How to Split Costs with Roommates

How to make sure splitting the bill doesn't turn into a splitting headache.

Team LemonadeTeam Lemonade

Living with roommates? Then you don’t need us to explain that making your shared living experience a successful one is about far more than enjoying each others’ personalities or fairly divvying up house chores. 

How you and your roommates manage your shared expenses is just as important—but what are the right ground rules when it comes to how to split bills and build a solid shared household?

Whether you’re a college student living the roommate experience for the first time or a veteran of living with housemates, here’s a guide to help you effectively manage your financial relationship with your roommates. We’ll cover:

Talking with your roommates about shared expenses

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with roommates and personal finance. But many people fall into one of two extreme camps.

One holds that what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours. That Coke Zero in the fridge? You bought it, so your roommates better not even think about touching it.

The other way of thinking about your roommate relationship is that since you live together, it’s only fair to share expenses. 

Which one is better?

People often gravitate toward the “I’ll pay for my part” since they think it’s more fair. But while thinking, “I’ll have my own yogurt, and you’ll have your own laundry detergent” may seem reasonable enough, it’s rarely the optimal way to foster a harmonious living arrangement with your roommates. 

At any rate, this is why—just like with significant others—it’s smart to talk finances before you commit to becoming roommates.  Creating a roommate agreement is an excellent way of ensuring that you’re all on the same page and have a game plan for how you’ll cover rent, utilities, and other household expenses.

And while paying the bills (hopefully) won’t be the most enjoyable part of living together, the good news is that there are plenty of apps and tools to help make it easier.

Apps for splitting expenses with roommates

apps for splitting bills with roommates

If you can manage your renters insurance policy through a smartphone app, it stands to reason that you should be able to do the same thing for managing expenses with your roommates.

Venmo is among the most popular apps for requesting and sending money, although you’ll need to find a way of knowing who owes what to whom. That’s where maintaining a spreadsheet of shared expenses comes in handy. 

Alternatively, you could turn to apps like Splitwise or Splittr, where you can upload expenses and the apps themselves will enable you to divide costs among your roommates—no spreadsheet necessary. There are even apps like OurGroceries that let you manage specific expenses. 

The bottom line: One person doesn’t need to do it all, and you don’t need to open a joint bank account with your roomies. Some basic ground rules and an app or two are all you need.

Creating a split expenses spreadsheet

Perhaps you prefer a more hands-on approach to managing your expenses with your roommates. 

In that case, you’ll want to create a split expenses spreadsheet. Log every shared expense, note who paid for what, and divide costs accordingly. Let’s say you’ve just signed a contract on a new place. Here’s how the first few line items on your expense sheet might look:

ExpenseCostWho Paid?Roommate 1 OwesRoommate 2 Owes
Security deposit$2,500Roommate 1$0$1,250
First month rent$2,500Roommate 2 $1,250$0
Energy bills$300Roommate 2$150$0
Groceries$175Roommate 1$0$87.50
Internet$50Roommate 1$0$25
Total Owed$1,400$1,362.5

If you’re Roommate 1, the difference between what your share of the expenses and your roommate’s is $37.50, and since your roomie has footed slightly more of the bills, you’re the one who’s $37.50 in the red.

How to save money living with roommates

By carefully tracking your expenses and who’s paid for what, you’ll gain invaluable experience managing your household budget. You’ll also have a window into your overall spending patterns, so if you need to adjust course, you’ll have real numbers to help you decide whether, for example, you should spend less on DoorDash this month.

Whatever your financial situation, you’ll want to ensure that the stuff in your home is protected with renters insurance—and Lemonade offers excellent coverage starting as low as $5 per month. Renters insurance covers only your personal property, not your roommates’, so this isn’t an expense you’ll be able to split. But insuring your stuff at an affordable price provides peace of mind that if your iPhone is swiped at a coffee shop or a burst pipe floods your living room, your insurance company will have your back. 

Bill-splitting doesn’t have to be complicated, and neither does insurance—so why not go with America’s top-rated renters insurance

Which states currently offer renters insurance?

Which states currently offer renters insurance?

Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C. (not a state… yet), and Wisconsin.

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Please note: Lemonade articles and other editorial content are meant for educational purposes only, and should not be relied upon instead of professional legal, insurance or financial advice. The content of these educational articles does not alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. While we regularly review previously published content to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date, there may be instances in which legal conditions or policy details have changed since publication. Any hypothetical examples used in Lemonade editorial content are purely expositional. Hypothetical examples do not alter or bind Lemonade to any application of your insurance policy to the particular facts and circumstances of any actual claim.