For many living in apartment homes, especially first-time renters, living with a roommate is an inevitability. While the situation can be fun at times, getting together to pay bills can be tricky.
While you may save quite a bit of money by living with a roommate and splitting costs, doing so in a timely and organized manner is key. All it takes is one roommate being a little off-schedule to de-rail the entire process. With multiple roommates, it can be even more difficult making sure that each person contributes their proper portion of the expenses in a timely manner.
It’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page and understands the schedules and deadlines of bill payments. With roommates potentially getting wrapped up in their own day-to-day responsibilities, if your bill payment schedule is too flexible, they may forget due dates at the end of the month!
First of all, create a system that sorts paid and unpaid bills. Make this system available and understandable to everyone you live with to ensure that it’s clear what is paid and what needs to be paid. Simple organization from the very beginning can go a long way in making sure that everyone is on the same page. You might find it useful to post a chart on a communal area such as the refrigerator that explains which bills are due on what dates. Having a visual reminder that is available on a consistent basis will keep roommates accountable and allow no excuses as to not knowing what needs to be paid.
Make sure you know which bills are in whose name. This information should be known and available to everyone in the apartment so they know who to write their portions of the bills to. Any confusion as to where checks should be directed can result in missed or late payments, and those will reflect on the account of the person whose name is on the bill. If at all possible, set up accounts with more than one person on the account. If you live in an apartment with multiple roommates, designate two responsible roommates whose names will appear on the account. This keeps more people culpable, and tends to keep up awareness of unpaid bills.
Before paying your bills, check your account to make sure you have sufficient funds to cover them before cutting a check. It only takes one person bouncing a check to throw a wrench in the payment system. An overdraft can cause other roommates to have to pay more to ensure that bills are paid on time, and this can lead to tension in the home. Make sure that all charges on the bill are correct before making payment. You may find it useful to cross-reference paid bills with unpaid bills to ensure there isn’t a mistake made by the company. This exercise also allows everyone involved to stay informed as to what’s going on with bills, and why the charges are what they are. It’s also very important to make sure communication is open. If there is a change in payment amount, make sure your roommates know what it is and why. They may be in the habit of writing checks for recurring payments, and end up writing a check for an incorrect amount. You don’t want to have people re-writing checks or not trusting the reasons why amounts have changed. Communication is key in making sure that the process goes smoothly.