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Should I get a roommate?
Roommates help pay the rent and utilities, but is it worth it?
When you’re apartment hunting, there are a lot of factors that come into play. You’ll look at the location, apartment size, and building features, among other things. But, for most of us, the most important factor when determining where you can live in the price. And, depending on your financial situation, you may be wondering, should I get a roommate?
So, you might consider getting a housemate. But does that really save you money? In most cases, it will save you money, especially if you live in an expensive city. Read on to see how to figure out if getting a roommate is right for you!
How much are apartments in my area?
Rent is going to vary based on where you plan to live. What state you want to live in, whether you plan to be in the city, the neighborhood you want to live in — all of these play a role in determining how much rent you’ll be looking at.
Here’s a sampling of typical rent in a sampling of cities and how much you can save if you get a roommate in each one:
|1 bedroom median rent||2 bedroom median rent||2 bedroom w/roommate (assume 50% savings)||Monthly rent savings compared: Renting a 1 bedroom alone vs. a 2 bedroom with a roommate|
Source: Rent Jungle
As you can see, depending on where you want to live, you can save quite a bit of money if you share the rent with another renter. Of course, you may want to consider other factors, such as noise, space, and personal boundaries, when deciding if you want to find a roommate.
How much should I be paying in rent each month?
The most common way to look at how much you should be paying in rent is to look at the price as a percentage of your income. Traditionally, most people have looked to pay 30% of their monthly income in rent, though this can vary from region to region.
In big cities (and in certain neighborhoods in smaller cities), you might have to stretch your money, spending 40% of your income or more on rent. Take some time to weigh the amount of money you’re willing to pay against how much apartment you can get in the area where you want to live.
How can a roommate help?
Roommates can help with your living situation by more than just contributing to the bills, although that is a an important part of it:
- Rent. This is the biggest reason why most people take on a roommate. Depending on city, neighborhood, and apartment size, rent can be expensive, and a roommate can share the burden of rent with you, possibly cutting your monthly payment in half in some cases.
- Utilities. Heat, electricity, wifi, cable, and other utilities may go up slightly if there’s another person living in your apartment, but when you have two people, you can split the bill down the middle, and this should save each of you in the long run.
- Food. If you and your roommate chip in to buy groceries, then monthly expenses will drop for both of you. Food can also be an area of contention though and some roommates prefer to keep food separate. There’s nothing worse than looking forward to that pint of ice cream in the freezer only to find out that your roomie finished off the night before.
- Chores. There can be a lot to do in your apartment to keep it ship shape, and having someone to help you mop the floors and clean the bathroom can be nice. If you find someone who doesn’t mind doing the chores you hate, you can set up a chore arrangement that works for everyone! If you decide you’d rather pay someone like Handy to come in and clean for you then you’ve got someone to help pay to have your apartment cleaned!
- Companionship. Living by yourself has advantages (you can binge all three seasons of Stranger Things over and over again without bothering a soul), but it can get lonely. Having a roommate around to watch TV with, eat meals with, and talk to can be fun, if you get along, and can make life a little less lonely, which can be nice.
- Renters insurance. There are some cases when it might make sense to share a renters insurance policy with your roommate as well. Read here to find out more about that.
There are certainly other factors that may come into play when making this decision. It’s a classic choice: economics vs. privacy. Decide if your bank account would be better if you have a roommate, and weigh that against your desire to live by yourself. Use our Roost resources to help you make your decision.
Sample roommate budget
A roommate agreement can help you determine the types of behaviors that are expected in your apartment, from noise levels to bedtimes and more. But another good document to draw up is a roommate budget. This way, you and your roommate (or roommates) can be clear about who is paying for what — and how much each roommate is paying!
Check out our sample budget below to see what it might look like!
|Shared living expense||Share roommate #1||Share roommate #2||Total|
|Household expenses (bulbs, batteries, etc.)||$20||$20||$40|
|Hygiene products (toilet paper, etc.)||$10||$10||$20|
The above is just an example, and it can be modified. You can add more rows if you have more shared expenses or delete some if some of these don’t apply to you. You can also add more columns if you have more than one roommate.
Again, it’s just a starting point, but a chart like this can help keep everyone organized and accountable!
Does having a roommate make sense?
There are many factors to consider when answering this question, and the financial part of the question, while extremely important, is not the only factor. You’ll want to be sure your roommate is reliable (after all, if they’re going to pay part of the rent, you want them to actually, y’know, pay it) and able to communicate.
You’re going to run into problems — whether large or small — with your roommate at some point, and you want to be able to have a frank conversation with them to try and work things out.
One good way to address these problems (or to avoid having them become problems in the first place) is to create a roommate agreement. This document will help set expectations for how you and your roommate.
You’ll both agree to share responsibilities for certain things (paying rent and bills, cleaning, etc.) and you’ll agree to some ground rules (noise levels, overnight visitors, and more). You’ll also put down in writing what’ll happen to a roommate who breaks the contract.
Type it up, read it, and sign it, and you’ll have a document that lays out the nuts and bolts of your roommate relationship, making for a smoother living experience for all of you.
How do I find a roommate, anyway?
Finding a roommate means knowing what you want in a roommate and then knowing what questions to ask. Think about the qualities that you want in a roommate and formulate a series of questions that you’ll want to ask a potential roommate.
Think about behaviors that are important to you: cleanliness, noise, sleeping habits, reliability, etc., and use those to inform your questions.
Then, use the resources you have to try and find people to interview. Ask people you know. Use social networking sites to try and find roommates or use one of the many roommate-finding apps out there. Carefully interview potential roommates, focusing on the questions you formulated above.
And remember, you want this roommate to help you with the rent, so make sure you ask them about their income situation: do they have a steady job? Will they be able to pay their share of the rent every month? Then, choose the best roommate from the bunch and live happily ever after (or until your lease is up!)
Will the roommate help you save money?
For a lot of you, this is the bottom line. You may be lucky enough to be in a situation where you can room with your closest friend, but it’s more likely that you’re weighing this option for financial reasons. So, when you do the math, will living with a roommate save you money?
The answer is “probably.” The charts above will go a long way toward helping you wrap your head around the economics of it, though you may have to do a little digging to determine specific pricing in your area. Either way, take the time to think about the pros and cons outlined above before signing a contract with a new roommate.
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