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After a Year Living Alone, a Return to Roommates

In just five years since college, I have experienced every living situation imaginable (read on for the list). Based upon my rental resume, one would think that once I found myself living alone, in a modest one bedroom, I would stay put. I didn’t.

Recently I made the difficult – but financially wise – decision to give up an apartment all by myself to move to a shared condo with a roommate. For the forfeited privacy, I will save $400 a month.

Sharing living space is never easy, but I think it is often most difficult when you are friends with (or in love with) your housemate(s). In fact, sometimes rooming with strangers makes a lot of sense. How do I know? Chalk it up to experience. Here’s a breakdown of where I’ve lived since college:

  • I rented a 10×12 room in New York City, across the street from a Harlem housing project, sharing the apartment with an immigrant single mother and her teenage son.
  • I lived back at home with my parents.
  • I lived with my girlfriend.
  • I rented a room in a home owned by a couple of guys my age.
  • I lived alone in a one bedroom apartment.

Now, I am back to living in a condo with a roommate (sometimes two, on the few days a month the owner is not traveling internationally).

When I was living with roommates previously, I couldn’t wait to have “a place of my own”.

Once I got that place, it was everything I had hoped for: peace and quiet 24 hours a day, and the freedom to cook, play the guitar, or have friends over whenever I pleased.

But, boy, did it cost me. It cost $1,000 a month, to be exact. Now, that rent included utilities – even cable and internet – and was a great deal for Eastern Massachusetts. But at the end of a year in that apartment, I realized I was paying for space I didn’t use, and didn’t need. Though I had achieved one goal of living alone, I was also deferring my other goal of owning a home, because every month of expensive rent was less I could put into the bank.

Between visiting friends, visiting my parents just fifteen minutes away, and traveling for business, I was hardly home. When I was home, I was usually sleeping. So I sucked up my pride, hit Craigslist, and amazingly found a perfect shared living situation just a mile from my old apartment (and my job – I got to keep my super-easy commute!)

In addition to having a bedroom and private bath on the 3rd floor of the condo, I had a great first impression of my roommate, which always helps. Two weeks in and we have hardly seen each other, which seems typical for busy professionals our age.

So far, I don’t miss living alone. I know sooner or later I will, but then I’ll just look at the $400 going into my bank account each month and all will be well.

Have you ever lived in a strange situation to save money? Or gone out on your own despite the expense? I’d love to know!

I post to the real estate and renting category every Tuesday. Next week’s post will discuss how to find a great shared living space. Need a reminder? Please subscribe to my RSS feed.

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Comments

  1. I’m currently living in a strange situation. My husband and I married young and both fully intended to reach our respective career goals, both requiring graduate/professional school. In order to suppliment our meager student salaries, we have lived with a roommate for two years. We are glad to see our time with a roommate coming to an end this summer but the thousands we have been able to save by not taking out student loans is more than worth it!

  2. I bought a 2 bedroom condo early in graduate school (I live in a city with cheap real estate, so this was doable on a graduate student stipend) and rented out the second bedroom to a roommate.

    4 years later when I got married, my husband moved in… but my roommate didn’t move out. Initially, the arrangement was going to be temporary, but all three of us like it so much we decided to extend it – probably up until we decide to have a child.

    I’ve become a huge fan of shared living arrangements among adults. If anything, it’s actually more “normal” when looked at in the context of how things are done around the world, it’s more frugal, it’s more environmentally responsible, and I’m sure if she moved out we’d just immediately accumulate a bunch of clutter we don’t really need in the new space.

    Plus, all three of us work long hours, and it’s nice to have more casual social time just sort of built into your day – a friday evening when my husband and I and she and her boyfriend are all cooking and eating and chatting is happy and comfortable in a way the occasional dinner party rarely is.

    I also agree that it’s often best to get to know someone through living with them rather than to move in with someone who’s already a friend. This is what I’ve done, as well.

  3. In DC, there’s all kinds of ‘group housing’, but it’s not what you think. It’s basically a really crowded house full of renters. I was able to live in a tony part of DC for cheap rent because I was willing to have 4 other housemates and share 2 bathrooms and 1 shower.

    I sucked it down for a year till I could move out on my own. It was worth it. I actually moved out mostly because I got boxed out of the shower one too many times before work and couldn’t afford to start my shift late without getting in trouble. I decided that it was time to get a place on my own then. (There were some other complicating factors as well.)

    Roommates are a great way to save money if you have the space for it. I currently own a studio and can’t really divvy the place up for 2 people. But I would if I could!

  4. Good luck! As you said, the inconveniences of living with a roommate will be made more tolerable by the growing balance of your savings/investment account and net worth statement.

  5. I found this post after googling ” roomate again after living alone”. I’m going to save your blog and read more! I am currently living in property which I bought specifically to rent out . I purchased it in 2007 via short sale and am VERY happy I did. However … after chasing a renter for a bit of money ( $540 ) , I just decided to live here. I wanted to keep expenses low and got a roomate after 5 year of living roomate free ( 29, started at 24 )! It’s going ok. I feel like I walk on eggshells a bit though because I don’t want to make her feel like this is just ” my ” space. We have our own spaces though ( the place is 3 levels and we just share the main one ) . It’s working so far!

  6. Ok after college it’s my opinion that both male and females should live on their own in their own house, apartment or condo. I never believed or understood having housemates or roommates after college unless it your girlfriend or boyfriend. Girlfriends/boyfriends is a completely different situation but I’ve never understood having roommates/housemates after college. It seems like though way more adult grown up, college graduated, professional women still have roommates/housemates!! Why????? It seems like after one graduates college and get’s on with their professional lives they had the “college rommates” and when your done with college it’s time to live on your own unless you have a boyfriend or girlfriend but having housemates/rommmates after college just seems so not grown up. It seems so annoying after college to continue to have “roommates/housemates”. If you can’t afford the house, condo or apartment on your own then move but it just seems wrong after college to continue to have roomates/housemates. Once your graduated and out of college it’s time to live on your own until you have a girlfriend and or a boyfriend. I think also it completely fine to live with your girlfriend or boyfriend before getting married. Actully I think it’s healthier living with your girlfriend or boyfriend before marriage because then you allready know how each of you live, how well you live together.

    • I’ll confess I’m a little mystified as to why you don’t consider sharing space to be “grown up.” By who’s standard? All I can guess is that you grew up with those cultural mores and have little curiosity or interest in questioning your assumptions. I hope that works out well for you.