Joint Accounts

When Roommates Rebel Against Sharing Costs

Communal living and communal finances don’t always mix

Kristin Wong
Published in
4 min readFeb 25, 2019


Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Welcome to Joint Accounts, a weekly advice column about money and relationships of all kinds. Have a question? Email

Dear Joint Accounts,

I’m a man in his early thirties who has spent a decent amount of time in alternative economic relationships with groups of people, mainly co-housing and communal living. I’m currently living with three other people in a decent but pricey apartment in Denver. When we moved in together, we decided to share all food costs, which means that when anyone goes to the store, the cost of that visit is split four ways.

The system has been working: We eat very well, and when we crunched the numbers, each of us is paying about $5 per day for food. But recently, it’s been unraveling, and my roommates have been saying they’re starting to feel like things aren’t exactly equal. We’ve begun to nitpick purchases, as well as things like financial responsibility for feeding guests and splitting costs when one of is us out of town.

For me, it all comes out in the wash, and our arrangement is way easier than each of us buying our own milk and cheese. My instinct is that my roommates are…



Kristin Wong
Writer for

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, Catapult, The Atlantic and ELLE.