and bears all of the financial responsibility. A good plan is to have each roommate take responsibility for one or two of the bills with the goal of having each roommate responsible for the same amount. For example, one roommate could have responsibility for cable and electricity, the other for heat and water. Set a schedule for totaling each set of bills and reimbursing the roommate who spent more each month. Some landlords may also permit each roommate to pay one half of the rent.
  • Be honest with your landlord - If there is a roommate change, be sure that both of your names are on the lease. Otherwise, you and only you have legal responsibility for the lease. Contacting the landlord also ensures that the security deposit is held by the landlord, not the roommate. Remember, you may need your landlord's recommendation for your next rental.
  • Stick to cell phones - Since most people have a cell phone, a land line is not only an unnecessary expense; it's another potential source of conflict.
  • Avoid major joint purchases - Rather than going in together on a sofa, for example, coordinate your purchases so that it is clear who owns what. In the event of a "breakup," life is much easier without having to determine who gets to keep which piece of jointly owned furniture.
  • Buy your own food - Unless you are making a meal together, it's best for each roommate to maintain their own supply of staples.

If you and your roommate mutually agree on your financial roles and responsibilities, the chance of financial misunderstanding will be greatly reduced.

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