How to split costs with roommates

Budgeting by values

Budgeting with your roomies can help lower your cost of living, improve your financial well-being, and give you more confidence talking about money.

You and your roommate share an address, rent, utilities—and maybe you share a friendship. But even if you and your roomie aren’t best buds, the act of splitting bills with roommates can have a positive effect on your financial well-being and your overall mindset.

The highlights:

  • Establish clear expectations around splitting expenses to avoid misunderstandings and share responsibilities.
  • Simplify and automate bills to make things easier for everyone in the house.
  • Splitting bills with roommates is a chance to grow more confident when it comes to budgeting and talking about money with other people. 

Plan how to divide and conquer your bills.

Once you decide to share a space with someone, it’s time for a clear conversation about how you can cover the bills. Don’t leave anything to chance. For example, you may assume that expenses should be shared equally. But your roommate may assume you’ll take an income-based approach, where you each pay proportionally based on your respective salaries. Getting everything on the table can help limit unpleasant surprises down the road.

Take time to really hash things out. Find agreement on issues like:

  • How will you split the security deposit?
  • How much can you afford to pay for rent?
  • Whose name will be on the other bills, like internet, water, and electricity?
  • Will you split bills equally or take a different approach?
  • How much advance notice would you like for due dates on shared bills?
  • How will you deal with unexpected expenses?
  • What will you do if you or other roommates lose their income?
  • Who will pay for extras, like cable or streaming services?
  • How will you approach buying furniture or groceries?
  • How will you send and receive payments?

Getting clear on these questions isn’t just good for roommate relations—it also impacts your financial health. When bills are in your name, it’s your credit score that could be affected. Now’s the time to establish yourself as reliable and credit-worthy—and that’s easier to do when roommates chip in on time.

You also have some shared legal responsibilities. Make sure everyone is clear on the ramifications of breaking your lease, damaging property, or leaving a debt unpaid. It can help to get on the same page—literally. Write down what you’ve agreed to and make sure everyone has access to the document. That way, you have something to check if there’s ever a misunderstanding.

But while your agreement is written down, it doesn’t need to be set in stone. You may find you have to adjust your ground rules as costs increase or financial situations change. Plan for the unexpected.

Take advantage of tech.

Now that you’ve planned how to split the bills, you can think about how to pay them. By automating any bill payments you can, you can stress less about remembering due dates and stick to a schedule that works for everyone. If you’re in charge of the gas bill, for example, you can have payments automatically withdrawn from your checking account.

You and your roommates may want to use an app for splitting expenses. With a Truist One Checking account Disclosure 1 you can use Zelle® Disclosure 2 to simplify sending and requesting money from one another. You can even use this system for your recordkeeping—using the tool to note when the “internet bill for December” has been paid, for example.

Strengthen your relationship with money—and with other people.

If you’re young and living with roommates for the first time, you can use this experience to learn real-life lessons about budgeting, boundary-setting, and navigating tough conversations.

“This is a time when you’re creating yourself,” says Brian Ford, head of financial wellness at Truist. “And learning how to have real conversations is so critical to happiness and sustaining relationships later on.”

That means saying what you mean—without being mean. “Open communication involves honesty first—saying what’s going on with you—and then moving to problem solving,” says Bright Dickson, senior purpose advisor at Truist and an expert in positive psychology.

When you’re talking to your roommates about something sensitive, Dickson recommends using “I” statements instead of saying something that could seem accusatory. So instead of, “You never pay the gas bill on time,” you could say to your roommate, “I feel nervous when the utilities aren’t paid the day they’re due.”

Talking with your roommates about how to split the bills can do more than help improve your financial future—it can help prepare you for important conversations about money with your friends, your significant other, or your work colleagues.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to not only solve a problem, but to build a skill that you will need for the future, which is the skill of clear communication,” Dickson says.

Even if you already have a roommate, you can still talk about expenses to make sure you’re on the same page.

Next step suggestions:

  • Whether you’re moving in with someone or you already have a roommate, get together and start reviewing a list of all the household expenses (including rent) that you’ll share—make sure you’re not missing anything.
  • Practice talking about money with a close friend. What’s a financial goal you’re comfortable telling them about—and how are you going after it?
  • If you have a Truist One Checking account, you can easily access or sign up for Zelle® through the Truist Mobile app. If you’re not a Truist customer, consider opening a Truist One Checking account so you can use Zelle® for splitting expenses. This can help you more easily exchange payments with your current or future roommate.

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, or mental health advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, or mental health professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.