Got Roommates? How to Share Bills and Living Expenses

updated on 16 December 2021

(5 minute read)

Bill Splitting is a Puzzle
Bill Splitting is a Puzzle

If you live–or are planning to live–with one or more roommates, you need a way to split shared expenses. For example, when the electric bill comes, who is responsible for making the payment? How should others split the bill? Should each household member contribute to the electric bill equally, or should your friend with the Bitcoin mining operation in his closet shoulder a larger portion?

7 Common Monthly Shared Expenses

While some shared expenses might be obvious (i.e., rent or electricity), it’s a good idea to create a complete list before you start to divvy up the costs. Here are 7 of the most common shared monthly expenses:

  • ‍Rent: This is most likely the largest of shared expenses. If you don’t have a place yet , you can get an idea of rental costs in your area by looking at similar listings on Craigslist or Apartments.com. Statista posted that as of February 2021, rent averaged $1,124 per month.
  • ‍Internet: The cost of internet access varies on the type of service and where you live, but you can expect to pay between $40 and $70 per month. This too is likely split with roommates. Keep in mind that there may be one-time setup fees as well.‍
  • ‍Utilities: Utilities covers electricity, water, gas, and other essential services. In some cases, landlords fold these costs into the rent, but often you will need to pay each separately. According to Move.org, monthly electricity in the United States averages $114, water averages $70, natural gas averages $53, and trash averages $14. These costs typically fluctuate, but you can agree to a percentage of the total to make splitting these with roommates a little simpler. 
  • ‍Food: When considering how to split costs, roommates must decide whether or not to share the grocery bill or keep their food costs separate. There may also be middle ground, with some items (bread, milk, etc.) shared, and others left separate (like your dino chicken nuggets). Household grocery bills average around $387 per month. This will vary considerably based on the type of food and number of people in your home but is somewhere between $40-$86 per week per person. 
  • ‍Consumable household supplies: This includes everything from toilet paper, laundry soap, and replacement water filters for the fridge. In total, this may be only $20-$30 per month and can be split with roommates.‍
  • ‍Streaming services and subscriptions: Many households share a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription. Depending on the number of streaming services you subscribe to, your monthly total can range from $5 to well over $100. We at WellPaid are gluttons for streaming media and know-how to run up a bill here.‍
  • ‍Transportation: Some roommates save money by sharing the use of a vehicle or carpooling. According to AAA, vehicle ownership can set you back around $713 per month including car costs, gas, insurance, oil changes, and inspections.

Depending upon your roommate situation, you may have other monthly expenses as well. For example, perhaps you and your roommates want to save money with a cell phone family plan, or maybe you want to pool funds for trivia night. Did you collectively adopt a stray kitten? Make sure to plan for food, litter, and the occasional trip to the vet.

The Not-So-Monthly Expenses

Keep in mind that regular monthly expenses aren’t the only thing in a budget. One-time and infrequent expenses will also come up and require splitting. For example, your household may need a new set of shared pots and pans, or perhaps you’ll need to spring for carpet cleaning services after an unfortunate accident.

Estimating the Total

Once you sign the rental agreement, order internet service, and get the water and electricity turned on, you’ll want to compute your actual total cost. In the meantime, an estimate and agreement on how to divide expenses is enough.

Adding the numbers from the list above and doing some rounding gives a total of $2,600. A report from Doxo suggests that the national average might be a little lower at $1,889 but can vary widely from city-to-city or number of roommates. If you’re a college student with roommates, you should check out this article from Discover Student Loans that shows an actual college student's budget. 

How to Split Expenses and Set House Rules

While everyone may get along well on move-in day, drafting a roommate agreement ahead of time can help avoid disagreements down the line. A roommate agreement is a simple contract that may include details about house rules for roommates and how to handle shared expenses.

For shared expenses, make sure to detail which expenses are to be split and how they are divided. If one roommate takes a bigger bedroom, maybe you can divide rent costs by the size of the rooms. Also, make sure to agree to who is responsible to pay each bill and when each roommate will kick in their share. Ultimately, just make sure you get it documented for everyone to agree to avoid any hard feelings later. Confusion makes everything harder. Look for another post from us with a template in the near future to help.

Automate Splitting Bills with Well Paid

Organizing who pays who, when to pay people back, and keeping track of bills can be messy or just a hassle. This is where Well Paid wants to make a difference. Our free bill splitting service allows you to track, split, and get paid back for recurring bills automatically. All in one place. It even helps you plan for just your share of bills, even if the roommate paid with their card. Interested? Check out how it works.

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