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

Switching to the iPhone: What’s the True Cost?

Smartphone cost comparison for iPhone 4 and othersI’m not going to lie:  I’ve always been opposed to iPhones in the past.  My feelings even confuse me bit, as my tech-saviness is definitely above average (must be my “keep things simple” mentality kicking in).  I’ve always been skeptical of the high cost and necessity of owning one.

iPhones are not cheap. The cost of owning an iPhone is around $85 per month.  This is at least $35 more each month than what I’m currently paying. I’m certainly not alone in considering all the costs when switching phones.

Secondly, while I definitely feel there are a lot of great uses for them and there are many people who can utilize them for work and productivity, I also think the majority of people that own them don’t really need them. Personally, I’m on the borderline between needing one to do my work and owning one just because they’re cool.  I anticipate that I’ll be on the move more often starting later this year, and, with online ventures, I’ll need to access the web more often.  However, I already spend 10+ hours a day in front of a computer between work, emailing, and blogging.

Despite these reasons, I’m considering purchasing an iPhone (or other smartphone) sometime this year.  Before I make the switch, I’ll have to clear up some of my reservations and questions (hopefully with your help!)

Here are my concerns about “costs” of owning an iPhone, above and beyond what’s paid for monthly service:

1. Will I actually get more work done? Or will I waste more time? The potential is definitely there to get more done with increased access to the internet.  I can respond to emails and comments, read other blogs, and do other things that I would normally only do on my laptop.  But there’s also the temptation to spend time playing games or surfing the web.  I don’t want to get an iPhone just to goof around on it.

2. Will my life be more convenient to a degree that justifies cost? This goes with point #1.  While I might get more work done, there are other iPhone applications that can help me, too, like GPS when I’m lost or Yelp when I’m looking for a good restaurant.  It’s difficult to really quantify benefits like these, but I think they are important to consider.  I know iPhone users will argue with me that they use their phone all the time to find places and things.  But is this always necessary or could they get by without an iPhone in some of these cases?  While I’m sure there would be plenty of times I’m glad I have an iPhone, I’m not sure if that’s often enough.

3. Will I spend more with other purchases, too? On top of the $85 per month price tag, there are other costs associated with owning a smart phone. Some are one-time costs, like a case and charging accessories.  But what about online purchases? I’m mostly concerned that an iPhone will give lead to more impulse buys, either through the iTunes store, Apps, or other online purchases. even has its own iPhone app.  While I’d definitely be careful, I think a lot of these purchases will be inevitable from time to time.

4.  Will I utilize all the features? First off, I don’t talk a lot of my phone currently, and I don’t use 450 minutes each month.  With my heavy computer usage as it is, I’m not always sure how often I’d be away from my laptop and need to access email or internet.  In fact, I often enjoy escaping my computer for a few days when I’m camping or simply away from home.  On the plus side, I would like to take more photos, and I think I would do that if I had a better cellphone camera than I do currently.

5. Will I be more removed from the world? This is somewhat of a fear of mine.  I’ve noticed the power that an iPhone has to isolate people by distracting them from everything going on around them.  I don’t want to be on an iPhone constantly, especially when I could be interacting with others instead.  Plus, my girlfriend can tell you how glued I can get to a computer already.

A lot of this post is negative towards iPhones but reflects my true feelings.  But the fact that so many people own them makes me wonder: Am I simply missing the point of smart phones? However, part of me still worries that it’s a poor financial choice.  I don’t want to get an iPhone simply because it’s popular.

What are you reasons for owning or not owning a smart phone?

Does your iPhone help you with any money-making or savings goals?

Are my concerns valid?  Share in the comments below.