Living out of home for the first time can often be difficult with teenagers flatting together or those flatmate veterans in their 20’s and 30’s who still need to balance those dreaded bills. They never seem to end. Obviously you have to pay the monthly rent and that’s the biggest priority but there’s food, groceries, laundry, dry cleaning and of course the case or two of beer or wine that needs to be replemished and restocked.
One of the biggest problems we find when speaking to our Happy Flatties is the splitting of costs and paying the bills on time as well as shopping with flatmates. There are loads of issues that can arise if you don’t pay your bills on time and for many flatmates this can be a real issue. Bad credit ratings, getting hassled by debt collectors, court appearances, wages getting garnished and worst of all eviction and bad rental record that can follow you around for years.
Basically, you have to pay each and every bill on time. But before you start panicking and calling your parents to top up your credit card there is a solution and the following 4 tips will help you pay your bills on time and keep your sanity.
1. Work out a plan to share the bills with your flatmates.
When both flatmates and perhaps there may be three or even four flatmates all sharing a house or flat, rules about bills must be set out in black and white and strictly adhered to without failure. These are the bills that have to be paid on time and split equally among all the flatmates.
As soon as you all move in make a detailed account of all of these separate bills, some may yet to arrive so you may have to guess these for the time being. Layout a payment schedule and whose account the money will go into and who will be paying this. It’s best if one person is responsible for paying the bills and he or she can collect the money. Don’t let each flatmate pay separately as this is far to confusing and will prove too difficult to audit and control.
2. Set up a communal kitty for those incidental expenses that can arise.
For those of you that don’t know what a Kitty is well it’s like a money jar on top of the fridge that can be used for small incidental expenses like milk, bread, butter and coffee. You can either put your spare $2 coins in there after a night out or have a system where each person contributes $10 per week. As this adds up if it’s not used you may decide to splurge on some wine, a night out or going out to the local pizza place. This is really a good idea to keep harmony in the place. You don’t want to be the person who has drunk the last bit of milk without replacing it – here’s where the money jar comes in very handy.
3. Interior decorating.
This is more for flatmates who have decided to move in together for the first time and need to decorate the flat or house. The question here is who buys the TV, crockery, knives and forks, bed linen etc etc. This list goes on but it can all add up and quite expensive especially if your furnishing a place for the first time. It’s a good idea to have an affordable budget and stick to it. Say you each put in $1000 and buy the most important items first. Anything let over can be used for discretionary items like wall paintings, kettle, bathroom accessories, lamps and that extra couch.
4. Anything to do with fun.
Let’s say you have turned out to be good mates with your flatmates and decide to go on a holiday to the Gold Coast for a week or a trip to Bali after a huge drinking session with your mates. Figuring the best way to budget for all of the expenses that will arise will take planning but it’s best to get in early. Start putting aside money every week as part of your budgeting process so your not madly scurrying around for money as the holiday nears.
As far as money and flatmates are concerned, there are very strict rules that need to be put in place from the get go. If your new flatmate is irresponsible and can’t seem to cope with the rules or paying on time it might be a good sign to start looking for a new flattie. The last thing your want is the added stress or worrying about when your flatmate will pay next or if in fact they are capable of it.