How to deal with awkward money conversations when you’re share house living

March 24, 2017
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Living in a share house is basically a rite of passage for young people venturing out into the adult world for the first time. Amongst taxes, serious relationships, laundry and job applications, share house living is one of the most complex things us youngsters need to figure out when we leave our parents’ house.

Not only are you sharing the roof over your head, but having housemates also means sharing groceries, utility bills and the biggest one of all: rent. Sharing these things with friends (or strangers) makes it impossible to avoid talking about money on the reg, but here are a few tips for making those conversations as pleasant and drama-free as possible.

Figure out a system that works for everyone

It should be a requirement for all share houses to have a straightforward system in place for all the grocery shopping and bill-paying needs that come with living with other people. It’s the easiest way to circumvent money-related conflict, and there are hundreds of apps that exist for this exact purpose.

If technology isn’t your (or your housemate’s) thing, setting up a whiteboard tally or a Facebook group to help everyone keep track of when the rent’s due and who’s turn it is to buy the milk will stop your housemates from skimping out on their share of the groceries or bills and make everyone’s lives so much easier.

Understand that everyone is as broke as each other

If you’re a student, chances are you’re living with other students, and if you struggled to buy a takeaway coffee this week, chances are they did too. As twenty-something students (who aren’t from well-off families) we’re all living off roughly the same amount of money week to week, which is barely anything most of the time.

No one likes talking about money stuff, and your housemates wouldn’t be hassling you for money you owe and having such an awks conversation if they didn’t have to. Instead of getting angry when someone is late with their share of the bills, or getting upset when your housemate asks you for yours, understand that everyone is in the same financial sinking ship that is university life.

Set boundaries

Abiding by the friendly motto ‘sharing is caring’ is common sense in a share house, especially when it comes to things like milk, bread and garbage bags. ‘What’s mine is yours’, on the other hand, is a stupid saying no one in a share house should take seriously.

To avoid one person paying more for groceries than everyone else, it’s important that each housemate knows what’s shared and what isn’t. If someone is eating the expensive food you bought for dietary reasons, it’s guaranteed to start trouble, so keep it simple and awkward-conversation-free by setting food boundaries and sticking to them.

Recognise when it’s becoming a problem

If you have a housemate that never pays rent or bills on time or keeps skipping their turn to buy the communal milk, sometimes the awkward conversation is necessary. Confronting someone about money related issues is never fun or comfortable, but being polite and considerate will make everything go down much more smoothly.

Maybe your housemate is just super damn forgetful or they’ve had some unavoidable expenses recently. Whatever their reason, it’s important to recognise the pattern early and talk about it rationally before it becomes a huge issue.

It’s unlikely they’re doing it out of spite or greed, so try to be as understanding as possible when approaching them about it, and remember that they’re definitely feeling way more awkward than you are.

Penny Robinson

Penny is a Philosophy and Media and Communications student at the University of Melbourne. She enjoys travelling, snacking, and not going to the gym.

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