How much to charge a couch crasher

Image by Venturist via Flickr
How long before you ask her to pitch-in?

Your friend asked on July Fourth if she could crash on your couch while she looked for an apartment. You didn’t mind her doing it and you didn’t ask her to pay anything. But now it’s August and she still hasn’t found a place. You don’t mind letting her stay for free, but your roommate is starting to get cranky and there’s nowhere else for her to go. You feel like if she chipped in towards the rent, that might help smooth things over, but when is long enough to start asking for a contribution? And how much money should you ask for?
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Announcing: “Dear Splitwise”

Splitwise is all about making sharing with your friends, housemates, and family easier. Since we’re fairly nerdy, we like to do that by making calculators that address common fairness situations. But sometimes, the situation is just too specific for a calculator. Since we started with the rent calculator in February, we’ve received several emails asking about the specifics of a given roommate situation.

If you have a fairness or roommmate situation that just does not fit into a calculator, email us at Not only do we answer really, really fast (usually within a few hours at most), we will study the question, consult with experts, or do a survey to solve your conundrum. Then we’ll turn it into a blog post for the amusement of others. Think of it like a relationship advice column for your sharing questions, answered by nerds with charts.

The Guest Calculator

I just posted the second article in the guest series over at Forbes, “How Much To Charge A Couch-Crasher” over at Forbes. Please feel free to indulge your inner survey-nerd and give it a look.

In the article, I introduce a method for charging your guests who crash on the couch for a week or longer. It’s called the Guest calculator and you can view it right now on and from within the Splitwise interface.

I’m also posting the full-text of the first article about guests, “How Much To Charge Your Roommate’s Girlfriend”, on this blog, so that you can read it all here. That article has also been featured on and MSNBC, so if you found it first elsewhere – um, welcome! If I post content first somewhere else, I will try to post it here within a week or so.

How Much To Charge Your Roommate’s Girlfriend

Where is the line?
Let’s say that you live with a roommate who has a new girlfriend. At first, the girlfriend spends the night just a couple of times a month. You see her in the mornings, but it’s hardly a bother. After a while, she starts hanging around nearly every night, eating on the couch, watching TV, and taking showers in the morning. It’s almost like you have a new roommate! She’s not paying for your bills or rent, and she says she has her own place too. You don’t want to make her pay for everything twice. But is it fair that she uses your air conditioning, your kitchen, and your living room without contributing a dime?

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Using Splitwise for group travel

One thing that Splitwise has turned out suprisingly useful for is group trips: road trips, ski-trips, weekend getaways, whatever. It’s a classic money-organization problem. Someone rents a car, someone buys the groceries, someone pays for gas, and lots of money is getting lent back and forth. Without Splitwise, someone always ends up spending a few hours trying to reckon it at the end, and then someone gets confused and you do it over again. And then you have to figure out how to pay each other back, and money just gets lost in the shuffle.

Together, Ryan and I have used the site for 5 trips already. I’m currently staying at a rental house in Michigan with 11 friends in celebration of the wedding of my friends Lauren and Ben. We’re having a blast, and the people staying in the house love how non-stressful it is to just dump everything on the site – groceries, park passes, gas, the house rental, and beer runs. Once one of us enters the expense on the site (say, a grocery run), we just forget about it until the end of the trip. Kara loves how the site reduces the number of payments, so that if Rebecca owes Kara money and Kara owes Eve money, it just keeps track of the balances so that in the end Rebecca owes Eve. At the end, you can also see how much the whole trip cost you individually, which is a bitch to figure out without a computer.

To share a trip on the site:
1. Create an “apartment”
2. Add all your friends to the “apartment”
3. Everyone adds expenses that they pay for
4. Pay each other back at the end

The artist formerly known as

Ryan and I have been hard at work the last few months building this project, formerly known as We’ve redesigned and updated our bill-sharing platform, added recurring payments, percentage splits, multi-user expenses, and an expense tagging and tracking system. We added a furniture calculator, and adapted the site for Australia and New Zealand. We are finishing up mobile apps for iPhone and Android.

We’ve hoped to write on our blog more often, so with the start of the fall semester, we’re turning over a new leaf. For the next few months, we will be releasing new blog posts on Tuesday and Thursday of each week (at roughly 10am, starting this week). We have exciting data and some fun sharing questions we want to write about!

One issue we’ve run into is that people confuse the rent-splitting calculator and the main bill-sharing app. So we’ve changed our name to, which refers to both the app and to this blog. From now on, we will use “SplitTheRent” just to refer to the rent-splitting calculator.  Our new name should make it easier to distinguish between our projects, and to explain our project to friends and new users. (This new blog is also now being run on WordPress.)

Thank you again, beta-testers, for all your wonderful feedback and sharing the site with others.  You rock our socks.  Please share with your friends, and let us know if you have thoughts or questions by emailing, or via twitter or commenting on this blog.

Introducing the furniture calculator: a “blue book” for furniture

Let’s say you and your roommate Nathan split a new $500 couch when you moved in together 2 years ago. The couch is currently in “very good” shape – the pillows are a bit flattened and there are some very minor signs of wear and tear, but not much else.

Now you are both moving out, and Nathan wants to keep the couch. You want to keep the $300 TV that you split around the same time (the TV still works fine). You should be paid back for your share of the couch, and Nathan should be paid back for his share of the TV. But what is the value of the couch and TV now, 2 years later?

Continue reading Introducing the furniture calculator: a “blue book” for furniture

How the furniture calculator works

The new furniture calculator is an awesome tool for helping you move out of an old apartment. As we mentioned in the introductory post, the calculator takes three things into account:
  • The purchase price of the furniture
  • The change in condition/quality of the furniture
  • How long the furniture has been in use since it was bought
It uses this information to calculate the current value of the furniture so that you can sell it to your housemates, or split up furniture fairly when moving out.  But how does it work?

Continue reading How the furniture calculator works