Sunday, October 2, 2011

Easily Share Your Living Expenses With Roommates Using These Services


Tracking expenses can be difficult and cause a lot of stress. There are tools to help you whether you are living with friends, have a roommate, living at college, or are with the love of your life. I signed up for, and tested, each of the solutions below to provide you with the information you need to make a selection for your living arrangements.

Roommate App is a simple web-based solution. Signing up is easy and involves creating a website for the household. First you choose a name you like and the sites address will look like "example.roommateapp.com". The primary person who set up the service will have authority to add and remove people from the home. When a bill is added it can be split equally or you can specify who pays how much; excluding someone if they do not partake in that shared expense is easy. You enter payments online when a roommate gives you money towards a bill. An invoice is emailed for every new bill and amount paid to those involved so there is a good record. There is not cost for this service.

Splitwise brings a free and full product to the web, iOS, and Android. Setting up the account and household was easy. Each added person receives an email to create an account and becomes a part of the household with full capabilities to add and delete members. Bills can be added and split as desired across those paying with the option to make them reoccurring. Unfortunately, emails where not sent out when a new bill was added letting everyone know they owe money. This one works on a household level instead of per bill; it always aggregates who owes what to who. As an example if we split equally, and I pay a $50 bill and my roommate pays one that is $10, I am owed $20. This is nice because I do not need to pay $5 for my part of the $10 bill in a separate transaction. Everything comes together with line item details at your disposal. Either party can report a payment made, but the receiving person has to confirm.

Conmigo is new and currently only on the Android platform with an iOS app coming soon. This service has potential once the sync feature is launched. At this time each member of the home would need to track each transaction as the household's apps do not "talk" to each other. A much needed website interface is also on the horizon. By far, this is the best and most robust Android app design and interface I have seen in this arena. As expected you can add bills, split them up, and track how much each person owes and to whom; all for free.

PayDivvy brings expense sharing to the next level by collecting money and paying bills electronically through their system. They are FDIC insured, have corporate partners like Verizon, PG&E, and Comcast, and are independently audited to ensure privacy and security. Reminders, alerts, e-bills, and automatic payments are some of the advanced functions they offer above and beyond the expected. You are able to pay money in to the system to pay the bills with a checking account (free) or by debit/credit card (3.5% fee). Oddly you can connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts to share your payment activity to, as they say, "...help get the word out, get your friends more involved and helping us build a better product". The setup is more individual than other expense sharing service as you are not able to directly interact with the "household".

BillsAreIn has a clean and easy to use website, but no mobile apps. A house wall for messages as well as a group calendar are two great features for everyone to communicate with. The primary person logged in, that will actually pay the bill, may provide their banking information to the housemates if they wish to be reimbursed with an electronic funds transfer. Your group members are able to see what bills you have paid and add bills of their own, but can not interact with your account directly. Paying bills and confirming them as paid is quick and easy. Reports and household statistics are available when you need to review expenses.

After using all of these from both sides of the transaction I found Splitwise and BillsAreIn to be the ones I would use. Everyone has different needs of which one of these may fill. Do you use another service you like better? If so, let everyone know in the comments below. The one thing to remember with a shared home is to keep track everything and make sure the rules are set and discussed up front. If you do that, life will be much easier.

Updated February 12, 2013: Below are some additional living expense splitting services readers have shared in the comments below.

Settle Up effortlessly tracks expenses for housemates, parties, and trips. This extremely robust and feature rich service supports different currencies and languages. Access is available online and via the iOS and Android apps. This expense tracking app should definitely be tried out. Watch this video to learn more, as well as this one.

Billsup provides mobile apps (Android, iPhone, and Windows) along with their website to track debts and manage group expenses for roommates, trips, and coworkers. Their funny promotional video gives great use case examples and outlines how it works.

Short Reckonings sets itself apart from other expense splitting services by having useful Facebook integration, report creation, classic design elements, and the ability to export your sheets in Excel format. This web tool does not have mobile apps, but does have a nice mobile website version that will fill your needs. With its feature set you can accurately track and split your living expenses as well as use it for other cost sharing needs.

What Do I Owe You? is a free and easy to use website which allows you to enter all the bills you and your roommate have paid. Then with a single click it lets you know if either person owes the other money. Behind the scenes it is totaling all the bills and dividing by the number of people to determine who has under/overpaid making this tool perfect for equally contributing roommates. This service has great potential and would surely benefit from adding additional functionality.