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Living With Roommates: The Basics

Updated on November 3, 2011


There are a variety of reasons we choose to live with roommates or friends. You might need help paying bills and have an extra room, you might have a friend who's down on their luck, you might be out on your own for the first time and realize it's cheaper to have a roommate, or you might just like the idea of living with others. No matter what the reason is there are going to be difficulties because we all live a little differently. But not to worry, I'm here to give you some pointers that will make things run a lot smoother.

Know Who You're Living With

While it's not always possible to pick your roommates (situations such as college may lead to you renting a room to someone you don't know), it's in your best interest to know a person well before deciding to share a living space with them. You're going to want to live with someone who is responsible and will be able to hold a job, clean up after themselves, and won't be throwing crazy parties every night (unless you enjoy that sort of thing).

Living with someone who can't keep up their end of the rental agreement or leaves your place a complete disaster will leave you stressed out and your wallet hurting.


Money is a touchy subject with some people (even I don't like to discuss my personal finances) but rent needs to be paid or else everyone ends up sleeping on the street. If you're renting an apartment with roommates, it is a good idea to talk to your landlord about doing separate sub-leases for each individual. When you do this, you won't all end up out on the curb (or paying more than you should have to) if one person can't come up with their share of the rent. If you have a friend staying with you and they're agree to pay a certain amount per month then you need to make them stick to it. Letting them slide on rent will turn into a reoccurring issue and may cause trouble between yourself and your friend. And depending on their utility usage, you may need their rent money to cover the bills.


Most of us aren't big fans of doing chores but they need to be done and you don't want to be the one who does all the cleaning. When someone moves in with you, you should sit them down and write down a chore list. Come up with all the basic chores that need to be completed on a routine basis (vacuuming, washing dishes, taking out trash, etc) and split them evenly. Some people are messier than others and should be made aware of the extra cleaning that needs to be done. You'd be surprised easy it is to clean things like bathroom and kitchens with as little as a Mr. Clean Magic eraser, some Windex, and a rag (I used to work in a hotel and we could make a bathroom sparkle with those 3 items). It only takes 15 minutes, tops, to scrub down a bathroom and it should only need to be done every few weeks if everyone cleans up after themselves. Keep your living space clean and be proud of where you live.


We all need to eat, that's inevitable. But some people eat more than others, some people eat less than others, and sometimes we eat the same as each other (although we sometimes don't like the same things as others). You probably only have one refrigerator so you're going to have to share it with your roommate(s). There are a number of different ways to split food costs.

  1. Everyone can buy their own food and simply use a different shelf in the refrigerator or label their food. Don't go pick through each others' food, just eat your own. This works well when one person eats a lot and another eats very little.
  2. Split the cost of food. Supposing you all eat about the same amount, you can simply split the cost of food between the number of people living together. If someone wants an item that the others don't like, they shouldn't include that in the overall price because they will be the only one eating it.
  3. Take turns paying for groceries. You'll probably go grocery shopping about once a week so just take turns buying the food and make sure you buy about the same amount each time so that one person doesn't end up paying significantly more for food than the others.

Personal Care Supplies

Soap, shampoo, body wash, tooth paste, ect. Often times most of these products can be shared without any real headaches but you'll notice that more people sharing these products will deplete your supply quickly. If you choose to share these products then this would be a good time to take turns paying when they need replaced. If each person chooses to buy their own personal care products, then there should be no real issues in this department.


Most apartments will cover certain utilities themselves but you will still have some to pay. The easiest way to cover your utilities is to have everyone split them evenly. It's too much of a hassle to monitor everybodys' water or electricity usage and try to get them to pay more for taking a longer shower than you or for watching more television than you. These bills are easier to just divide up evenly and save yourself a headache.

Cable, Internet, Entertainment

We all love to watch tv, surf the web, or stay entertained with some sort of electronic device and they all tend to cost money. Bills for things like cable and internet should be evenly split between the people living together. More than likely everyone is going to use those things. But if someone wants things like Netflix, Xbox Live, or whatever else then only those who use the services should pay for them.

Express Your Concerns

There will always be troubles when living with roommates. Most of us live a little differently than others. If a roommate/friend is doing something in the house/apartment that is bothering you then you need to make it clear. Trying to ignore things or let things slide will eventually build up into more and your relationship with your roommate/friend could end badly. Living with others is difficult and takes some work to make everything run smoothly but if everyone is open and honest about small issues then it is easier for everyone to slightly alter their living style to accommodate their roommates (and it's much easier to do than trying to find a few place to live or losing a long time friend).

Author's Note

Having lived with my best friend, his fiance, and my girlfriend for some time now I've found that living with people outside of my family is more difficult than I imaged. It really does take some work and adjustments to your living style to make things run smooth. But if you just follow some simple steps and lay down some common rules then everything becomes much easier.


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    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      You've pointed out some important things to consider when sharing living space with someone. Discussing things and coming to agreement ahead of time is key.