So, the time's come for you to head off to uni and discover the joys of cheap pints at the SU and the hell that is a two-hour long 9am lecture. Exciting, right? When it comes to meeting new people and learning new things, the answer’s probably yes. When it comes to sharing a living space with a bunch of strangers - maybe not so much.
Whether a fresher just starting out on your housesharing adventures or a seasoned third year returning to live with mates, sharing a living space with others can cause some issues, to say the least. From arguments over the D’n’B pounding into the early hours to passive aggressive notes over who used the last of the milk, there are countless obstacles to overcome when it comes to student houseshares - that's why we've come up with a trusty survival guide.
Not sure how to pay bills? Need advice on delegating chores? Read on for your ultimate student houseshare handbook...
Bills, bills, bills. Everyone knows what they are, but no one’s taught what to do with them. So, until basic economics lessons are added to the National Curriculum, we’re here to help!
First up, if you're moving into halls, your bills will almost certainly be included in your rent. If moving into a student house, however, the story might be a bit different...
When you move in, you’ll most likely already have your water, gas, electricity and possibly broadband provided by a certain company. Find out who they are so you can start paying them ASAP.
Or, if you’re a savvy saver, hunt around for a better deal (although not for water - this depends on the regional water supplier in your area). It's a lot easier than it sounds - probably a lot easier than that essay sitting on your desk. Simply have a look on price comparison websites such as uSwitch and Compare the Market to find the best deal, then ring up your chosen company and supply them with your details. Once you’ve switched providers, it's up to them to tell each other, so you don’t have to think about a thing. On average, students pay £37 a month on bills, so shopping around can make a lot of difference.
Once you’re kitted out with your brand-spanking-new providers, assign each housemate a different utility bill to pay. One of you might fork out for electricity, whilst the other foots the bill for broadband, then divide the costs and make sure everyone pays the bill payer back. Money splitting apps such as Splitwise are a great way to do this as they’ll let you keep track of who owes what without having to constantly harass your housemates with ‘please-can-you-pay-me-back-so-I-can-eat’ Whatsapps.
And if you don’t want to think about bills at all? Why not look for a room where they’re included in the rent? If you're searching on SpareRoom just select the ‘Bills Included’ option in the advanced search and you’ll only be shown rooms where the these costs are already incorporated and dealt with by the landlord. Cos let's face it - bills are hardly the most exciting subject.
As for council tax, if you’re a full time student you’re exempt (we knew there was a benefit to those £9000 tuition fees!). To make sure you don't end up paying unnecessarily, you’ll need to let your council know - either ring them up, pick up a ‘certificate of student status' from your uni or do it online depending on how your council/university operates.
Cooking in a shared house can generally goes one of two ways. Either you’ll draw up some kind of rota and divide up cooking responsibilities (fab when you’ve got an essay deadline the next day and CBA to cook) or you’ll shop for yourself and make your own meals. If one of you subsists solely on chicken nuggets, whilst another is never seen without a protein shake in hand, it might be best to go your separate ways.
Even if you do decide to go it alone, cooking a meal together every now and again can be a great social activity - plus, cooking a Sunday roast hungover is a lot easier to do as a group. If you’re feeling a bit skint after freshers week and can’t afford to go out, make a night of it and host your own ‘Come Dine With Me’ style evening, taking it in turns to cook for the rest of the group. Scores out of 10 are optional.
Cooking not your forte? Not to worry - even if the prospect of boiling an egg fills you with dread you can still get involved in the kitchen. How, you ask? Well, aside from learning some basic recipes before you head off (we’re talking pasta sauce and omelettes), you and your housemates could opt for a recipe box like those from Simply Cook or Gousto. These provide you with the ingredients and simple instructions to make a cracking meal, perfect for when you want to make a meal as a house but feel a bit lost for inspiration or lack confidence in the kitchen.
By which we mean food shopping, not blowing all your student loan on ASOS.
If you’re planning on pulling together and cooking communally, it makes sense to do a joint shop online as you can usually get a discount for larger spends. Even if flying solo, consider doing an online shop together and splitting the costs accordingly as it’ll make it way easier to meal plan (A.K.A resist those microwavable lasagnes).
As for shared essential items (we’re talking toilet roll, tea bags and milk - not so much Tesco value vodka and Jammy Dodgers) consider starting a petty cash jar everyone contributes to regularly. Or, if you think you’ll forget to add to the kitty, turn to our trusty old friend Splitwise. Whenever you buy a box of teabags or cleaning items for the house, simply pop it on the app and the cost will be divided between everyone. No one can argue with that!
We challenge you to find a houseshare where cleaning won’t be a contentious issue. One housemate will be constantly spamming the group chat ordering that the floors are mopped and dishwasher emptied, while another will think nothing of the crockery obstacle course building up on their bedroom floor.
The solution? A rota. Now, as boring and parent-y as that sounds, you’ll thank us when you actually have a clean bowl to eat your cornflakes out of. Divide up tasks like hoovering, mopping and taking the bins out between housemates and you MIGHT just be able to live in something vaguely resembling an actual house. Remember, different people have different standards of hygiene so it’s kind of unavoidable some housemates do more than others, but as long as everyone's pitching in arguments should be kept to a minimum.
As for washing up, avoid a Leaning Tower of Pisa-esque stack of plates piling up in the sink by cleaning up after you’ve eaten. Leaving pots and pans for a couple of hours probs won’t cause WWIII to break out, but you might want to check with your housemates and set some rules for how long washing up can be left out for. Or, if you’re all in agreement, a washing up rota could be the way forward. Take it in turns to do a bulk clean up, but remember there's nowhere to hide when your time comes.
And if all else fails, get a cleaner. When the cost is divided between everyone they’re not actually as expensive as you might think, and they might go some way towards preventing you getting salmonella…
5. Overnight guests
Specifically the new boyf/ gf on the scene. Every houseshare is bound to have its resident hopeless romantic - you’ll find them having candlelit dinners in your kitchen, cuddling in hallways and spooning on the sofa ALL THE BLOODY TIME.
While it’s not unreasonable for housemates to have guests stay over a couple of nights a week, if you’re having to use earplugs to get to sleep every night (#awkward) and keep finding their new bae’s boxers in the bathroom, you might want to have a word.
So, how do you approach the issue? Well, you could suggest the couple alternate where they spend their nights so they’re not CONSTANTLY hogging the sofa, or that your housemate’s S.O contributes to the petty cash jar to pay for loo roll. After all, you never agreed to live with an extra person and they’re not paying rent, so you you’re well within your rights to say something. Whatever happens just hope they don’t break up, or you’ll deffo have to pick up the pieces…