Coliving is awesome. Obviously, we here at WiFi Tribe think so. Sharing living space with others is the perfect way to find your family away from home.
But, as in every family, coliving comes with a few challenges. Who paid for what and how much? How do you keep everyone informed of all the information concerning the group? Who’s in charge of cleaning what? How do you share those photos everyone is taking without having to switch a dozen USB-drives back and forth?
The answer: apps. There is an app for everything nowadays. Most of them aren’t made specifically for a coliving community, but that doesn’t make them any less helpful in getting and staying organized. We use several different apps during our WiFi Tribe chapters, so we thought we’d share our favorites as well as our experiences with them to help your coliving community stay on top of things.
Communication is key in all relationships - including coliving communities. Whether you’re making plans for weekend trips or nightly adventures, organizing birthday parties, planning a workshop or just sharing the newest cool cafe someone found, keeping everyone in touch and up to date is essential for staying connected within and growing as a community.
Here are a few popular options to consider.
Almost everyone and their dog’s fleas uses Whatsapp nowadays. Setting up a group with everyone who’s sharing the coliving quarters is easy and since most people already use it, no introduction is necessary.
Whatsapp has its drawbacks for larger coliving groups, though. It’s a long stream of text messages from everyone in the group talking about every topic to their heart’s content. If the group is just semi-active on Whatsapp, chances are that certain things will get lost in that stream and people will miss important announcements. There is no way to sort these topics into singular threads, unless you open a new Whatsapp group for every topic - which is quite a hassle.
If the group is only chatting about the most basic things that concern everybody, Whatsapp can be enough and the easiest choice. But knowing a coliving community’s penchant for sharing things, we recommend reaching a little higher in those communication app stars.
Facebook is a better alternative to Whatsapp in that respect. You can create a private Facebook group and invite all group members, since most people are on Facebook, too. Then people can create posts for single topics, to be discussed in the comments of that post.
Communicating via Facebook is easily set up and everyone already knows how to use it. There are still a few flaws, though. Threads with lots of comments or likes will get bumped back to the top again and again, while others may get lost somewhere lower in the feed.
All in all, if you’re a smaller coliving group with low member turnover, Facebook is a good means of communication.
Slack is our preferred communication app at WiFi Tribe. All our new members are invited to join and then are added to each new chapter group. You can then create different channels for different topics. New postings are either indicated by bold lettering of the channel or by receiving notifications, which can also be turned off per channel should they get too much.
Separate threads can be started within a channel, and if a post is meant for either someone specific or everyone in the channel, adding their @name or @channel, respectively, will make it clear who must read it. You won’t miss a message if you don’t want to, but you’re also able to easily blend out the unimportant ones.
The downside is, it can be a little overwhelming for newbie Slackers at first. But people usually get the hang of it fast. And it’s free up to 10,000 messages and 5GB storage space.
Let’s face it, money is the point where friendships end, sadly even in real families. Don’t let it come to that in a coliving group. You need to keep track of your IOUs and pay back what you owe whom regularly. You can remain in the Stone Age and use an Excel-sheet to stay on top of things - or why not try our favorite?
Splitwise is a wise cost-splitter that groups can use to record payments like shared dinners or groceries, split big items like birthday presents for a coliving member, and does interpersonal cost splitting within the group. By activating “simplify debts”, Splitwise automatically redirects triangle debts to minimize the number of total payments. Instead of you owing Katie $50 and Katie owing Mike $50, Splitwise will show you as owing Mike $50 rather than both you and Katie having to make separate payments.
A couple of tips for a smooth Splitwise ride in a group:
Input joint spendings asap
Settle up at regular intervals
In case you’ve tried and aren’t a big fan of our Tribe-favorite, here’s a list of a few more cost-splitting apps similar to Splitwise.
As to how to settle up and pay your community members back? Sure, there’s PayPal or your regular bank transfer, but chances are you’ll get hammered with ridiculously high fees for such transactions, especially across borders. Enter…
If you’re American, Venmo is great at making money transfers between individuals simple and comparatively cheap. All you have to do is link your credit card, debit card or checking account and you’re ready to go. Most of Venmo’s services don’t charge transaction fees, including transferring funds through major debit cards or checking accounts. Venmo does charge a 3% fee for payments made by credit card, however.
Venmo offers a few more perks, like being able to pay for a lot of online items, transferring money or being issued with a Venmo Mastercard, so it’s not just handy for transferring money.
TransferWise is similar to Venmo in that you’re able to easily send money - across borders and cheaper than most. It has a unique approach to currency exchange, which cuts out the middle man and allows TransferWise to charge significantly less fees. Furthermore, it’s super easy to use and transparent about fees before you make a payment, as well as the timing of transfers. TransferWise also guarantees the current exchange rate, meaning you always know exactly how much your recipient will receive.
Obviously, you can always hire a cleaning service to clean bathrooms and kitchens, take out the trash, and run a vacuum through the house - and we at WiFi Tribe highly recommend it. Not only does it ensure that we feel cozy and comfortable in our shared home, it also stops the inevitable squabbles that arise in a family sharing chores.
Sooner or later, someone is bound to miss their turn or isn’t happy with someone else’s cleaning efforts, no matter how well thought-out your cleaning plan may be. This fosters resentment that isn’t good for the coliving vibe. But if your group really wants to save the money of hiring a cleaning service, there is an app that can help keep things organized and in line.
Wunderlist is an easy-to-use to do list and task manager app that helps you and your “collaborators” get stuff done. It actually goes way beyond organizing household chores, so if you also want to share grocery lists, work on a project or plan a trip together, Wunderlist is your all-rounder helper. It makes it easy to create, share and complete your to dos together.
Any coliving group will have electronic data to share. Whether it’s photos, videos, tickets, documents, playlists or ebooks - sharing is part of the wonderful caring that makes a great coliving community. Use file sharing apps to store such files in the cloud and make them accessible to everyone at once.
Google Photos & Google Drive
If you have a Google account, you automatically have access to both Google Photos and Google Drive.
Google Photos lets you upload photos and create personal or shared photo albums without paring down image sizes much.
On Google Drive, you can create and share folders, text-files, spreadsheets, presentations and PDFs. It allows you to either send out links for single documents or entire folders to collaborators or invite them via their email-address. You’re also able to specify whether they receive editing or viewing rights.
An alternative to both Google Drive and Google Photos is Dropbox, where you can combine both functions for storing photos and documents of any type. It’s free for up to 2GB of storage space.
One caveat of Dropbox is that apparently the administrators or developers have the right to delete information from free, inactive accounts. So if you abandon the account for a few months after storing something there, it’s possible that it won’t be there anymore when you log back on.
So there you have it! See how easy it is to make coliving a breeze? At WiFi Tribe, we’ll make it even breezier for you by doing the hardest work of all in searching for and selecting great accommodation for all of our chapter locations. Check out the new calendar for 2019 or apply for membership here and join our wonderful coliving community.
Pia Newman is a copywriter, translator, virtual assistant and novelist. She finds her inspiration in many things, but above all in traveling around the world as a digital nomad and a happy member of WiFi Tribe. Follow both her novel writing- and digital nomad journey on her English blog, or find out more about her services, as well as her guidebooks on virtual assistance and earning money online on her German website