Saving the World, One Microwave at a Time

In today’s Dear Splitwise, we consider the troubles of a super-intense treehugger who lives off-campus with his roommates (and their girlfriends).

Dear Splitwise,Unplug that Microwave!

I live in an student-style apartment with 3 roommates, and we all have separate leases. The only thing not separate is the electricity, and there are a couple issues splitting it based on usage and our guests. Also, I’m an environmentalist, and every month, they hand me a $180 electric bill and asking me to pay for a third of it. To me, this is like saying, “Hey I need you to give me some of your money for something I need that you will not be using that will cause your friends to die, can I get that on the 20th?”

Continue reading Saving the World, One Microwave at a Time

When Fairness Backfires

The J.C. Penney logo
J.C. Penney has struggled after introducing new “fairer” prices this spring.

In most money matters, it pays to be fair. (Certainly when paying back your friends.) But when big businesses try to be fair to their customers, sometimes it can backfire in a big way.

Take J.C. Penney. Back in February, they hired a new CEO, Ron Johnson (who built Apple Inc.’s retail operation) to revamp their declining sales. The department store chain then made some radical changes to their pricing.  They eliminated coupons, got rid of confusing fine print, and cut back from over 500 sales a year to just 12. The goal was to make shopping simpler, more transparent, and fairer for consumers.

Five months later, sales are tanking and stock prices have fallen more than 30%. But why? And is it possible for a company to be honest and still turn a profit? Continue reading When Fairness Backfires

Fridge Overlord

Shelf OverlordDear Splitwise returns this week to settle the issue of shelf space in a fridge that is owned by a roommate. This is common in places like Europe, where household appliances being included with a rental isn’t necessarily the norm.

Hi Splitwise,

I live with three other people in a four-bedroom share house. One of my housemates owns a 400L fridge. She uses between 40-60% of the fridge space, depending on how much food she has at the time. She also claims sole use of the largest and most convenient shelf (there are only three shelves, so no-one else can have their own shelf) and says that this is fair because it is her fridge. If we wanted to have unfettered fridge access, then we should supply our own fridge.

The problem with this – aside from the logistical issues with placing multiple fridges in an average-sized, inner-suburban house – is that the kitchen of a shared house is shared space. We all rent that space. If a housemate wants to carve out a fridge empire or own other large ungainly objects that others can’t freely use, they should do so in their bedroom and leave the common areas to be used equally by all housemates.

What do you think?

Yours Truly,
Shelfless

Continue reading Fridge Overlord

Rentin’ Rooms in your House

Why U No Use Rent Calculator?
Most Splitwise Man In The World

If you are going to rent out a room in your house, especially to a friend, you need to pick a fair price that also reflects the market. One reader asks:

Dear Splitwise,

How would you charge if you rent out a room with a private bathroom in the home that is your primary residence, which you own?

Sincerely,
Landlord in Training

Hi Landlord in Training,

Great question. As it happens, I just had to help my parents do this. Here’s what you need to know: Continue reading Rentin’ Rooms in your House

Court Allows Discrimination in Roommate Selection

One of my passions is to help people be fair to their roommates. But how fair are you required to be to your potential roommates? Roommate.com is a popular roommate finding site, which allows you to search for roommates based on sex, age, sexual orientation, and family status. Is this fair? The Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley thought not, and the case landed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Continue reading Court Allows Discrimination in Roommate Selection

Guests in bedrooms

I neglected to post a link here to my most recent Forbes article yesterday – the last in the three-part series on guests. In it, we consider the merits of cold mutton and show some data on the question of what is fair for people living in your guest room for a long period of time. Check it out!