If you have roommates, you should consider splitting a cellphone bill with them

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Youve finally moved out on your own and youre feeling free. Free to decorate how you want, blast your stereo whenever, and oh, right pay your own bills.

NerdWallet has found that many young adults stay on their familys cell phone plan because it saves money all around. If youre not so lucky, consider setting up your own family plan with friends or roommates.

Having roommates may already lower your cost of living: You share rent, utilities, maybe even food. If youre managing expenses collectively, a shared cell phone bill shouldnt be too much extra trouble.

Go prepaid…

If you get some friends on board, its probably best to jump on a solid prepaid carrier. Theyre generally cheaper than bigger carriers like Verizon and AT&T, and theres no credit check to get service.

Plus, most prepaid carriers offering family plans dont force you to share data. Instead, they divvy up monthly data allotments into separate buckets. (Jenny might drink your milk, but at least she wont hog your gigabytes.)

A prepaid family cell phone plan can get you significantly cheaper cell service than an individual line. For instance, a basic Cricket Wireless plan with unlimited talk and text plus 2.5GB is $40 per month. With its group save discount, four lines on the basic plan come out to $100 per month all together, or $25 per month, per roommate. You can save $180 a year.

but know what youre getting into

Many prepaid providers piggyback on bigger carriers networks, so the service is essentially the same. For instance, Virgin Mobile operates on Sprints network without restriction.

This isnt always the case, however. When you look at prepaid carriers like Cricket, which operates on AT&Ts network, youll find that Cricket gets the same coverage, but its LTE data download speeds are capped below what youd usually get on an AT&T plan.

So make sure you know whether your prepaid carrier comes with any caveats and whether youll get good local service on its network provider. Youll also want to know how much data you actually need each month, as the average cell phone user usually clocks in between 2GB and 3GB. Dont pay for more than you actually use.

Another thing to keep in mind with prepaid providers: They dont all allow you to bring your own phone. Some, like Cricket, are compatible with most unlocked phones. Others, like Virgin, only allow you to use a handset you buy directly from the carrier. The bigger carriers all have some sort of installment plan, in which you can pay for an expensive phone over a couple of years. With prepaid carriers, youll have to buy your phone upfront if your current phone isnt compatible.

If some or all of your group are in the market for a new phone, all the better. If not, youll have to weigh the value of purchasing new phones against the savings on your monthly bill.

For those with good credit, T-Mobiles family plans offer a potential way out. Theyre inexpensive, have separate data allotments and allow new phones to be paid in installments. Plus T-Mobiles got some of the best data-saving features around, allowing users unlimited video and music streaming.

Dont lose friendships over a cell phone bill

If youre going in on a family plan with friends, make sure you set clear expectations about whos responsible for paying the bill and when the money from everyone else is due. Your slacker roommates might be cool with a brief power outage due to a late bill, but letting their cell phone get shut off? That might be just the right amount of motivation to pay on time.

The point person whose name is on the bill might get stuck covering for a delinquent friend who doesnt pay by the due date. So youll want to make sure your fellow family plan members are reliable and that they know theyre responsible for any extra charges they incur on the bill. Getting something in writing could be a good way to keep everyone honest.

Sprint used to have a Framily plan that allowed separate billing for different members of a family plan, but has since discontinued it. No other carriers allow separate payments, so be sure everyone remembers to pay on time.

Go ahead, float the idea to your roommates. You dont have to be family to be on a family plan.

Stephen Layton is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: slayton@nerdwallet.com.

This article originally published at NerdWallet here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/10/01/split-cellphone-bill-with-roommates/