Can Living With a Roommate Save You Money?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Living with anyone can be difficult, and whether you are living with a partner, a friend, or a family member, taking on a roommate can be particularly challenging. Trying to determine who will pay which bill when, and how much will be paid, along with who will get the bigger room, and so on, is sometimes very stressful. However, some people really enjoy living alone, and unless you find someone who you mesh with perfectly, it can be difficult to have someone else around all the time, even if they have their own room. Living alone can also give you time for self-discovery, and a sense of independence. The price difference can make living with someone worth it though, and some people actually prefer to live with roommates. There are many ways that living with a roommate can save you money, but there are also times when living with a roommate won’t cut your costs at all.

Many people assume that living with a roommate will save them money because there are two (or more) people to split the bills. While this is often the case, sometimes it isn’t true at all. Before taking on a roommate, you should determine how much you will save on rent. If you are comfortable living in a studio, or a one-bedroom apartment, then you may find that sharing your space with a roommate doesn’t save you much, if any, money. On the other hand, if you live in a very expensive area, even affording a studio apartment for yourself might be difficult, in which case you might have to get a roommate.

Still, don’t assume that having a roommate alone will save you money: If you are only going to save money on a bigger place, first you should determine if you really need more space. If you can’t afford a two-bedroom without a roommate, but you can’t afford a one-bedroom with equal living space, you won’t really be saving money by having a roommate.

Another consideration is how well you know your potential roommate. At some point in your life, you may be randomly thrown together with a roommate (like in college), but if you can avoid this situation once you are responsible for your own utilities and bills, you should. Even if you determine who should pay for which bills, and how much that person should pay, there’s no guarantee that your roommate will actually pay their share. This could leave you in a financial or legal mess.
There’s also the possibility that your roommate won’t be trustworthy, especially if you don’t know them ahead of time. Your new roommate could steal, break things, or even commit identity theft. If your roommate ends up being irresponsible or even a thief, you might even lose money instead of saving it.

Even if your roommate pays their share and doesn’t steal anything, you still might later face a battle over which stuff belongs to which roommate, and so on. If your roommate is irresponsible, you might end up paying more for your apartment than you expected. Not only do you need to keep the apartment in reasonable shape in order to get your deposit back, but if your roommate frequently leaves the air conditioning or heater on unnecessarily, leaves multiple lights and electronics on, or just forgets to lock the door, these are all additional expenses that you might not be budgeting for.

There are also many other roommate types that you might want to avoid, like the roommate who takes up all the space, the dramatist, and the super-messy roommate; these roommates might not cost you money, but they could hurt your sanity.

However, although you should be cautious when selecting a roommate, if you can find a good one, you can potentially save a lot of money. If you are able to cut your rent in half, or even significantly lower it, by having a roommate, then you will free up money for other uses. You also will have someone to share the utility bill with you (if you have one). Having a roommate also is a great way to share bills that don’t go up based on usage (like a cable bill or a land line phone bill, within reason); these are bills you might have with or without a roommate, so splitting them can be a great way to cut costs.

You also can save money by sharing big-ticket items, as long as you write down or agree ahead of time who will keep them later. If you bring in a couch and a kitchen table, and your roommate has a television and a recliner, you both will have to purchase less items than you would if you lived alone. Even having one person come in with lamps, silverware, and decorations will save you money.

You also might find that having a roommate can help cut transportation costs. If you are able to share a car, or take a taxi together, you will spend less on gas and on car repairs. The same is true of food: Although there will be at least two of you eating, if you can take turns making food, and then wasting less leftovers, you will also cut costs. Still, you have to remember that if you plan to share items to save money, you both have to be willing to share.

If you do decide to live with a roommate, there are many ways you can bring peace to your living situation. Several websites and apps can help you split expenses, and divvy up chores. Discussing finances with anyone can be difficult, and deciding who will pay for what, and be responsible for which tasks, ahead of time, can help make it so that you will save money, but also avoid too much stress.

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