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Tips for Talking to Your Roommates about Finances

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By Cassandra Paré, Marketing Manager, Women & Co.

As someone who's never lived alone, I know a thing or two about living with roommates: toilet paper doesn't re-fill itself, a tiny apartment doesn't mean a tidy apartment and just because you've left the Lysol out -- prominently -- doesn't mean people will actually use it. But despite my gripes, the most important thing I've learned is to communicate ... especially on financial matters. While talking to your roommates about household finances can be uncomfortable -- especially if your roommates are also your friends -- making sure you're on the same page financially can help preserve domestic peace. So before you hire the mover, sit down with your potential roommates and discuss how you plan to handle the financial side of living together. Here are my tips for what to consider once you sit down for the talk.

Covering the Basics
Treat the conversation like a business meeting and talk to your roommates like colleagues, not friends. Schedule a time for everyone to meet and be up-front about what you want to discuss. Here are a few ideas to help you get the conversation started:
• Talk about your individual living preferences and budgets. Is it important to have cable and a doorman, or are you happy to forego extra expenses?
• Decide what items you'll need upon moving in to the new place. Discussing how you'll split the costs upfront will help avoid confrontation as you near moving day.
• Figure out how you will manage the bills and who will pay for what each month.

Protecting Yourself
Remember, you probably won't live together forever. Discuss this openly when designating a parent as guarantor, or deciding whether you should make joint purchases. Similarly, if the bills are in your name, you assume the risk that someone might not pay you back. Consider asking your roommates to sign an agreement, or ask your landlord if you can mail rent checks individually. Finally, keep in mind that rent costs typically increase every year. Discuss how you'll handle the new price as soon as you receive notification.

Should you be talking about money with anyone else in your life? Check out Women & Co.'s "5 Must-Have Financial Conversations" and get the conversation started!

About the Author:
As Women & Co.'s Marketing Manager, Cassandra brings professional experience working in marketing within the media industry. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from Fordham University. Cassandra seeks to understand the distinct financial needs of our members in order to help provide extensive financial resources. In addition to her role at Women & Co., Cassandra is a regular volunteer with New York Cares.