Dividing Up Your Rent Fairly

Imagine this scenario: you and your three best friends, freshmen at the University of Texas, decide to move out of the dorms and into a house together.

Months ago, when your Housing Scout agent took the four of you on a tour of the property, it was love at first sight. The old house north of campus was everything you were looking for, and more.

The house was a huge improvement from dorm life. Everyone was excited at the prospect of having a bedroom to themselves, that it was easy to overlook the fact that there were only two bathrooms. That didn’t matter!

And on top of the added personal space, there was a big kitchen, carpeting in the living room, and even a small backyard and a grill. Your one friend was already fantasizing about bringing their labrador up from Houston to live in the house — finally.

You all agreed that this property was perfect. The rent was $3,200 for the entire house, and it was specified in the lease that the rent was to be paid in one payment. After a day of thinking about it, all of you signed the lease and put the issue to bed for the time being. There was no talk of room assignments.

When August 15th finally rolled around, and it was time for move-in, everybody showed up at the new house with luggage and furniture.

You all brought way too many dishes, and that “large” storage space suddenly didn’t seem so large anymore. And, even worse, arguments broke out over who would get which room.

Sarah wanted the room with the big window facing the backyard.

Adam demanded a room with the largest closet; his collection of priceless soccer jerseys couldn’t possibly get wrinkled.

Brooke just wanted to pay the least amount of money possible — she would have gladly lived in the cupboard if you could squeeze an air mattress in there.

As for you, you just assumed that the rent would just be evenly divided for everyone. $800 per person seemed fair, and the rooms all looked about the same size to you.

The arguments were difficult to resolve. Rock-paper-scissors came into the equation. Adam got saddled with a load of butthurt.

Eventually, the rent was split accordingly: You paid $850 for a medium-sized room with a private bathroom; Sarah got the large bedroom with the big window (and big closet) for $875; Brooke got an 80 sq. foot, converted sun-room for $725; and Adam got the second medium-sized room (with a smaller closet and no bathroom) for $750.

In the end, everybody wound up relatively satisfied, but not entirely. The seed of resentment was planted. Some resented the more expensive rent, and the others resented the inferior rooms. It could eventually drive your friendships apart. How can this be avoided…?

Thankfully, now there is a better way to do things! Thanks to an algorithm created by Dr. Francis Su, a Longhorn undergrad, and his fellow researchers Elisha Peterson and Patrick Vinogorad, there is now an easy way to divide up your rent fairly. Rather than arguing it out, or playing rock-paper-scissors (which is binding according to the friend code, by the way…), use this great Rent Division Calculator developed by the New York Times, drawing from Dr. Su’s algorithm and research!

Resent no more! You are all paying what you should. And in the end, don’t let something like money get in the way of your friendships. Hopefully, these are people you want to know in years to come, be at peace!

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