Budgeting while living with a college roommate

College is a time to exercise your independence, including your financial independence since the decisions you make today can have long-term implications for your financial future. However, at the same time you are learning to live without the constant support of your parents, you will have to learn to live with your college roommate. Studies show that about three out of four first-time college students have never shared a room before coming to college.

College roommates may share space, but they should not share poor money habits. Following are some tips for managing your money while living with a college roommate.

Create your personal budget. Hopefully, you and your roommate will have a lot of things in common; however, a budget shouldn’t be one of them. Create a personal budget by first tallying your sources of income including scholarships, grants, loans, family contributions, available savings, educational savings plans, and expected work income. Next, document your spending including fixed, variable, and periodic expenses with help from an online expense worksheet.

Consider individual leases. If you and your roommates want to live off-campus, consider an apartment that caters to students. Many of these apartments offer individual leases and will split the utility bills for you taking some of the burden off of you and your roommates.

Come to a consensus. If you are living with roommates, you should decide whether you are going to embrace a philosophy of “what’s yours is yours, what’s mine is mine” or one that involves sharing. Some bills, like rent, electricity, and water can be easily divided. Other expenses, like groceries, cleaning supplies, or furnishings for common areas, are more of a gray area. Discuss responsibilities with your roommates and come to a group consensus. Put your agreement in writing in case there are disputes in the future.

Think long-term. According to a recent Sallie Mae study, college seniors graduate with an average credit card debt of more than $4,100. While it’s good to build a positive credit history, no one wants to start their post-graduation life in debt. If having a credit card is too much of a temptation for you, consider getting a prepaid or secured credit card instead.

Finally, make sure your home environment is conducive for studying. After all, the reason you are in college is to get an education. If your housing situation is hindering your performance in school, then money being spent on tuition and books is not netting you the benefits of an education.

For help creating a budget and help creating good financial habits, check out Money Management International’s financial education resources on MoneyManagement.org.

You might also enjoy reading:

Misconceptions about paying for college

Earn an "A" in personal finance this semester

Is a credit card a must for college students?

Budget decorating tips from the dorm


Alexis Holloway is a former copywriter and e-Commerce Coordinator for MMI.

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