Money Talks: I feel as though my housemate is ripping me off

This reader is footing the bill for household expenses like bin bags and toilet roll and the costs are adding up. How should she approach the situation?
Money Talks: I feel as though my housemate is ripping me off

It is important to share all household bills equally among housemates.

I feel like my housemate is ripping me off. Even though we are meant to share living costs, I end up paying for things like toilet paper and bin bags and it adds up! What should I do?

This letter brings me back to my own days of house sharing in Dublin in the 90’s – oh there was holy war! House sharing is tough, whether it is with friends, family members, or acquaintances. It can certainly bring its own trials and tribulations but when finances then enter the equation and the sharing or not sharing of bills as is the case here, it can lead to potentially awkward situations. If it is not addressed promptly and appropriately, this situation can sometimes have disastrous outcomes.

Most people get along extremely well with their housemates but in my experience, most find it super uncomfortable to open up a conversation with them about household finances and how bills should be shared. They often feel like they might be pestering them if they need to ask them for their share of a bill - and even worse, having to follow up again if they fail to pay up.

Be open and honest

If you plan to stay living here for longer than just a few months, then you will have to sit down with your housemate and have an honest and open chat about this situation and agree on a new fairer system to manage the shared household finances. 

Sit down together and tally up a list of all the living expenses you plan on sharing and then agree on a budget for these. Don’t forget to include shared household groceries like the toilet paper and bin bags you mention, and don't forget to include items like cleaning products. This will make things a lot easier, more transparent and most importantly, fair for everyone. You should also use this opportunity to talk about the non-financial aspects of living together like the split of household chores. 

Consider pooling money

If you have not already, I would advise opening a shared household expense account into which each housemate should then lodge their agreed contribution to this account to cover all bills on a regular basis. If you get paid at different intervals, for example, if one of you is paid on a weekly basis rather than monthly, then this needs to be taken on board, and a different lodgement schedule applied to suit that housemate's cash flow.

It’s also a really good idea for each of you to contribute a small amount to put towards a shared 'emergency fund' to cover any unanticipated expenses like the repair of an essential household item or the purchase of a new hoover. It will save headaches in the future.

To summarise, open and honest communication with the proactive establishment of a fair household budget and monthly payment system will resolve this situation without any major issues.

Don’t forget to agree to revisit the plan regularly on a set date of each month to see how it’s going and amend if necessary and this will help you get ahead of any problems before they escalate into a similar situation again in the future.

  • Carol Brick, Managing Director of HerMoney has over 20 years of experience in the provision of professional Financial Advice see hermoney.ie

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