Making Space For Roommates: Are the Savings Worth the Hassles?

Please enjoy this post, originally published in January 2011.

Currently, as I have since my freshman year of college, I am living with roommates.  I just moved out of a place where I had 3 roommates (plus one pesky dog) in a small, four bedroom apartment in downtown New Haven.  It was a cramped little place, with only 4 small bedrooms, a mini-kitchen, and 1.5 baths, all on one floor.  I now live in a slightly larger place, but it’s definitely not my dream apartment, either. Despite this, my rent is less expensive than anybody I’ve talked to in New Haven and I’m located about one mile from my job.

While the location is great, having roommates the past 7 years is starting to wear on me.  I’m torn on what to do next when I move out this summer.  Here just some of the many factors I’m considering:

The case for roommates:

I can afford a location I would not be able to otherwise.  From my experience, single bedroom apartments are anywhere from 50 – 100% more expensive than renting out a room in a multi-bedroom apartment.  This makes the cost prohibitively expensive with my income in areas like Boston and New Haven.  In order to find a cheaper, single bedroom unit, I would need to move into a less-desirable area.  At this stage of my life, living somewhere with restaurants, bars, and other fun things around is important.

Utilities are shared.  Not only is rent more expensive in a single bedroom apartment, but, if I’m living alone, I have to cover all utilities myself.  Internet, electricity, and heating can ad up to a a lot when it’s no longer split three or four ways.

Roommates provide company. While I haven’t enjoyed all of the roommates I’ve lived with, I’ve had many that I’ve gotten along with very well.  I like having other people around to talk with, and I find it lonely when I’m all by myself.  It’s a bit of an unknown when moving in with roommates that I don’t know ahead of time, but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

The case against roommates:

Some expenses are out of my hands.  I’m typically a very energy conscious person.  I turn out the lights whenever I leave the room, make sure my computer and other electronics are turned off when I’m not using them, and I like to keep the heat around 62 degrees.  But roommates don’t always share the same values that I do.  They leave lights on, forget to turn the TV off, and prefer the thermostat stay around 70.  While my energy savviness often translates to savings on utility bills, I’m essentially helpless since my roommates just aren’t on board.

There’s less space.  With roommates, I obviously have less space to myself.  My bedroom is my own, but the other 80% of the apartment is shared.  In a smaller apartment with little storage, this can be tricky to maneuver.

But more noise.  Roommates can be noisy and may have a different sleep schedule.  At my last apartment, I had to sleep with earplugs every night simply because my roommates liked to stay up late.  The wall were also paper thing, and I could hear just about anything going on in the room next to me.

Other considerations: unwanted guests, damages, dealing with leases, cleanliness (or lack thereof), clash of personalities and all-out disaster.

Roommates are always going to be cheaper, but there will always be drawbacks, too.  I will probably continue to have roommates in the near future since I still prefer to live in popular and expensive areas.  If my income increases to a level that I can afford to live alone (or if I move in with my girlfriend), I’ll definitely consider moving to a single bedroom apartment.  For now, I’ll do my best to choose my roommates carefully

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photo by: army.arch


  1. I had roommates for a long time. I made and saved a lot of money that way. Now I have 3 other roommates. 1 is my wife. The other 2 are my kids… Not saving or making anymore 🙁

  2. I will never go back to having roommates. Two of the biggest issues were the smell since my last roommate couldn’t cook and ended up burning everything (one before just mad food that stunk like garbage). The other reason is privacy. If you or any of the other person/people wanted to bring someone back or have a date-night staying in, the logistics stink.

    • Good points, although I’m happy to say my roommates don’t smell. All things considered, it really comes down to cost for me. I’m paying about $460 interest + utilities a month where I am now (and I live in the city with the lowest vacancy rate in the country). Having my own place would mean doubling that (I’m guessing at least $900) if I wanted to live in the same neighborhood (which allows me to commute and live without a car). It’s tough for me to justify that right now.@Eric J. Nisall – DollarVersity

  3. On balance I prefered roommates over living alone. The main issue is cost and locations, as you point out. Plus, it’s fun living with others. You have an instant social network to hit restaurants and bars with. Like good fences make great neighbors, strong ground-rules make for smooth roommate living. You’ve got to make sure everyone knows wha everyone else is ok with on everything from rent to cleaning, friends, visitors and more.

  4. Yeah, you’re right. I’ve never had my own apartment so I didn’t touch on those things (which I wish I could afford right now!) It’s really just about the cost for me.

  5. Interesting – I’m not sure I’d give up those things to live alone. It really all depends on who the roommates are. I’ve had mostly good luck, but haven’t really had roommates that I’ve considered my best friends, either. I could see it being a lot of fun to live with people I really liked, but it could be a nightmare on the other end, too.

  6. I think it ultimately comes down to whether or not you can stand to be alone or not. I’m comfortable being alone so I’d have no problem not having roommates. But I also know people who can’t stand to be alone for 5 minutes, so they are always “needing” roommates. I think the awe of having them wears off as you mature – wives don’t really do very well with roommates.

  7. I could definitely save money if I had roommates, but I like having my own space. I’m more of a quiet person and I like to control my surroundings, so for me paying a little extra is worth my sanity.

    I did have one roommate in the past that worked nights and I worked days, so we barely saw each other. That was a nice arrangement.

  8. I agree. The pros of living alone are nice and peaceful!

  9. Haha… I love my personal space, so I would find 3 roommates too much. But, at the same time, I realize that if I don’t get some sort of sharing/partnership, FinCon12 may be more difficult.

  10. Ugh, I think I my tolerance goes down the older I get. I love my friends but couldn’t imagine sharing living space with any of them (let alone strangers). I’ll take the added cost of living alone.

  11. 101centavos says

    I’ve kept in touch with a couple of my old college roommates, we had some good times together. Some others I don’t remember as fondly. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn nothing’s good happened to them since. They were that detestable.

  12. It really depends on the room-mate. Personal and private space is a precious thing, especially in smaller living quarters!

  13. 1st and most important step with roommates: get a Hand Bidet Sprayer. With these you don’t really need Toilet Paper anymore so you’ll save allot of money, no fighting over who used the last of it and you’ll never run out. Oh and you’ll all be cleaner too! See

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