Splitting the rent can be a great way to save money while a college budget. Before that great idea to room with your best friend or classmate turns into reality, team up to answer some key questions that can keep your life at home, well, happy. Talking about things like the lease, finances and lifestyle habits can save you a lot of time and heartache, not to mention legal issues should you have to break a lease.
Before you sign on the dotted line, make time to answer the following questions with your potential roommate.
Are you a morning, afternoon or evening shower person?
Seem silly? If you’re sharing a bathroom and both have class in the morning, it’s not. Your routines matter in keeping both of you happy.
Can you really afford the rent?
The rule of thumb is to have an income three times your portion of the rent. That may not be reality for a college student, so talk about where they have extra cash stashed (parents, extra jobs, etc.).
How will you split the bills?
Some of the biggest disagreements among roommates happen when one wants cable and the other doesn’t watch it … but is expected to split the cost. Determine what bills you’ll split before you sign a lease. Some to consider are cable, electricity, Internet, water and trash.
Do you like it cold or warm?
How cold you keep your apartment affects your electricity bill. Knowing your roomie’s habits can help with the previous question.
Can your friendship handle it?
If you’re already on rocky terms with someone, signing a one-year lease isn’t going to make all the problems go away. Be sure the person you’re considering as a roommate is someone you can be honest with and whose personality is similar enough to yours that living together won’t be putting a cat and dog in a small room together.
How do you define “clean?”
For some people, as long you can see the floor, the room is clean. For others, each weekend should include a deep clean. You’ll be sharing common space with your roommate, so be sure to hash out when that space will be considered clean and dirty.
How do you feel about guests?
From significant others to classmates, you or your roommate will want to invite someone over, and things could get loud. Should there be a cut-off time? Maximum number of guests at once? No-guest days for studying? Is it necessary to clear someone coming over with each other first or should you agree on a list of pre-cleared guests who are welcome anytime? Also consider that significant others tend to linger. Be sure you talk about whether a significant other has stayed long enough to start helping pay bills (and whether they’re welcome for that long to begin with.)
How do you relax?
It’s important to hash out comfort levels with things like TV time, alcohol and cigarettes before moving in, especially when a roommate is under age. What may be someone’s stress relief could be a major stressor to another. This tags on to the question about guests. Are you/your roommate comfortable with guests lingering at your place? What if they need to stay the night?
Do you have/want a pet?
One or both of you may have a furry friend. Make sure allergies won’t make one of you miserable, that having a pet at all is OK, and if you both have a pet that they’ll get along.
Are you territorial about your potato chips?
Some roommates shop together and share everything, others share specific items like milk and paper towels, and some don’t like to share at all. Know which one you are and which your potential roommate would be.
Are you early to bed or a night owl?
Bedtimes may seem like something of the past, but knowing when your roommate wants quiet time to sleep can be the difference of you playing video games in the living room or curling up with a book in you room.
Who gets the master suite?
If you don’t find a place set up for roommates, chances are the bedrooms will be different sizes. Who gets the bigger room, and how will you decide? This can be settled in different ways, like one of you paying more for the bigger room. Sometimes the smaller room has other perks like a bigger closet or attached bathroom, so this can help even things out.
How will you divide chores?
It was easy for the house to mysteriously get clean at Mom and Dad’s, but the same vacuum fairy doesn’t exist in the college world. There are several ways to split up chores between roommates, but it needs to be done before the trash is spilling over and the dishes have become home to a new species of mold.