Personal Finance

The Pros & Cons of Living With a Roommate

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Housing is a huge financial and personal decision at any age. Most people imagine graduating from college and moving into our own space. But with a struggling economy accompanying a higher cost of living in many major cities, that’s not always possible.

More and more people are moving back in with mom and dad or choosing to live with roommates. This living situation can last for a few months, years or even decades. Before deciding what is right for you, consider the pros and cons of sharing your space with another person.

Pro: Building Valuable Friendships

Living with someone new expands your social network considerably. It can introduce you to new connections for your personal and possibly even professional life. Your roommate can be a boost to your social life immediately or in the long run. Even if you have no plans, they are always there to grab dinner with or even just watch a movie and talk in the apartment.

Having another individual around also keeps you from living in a depressive manner (binge-watching Netflix and not showering for an entire weekend perhaps?).

Con: Ruining Valuable Friendships

It is important to keep in mind that not everyone is in a mood to socialize at the same time. Roommates should have a semblance of understanding and respect for each other’s desires.

If your roommate has a big presentation tomorrow and needs to be well-rested and less stressed, it is not the night to have a 20-guest dinner party. Furthermore, not every pair or group of friends are compatible as roommates. Think hard about not just whether you get along with your friends but also whether you have similar living styles (night owl vs. early riser, etc.). Not being considerate or taking your friend-turned-roommate for granted can ruin a relationship.

Pro: Cheaper Rent

The financial advantage of living with someone is probably the main force behind having a roommate. Shared living space means shared expenses — with rent as well as utility bills. Splitting costs usually translates to bigger or nicer living conditions as well.

Con: Less Privacy

Having a roommate means that you cannot always go about your day in peace or make up the rules as you go along. There is another person there, and you need to be considerate of their needs and timetable just as you expect them to be of yours.

Just because you want to have a romantic evening with your significant other, it doesn’t mean you can take up the living room with a candlelit dinner. A roommate also brings new security risks — such as through the invitation of unknown guests when you are not home. Consider having a lock for your bedroom door or hiding your valuables.

Pro: Shared Responsibilities

With a roommate, pesky chores and maintenance are not your sole responsibility. There is a shared responsibility for keeping up cleanliness. Cleaning supplies, food and other expenses are often shared in a living situation because this further helps cut back on costs and storage. You don’t both need to buy milk if you can each use only half of a carton in one week — sharing is caring (and a way to save money!).

Con: Deciding How to Share Those Responsibilities

Responsibility and finances can become a huge source of contention. Someone may fight you on the purchase of household necessities or even utility costs by claiming that the usage was not shared equally so the financial burden shouldn’t be either. Roommates also tend to exaggerate their contributions which can lead to arguments  because while one person believes he or she is the only one who takes out the trash, the other is thinking no one else ever unloads the dishwasher. You also end up sharing things you don’t think about, like common space, televisions and bathrooms. This may mean you need to get up earlier to take a shower or miss out on your favorite show because your roommate beat you to the couch.

While there are many items to consider, it is important to be honest about your own style of living when contemplating getting a roommate. It is also important to choose the right roommate — this cannot be overstated. Whom you live with and how you behave as a roommate make the situation either a positive or negative one. Remember to be polite, while demanding respect from a roommate. And set basic rules and financial understandings before the big move.

Image: iStock

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