Finances, Housing Advice, Renting

The Lowdown on Renters Insurance

There’s a lot to consider when you decide to move off-campus, including remembering all the furniture you have to bring, all the supplies you’ll need, and all the food you’ll have to buy.  However, before you move in, you may want to consider getting renters insurance.

In an article we read by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, what many students may not realize is that most landlords will not have insurance that protects their renters’ property.  More and more landlords are, in fact, requiring that their tenants have renters insurance when they move in.  For students, renters insurance is a great way to protect important things like computers, stereos and other important property.  While you may be concerned that it’s an added expense, consider that the premiums are only about $15 to $30 a month.  That will save you a lot if your laptop gets damaged or stolen!

Photo from myfirstplace.com

When you’re looking at purchasing renters insurance, there are two basic types of coverage you should be aware of.  The first type is personal property coverage (the most common type), which will pay to repair or replace your property if it’s damaged, destroyed or stolen.  The second type is liability coverage, which will protect you against any claim or lawsuit from any injury or damage while on the property that you’re renting.

However, there are many differences when it comes to the providers and the plans they offer.  Be sure to talk to your landlord, your parents, and the insurance providers about the plans they offer and what they cover.  Don’t take the first plan you see, but shop around before you make your decisions so that you get the coverage that works best for you.

Here’s a checklist we found at Leaky.com that will help make it easier for you to find renters insurance.

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Housing Advice

Don’t let the bed bugs bite!

Bed bugs, up until a few years ago, seemed like a pest of the past, and the saying “Don’t let the bed bugs bite” just seemed like something your grandmother would tell you before you went to bed.  However, infestations have become more and more common and it seems like the bed bug has made its comeback in the developed world. I don’t know about you, but bed bugs give me the heebie jeebies, and while it isn’t a pleasant subject it is certainly something to consider when you’re renting.  This because bed bugs not only survive on the blood of mammals (i.e. us!), but they also can completely infest your home.

Photo from bedbugdefense.com

According to an article we read at BedBugDefense.com, before DDT was banned, it was used to kill bed bugs, as it was highly toxic to them and would remain in the application site for more than a year to prevent resurgences.  However, it was banned as it was determined that DDT caused cancer, and since 1995, bed bugs have made a rather surprising comeback and have infested homes all across North America.

According to the EPA, bed bugs are considered a public health pest, although they are not known to transmit or spread any disease.  However, because they do feed on blood, they can cause allergic reactions at the bite site, whether it is simply a small mark or a whole body reaction.  According to the CDC, bites can also cause secondary infections of the skin, and may even cause affect the mental health of those they infest.  People who have experience bed bug infestations may experience things like anxiety, insomnia, and systemic reactions.

However, what I think may be the scariest thing about them is that you can pick them up anywhere.  All it takes is one brush of the arm from someone on the subway, sleeping on your friend’s couch, or staying in a hotel to pick them up, and once you have bed bugs, they will get into everything: in curtains, couches, beds, and electronics.  This is what makes them so difficult to get rid of (also accounting for the fact that they actually live longer in the cold and love warm temperatures!).  And while you think that it can’t happen to you, think again.   No place is immune to the bed bug.  Your home doesn’t have to be “dirty” for you to have a bed bug infestation.  They can infest even the cleanest of places.

So I’m sure by now you’re probably freaking out and wondering how you can stop these intruders before they attack.  Well, there are certainly some precautions you can take to ensure you don’t have a bed bug infestation.

Photo from allbedbugs.com

The first thing you’ll want to do is to inspect your apartment for bed bugs before you move in.  You could either hire someone to do this or do it yourself.  In either case, you’ll want to do this before you move in because bed bugs can go undetected for months.  If you do choose to do this yourself, you’ll want to be sure to go through The Bed Bug Inspectors checklist.

  • Check for telltale signs.  You’ll want to check the floors and other surfaces for small black spots, shed bed bug skins, egg shells, live bed bugs (if you don’t know what they look like use the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene checklist), and bloody or rusty stains.  Another sign is a sweet or offensive musty odor.
  • Uncover their potential hiding spots.  Take a flashlight and a magnifying glass and thoroughly inspect window and door frames, cracks and crevices, carpet tack strips, baseboards, behind outlet and switch plates, smoke detectors, thermostats, loose wall paper, molding, and wall junctions.

Once you made sure there are no signs of bed bugs, you’ll want to be sure to “bed bug proof” your home.  While you can’t prevent everything, there are some precautions you can take.  The first thing you’ll want to do is be sure to elevate your mattress off the ground.  You will also want to protect your mattress by using a protective mattress encasement, as well as protective pillow encasements.  You may consider using climb up interceptors on the feet of your bed frame.  These will help prevent and trap bugs from climbing onto your mattress.  You may want to monitor your home by conducting regular inspections and by placing bed bug traps around your home.  While this won’t solve the problem, it will certainly give you a definitive answer if your home is infested or not.

In order to prevent future infestations, you will want to be sure you are careful of where you stay and who is staying with you.  When you go on vacation, you can check the hotel you’ll be staying in by going to BedBugRegistry.com to see if there have been any bed bug reports.  You will also want to be sure to conduct an inspection of your room before you place your belongings down, and you will want to keep your belongings elevated off the floor at all times.

To ensure that your friends don’t bring bed bugs to your home, help them to inspect theirs.  Make sure they are as careful as you are about inspecting their home, and staying clear of places that could potentially have bed bugs.  With what you learn, you can help protect themselves too.

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Ask the Expert, College Planning, Finances

ASK THE EXPERT: College Financial Planning, Part 2

For the second installment of “Ask the Expert:  College Financial Planning” series, we wanted to know what types of loans are available to students, and what are the distinctions between each of these types.  To find out more, we once again spoke with Mark Kantrowitz, an expert on paying for college, to give us the lowdown on loans.

Kantrowitz explains that there are two major types of student loans:  federal education loans and private student loans.  According to Kantrowitz, the federal loan has greater availability, better repayment plans, and is generally cheaper than a private loan.  He advises that the federal loan should be a student’s first choice when applying.  They will also be much easier to obtain in that they are offered through the Direct Loan program where students obtain federal loans through their college or university.

There are several different types of federal loans that are available to students.  The most common is the Stafford loan, in which there are two versions:  the subsidized and the unsubsidized.  According to Kantrowitz, there are a few main distinctions students should note when applying for subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans.  The first is that the subsidized version is based on financial need, while the unsubsidized version is not.  Even wealthy students can qualify for the unsubsidized Stafford loan.  Second, with the subsidized version, the government will pay the interest on the loan while the student is in school, and with the unsubsidized version, the government will not.  Thirdly, the interest rates for subsidized loans will be half of the rate (3.4%) as the rate for unsubsidized loans (6.8%) until tomorrow, in fact.  While there was a great deal of debate over how the government could afford to keep the rate the same, Senate majority and minority leaders  established an agreement that would enable the rate to remain at 3.4%.   According to Kantrowitz, this agreement will modify pension insurance premiums and drop eligibility for subsidized Stafford loans from students who are taking too long to graduate.

The other major distinction between subsidized Stafford loans and unsubsidized Stafford loans is the limit to which a student can borrow.  For the subsidized Stafford loan, a student may borrow up to $3,500 for their freshman year, $4,500 for their sophomore year, and $5,500 each for their junior and senior year.  Should the student require more aid, they may apply for unsubsidized loans.  However, there are limits as to how much one can borrow, either with a combination of subsidized and unsubsidized, or just from unsubsidized alone.  Overall, the limits are $5,500 for dependent freshmen students, $6,500 for dependent sophomore students, and $7,500 each for dependent junior and senior students.  If the student is filing as an independent, or their parents have been denied a loan, the borrowing rate is increased to $9,500 for their freshman year, $10,500 for their sophomore year, and $12,500 each for their junior and senior years.

The second type of federal loan available to students is the Perkins loan, which is given to students with exceptional financial need.  However, Kantrowitz explains that this is a very small loan program, and most students will not receive this type of loan.  Those students who do receive this type of loan will obtain between $1,000 and $2,000, on average.

The last type of federal loan Kantrowitz identifies is the PLUS loan, which is granted to the parents of undergraduates and to graduate students.  In either case, there is a 7.9% fixed interest rate, and eligibility is dependent on the borrower’s credit history. The PLUS loan also has a limit up to the full cost of education, minus any other aid received.  The Plus loan program is very popular, and only about one-fifth of those who apply will be denied due to bad credit.

While Kantrowitz explains that federal loans should be a student’s first choice, he also explains that a student may take out private loans should they require more funding.  However, Kantrowitz warns against some of the major pitfalls with private loans and denotes the differences between the federal and the private loans that should play into a student’s decision.    The first is that private loans are determined by individual lenders (not by the government), therefore these loans will vary significantly and will often have variable interest rates.  While some are introducing fixed interest rate options, this is something that students should consider when applying for private loans.

The second major consideration is that eligibility for these loans depends on one’s credit history and credit score.  In fact, Kantrowitz explains, more than 90% of these loans require a creditworthy cosigner as many students do not have any credit history or if they do, it is oftentimes very poor.  The higher of the two scores will then determine eligibility and the cost of the loan.  Kantrowitz gives us the example that if the loan has a variable rate, the interest on the loan would be a combination of a variable index plus a fixed margin, which depends on one’s credit score.  This means that the higher one’s credit score is, the less they will have to pay in interest on the loan.

Kantrowitz advises that “Your debt at graduation should be less than your expected annual starting salary.”  He explains that ideally, students should not be borrowing more than $10,000 each year for college.  If total student loan debt is less than annual income, the borrower will be able to repay their loan in 10 years or less.  Kantrowitz explains that “If your debt exceeds your annual income, you’ll struggle to repay the loan, and you’ll have to alter your repayment plan by income-based repayment or extended repayment in order to afford the monthly loan payments.”  This means that students will not only be stretching out their repayment, and therefore the amount of time they are in debt, but they will also be increasing the cost of the loan.  This means that they may still be repaying their own student loans when their children are looking to attend college.

For more information on financial aid and scholarships, visit www.finaid.org and www.fastweb.com.

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Finances, Roommates

Splitwise

If you don’t watch TV that often, but your roommate does, is it fair for you to pay half of the cable bill?  If you have the bigger room in the apartment, is it fair for your roommate to pay half of the rent?  Well, with Splitwise, you can make sharing expenses a more fair, and less awkward process.  Recently we sat down with Splitwise CEO, Jon Bittner, about what his company does and what Splitwise can do to make splitting the bill fun and easy.

What is Splitwise?

Spitwise is a great way for roommates to keep track of their shared expenses, make sure everyone pays their bills, know who owes who, and make living with room­­mates a harmonious and fun experience.

What is the philosophy behind Splitwise?

At Splitwise, we want to make it stress-free to split expenses with your friends.  One part of that is that it’s really fun and easy if people don’t have to be constantly paying each other.  It’s annoying to collect money from your friends because no one ever has the right amount of cash on hand and sending checks or e-payments around is all very annoying.  What we have created is a virtual account or tab for your group that makes it really simple to keep track of who’s paid for which bills, make sure everyone has paid their fair share every month, and then they can settle it up.

Another thing that we do, that might be helpful to students who are looking for apartments on JumpOffCampus, is to help you to figure out how you should split the rent with your roommate.  Our philosophy about rent splitting is that it is really awkward to haggle about how much each person should be contributing to rent.  As soon as you decide to share a new apartment, you can just put in the variables and our rent calculator will give a neutral recommendation for how much each bedroom should cost. It takes into account bedroom size, windows, whose sharing a room, and some other stuff like that. At Splitwise, we want to make it really fun and enjoyable to live with roommate.  Splitting up the rent for roommates is just one way to avoid a fight. We’re very excited to have JumpOffCampus feature it on their site.

How did Splitwise get started?

A few years ago I was living with my then-girlfriend, now fiancé, and we had a roommate named Tory who was wonderful.  We had agreed to split the rent equally (each person).  It was an expensive place in Boston; we each had to pay, I think, $800 a month for this really nice place. It seemed fair because we had a huge bedroom and Tory had a normal-sized bedroom.  It seemed fair to do it this way – we had a lot of space, maybe twice as much space as her.  But I started to think, was that fair?  Was I being unfair to my friend?  I thought about it, and so I created a survey and sent it to my friends asking a bunch of hypothetical questions about what would be fair for all these different variables.  Some of them were about the situation that I was in, and some were just in the abstract.  When I put it all together I decided to create a little rent calculator that would incorporate all of that data I had just taken.  I put that on the Internet and people have just loved it.  We’ve had over 100,000 people use it, even just in the first month, and hundreds of thousands more since.  It’s a great tool and I know that people get a lot of value from having some suggestions, some sort of neutral arbitrator or neutral third party, that can recommend something when you’ve never done this before, or even if you’ve done it before but you haven’t been in this exact situation.

What do you believe is the hardest part of splitting the bill?

There’s doing the math, having the cash on hand (the exact change which no one ever has), and the awkwardness of “Did you put in enough?”  “Why are we short? Did you have an appetizer?”  “Oh, there’s too much money.  Who does it go back to?”  That could be for a restaurant bill, of course (a common one), or even for like a utility bill when you don’t know why you’re paying so much for the cable and you don’t watch it.  The best thing to do with sharing is to make sure you know what you’re getting into, have a good sense of expectations. And it’s obviously good to discuss how bills are getting split in advance, even if you’re not going to have a formal roommate agreement.

What value do you place on providing people an easier way to split the bill?

I see the value in the relationships saved or in just having a more fun experience; where you feel like you have this little virtual bar tab or house account and you don’t have to think about money so much. It’s always fun to not to have to think hard about money and not have it be so transactional.  All of the people on our team were doing something like Splitwise before we came together and made an official version with the app and the website.

In general what factors would you say lead to a bad roommate experience?  A good roommate experience?

I think bad communication is always the root of it . . . or just terrible people.  If you have people who are very stubborn or unworkable then sometimes it will ruin everything.  Of course, people who are lazy and who don’t do their share are always the people everyone gets so frustrated with, and I think they make bad roommates unless everyone has the same attitude.  Mostly it comes down to picking people who you can communicate well with and those who have a shared set of expectations.  It’s also really great not to have to be explicit about your expectations.  No one really wants to sit down and make a roommate agreement.  I know some people do that and that’s a sensible idea, but it’s not necessarily very fun.  I’ve never made one. I think bad roommate experiences come from bad communication, people who don’t do what they say they do, or roommates who are just horrible people.

Good roommate experiences can be so wonderful.  Actually, it’s much nicer than living alone; living alone can be very isolating and roommates are like free friends.  So if you pick people who trust, people whom you think are fun or who are sensible (bare minimum sensible), I think it can be very pleasant.  Even if they’re not going to be your best friend, they could be really positive influence in your life.  We hear all kinds of good stories as well as bad; most of the bad stories come when people haven’t talked with each other and have started assuming what the other person is thinking.

How do you feel about best friends rooming together?

It can definitely work well; it’s certainly a risk.  I think that it’s a good idea to do it on a short-term basis first.  A good test is to go on a trip together.  That’s also a good test for people whom you want to work with.  When you travel you experience most of the same troubles.   How do we deal with the money?  How do we deal with the space?  “I want to go to bed now.” “I want to invite people over.”  Traveling is a good way to test it, but it’s definitely a risk.  I think it’s easier to make friends with your roommates than it is to have your friends become your roommates.

Can you share an experience you had with a bad roommate?

Fortunately I’ve only had one really bad experience with a roommate, but maybe it’s too colorful for the Internet, if such a thing is possible.  I probably wrote my best essay in college about how frustrating I found him.

Who can use Splitwise?

Splitwise is great for anyone who has friends, but it’s especially good for roommates and couples too.  The people who love it best are the people who have roommates that they’re really tight with and they share a lot of things with.  So people who are like, “Let’s all go out and I’ll get groceries for us” or  “We’re going to throw a party, and I’m going to buy all the beer this time.”  Or couples who are like, “Every time we buy plane tickets together, I just throw it up on Splitwise and I don’t have to try to move around big chunks of money.”  I know couples who are unmarried (who don’t have shared bank accounts), and roommates love it.  It’s great for sharing vacations too.

How can people access Splitwise?  How can they get started?

If you’ve got a room and you’re not sure how to split up the rent, check out our calculators (Splitwise.com/calculators).  If you’ve been living in a place and you’re trying to keep track of all the bills go to Splitwise.com or in the app store at Splitwise (the iPhone or the Android app store).  Just search for Splitwise.

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Ask the Expert, College Planning, Finances

ASK THE EXPERT: College Financial Planning, Part 1

For our newest blog series, we wanted to look at college planning and financial aid, as the student debt crisis has most certainly been a hot topic in the media recently.  For this series, we wanted to know exactly what students need to understand when it comes to financial aid, college financial planning, loan repayment, and student debt.  It just seems so complicated!

For the first installment in the “Ask the Expert:  College Financial Planning” series, we wanted to know what students should be concerned about when it comes to finances and applying for college.  To find out more, we spoke with Mark Kantrowitz, a noted financial aid and college planning author and publisher of FinAid and FastWeb, two resources for students looking to find out more about financial aid options available to them.

Kantrowitz tells us that students should ideally start looking at financial aid options as early as possible.  Often many students start looking their senior year, however, many of the deadlines have already passed.  Kantrowitz says that students looking to get scholarships should be planning for deadlines as early as junior year (if not earlier), so that they can get their applications in for those scholarships with deadlines in the fall of the their senior year.  He explains students should start considering financial aid as early as possible, as this increases the number of scholarships available to them, including those that they may earn in earlier grades.

According to Kantrowitz, when it comes to examining their options, they should weigh the cost of financial aid.  For students, he says, saving is always the better option.  “Every dollar you save is a dollar less that you’re going to have to borrow and every dollar you borrow, will cost you about $2 by the time you pay back the debt.”  It is simply the more affordable options, because when you save, you earn interest and when you borrow, you will pay interest. He gives us the example that, “If you were to save $200 per month for 10 years at 6.8% interest, you’d accumulate about $34,400.  If instead you were to borrow and pay back over 10 years at 6.8% interest, you’d pay $396/month.”  That would roughly double what one would pay if they were to save money instead.

Kantrowitz explains that students should also be aware of the actual cost of college.  He says that students should utilize a net price for college, which is the difference between the cost of attendance and just grants and scholarships.  “Think of it as a discounted sticker price.”  He explains that using this figure is a better basis for evaluating the cost of college rather than utilizing other cost evaluations.  Especially when it comes to the net price figures that schools will often provide on their websites.  Kantrowitz explains that these numbers will often include financial aid packages and loans, that do not actually lower the cost, but will rather increase the cost.

Kantrowitz also urges students to use caution with net price calculators that universities are now required to provide on their websites.  He explains that since October 2011 schools have mandated to host a calculator, however, he says that they really should only be used to determine a ballpark figure for net price.

According to Kantrowitz, there are a couple of major issues with these calculators.  The first major concern with these calculators is the number of questions the calculator has.  He says that much of the accuracy of these calculators is dependent upon the number of questions that they ask; while the standard calculator provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) contains approximately 10 questions, other calculators such as the one provided by the College Board, contain more questions.  The more questions a calculator has, the more accurate the calculator will be, he explains.  While these calculators are will mean more work for the user, they will produce much more accurate results.

The second concern Kantrowitz points out is that the age of data will play into the accuracy of the calculator.  He explains that calculators like those provided by NCES contain data that is approximately 2 years old, while those like the one provided by the College Board are current, and are more up-to-date.  In either case, Kantrowitz explains, one should use caution with these calculators and should not exclude any colleges on the sole basis of the figures provided by a net price calculator.

The last major concern Kantrowitz points to relates to the financial aid award letter.  He explains that students should be careful when they receive their financial award letter that they understand the characterization of the different awards and understand which award they were given.  “I’ve had families come to me thinking that they’re getting a free ride from a college, and when I look at the financial aid award letter I see $5,000 in student loans and $20,000 in parent loans.  That’s far from a free ride.”  Students should really do their homework when it comes to the different classifications of financial aid, so they know that when they receive a grant, they know which grant they have received and what this implies.

Overall, Kantrowitz urges students to start considering college financial aid early and often, and to do their homework when it comes to understanding the different options available to them.  He explains that students and their families should always exercise caution when it comes to financial aid and to make financial aid decisions that work best for them.

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Housing Advice

Apartment Move In Checklist

Apartment-Move-In-Essentials-Checklist-Screengrab

Whether this is the first time you’re moving off campus, or you’ve been living off campus, it always seems like you’re forgetting something when it comes to packing everything you’ll need.  Trust us:  We’ve been there.  That’s why we’ve come up with a checklist of things you’ll need when you start packing up.  We know, it looks like one heck of a list, but you just never know what you’ll forget.

Click here to download a PDF copy.

BEDROOM

  • Bed
  • Night stand(s)
  • Bookcase/shelves
  • Lamps
  • Desk lamp
  • Trash can
  • Bureau
  • Desk chair
  • Rug(s)
  • Curtains
  • Curtain rod
  • Bed spread
  • Sheets
  • Plastic bins
  • Shoe rack
  • Full-length mirror
  • Alarm clock

KITCHEN

  • Silverware (at least 8 sets)
  • Plates (at least 4)
  • Bowls (at least 2)
  • Cups (at least 4)
  • Wine glasses (for those 21+)
  • Dish soap
  • Pots and pans (at least 1 skillet, 1 large pot, and 1 smaller pot)
  • Flat metal spatula
  • Large mixing spoon
  • Tupperware
  • Scissors
  • Paper towel holder
  • Microwave (if the apartment doesn’t come with one already)
  • Knife set
  • Dish rack (for next to the sink when you’ve finished washing them)
  • Table
  • Chairs (at least 2)
  • Sandwich bags (you may want gallon size and smaller sizes)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Pot holders
  • Oven mits
  • Strainer
  • Can opener
  • Cutting board
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Toaster or toaster oven

BATHROOM

  • Toilet brush
  • Toilet bowl cleaner
  • Plunger
  • Garbage can
  • Shower cleaner
  • Cleaning brush to clean shower
  • Shower shelves (optional)
  • Toilet paper
  • Shower curtain
  • Shower curtain rod

LIVING ROOM

  • Couch/chairs (depending on how much space you have)
  • TV (optional)
  • TV stand (also optional)
  • Lamps
  • Side tables/coffee table
  • Desk (you may want to include one in case you want to work in the living room)

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Hand soap (for both bathroom and kitchen)
  • Sponges
  • Paper towels
  • Tissues
  • Garbage bags
  • Broom and dust pan
  • Vacuum
  • Carpet cleaner (for those nasty spills)
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Window cleaner
  • Light bulbs
  • Batteries
  • Extension cords
  • Flashlight
  • Fan(s)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Hamper/laundry basket
  • Clothes hangers
  • Basic hygiene products
  • First aid kit
  • Sewing kit
  • Basic tool kit
  • Fire extinguisher (if your apartment doesn’t already have one)
  • Smoke detector (your landlord should provide one, but you should make sure it works properly when you first move in)
  • Carbon monoxide detector (your landlord should also provide one of these, but you should make sure it works properly when you first move in)
  • Décor (i.e. picture frames, posters, decorative pillows, etc.)
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Roommates

7 Topics You Want to Discuss With Your Roommate(s)

Whether you’re subletting this summer or looking to move into a new place in the fall, you are bound to run into some issues with your roommate(s).  However, there are some things you can discuss with them beforehand that will help you nip some of these potential issues in the bud.

Music/TV

According to an article we read on ApartmentTherapy.com, if you’re sharing a room, you will want to discuss your tendencies when it comes to listening to music and watching TV.   Some people would prefer listening to music or watching TV with speakers, and other people would be fine with headphones.  You’ll want to see what each other’s preferences are and maybe come to a decision as to what times the speakers can be used.

Even if you aren’t sharing a room you want to be sure that you establish the use of the TV and/or stereo.  How will time be divided up amongst the roommates?  Will you have quiet hours?

Shared Items

In an article we read by Missy Slink in Yahoo! Voices, she explains that you will want to determine what items will be for community use and what items will not.  Will you share food?  If so, what foods will you be sharing?  Will you be sharing things like a vacuum?

You’ll also want to determine how and if you will be sharing things like toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaning products.  Will you each buy your own?  Will you be splitting this, and if you do decide to split this, how will you divide the cost amongst the roommates?

Sleeping Habits

If you’re sharing a room, this is especially important to discuss beforehand.  If you’re roommate goes to bed at 10 pm and you go to bed around 3 am, you’ll want to establish how you will manage this.  Does this mean you’ll switch to a desk lamp to study?  Can you watch television when they go to bed?

If you each have your own room, you will still want to discuss this so that you can properly set quiet hours.  This way you won’t be disturbing someone while they are trying to sleep.

Guest Habits

When you’re sharing a space, you’ll want to figure out what the guest policy will be for your room/apartment.  If you plan on having a lot of friends over, or you have a significant other, you will want to figure out when they can come over, when they can’t, and when guests should go home.  You may also want to determine what the ground rules will be for guests in terms of using shared items.

Security

As someone who has had roommates who leave all the doors unlocked, this is definitely something you want to discuss beforehand.  If you are someone who likes to make sure everything is locked up when you run to get coffee, or when you go to bed at night, you will want to talk about that beforehand with your roommate.

Decorating

If you’re sharing a room, you’ll want to determine if you want to share room decorations, or you want to set up your own spaces.  If each have your own separate bedrooms, you will still want to establish decorations for the common areas.

Concerns

You want to establish beforehand how and when you will raise concerns with one another should they arise.  It may be a little awkward to establish this beforehand, but you don’t want to be that roommate who leaves passive aggressive notes around when they get frustrated.  That won’t end well.

By establishing some ground rules beforehand and making sure you can live comfortably together, this will help you have a better roommate experience.  Just remember:  the space belongs to both of you.

For tips more tips on how to ensure fairness between you and your roommate(s), check out Splitwise and their blog at http://blog.splitwise.com/

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