Roommates Can Save You $10K a Year (but They Can Also Cost You Your Sanity)

Group of young people spending their time in common living room.
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Housing costs are out of control, but this isn’t news. We’re all too familiar with the data sets and articles that scold us for spending more than the token 30% of our income on rent — and that also bring awareness to the fact that, yes, we are overspending on our living situations.

But how do we get around this?

Well, according to Moneyish, one “simple” way to drastically cut your housing costs is to get a roommate.

Wait… simple?

Living With Roommates Is Far From Simple

I’ll give credit to Moneyish: Yes, living with roommates in a major metropolitan can save you thousands each year. The SmartAsset study cited in the article says that splitting rent with someone can save you nearly $10,000 a year in the 10 most expensive rental markets in the U.S. — and as much as $13,000 a year in San Francisco.

I get it — it’s simple math. Take one large number, cut it in half, and you’re left with two smaller numbers.

But simple? There is nothing simple about living with a roommate.

Sure, you’re saving on your monthly rent, but here are a few examples of the actual costs associated with having a roommate:

  • Your food. Robin Hartill, editor at The Penny Hoarder, once had a roommate who would eat her food and leave a buck or two in the empty package. “It doesn’t sound like a big deal,” says Hartill. “But when you’re running late for class and you find a dollar in your Pop-Tart box instead of the Pop-Tart that was the last ounce of food in the apartment, it’s pretty infuriating.”
  • Hygiene. Sometimes you get really lucky and land a roommate who likes to party. You know what that means? Peeing in the pantry. Colleen Rice, email marketing specialist at The Penny Hoarder, once had a roommate who threw a party but wouldn’t let anyone use her bathroom — I guess the pantry was the next best option.
  • Privacy. Jennifer Rothenberg, social media managing director at The Penny Hoarder, once had a roommate who crashed a dinner date… in her underwear. Nothing is sacred when you live with a roommate. Nothing. 
  • Your sanity. Please refer to the above bullet points.

How to Survive Having Roommates

OK, all jokes aside, sometimes you have no choice but to get roommates. And if that’s the case, it doesn’t always have to be a disaster.

If the thought of saving money on rent is alluring enough for you to put up with the obscenities of sharing a space with someone, I can’t say I blame you.

Here are a few ways you can make the most out of the situation:

  • Sign a month-to-month lease if possible. If it’s your first time living with someone, consider taking your new living arrangement by the month. This way, if it ends up being a disaster, you won’t have to wait until your lease is up to GTFO.
  • Don’t leave notes — talk in person. You may have left a passive-aggressive note once or twice in your life (DO NOT TURN THE AIR DOWN TO 60!!!!). However, these tiny tidbits of rage don’t actually solve any problems. Have some beef with your roomie’s laundry all over the place? Talk about it in person. That way, you can come up with a solution together.
  • Keep it strictly business. Sure, living with a friend sounds like a good idea — that is, until $@*! hits the fan. If it comes down to it, make sure you keep your actual friendship separate from discussions about your living situation. Business is business.

Oh, and if things start to get really weird, take care of yourself with these low-cost therapy options.

Good luck!

Kelly Anne Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.