When sharing an apartment with another person (or two or three), you are sharing a lot more than space. One of the most important things you are all responsible for is expenses – from cable and Internet to heat to groceries. Everyone has different ideas of how these costs should be managed, and it can be a daunting task, especially for new renters or people who haven’t lived together before.
Follow these tips for setting up a roommate budget – and avoiding conflicts when the bills come.
Manage Your Money
Before talking to your roommates about the budget, you first need to know how much you have to contribute. (Ideally, this will happen before you sign a lease!) The rule of thumb is that your rent should be no more than one-third of your take-home pay; so, if you make $2,100 a month after taxes, your share of the rent shouldn’t exceed $700.
Then, look at your last few months of bank statements and credit card bills and write down how much you spend on essentials (cell phone bill, car payments, gas/public transportation, groceries) and other costs (gym membership, meals out, clothes, entertainment, etc.). This will give you an idea of how much you have left to cover apartment costs.
Talk It Out
While you don’t have to tell your roommates your salary, you should be upfront about how much you can spend toward living expenses. If money is tight, consider taking the smallest bedroom and paying a little less in rent to free up some funds.
Next, it’s time to decide how you want to split up the bills. If cable and internet cost about the same as heat and electricity every month, you could put one of them under your name and the other under your roommate’s name. Or, if one roommate wants to be in charge of all of the bills and collecting money every month, that’s OK too. Just keep in mind that if a payment is late or missed, it’s that person’s credit that will suffer.
Keep It Consistent
Once you find a system that works for you, stick to it every month! Keep a calendar on the fridge with the due dates for every bill, set reminders on your phones, and be upfront if you are worried about covering your share one month. If your roommates know they can count on you, maybe they’ll cover some of your expenses one month in exchange for doing extra work around the house.