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Is it worth it to live with a roommate?
Pros and cons of having a roommate
There are milestones that we look forward to in our lives: graduating high school, getting a good job, and living on our own among them. However, rent is expensive and as most of us are working towards paying debt student loans, debt or saving towards a bigger goal (like a house). So inevitably, we ask ourselves… “Do I need a roommate?”
That’s not an easy question to answer. There are a lot of factors that go into determining whether or not you need a roommate. It can be a complicated calculation, but we’re here to help. Read on to see the pros and cons of having a roommate.
Share the rent
This is the primary reason most people consider getting a roommate (or roommates. You may end up having more than one, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll refer to one roommate in this article). According to The Pew Charitable Trust, nearly one-quarter of all Americans between the ages of 18 to 34 live with roommates, and most often, this arrangement is driven by money.
Rent can be expensive, especially if you want to live in the city or in a great neighborhood or if you want a large place. Sometimes, especially when you’re just getting started in your career, money can be tight. Having a roommate to split your rent with goes a long way toward opening up your options. If you’re willing to share your place with someone, you can share your rent bill with them and you can both ease the financial burden on each other.
Share the bills
In addition to potentially cutting your rent in half, you can save money on your utility bills, too. Your electricity, heat, and internet bills can add up, so being able to split those with another person can relieve additional financial burdens. Now, if you have another person in your home, your power bill may go up, but, generally speaking, you’ll make out splitting the bills with your roommate.
Roommates are practically a must in unaffordable cities
If you want to live in a major metropolitan city, then a roommate (or two) may be a requirement just to get by. Here’s a list of seven top cities comparing — living by yourself in a one bedroom — to living with a roommate in a two bedroom and splitting the rent 50-50.
|1 bedroom median rent||2 – bedroom median rent||2 bedroom w/Roomate (Assume 50% savings)||Monthly rent savings compared: Renting a 1 bedroom vs. a 2 bedroom w/a roommate|
Source: Rent Jungle, Zillow, Zumper and Apartments.com
Share the work
While there certainly aren’t the same number of chores involved in renting an apartment versus owning a home, but there’s a lot to do. With a roommate, you can split the burden of chores. You can take turns cleaning the bathroom, mopping the floors, vacuuming the rugs, and taking care of other matters around your home. If you hate to scrub the shower, then maybe your roommate can do that and you can take care of cleaning out the fridge and the inside of the oven. Just make sure you talk all of this over so you can avoid roommate conflicts (see the section below about Potential Friction).
Now, this plan isn’t foolproof, of course. Having another person in the home doubles your chances of making a mess. You could have twice the dirty dishes in the sink or twice the hair clogging up the shower drain, so you’ll want to figure out if having a roommate will help you manage the chores or just create more work for you!
Share the fun?
Ok, we’ll be honest. In this case, your mileage may vary. Sometimes, having a roommate is like having a business partner: you agree on the finances, help each other where required, and then stay out of each other’s way. But in some cases, having a roommate can be like having a friend right there in your own home.
Note: for the purpose of this article, we’ll be talking about roommates who aren’t romantic partners. Living with your partner is certainly an option for many people, but that arrangement comes with a whole different set of pros and cons, and we won’t be covering it here.
Suffice it to say, having a roommate can be fun, given the right circumstances. A study in the journal Developmental Psychology found that loneliness rises throughout our 20s, peaking just before we reach age 30. Living alone can compound this feeling of isolation, so having a roommate to watch TV with, eat meals with, and generally talk to can be enjoyable and help stave off that loneliness. Now, it may not always be fun to have a roommate (you could have some of the conflicts we talk about below, or you could just have nothing in common with you roomie), but if you choose wisely, you’ve got a decent chance of finding someone you can have some fun with.
While having a roommate can save you money (and sometimes be fun. Sometimes.), we know that it’s not all rosy. Having someone else living in your apartment can cramp your space — and your style. You could luck out and have a smooth relationship with your roommate throughout your time together, but if you have bad luck, you could find yourself in arguments — or stuck with a huge bill you weren’t anticipating. Here are some of the biggest drawbacks of having a roommate:
Let’s face it, when two (or more) people share the same space for months at a time, there are bound to be problems. Sometimes you’ll have personality clashes. Sometimes you’ll have fights over chores. Here’s a list of some of the most common problems and disagreements facing roommates. If you anticipate having some of these, you should think about signing a roommate agreement. In the meantime, think about these:
- Chores: As we mentioned before, a shared space means shared chores. If your roommate doesn’t do their share of the chores or does them sporadically or inconsistently, this can lead to a major conflict.
- Sleep schedules: If you and your roommate don’t have the same sleep schedules, you might find yourself kept up while you’re trying to sleep or vice versa. Sleepy people are grouchy people, so this can lead to a big blowup or constant annoyance.
- Noise: You like it quiet. Your roomie likes to party (or vice versa). Talking about — and respecting — your individual preferences when it comes to noise is a key way to avoid conflict.
- Guests: How do you each feel about overnight guests? Be sure to talk this over ahead of time, so no one gets annoyed or offended if and when the situation comes up.
- Privacy: You share space and maybe you even hang out with each other, but that doesn’t mean you give up all your alone time. Respect each other’s privacy and you’ll go a long way toward avoiding a major source of fighting.
These aren’t the only issues you may run into with your roomie. Maybe you’ll argue about bills or missing items or just won’t get along, generally speaking. You may get along fine, but you should think about signing a roommate agreement anyway, just in case.
Having a roommate means sharing your space, and when space is at a premium, this can be a major issue. The number of bedrooms you have in your apartment is usually the first concern. If you end up having more roommates than bedrooms, then you’ll end up splitting a bedroom. That’s just simple math.
But even if you have enough bedrooms, you may have issues with your other shared spaces. Do you have similar shower schedules that make it awkward to split a bathroom? Do you have very different attitudes toward cooking and cleaning in your shared kitchen? What about your other shared spaces: does one of you want to play video games while the other wants to watch pay-per-view on the same big-screen TV? When you both share the space, you both have to, you know, share the space!
Ideally, your roommate will be perfectly reliable in all regards: chores, communication, and — especially when it comes to paying rent. You have certain responsibilities you need to meet as a tenant, and you need to make sure your roommate is on the same page as you in all these matters, especially the ones in your lease. If your roommate is late with rent payments, knowingly violates the terms of your lease, or falls short in other responsibilities, like paying bills or doing chores, then you’re in for a headache. In the worst-case scenario, your roommate takes off in the middle of the night and leaves you in the lurch. But aside from that, there are a lot of smaller ways that your roomie can demonstrate a lack of reliability. Communicate with them and let them know your expectations, and keep those lines open at all times to stave off issues that may arise.
Should you get a roommate?
This is a yes-or-no question, but getting to the answer is rarely simple. You have to weigh issues such as cost, privacy, space, and more. But, if you think about everything and consider all your options, you’ll determine what’s right for you. And who knows, maybe you’ll end up meeting the Chandler Bing to your Joey Tribbiani!
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