How to keep track of how much money your roommate owes you

With an app or two, you can settle or -- better yet -- prevent arguments among your roommates about who owes whom money.

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Matt Elliott/CNET

One of the many wonderful aspects of college is learning how to live and get along with other people, and then realizing the world is filled with people who think, act, and view the world differently to you.

If you share an apartment with a group of people, it doesn't take long before an argument springs up over who is eating whose food, or who owes which person money for rent or the cable bill or the last beer run.

With Splitwise and Venmo, you can track and pay expenses among a group. Splitwise is available worldwide for iOS, Android and through third-party apps on Windows Phone, but Venmo is US-only on iOS and Android.

Each features a Web app as well, making it more than likely that all of your roommates can get on board. Splitwise lets you set up and track one-time and recurring payments, while Venmo lets you connect to your checking account or debit card to make mobile payments. Better yet, Splitwise integrated Venmo into its iPhone app last year, making it easy to settle debts before anger festers and turns into arguments that hang like a dark cloud over your common room.

Splitwise

With Splitwise, you can create groups and add people to them by name and email. You can then enter the shared expenses of the group, whether they are recurring payments or one-time charges. When you set up a bill, you can split it evenly or divide it up by entering an exact amount for each person, a percentage, or shares.

For each bill, you can upload a picture to prove to your roomies that you are on the up-and-up. Splitwise then keeps track of who owes whom and will send you notifications as bills come due, and it lets you send reminders to the delinquent among the group.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

When setting up a group, you can flip a toggle switch to Simplify group debts, a setting which I cannot recommend highly enough. With it turned on, if you owe Walt $50 and Walt owes Jesse $50, then Splitwise will simplify matters by having you pay Jesse $50 directly.

The Splitwise apps for iOS and the Web boast a simple, attractive design that makes tracking expenses as painless as possible. When it comes time to pay up, hit the Settle up button, which lets you pay via PayPal, Venmo, or record it as a cash payment.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Cash is king and PayPal is certainly a convenient way to make payments online worldwide. But cash usually requires a trip to the bank, and in the US PayPal charges a fee for debit or credit card transactions, while fee structures vary in other countries.

Within the UK, credit card fees apply; Australian fees also depend on how you transfer money. Venmo works only in the US, but offers free transactions whether you link the app to your bank account or debit card.

Venmo

Venmo is a straightforward mobile payment app. Create an account with a phone number, which Venmo then uses to send you a verification code. Once verified, tap Settings and then Banks & Cards. Here you can link the app to your checking account using a routing and account number, or to a debit card (both options are free).

Similar to PayPal, if you set up Venmo with a credit card, you'll pay a 3 percent fee on all transactions. Payments made with Venmo are sent over a 256-bit encryption, certified by VeriSign.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Venmo makes it easy to find friends from your contacts or Facebook, and the app provides a feed that shows you the recent transactions of your circle of friends. You can adjust how much of your financial dealings you share on Venmo in the app's privacy settings.

When you choose the Venmo option from Splitwise, you are taken to the Venmo app to make the payment and once paid you are taken back to Splitwise for a near seamless bill-paying experience to maintain harmony in your apartment or dorm.

 

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