Divvying Up the Dishes


In this week’s Dear Splitwise, we return to the question of how to split shared items that one person will keep when you eventually move out.

Dear Splitwise,

Is it fair to not pay for dishes that I will not be keeping if/when my roommates move out? I provided silverware, plates & cups to my new roommates; however, we needed more. They bought these dishes and are asking that we split the expense. I bought my set years ago (for $611.67 in all) and wouldn’t have considered asking them to pay for what is essentially “borrowing” my items. I can understand splitting a new couch or tv & asking the other roommates to buy out when leaving the apt. Asking roommates to split small expenses that have the potential to break (and by the way, I wouldn’t consider charging if they broke one of my items) seems unnecessary & unfair. If I were given a % back when they moved out and took them, it would be mere pennies.

Is it fair to not pay for these items?!?!

Thanks in advance,
Dishing Out Fairness

Hey Dishing,

The simplest way to split furniture and shared stuff is to have each person contribute roughly the same amount of shared items to the apartment and not keep track of it. On the flip side, it can be helpful to split large-ticket item like couches and TVs. For those situations, you can use our amazing furniture calculator when people move on (either by selling it to one roommate, or using it to figure out depreciation). When it comes to the smaller stuff, the person who is going to be keeping it should pay for it themselves.

For your dish situation, I think the fair thing would be to have a roommate who doesn’t own a set already buy the new cheaper set. If they insist on splitting it, it’s not much money, so whatever.

For fun, let’s do some math to show them how silly they’re being. (I’m going to make the assumption you have 3 roommates for my example, and that you bought the dishes 3 years ago). From year three to year four, the fair value of your dishes went from $285.35 to $224.20 (according to the furniture calculator’s formula, assuming they are “Like New” and no one broke any outright). So this means you’ve contributed $61.15 that you didn’t bill them for, because you thought you were doing the “let’s all just bring what we have” system. Keeping track of the $35.00 for the new set is just silly when you are contributing so much more.

I would explain the “everyone keeps what they buy” system, which is the simplest. And if no one wants to buy the dishes for themselves, you can use the math. Both perspectives are valid, but after showing them the calculator you may not be asked to split that new dish set after all. 🙂

Hope this helps,

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