Young Money

You’re talking about money with your roommate all wrong—here’s the best way

How to deal with roommates trying to cheap out on rent
How to deal with roommates trying to cheap out on rent

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.

1. Have 'the talk' up front

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.

That's especially true if you are looking for an apartment, Jean Fitzpatrick, a marriage counselor and psychotherapist, tells CNBC Make It.

"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.

How to split the check with friends when you're on a budget
How to split the check with friends when you're on a budget

2. Hash out the details 

It isn't enough to have one initial talk. You should set up a recurring discussion.

"The best way to talk about money is a little bit every day," David Weliver, the founding editor of Money Under 30, says in an interview with GOBankingRates.

"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.

Here's when DIY is and isn't worth it
Here's when DIY is and isn't worth it

3. Write everything down

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.

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