Sharing expenses with a roommate is one of the best ways for singles to save money. Splitting the cost of rent and utilities is smart budgeting, and can help you afford a nicer place in a safer neighborhood. Sharing expenses can be tricky, however, because many people assume decisions and rules can be made after the boxes are unpacked. Money has been known to split up even the best of friends, so taking some time to talk before moving in can save you from a lot of problems down the road.
Decide before moving in together what expenses will be divided. Write a list of all costs associated with the apartment or house of choice. Do you want the expenses split 50/50? Do you want one person to take care of the electric bill, and another the water or gas bill? Discussing this beforehand can prevent arguments and hard feelings later.
Determine how to budget food costs. Will you each buy your own food, shop together, or just share whatever the other purchases? Do you want guests to help themselves to anything in the fridge or cupboard? Food can be expensive; both parties need to be sharing in this cost.
Protect both parties by having both sign the lease. Many landlords only care about one signature, which allows the other party to walk away after an argument. However, the person who signed the lease is then stuck with the full amount of rent, which may be impossible to pay on one salary. If both parties are splitting the cost of rent, it is only fair that they are both responsible for the lease as well.
Write up a contact for both parties to sign, outlining the verbal agreements made. While it may sound silly to do this with someone you know well, many friends who start out as roommates do not stay friends. Having a written contract protects both of you from misunderstandings down the road.
Plan any big purchases with your roommate. For instance, decide ahead of time who is providing what furniture or kitchen items for common use. But what if neither of you have a television? Will one of you make that purchase, or will you share the expense? Either way, make sure to keep the receipt showing who made the purchase, and on what credit card, in case proof of ownership is needed down the road.
Reassess after three months of living together to make sure that all parties are still happy with the agreements. This is a good chance to air out any disagreements if someone feels they are paying more than their fair share of an expense. If so, come up with a plan and add it as an amendment to the original contract, with both parties signing and dating the correction.
Lori Lapierre holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in public relations/communications. For 17 years, she worked for a Fortune 500 company before purchasing a business and starting a family. She is a regular freelancer for "Living Light News," an award-winning national publication. Her past writing experience includes school news reporting, church drama, in-house business articles and a self-published mystery, "Duty Free Murder."