What should I do? (Roommate question)

Hi guys,

Question for the board - I split a house with my roommate and we typically just divide everything down the middle. We have a joint checking account that is set up to auto-pay all our bills once a month. It’s worked well for the last year and a half.

My roommate decided that she wanted to increase our TV coverage so that she could watch the Olympics. I barely was aware the Olympics were going on, and completely ignored them, but she’s an Olympics junky and it was a big deal for her. She made the adjustments to the account, knowing they would be temporary. When the Olympics ended, she discovered the Verizon was no longer giving us the option for the cheaper local TV coverage that we had had. I’m the financial manager of the house (she’s handy with powertools, it’s a good partnership) so it fell to me to fix this. Two hours on the phone with Verizon later, I bargained us into a cheaper deal, but still higher than our previous bill.

Here’s my question - I didn’t do anything to merit a higher bill - I got it down via politeness and determination with Verizon, who were also very nice actually (credit where credit is due). I don’t owe a TV or watch any TV and pay for my netflix account entirely on my own. We mostly bundle services to get a cheaper deal on the bill. Should my roommate be accountable for all of the difference in the bill, or should we split it? I’m annoyed, but I don’t necessarily want to disrupt the house. I’d probably be even more forgiving if her damn dog door hasn’t been a direct current for cold air into our house and our heating bill wasn’t 40% higher this year. It’s really, really drafty, but closing it would require her to take her dogs on walks instead of leaving them to their own devices.

Thoughts on the etiquette of this situation?

If you literally never watch tv, she should be paying that portion entirely. For argument’s sake let’s say the bundle was internet $40, phone $30, television $30 =$100 for the house. Your portion would be $35 and hers would be $65.

I’m trying to figure out the dog door thing. Apparently you have a yard that the dog door opens to. So it’s not cheaper heat-wise to open the door a few times a day as opposed to 24/7 draft? And how handy is she if she cant figure out the draft problem and fix it?

What does she bring to the house besides discomfort, and increased bills, again? Are you sleeping with her?

I’d say yes, she should pay the difference. But good grief! A 40% increase in heating costs is no joke! I’d be making a bigger deal about this! Offer to split the dog-walking responsibilities or something, but there’s no way you should be paying 40% more for heating costs because she can’t be arsed to walk her dogs.

Would she consider getting a better pet door? If your bills are that much higher, it will pay for itself in no time. Heck, if I was in your situation, I’d probably be willing to buy the damn thing and call it a gift.

And yes, I think she owes the difference in television bill, but it’s not the kind of thing I’d get too hung up on myself. But it is her responsibility, since she didn’t clarify with the rep when she added a package that it was cancelable at your then-current rate.

You don’t say how much higher the Verizon bill is. If it’s less than $20 / month, I’d say you’re in the right, but you’re also being petty and you should let it go.

If it’s $20–$50 / month, I think it’s time to consider switching providers altogether if that’s possible, or having a sit-down with your roommate about economizing.

With the dog door, I doubt that it’s solely responsible for the 40% increase, though I’m sure it accounts for some of it.

It sounds to me like you’re avoiding any sort of confrontation but letting resentment build, and that’s a bad strategy. It sounds like, on the roommate’s end, that she is taking advantage of your willingness to do the budgeting by not thinking about her use of the resources you share.

What I would suggest is trying to put the resentment aside and saying to her, “because of the increase in heating costs and cable, we’re going to have to cut something. Do you think we should block the dog door, cut off cable, or do you have an idea I haven’t thought of?”

Goodness, didn’t expect the focus on the dog door.

Okay, to answer some questions:

1)No, I am not sleeping with her.
2)The price difference was about $30/month, although I managed to get it down a bit.
3)I literally do not ever watch the TV, but I pay a share because bundling the services lowers the internet costs. She doesn’t watch it either, except when the Olympics are on.
4)There was an effort to cover the dog door with duct tape - I can’t say it was that effective. I suppose handiness is relative, with my handiness approaching negative digits.
5)The increase isn’t entirely due to the dog door - taxes went up, distribution costs went up. But, damn, it is really, really cold with the draft from that door.

The dog thing quietly bothers me, but I’ve not said anything. I really don’t understand why anyone would own dogs if they are just going to ignore them, but I don’t get involved as I don’t think it would do anything but start a fight. In the two years that we’ve lived here, I’ve never seen her take them for a walk, or to a dog park.

I suppose I am being petty, but I resent having to clean up the mess without any kind of acknowledgement for my efforts and the expectation that this is just something we’re going to split. I’m always, always the one that spends hours on the phone straightening out bills, because apparently she can’t keep her temper and be nice to the service reps.

So this is really about:

Roommate is taking advantage of you.
You are quietly building up resentment against Roommate.

This is a common story. If nothing changes, things will get bad in a hurry, no matter how good a person or how nice she is.

It sounds like she is in the wrong, but since she is in a rather convenient denial, nothing will change unless you instigate it, which is the problem in a nutshell.

Really: have a talk with her. Write down your concerns beforehand so you don’t get distracted, and think what you want. For her to be less lazy? Pay more money? Move? Stress that this isn’t personal, it’s just about managing the house.

Good luck!

Update: She attempted to argue her way out of paying the full cost of her Olympics coverage, and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I brought up my irritation over this whole situation, long story short - her argument boils down to Verizon tricked her, so we should split it. I disagree. She thinks she can find a cheaper deal with another company and I told her to go for it. I didn’t want to be the petty one, but if we’re going to argue over a $9 internet fee that was bundled with her Olympics coverage, then hell, I’ll bring up the raise in prices.

Generally, we get along well. But her work has been busy and there’s been an undertone of “I don’t have time for anything else” from her. Which I understand, except for the part where I’m a roommate, not a personal assistant. I have a feeling that this isn’t over - I don’t know when she thinks she’s going to comparison shop for internet services - but I guess we’ll see.

If it was an honest mistake on her part, and she’s an otherwise good roommate, and the money isn’t noticeable in your budget, yeah, I’d say don’t sweat the petty stuff. Good, or even tolerable, roommates are hard to find.

I’d save the conflict for the doggy-door debacle, because that is just not normal. Insist she springs for a draft-free doggie door, forget the tv-bill and call it even.

I am going to go against the grain. She didn’t intend to permanently bump up the coverage, right? She just meant to add coverage for one month? That’s an unfortunate but unforeseeable circumstance, and I think the expense should still be shared. Like a rent increase or the cooling bill after a very hot summer, it’s something you couldn’t have reasonably expected and prevented.

Once you start nickel and diming shared expenses, there is no going back, and it will drive a rift in your relationship and cause more mental anguish than it is worth.

If you guys have some spare cash, I highly recommended getting a Fancy Hands (internet based personal assistant) subscription. They’ve spent over 100 hours on phone calls for me over the past couple years doing just this sort of thing, and it’s taken a huge load of mundane stuff off my busy schedule. You can just ask them to call the cable company and negotiate for you. Heck, I have them call all my services at least once a year to try to negotiate better rates. The subscription basically pays for itself in savings from that alone.

She’s a special snowflake.

Show of hands:

How many believe this is fundamentally about TV and doggie doors?

How many have ever lived for a prolonged period with a non-relative with whom you were not having sex?

How old are you?

If you never watch TV and she almost never watches TV, you guys should find out how much less the bundle deal would be without cable (at least here, they still do a bundle with two services…but do you guys even need a landline either? I used to have all three services but now for the past few years all I have is $25/mo. Internet and I couldn’t be happier about it. I lowered all my bills as much as possible when I was super broke for a while, and now that I could afford to add it all back, I’ve found that I don’t want to). Those bundles can offer significant savings but I think sometimes their purpose is to confuse people into just taking whatever.

Other than that, I really don’t know. I’m thankful I’ve never had to have a roommate because figuring this stuff out would suck.

I agree: there’s no way she could reasonably have known that her one-time Olympics-a-thon would increase long-term costs. It would have happened sooner or later anyway.

But you should talk to her about the dog situation; it sounds like that’s what’s really bothering you. And I think it’s definitely gotten to the point where you’re all better off talking about it rather than just letting it slide.

It costs money to watch The Olympics?