What dorm essentials should you share with your roommate(s) in college?

In college, you’ll need to flex your boundary-setting skills more than you ever have before. Personal space is (more or less) out the window, so let’s turn our attention to something nearly as important: your belongings.

How should I split expenses with my college roommate(s)?

According to the National Retail Federation, the average students spends $836 on items to get themselves ready for each year of college. College already costs enough. Stand up for yourself by asking your roommates to help share the burden. Try the following techniques for reducing awkwardness in these conversations.

  • Set a timeline for payment that they’re comfortable with
    • Say things like, “Do you think you could help split the cost for XYZ? Great. I’ll pay and you can Venmo me. When do you think would be a reasonable time to pay me? I’ll follow up with you then.”
  • Let your roommates help set a budget.
    • Ask, “How much would you be comfortable with spending on dorm supplies? What supplies would you want to prioritize using that budget for?”
  • Tell them about your plans for purchasing something, but set the ground rules for if they decide not to go in with you on it.
    • Try saying, “Hey, I’m going to get [this item]. Want to go in with me on it? If not, it’s totally fine, I’ll just ask that you not use it without checking in with me first.”

What kinds of things should I share with my college roommates?

In short, you want to share belongings in the dorms for three reasons:

  1. Splitting the costs
  2. Reducing clutter
  3. Showing goodwill

With the above criteria in mind, you should share 4 categories of items with your college roommates:

  1. “Kitchen” equipment
  2. Major electronics
  3. Cleaning supplies
  4. Decorations and furniture

Should you share “kitchen” equipment with your roommates?

Okay, so the word “kitchen” may a bit overly generous for most dorm set-ups. Nonetheless, kitchen gear tends to be the kind of thing that could very easily lead to excess costs and unnecessary clutter if you’re each bringing your own. That’s why we recommend sharing the following items with your dorm-mates:

  • Coffee makers
  • Microwaves
  • Air fryers (if your school allows them)
  • Hot plates (also if your school allows them)
  • Brita pitchers
  • Some food, especially the essentials like milk, eggs, flour, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, seasonings, etc.
  • Pots and pans

Should you share electronics with your roommates?

Electronics tend to be the big ticket items when it comes to furnishing your dorm room. They also tend to be some of the things that get used by all roommates most frequently. This means that, unless ground rules are established upfront, these items can become a major point of contention. These ground rules start with who paid for the items. Put simply, if you didn’t pay for it, you should be back-of-the-line when it comes to debates about who gets dibs. Sharing the costs of these common dorm room electronics with your roommates will put you all on even-footing when it comes to TV or gaming time.

Plan on sharing the following electronics—and their associated costs—with your roommates:

Some articles online will tell you to share the costs of streaming services with your dorm-mates. However, considering how frequently students just use their family’s accounts, this often isn’t necessary, or doesn’t make financial sense. With that being said, if you’re unable to vulture your family’s accounts, there are a number of streaming deals for students that you can take advantage of.

Should you share cleaning supplies with your roommates?

Your dorm room is small. It doesn’t require the top-of-the-end cleaning equipment, and hopefully doesn’t take all that much time to keep tidy, either. With that being said, you don’t want to give your roommates any excuses to not clean the space.

Encourage your roommates to split the costs of some basic cleaning supplies with you. There’s no need to break the bank here, but getting the essentials—and having your roomies literally buy in to getting them—will make the difference between a space you can’t stand spending time in, and a space you’re proud to show off to your new college friends. We recommend sharing the following cleaning supplies with your roommates:

  • Plunger and toilet wand
  • Toilet cleaner
  • Clorox wipes
  • Small, affordable vacuum
  • Windex
  • Swiffer
  • Gloves
  • Dish soap

Should you share decorations and furniture with your roommates?

This one can be tricky. Not everyone has the same decoration styles; some people don’t care about decorating at all. However, if your roommates and you agree on a decorative direction for your dorm, it’s best that you go in on these expenses together.

This goes doubly so for furniture. If there’s a nice couch, chair, or table in your dorm, everyone’s going to use it. That’s just the way it goes. If your roommates all don’t mind having these items in your room, then they better not mind chipping in a few bucks to help you afford them!

Your roommates and you should split the costs of these decorations and furniture:

  • Posters
  • Tapestries
  • String lights
  • Chairs
  • Couches/futons
  • Air mattresses for guests
  • Shared blankets or decorative pillows
  • Tables
  • End tables
  • Candles
  • Floor lamps
  • Mirrors
  • Trash cans

The exception here is any furniture or decorations that is used in your immediate space. No one else needs to help you pay for the poster of your celebrity crush to hang above your bed, just as they don’t need to help you pay for a lamp for your own personal desk. Use discretion: If it is shared, it is appropriate to ask them to chip in.

Should I make my roommate(s) pay for something if they say they don’t want it?

It can be tough to ask a roommate to pay for something if they’re being evasive, but it is important to be both forthright and understanding. Some roommates may avoid paying for items because they’re cheap. Others may just not think they’re going to use the item enough to merit paying for it. Then there are people who are just jerks.

But lastly, and importantly, there are a large number of students who simply cannot afford to pay for nonessential items. An Ohio State study found that 70% of college students are financially unstable.

These students are unlikely to come out and say that they can’t afford things that other people consider standard. They might avoid your requests for payment or swear up and down that they’ll never use the living room TV. It may come off as them just being jerks, when in reality they’re just trying to be fiscally responsible. Use the prompts at the top of this article to tread the fine line of asking others to help shoulder the financial burden of furnishing your dorm room without alienating or shaming underprivileged students.

Learn more about living with college roommates:

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