Whether you're rooming with a friend, a family member or a significant other, having conversations about money can be awkward. Often, people only bring up finances once who owes what, or who hasn't paid whom, has become an unavoidable problem. Then it can easily escalate into a fight.
That's partly why finances are the leading cause of stress in many relationships.
Here are three tips that can help you have these hard conversations and stay on good terms.
If you're splitting expenses with someone, it's best to have a conversation about that up front. Hash out the details of who is responsible for what, when the bills are due and how the expenses will be split.
"It's important to have your own maximum number in mind when looking for an apartment. If there is a disparity in how much you can spend, sometimes the roommate with more money gets a bigger room," she says.
"If you are a couple, be honest about what you can and can't afford. It's important not to get in over your head and be unable to contribute to your 401(k) or your other personal priorities."
The sooner you can agree on how to split bills and rent in a way that feels fair, the sooner each person will be accountable for their share.
It isn't enough to have one initial talk. You should set up a recurring discussion.
"Money is a part of life; it's not a big deal until it becomes a big deal. And it becomes a big deal when you don't talk about."
Consider creating a blueprint.
When it comes to couples, "often [they] are less concerned with having each partner contribute equally," Fitzpatrick says. However, "a common [problem] is getting into a situation where one person is in way over their head financially. If the relationship gets into trouble, the living situation turns into a pressure on both partners."
Determine what will be joint expenses and what each partner will pay individually.
Consider creating a shared document with bill due dates and amounts. Mobile apps like Venmo can also notify you when a payment is due.
Once you've agreed on who will be responsible for which bills, put it in writing. Make sure everyone gets a copy.
"That way, in the future, if something comes up, you'll have a document you can refer to," certified financial planner Anna Sergunina says in an interview with RadPad. She said a contract can be a good way to keep roommates accountable.
And track your expenses. A log of who paid for what could prevent conversations that end with "you owe me," according to Sergunina.
Living with roommates may not always be fun, but in most cases it's cheaper than living alone. "Not communicating clearly is the most common mistake," Fitzpatrick says. With good communication, you can make every penny count.
From splitting the check to DIY adventures, "Young Money" helps you navigate tricky financial situations.
Check out more in the series:
- A couples therapist says this is the best way to talk about money with your friends
- Roommate horror stories that will inspire you to sign a 'prenup' before moving in together
- 5 things you should never pay full price for
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