Dividing Expenses Among Roommates

If you’ve shared an apartment with people, you know that dividing up living expenses can be tricky. There’s no objective formula; everyone values components of their living space differently, and in the end, it’s always a judgment call. Decide as a group how you think should be split—here are some of the ways you can divvy up payments:

Room size

If not everyone is paying the same rate, one of the easiest ways to determine each person’s rent is by room size. You can be incredibly scientific about it, and simply calculate a person’s percentage of overall rent by how much bigger their square footage. This becomes less straightforward in choosing whether to count closet space or not.

Room quality

Not all rooms are created equal. Size isn’t everything. Clichés apply in abundance when it comes to room hierarchy. Ask your roommates what they value in a room; if they choose different things, and everyone is happy with the room they get, then go by room size. But if everyone agrees that specific qualities are worth more—sunlight, or private bathroom, or privacy at the back of the house, etc.—then you have to assign a value to each room based on how awesome, or not, everyone thinks it is.

Number of people per room

Your household might decide a firm value for each room, and if two people share it, just split that value down the middle. But I’ve lived in groups that agreed that although they split the room, both use the common space as much as any individual, and should therefore pay slightly more. For example, if a room is $200 for an individual, you might price it as $240 for two.

What you’ll share

Decide up front what things—food, say, or internet or cable—you’ll share equally as a group, and then divide that up equally.

Difference in use

Ah, that last point was just too easy. If not everyone uses the same amenities equally, you might not want to split them up equally. Internet is fairly straightforward. But if you’re splitting food, one person might eat much more than others, and so it might be fair for him to contribute slightly more. If one roommate really wants a cable subscription and one doesn’t care to watch TV, it might be fairer to not collect cable money from the non-TV watcher. Just do your best to split things as a group, and check in after a month to ensure that everyone feels treated fairly.

Ability to pay

One of the more complicated ways to calculate. If certain members of the household have much greater ability to pay, and you’re all good friends who want to live together and are willing to be upfront about incomes, then those lucky dogs with the money could pay a higher percentage of rent. I’ve known several groups of friends who chose to do this because the more flush members wanted a nicer place and so they shelled out for it. Be careful here; you don’t want to end up resenting each other. This route is also less appropriate if you don’t know your roommates well

Well, have we confused you to no end? Don’t worry—just try to make good decisions as a group, and agree to forgive each other when things don’t go exactly as planned. Let us know how YOU divvy up your expenses–either here or on Facebook!

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