How to budget with flatmates (and stay friends)

When you move into a shared house and need to budget, the first thing your parents, your interfering auntie and literally all older people you’ve ever met will tell you is the way they budgeted their money when they were “young”. You get a certain amount out of the bank each week, put it in an envelope and only spend that cash. Well, that’s all very well when it’s 1946, before contactless payments and impatient bar staff who really don’t want to watch you rifle through a brown envelope while 12 other people demand a pint. This is where Splitwise comes in – an app specifically designed to take the pain out of splitting the Netflix bill six ways every month, and – for some reason – the electricity bill quarterly. You can see which flatmates are behind in paying, who has already paid up and what everyone owes.

Forward planning is dull but necessary

Is there anything worse than getting a massive household bill at an awkward time: when you’re lying on a sun lounger in Ibiza, having blown £24 on two beers, dooming you to spend the next eight hours worrying about which trainers you’ll have to eBay? Karyn Fleeting from Miss Thrifty says: “At the end of every month, sit down at the kitchen table, review the month’s bills and run through expected bills for the following month. It can be awkward, partly because Brits hate talking about money. But it’s worth doing for just this reason: if somebody isn’t paying their way, or one person’s habitually late payments are making things difficult for the rest of the house, you can get it out into the open, instead of stewing and seething about it in private. You can also address the situation and find workarounds.”

Kittysplit is for parties

“Let’s have all our mates round for a massive Christmas dinner!” you’ll yell, all hyped up on tinsel and cheap glitter. “What about a Halloween party?” someone else will shout. Cut to a month later and you’re staring at your bank statement, wondering how you spent £37 on pumpkins. For big group occasions where everyone’s buying different things, Kittysplit is a very useful app – you simply put in what you’ve spent, and at the end of the occasion, it’ll tell everyone they owe someone money. So you pay just one person, not several.

Make sure everything is as cheap as it can be

It’s easy to wrongly guesstimate how much your monthly bills should be – according to a recent survey by Zoopla, renters underestimate how much they’re paying to run the house by £600 a month, on average – and one in five are confused by fluctuating monthly bills. So make sure you’re getting the best deal.

“Keep a list, or alerts in your calendar, for when utilities, telecoms and insurance contracts will be up for renewal,” says Fleeting. “For example, the average household that switches to a new deal for gas and electricity when their old deal nears expiry saves hundreds of pounds.”

Go old school

Money-transfer apps and online banking makes life easier in so many ways – as anyone who’s had to spend their lunch hour standing in line to pay in a cheque can testify. But it also means it’s easy to lose track of who has paid what in a shared flat. And with flaky flatmates, there’s always an excuse as to why they’re trailing behind on the bills: their app isn’t working, they can’t find their card reader, they’ll do it when they’ve got wifi, they’ve lost your details. That’s when you have to revert to the most medieval of tactics: public shame. Put an envelope on a board in the kitchen, with a list of names. You can only tick your name off when you’ve put cold, hard cash for the council tax in the collection. It’s like a 2017 version of being put in the stocks, only no mouldy veg is involved.

Let it go

Look, money is tight and no one wants to be taken advantage of. But is it worth developing a stress ulcer because your housemate hasn’t bought loo roll in three weeks? Have you turned from chill super-fun friend to expert toilet paper hider, with your own secret stash hidden away, for you and you alone to use? Is it … worth your time, this weird point-proving exercise? Just buy the toilet paper and accept a pint next time you’re offered one by your friend. Some things just work out in the end.

Don’t avoid rounds, but DO make them small

Let’s face it: it’s great to walk into a bar, clap your hands together and ask your mates: “Right: who wants what?” But rounds are also the biggest drain on your bank account ever invented – there’s always someone who ducks out early, there’s another who wants prosecco and, well, that only comes by the bottle, and does anyone know that lad you just handed the pint to? Rounds of three people: fine. Any more and it’s like those 2p arcade games: fun, but essentially pointless.