App List: Splitting Utility Bills with Roommates

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November 10, 2012           

Say goodbye to broken email threads, group texts, and whiteboard scrawl. A new wave of apps has emerged to help take the pain out of divvying up those monthly bills. I’ve written before about the best apps for transferring rent to your roomie, but these apps specialize in squaring away additional expenses like utilities and cable. Ready to make your life easier? Read on.

Splitwise

A fully fledged IOU manager, Splitwise allows you to track debts and make payments via PayPal. The UI is beautiful (perhaps the best of the bunch) and there is an equally easy to use iPhone app.

Pros:

  • Very easy to add people & groups.
  • Easy categorization of expenses and sweet spending breakdown according to these categories.
  • A “Whiteboard” for group communication.
  • Facebook Connect to make things easier.

Cons:

  • I couldn’t figure out how to make payments using their iPhone app. I’m sure the answer must be there somewhere, but it’s not obvious.
  • You can’t connect your utility & cable accounts to automatically import your monthly bills, something I was definitely looking for in a product.

BillsAreIn

Not as pretty to look at as Splitwise, but the idea is the same. It’s an easier way to keep track of bills and divide shared expenses. After registering (quick & easy) you can choose to “Add a Bill”, “Add an IOU” or “Add a Payment”. BillsAreIn.com also has a “House Wall” to track group messaging, and plenty of options for categorizing the expense.

Unlike Splitwise, BillsAreIn automatically sends an email to the other members of a group when a bill is added and instructs them to pay their share. Also unlike Splitwise, however, there is no way to pay your share using this app. You can “record a payment” and allow the other party to accept (acknowledge that it has in fact been settled up), but no money can switch hands here. So, that kind of stinks.

Pros:

  • Pretty easy navigation and ability to view expenses owed and paid.
  • A “House Calendar” for keeping track of roomie events. This could be handy for chores, upcoming dinners, trash night, bill due dates, etc.
  • The “Statistics” tab is much like the “Charts” section of Splitwise, minus the fancy pie graph.
Cons:
  • Site wasn’t secure. I don’t know if it was just my browser, internet connection or what, but when dealing with finances that’s a pretty big red flag.
  • No corresponding iPhone app.
  • Could not make payments through site – more of a record keeper than full on bill management system.

PayDivvy

This one looks a bit more promising. PayDivvy comes with a clean looking landing page & a Facebook Connect option to sign up. After signing up, I was asked for my home address – not sure why. Luckily I was able to skip this step, and the one beyond it asking if I wanted to import contacts from any number of external address books (Gmail, Yahoo!, etc.).

After this step it was time to add a payment method – credit card or bank account only, no PayPal here. With the previous two apps this step was less upfront, but I guess it makes sense to provide a clear call to action when the goal of your app is to facilitate easy financial transactions between roommates. It didn’t take me long to discover that PayDivvy was my favorite of the bunch. Why? Finally an app that allows you to connect your utility accounts for easy access to past statements and unpaid bills. Cutting out the middle man, don’t mind if I do.

Pros:

  • Good looking site & Facebook Connect.
  • Ability to connect with Provider accounts!
  • Ease of paying recipients with on file bank account or credit card.
Cons:
  • Again, no corresponding iPhone app, but improved functionality is worth it for me.
  • A bit more complicated user experience (but lots of helpful lightboxes to steer you along the way).

 

How do you and your roomies square up each month? Are you using any fancy methods or just a good ol’ fashioned checkbook? Let us know in the comments below.

November 10, 2012   |   Posted in   by  

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Lillian Smith

Director of Content at Apartment List

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