Creating a Budget With a Roommate

By Ashley Paskill

Creating and sticking to a budget is one of the most important things you can do to save money as a college student. When you have a roommate, you are likely going to share items that you will have to split the cost of. This can be challenging, but working together and being open with each other will help things go smoothly.

Roommate Tips: Creating a Budget With a Roommate


Many problems with budgeting for shared items arise when there is a lack of communication. In fact, a popular TV show covered a situation where a character was not open about what she could not afford that her wealthier roommate could afford and assumed she could. Sit down and have an honest discussion with your roommate about what you can and cannot afford. It is better to be honest before you both buy things that will lead to one or both of you having to go to extreme measures to get the money necessary to pay for the items.

A crucial part of this is honesty. You are sharing the items you have agreed to share, so you both have to like the item. If you do not like a particular item, be sure to let your roommate know. Again, if something costs more than you can afford or are willing to spend on the item, make sure you let your roommate know to prevent things from building up and exploding down the line.

Create spreadsheets

Keeping track of things like rent, utilities, and groceries can seem overwhelming. You have to figure out who is paying what amount and who is responsible for paying. Creating a spreadsheet can help you keep track of what needs to be paid, the due dates, and who has and has not paid. This will create a physical place where you can keep track of things to avoid stress and arguments. This will also allow you to have proof if someone claims something different than what is on the spreadsheet. Sit down and go over each part of your shared expenses and make arrangements for making sure bills are paid on time and in full.

Track expenses

As the semester goes on, you may find that you spend more money on food, and your roommate spends more money on things like décor. Keep track of expenses to see where things even out and to see how much you may have to pay to compensate. Use digital apps and spreadsheets to help keep track of money coming in going out, and to see who is spending what. Using apps like Venmo and Paypal also allows you to pay each other back easily, especially if you do not have the same bank as your roommate.

Avoid sharing food if possible

Food and groceries can be the thing that breaks an otherwise great relationship with roommates. Unless you know that you both enjoy the same things and plan all of your meals together, avoid sharing food and the grocery bills. This eliminates hassle if one roommate decides to eat out more than at home and stops fights about itemizing food costs. Also, some people have more expensive food likes than others, so avoiding sharing can help keep arguments over food to a minimum.

Coupons and discounts

One major perk of being a college student is the number of student discounts you can receive. Even if a store does not have a designated student discount, you may still be able to utilize coupons and sales. If you do decide to share food, sign up for your grocery store’s loyalty program to help save with coupons, freebies, and sometimes even gas discounts. See if your local public transportation has student rates, especially if you use public transportation to get to and from school, and see if there are discounts on parking passes if you carpool with roommates to campus. The best thing to do is just ask if a student discount is available. The worst that can happen is the answer will be no.

Prepare for unexpected expenses

Unfortunately, life does not always go as we plan. In fact, it rarely does. Making sure you and your roommates have money in your budget set aside for unexpected things to occur. This is especially true of potential damage to the apartment. If something is one roommate’s fault, they should cover the expense so the other roommate does not lose out on their security deposit. If the damage was both roommates’ faults, you should have enough set aside so that losing your security deposit is not a huge loss for you. Also, you never know when appliances will go. You might not have to pay for its replacement, but you might, so it is better if you are prepared and not have to pay.

Creating a budget is super important, especially when you live with a roommate. Working together on a budget can help decrease stress and headaches down the line.

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