Two can live as cheaply as one, so the popular adage goes. While this may not be mathematically accurate, sharing expenses can lead to economies of scale that can save two or more people money. An obvious example would be sharing the monthly rental fee on a washer/dryer set in an apartment, or a small refrigerator in a college dorm. Determining expenses you can share, agreeing on percentages each roommate will pay, defining how and when you’ll make payments and putting everything in writing can help roommates reduce living expenses.
Write everything down before you start sharing expenses to avoid misunderstandings
Write a List. Check it Twice
Write a list of expenses you and your roommate believe you can share. Divide the list into fixed and variable expenses. Fixed expenses would include rent, cable and furniture rental. Variable expenses would include items such as groceries, phone bill, utilities, cleaning supplies and Internet service. The Better Business Bureau has a handy list of household expenses you can use for guidance. Don’t plan on finishing in one shot — leave the list on a table for a few days and update it as more expenses come to mind.
Decide on the Split
Discuss what percentage of each expense each roommate will share. For example, if one roommate watches premium TV channels every night while the other would be happy watching basic cable two or three nights per week, you may not want to split the cable bill 50/50. If one bedroom is more desirable than another because of square footage, closet space, private bathroom or other reason, roommates can “bid” on this room by agreeing to pay a higher percentage of the rent to occupy it.
Set Payment Procedures
Discuss how and when each person will pay the expenses. For example, Bob may write the checks for all of the individual bills each month, with Hank writing him one check each month to cover his half of the bills. Hank may pre-pay an entire month’s bills at the beginning of the month, with an adjustment due after all fixed and variable expenses are paid. Hank might pay at the end of the month after all bills are presented, or he could make two payments during the month. Roommates can alternate paying the bills each month, or just write two checks for each bill as they come due.
Put it in Writing
Write a contract delineating the terms of your agreement. Include who pays what, in what form each person will pay, such as cash, check or credit card, and the date on which payments are due. Creating a roommate “pre-nup” helps avoid miscommunication and strengthens your legal case in the event of a dispute.
Sign, date and witness or notarize your contract. Give each person a copy of an original copy of the contract with a signature and notarized, if possible.
Review your expenses each month to determine if your expense-sharing plan needs adjustment. Make initialed, dated changes to your contract, if necessary.