image of roommates discussing the best way to split their bills

It doesn’t have to be hard. And you shouldn’t have to pay for the “Happy” poster if you hate it.

It may feel like you always purchase the shampoo and dish soap, while your roommate has an uncanny ability to finish off the remnants and conveniently forget to buy more. Sharing communal spaces and goods can get tricky — and awkward — when it’s not obvious how costs and responsibilities should be divided. Should you ask your roommate to split the bill for paper towels, or just keep hoping she’ll respond to your passive-aggressive comments and pick some up? Here are five tips to avoid uncomfortable money issues and find the best way to split bills with roommates.

Have Your First Conversation Upfront

Whether you’re bunking with a good pal or a new roomie, make sure to discuss your collective expectations and plan of attack early on. It can start with questions for your housewarming party and go from there, like how you want to split costs, how often you’ll pay up, and if you should really invest in that much hummus for a small gathering.

Be Fair in Calculating Rent

Although everyone wants a king-size room with a walk-in closet, rarely does such a setup exist in NYC, and each roommate’s rent should reflect the positives (and negatives) of their respective bedroom. Comparing square footage is usually the best way to determine cost, but you should also consider natural light, noise, and closet size for a truly fair estimate. To get an exact monthly number for each roommate, try out Splitwise’s rent-splitting calculator.

Discuss What’s Communal and What’s Not

Some roommates feel comfortable sharing everything from cooking spices to toothpaste to body wash. Others would rather savor their overpriced, salon-style mousse than declare it up for grabs. It’s important to figure out if it’s BYOS (Buy Your Own Shampoo) or “Let’s pool for an industrial-size conditioner.”

Use Apps

Venmo has officially taken the awkwardness out of borrowing and asking for money, so use this to your advantage in your housing situation. Other apps, like Splitwise, are great for keeping a running tab of what each roommate purchased and how the costs should be divided. Splitwise even lets you connect back to Venmo to pay up.

Find Strength in Lists

Sometimes, even when you set up ground rules and discuss how you’re going to proceed, your roommate will continue to purchase mediocre decorations and expect everyone to chip in, despite the fact that her “Happiness Is Beautiful” poster makes you decidedly unhappy. Instead of immediately burning the tapestry, try documenting the problem in lists and costs. After gathering evidence, make sure you’re calm (and without lighter fluid on hand), and approach your roomie to explain how you’d like to go forward with cost-sharing.

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