Let’s be completely honest, housing and living costs have sky-rocketed over the years. The average rent cost in America for a one-bedroom is easily over $800, with some states boasting rent prices at $1,500 or more. Two-bedrooms are typically 30-50% more than a one-bedroom. Considering the fact that many American’s make less than $50,000 a year, just $800 a month could mean 1/5 of their annual income alone. And that’s not including utilities, parking costs, and more. And all of that does not account for the costs of owning a home. So what are you to do when you don’t want to be house poor, but want a place to call your own? Well, you can consider getting a roommate to save money.
Getting A Roommate To Save Money: The Pros
Before you smirk and say “I’ll never get a roommate, I like my [space, privacy, freedom, etc]”, consider the fact that in many countries, this is the norm. Many people live with family and friends for years, and use the money they save to pursue other hobbies or education. Sure, we live in America, the land of the free, but those countries are on to something.
Below are the pros of having a roommate.
They Really Do Save You Money
In my research, I found that having a roommate in a two-bedroom apartment can mean over $10,000 saved every single year. Imagine what you could do with an extra $10,000 in your pockets.
And, if you’re splitting other costs too, like Wi-Fi, electric, gas, and other bills, you could potentially save even more.
You Can Split The Costs On More Than Rent
Which brings me to my next point…
A roommate can (and should) pay their portion of the household bills. Which means less that you have to pay out of your own pocket.
I checked with a few of my neighbors who lived in one-bedroom apartments. Their average electric bill was around $110 a month. For my two-bedroom, I pay just $150 a month. If I had a roommate (which technically I do, but they’re my husband and child so they don’t count), that would mean that I’d pay just $75. That’s a $35 dollar savings just by splitting the costs of a bill.
Yes, I know that’s a very rough estimate. Your utilities will vary depending on…
- your location,
- what you pay for, and
- how much you use when it comes to your utilities.
However, you could save quite a bit of money on the other costs associated with being in a home if you split them with a roommate.
Having A Roommate Can Mean Less Time Spent Cleaning/Fixing Things
I know, I know, this doesn’t technically save you money. However, it does save you time, which can mean more time to make extra money or more time to manage your money.
For example, instead of doing the dishes by yourself every night (or ordering in because you’re single and it’s easier), you and a roommate could alternate the days when you do dishes.
You can also:
- Share the responsibility of furnishing the place (which means less out of your pocket to buy items like lamps, couches, etc).
- Share the responsibility of fixing things and/or paying repair costs.
- Have the opportunity to spend more time focused on other aspects in your life that help you save or make money.
Having a roommate is especially helpful if you own your home. Most likely, you’ll spend more money “fixing” things than a renter would. And if your roommate has agreed to go 50/50 on repairs (or pays extra “rent” to cover the costs), that means less money out of your pocket on something you needed to fix anyways.
They Lower The Chance Of Not Being Able To Afford Your Lifestyle
Being house poor is a real thing. And many people find themselves house poor at some point in their life. Some people also lose jobs, lose income, or get into circumstances (like having a baby or losing health insurance) that make it hard to afford their lifestyle. This is normal, and unfortunately, a part of life.
However, having a roommate can mean the difference between getting evicted and just paying a late fee. It can also help you stash away extra money in case a job loss or added family member comes along and you weren’t expecting it. Having a roommate gives you the freedom to make financial choices that won’t mean the possibility of being put out on the street, and financial security is a great feeling.
Getting A Roommate To Save Money: The Cons
Overall, there are quite a few pros to having a roommate. But there are also a few cons to consider.
Now, I’m not saying you have to be best friends with your roommate. But you need to at least get along, or be able to leave each other alone and respect boundaries. For example, if you’re an introvert, and your potential roommate is a party animal, most likely that will cause issues down the road.
To avoid this con, you need to make sure that rules and boundaries are set up before you move in together. Create a contract that states everything, from personal belongings to who’s going to do dishes on Saturday nights. Both should have a say in the contract, and both should sign. It’s even better if you can get it notarized.
Talk about boundaries for inviting people into your home too. You don’t want a roommate’s boyfriend or girlfriend basically living with you and not paying money towards rent or bills.
If your gut feeling is telling you not to live with someone, listen to it. There are many roommate situations that work out and work out for years. But not every person is meant to be a great roommate. Trust your gut, do your research, and be smart.
Your Roommate Can Cause Damage
I’ve heard horror stories about roommates fighting and then one destroying the property. This is a very rare and extreme circumstance, but it’s important to keep it in mind. Again, this goes back to listening to your gut and setting boundaries, but it’s also important to protect your stuff.
- Get rental or home insurance on your stuff only.
- And, make sure you’re always vigilant about your expensive and sentimental items.
If you get in a situation where you don’t trust your roommate, get a fireproof safe with a code that only you know.
Also, get a lock on your bedroom door that only you have the key to. This won’t keep your roommate from damaging the rest of the house if they choose to do so. But at least they won’t be able to touch your stuff.
Furthermore, have in your contract what happens if someone damages the property or items of the other roommate. Can you sue them? Are they liable to pay back what they owe? How will that all work? It may seem crazy if you trust someone, but stuff happens and you need to be prepared.
Your Roommate Could Cost You More Money
If you’re not careful, it is possible that a roommate could end up costing you even more money. This is especially true if you’re good friends or family members.
For example, in college, I shared a room with a close friend. We found ourselves ordering food late at night, renting movies, and going to extra events just because we were roomies and wanted to hang out.
When I look back now, I can see that I paid quite a bit of money to do those things. Sure, I don’t regret them and they were great experiences. However, it proves that a roommate doesn’t always save you money.
If you’re super close to your roommate, again, set boundaries. Let them know you’re on a specific budget and would love to hang out but it has to be a free or low-cost activity. Don’t let them sweet talk you into ordering pizza 4 nights in a row. And for the love of everything, don’t loan money to them if you can’t afford to. Having a roommate is supposed to save you money, so keep that in mind before choosing someone that can make you spend.
Should You Get A Roommate To Save Money? What Do You Think?
For the most part, getting a roommate to save money is a smart idea. Especially if you’re living situation is long-term, a roommate can save you thousands.
However, if you’re going to get a roommate, be smart about your choice, make sure everyone signs legal documents, and have a contract in place for peace of mind. Roommates don’t have to be a pain, but it’s always important to protect yourself financially no matter what.
What do you think? Are you looking into getting a roommate to save money?
AUTHOR Kimberly Studdard
Kim Studdard is a project manager for online entrepreneurs and small businesses. When she isn't spending time with her daughter and husband, or reading her growing pile of horror books, you'll find her working on her HR degree and working towards FIRE.