2-Way Roommate Reimbursements

I have read the docs about how to handle basic reimbursements where someone (work, friend, roommate, etc) owes you money so you create a "Roommate Reimbursements" category to stage the balance that they owe you and when you receive their payment, you add that as an inflow to that same category.


My question is around the best way to handle 2-way reimbursements. For example, the scenario of when you and your roommate both are paying for different expenses and thus, one's grocery purchase will offset some of their rent owed to you.

Ex: Say I pay $1000 in rent and create a split transaction with $500 for my Rent category and $500 for my Roommate Reimbursement category. Then say my roommate buys $200-worth of groceries, of which I owe half. So I now owe them $100 for groceries, or to simplify things, they just now owe me $400 for rent. How do I accurately represent this in YNAB?

I am hoping to avoid the pay and then pay back multiple times scenario.


This YouTuber recommended treating what they paid FOR you essentially as a payment TO you -- e.g. Add an inflow transaction to the Roommate Reimbursements category for the $100. This does lower the Roommate Reimbursements value to the accurate level, but then I have this "fake" transaction hanging around in some account that will never actually show up in my linked account transactions so I end up with a long list of uncleared transactions sitting around indefinitely.


Would love to get your help!

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  • I, personally, would probably keep track of who owes who what in a spreadsheet instead of YNAB. But spreadsheets are my happy place. I'm sure someone more adept in the app will have a better answer for you where you can actually use YNAB haha 🤞

  • This is a great question. First of all, this is definitely an area we're looking at to see how we can make it easier, since it's such a common scenario. But here's what we've come up with for now.

    It’s easiest if we follow a sample scenario.

    Joe and Tom are roommates. Joe budgets for and pays the electric bill and the rent, and Tom buys the groceries and pays the internet bill. Joe should budget for rent and electric in his budget and pay those bills. Tom should budget for groceries and internet in his budget and pay those bills.

    At the end of the month, most likely, one of them will owe the other one money.

    Here’s how to settle it up using a sample month.

    At the end of the month Joe’s totals:

    Electric: $100

    Rent: $1000

    TOTAL - $1100

    At the end of the month Tom’s totals:

    Groceries - $700

    Internet - $200

    TOTAL - $900

    The total living expenses were $2,000. So each of them are responsible for $1,000.

    $1,000 (what they’re each responsible for)

    - $900 (what Tom paid)

     $100 (What Tom owes Joe)

    So this month, Tom also needs to budget for and pay Joe the $100 he owes him.

    To balance this out, each roommate should keep a category called "Living Expenses Adjustment”, or something similar that makes sense to you.

    Initially, you may not know how much to set aside for the living expenses adjustment category, or if it’s usually the same person who’s always short, but over time you’ll have some data. So initially, it’s important to budget something so you’re ready. Take your best guess and maybe add a little to that to be on the safe side. Then adjust as you learn. 

    Like 1
  • Sky Blue Violin said:
    Then say my roommate buys $200-worth of groceries, of which I owe half. So I now owe them $100 for groceries, or to simplify things, they just now owe me $400 for rent. How do I accurately represent this in YNAB?

    It's simpler than you (and that YouTuber) think. :) A split transaction recorded in your checking account with a net of $0 (no money entered/left your account):

    Split 1: outflow $100 against groceries (your portion)

    Split 2: inflow $100 against Roommate (they paid your portion, so they now owe less)

    Net (top-line): $0

    Like 2
    • dakinemaui Brilliant! Thank you. This solves it perfectly and also allows me to track what I'm "spending" money on through my roommate!


      Matthew this should definitely be the recommended approach!

      Like 1
    • dakinemaui I've been using this method this year and it has been working great!

      I created a separate "Cash" account to represent this roommate so that the line-items wouldn't clutter up my actual checking account ledger. So each time they pay for something, I add the split transaction as you mentioned, which results in a net of $0. Awesome. All good.

      What happens though if say my roommate lost a bet and owes me $10 (different from having an actual expense item that I allocate part of to them, a bet doesn't have a line item on my CC, for instance), so I basically add $10 to their "tab", which goes toward the larger running expenses ledger (i.e. I might owe them $10 less in groceries now).

      If I add a $10 outflow transaction to the Roommate Account and categorized under "Roommate Reimbursements", it accurately reflects what I want -- I now owe $10 less to them than I did before. Say at some point we settle up our expenses and they pay me into my Checking Account for the Roommate Reimbursements category balance. So we're all good and they don't owe me anything anymore.

      The Roommate Account however, still looks like it has a -$10 account balance since the incoming funds went into a different account. I don't want to "transfer" money from my checking to this Roommate Account since no money is truly leaving my checking account. Is there another way to record all of this that does even out? Or is this just how it goes because I'm using a ghost account of sorts to do this handling and so long as the Roommate Reimbursements category is correct, it doesn't really matter?

      Thanks for your help!

      Like 2
      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 1 mth ago
      • 1
      • Reported - view

      Sky Blue Violin The bet you won would again be a net $0 split transaction in the "ghost" account:

      • Split 1: outflow Roommate category
      • Split 2: inflow Inflow: To Be Budgeted

      It's fine to segregate these net $0 transactions in their own account. Just recognize they will ALL be a net of $0. If actual money enters or leaves one of your accounts, the transaction should be entered in the relevant account with a nonzero total/net amount. (This type is usually due to your spending and will still be a split transaction; however, an example of one that would not be split is if you deposit a check they gave you or they transferred money to your account via Zelle -- that just a normal transaction inflowing to their category.)

      Like 1
    • dakinemaui Perfect. Thank you for your help!

      Like 1
  • Use splitwise.com it's free and super easy!

      • dakinemaui
      • dakinemaui
      • 10 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Purple Admiral Splitwise is redundant with YNAB (for a 2-person scenario). Transactions have to be entered in both tools, taking it out of the super easy category, in my view. YMMV.

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