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Co-Living US

What Is The Best Way To Keep Track Of Expenses With Roommates?

So, you paid the plumber for that leaky sink, but they covered the gas bill last quarter. They’re complaining because they paid for the communal spices, but you always seem to be buying the toilet paper. Keeping track of expenses with roommates can be a nightmare – and doing it wrong can cause arguments.

Opting for a laid-back, “give-and-take” approach can feel like a good idea at first, but it’s easy to feel like you’re paying more than your share of the finances. Roommate etiquette guidelines dictate that you should be contributing to the costs of your living space, but – beyond annoying spreadsheets – how can you keep track of this properly?

Like just about every problem on this earth; there’s an app for that! Here are some handy tools you can use to split bills and expenses, and make sure everyone and their wallet is happy.

Splitwise

Splitwise is a free tool that enables users to keep track of shared expenses, making it perfect for housemates or groups on vacation. You can easily add the things you pay for and how much they cost, and all housemates will get access to this.

Whenever you want to settle the balance, Splitwise will calculate the difference in how much money people owe and are owed. It makes tracking expenses simple and – dare we say it – enjoyable!

@zachBales on Reddit is a huge advocate of the app, saying:

“Splitwise is my life. It just keeps a running total and often things will just even out naturally as people pay for different things. If it doesn’t balance out then you can do an e-transfer each month. I haven’t personally found a more streamlined option than that.”

Kittysplit

Kittysplit seems to work in a very similar way to Splitwise, but is less widely used in the U.S. Again, it’s a simple way to calculate who owes what – and to whom. There’s no need to download an app here; Kittysplit works on all browsers and all devices.

Reddit user @edcRachel explains some of the Kittysplit benefits on offer:

“I’ve been using kittysplit.com to track and split expenses with friends for trips. It’s AWESOME and will let you define how things are split (percentages, add more people if you like, etc). You add an amount, list who paid, and who it’s split between. You can track money given as well. Super simple interface, and ability to download everything as CSV, search by date, etc.”

Pen and paper

The good old-fashioned pen and paper method never fails, and is a good option if you happen to live with techno-phobe roommates or are concerned about losing data if something were to go wrong with an app. Attach a list to the refrigerator with each roommate’s name, so they can record anything they buy.

For extra security and to avoid debates, you could even attach receipts. Just be sure you don’t use a whiteboard to track expenses, since anyone can make adjustments if they feel like it! 

It makes sense to gather your roommates early on to establish which living expenses you plan on sharing. This can save you money, since it could mean only paying for one Netflix membership instead of three, for example. Some expenses you might want to share include:

  • Movie streaming services
  • Rent
  • Maintenance bills
  • Gas/water/electricity bills
  • Household essentials such as toilet paper, bin liners and cleaning supplies
  • Shared food items such as butter, salt and sugar
  • Internet bills

Contribute to a shared household bank account

If it works for everyone, one way to ensure everyone is paying their share is to set up a shared bank account. Each roommate would contribute a predetermined amount each month, which will be used to cover things like bills, unexpected expenses or repairs, and everyday household items.

This, however, can lead to debates. Some months, housemates may need to contribute more than other months, and everyone has to trust each other to not dip into the account for personal reasons.