I have recently moved into a large house that is shared with several other people. Usually, there are 6-8 people living here at any given time (plus a family in the basement suite but it's separate). I would like to establish an agreement with my roommates relating to shared expenses, mainly for cleaning supplies.
Any advice on how to divide the responsibility? Problems I've had in the past are "I don't use the kitchen often" or "I have my own toilet paper" etc.

The people are a variety of ages. Some are in school and have a tight budget.

The fairest system I've heard of is - whenever something shared or for the household is needed anyone buys it, puts the receipt in the jar with their name on it, and at the end of each month the cost for the receipts in the jar are divided up evenly and the purchaser is reimbursed.

I thought about one person being responsible for everything each month but I don't think this works as it wouldn't be accommodating if someone new moves in.

Any other suggestions? Specific things I would like to share the cost of are

  1. paper towels for the kitchen
  2. dish soap
  3. dishwasher soap
  4. toilet paper for the bathroom
  5. hand soap for bathroom and kitchen
  6. laundry soap

I really think this would be beneficial as it doesn't make sense for each person to have their own soap crowded around the kitchen sink.

3 Answers 3


Any solution you arrive at will actually depend on the person responsible for upholding the system being sufficiently respected by the others as actually being in charge.
If their 'authority' is questioned, any system will fail.

The usual receipt in a jar, divide up at the end of the month, system is the most likely to fail first - for the reasons you have already set out. The 'non-participant' faction, I have my own soap, etc etc

The only system I've ever seen actually work, over many years & with many changing housemates is to charge everyone living there, from the day they move in, to the day they move out, a specific extra amount per week.
This goes into the 'house fund' & any communal purchase comes from it.

This, more than any other system, requires someone [one or a small sub-section of senior members] recognised as being 'in authority', but it does work & can continue to work over the years. It is harder to set up initially, but lasts longer, as new housemates get no say in the extra charge, it's part of their deal when they move in.

Depending on the overall level of trust in the house, accounts may need to be kept & be available for anyone to inspect.
Larger purchases may need prior agreement, or the 'sub-committee' can make the decisions. That will all depend on the overall 'political climate' in that particular house.

Variations on a theme, should there be a surplus [make sure there's never a shortfall, or you're back to receipts in a jar] are -

  1. house 'treats'; a new framed picture in a communal area, new bath mat, a case of beer... something non-essential that benefits everyone

  2. a 'dividend' - once a year, divide the surplus equally & hand it back to the participants [this may need sub-dividing based on number of weeks' occupancy of each resident]

The system works because

  1. the division of 'who paid what for which' is now buried behind a standard charge.
  2. There is no opt-out for the 'have my own soap' fraternity.
  • 1
    I would recommend building a bigger surplus and use it for greater expenses like the new wifi-router or broken/old appliances.
    – Silent-Bob
    Feb 10, 2017 at 12:26
  • I've known two systems like this; one paid for things like washing machines, internet, TVs, even carpets, decorating & property repairs out of it - the other had no such expenses, they were all covered by the property owner. So it will depend on the individual structure.
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 10, 2017 at 12:44

This was my solution when I was in a shared household: We had a contract.This contract was required to move in, as important as the lease agreement.

I was the leaseholder on a large 4 bedroom flat. One of the items on the contract was shared costs of household supplies: Toilet paper, paper towels, all cleaning supplies. The cost was divided evenly between all roommates.

Another "rule" on the contract: No overnight guests more than twice per week, except by special agreement. When you get a housemate, that doesn't mean you get his/her girlfriend/boyfriend as part of the deal. If they want to sleep together every night, they should get their own place. The reasoning here is that an extra person uses the things everyone else is paying for, which can lead to resentment. When anyone has a guest, short-term, it all evens out. If one person has a constant "guest" that is akin to another housemate who is not sharing expenses.

There are other elements to the contract but it worked very well because everyone knew what was expected of them and it was clearly communicated.


I have been in similar situation and i will tell you what me and my roommates did.

  1. Each of us downloaded this app "splitwise" and created our accounts and group for the house.

  2. All the amenities like wifi, water, electricity rent was added to this group and it would automatically split it.

  3. Common groceries were added in the group too, like kitchen soap,tissue papers etc
  4. Anything which was personal stuff was bought by the individual and was not put in the shared list.

All the money spent on common stuff was equally distributed. No person ever created a fuss about it. The app also boasts the ability to do money transfer using paypal.
So its worth a try.

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