How do you save money without giving up your social life? That’s the topic of a Yakezie blog swap I’m participating in today with other personal finance bloggers. For the swap, I was paired up with Erin Shanendoah from The Dog Ate My Wallet. I wrote a guest post that is appearing today on her site, and she wrote this guest post which appears below.
The theme for this blog swap is how to save money without giving up your social life. I have a better idea. How would you like to save money while improving your social life?
You can, and you can do it no matter what age you are, as long as you’re not living in your parents’ house. What is this one simple thing you can do? Get a roommate.
Here’s the thing, no matter where you are in life, having a roommate will help you save on housing expenses and bills. In some cases, you may even be able to get better service (think cable) for less money because you’re splitting the cost. This is true whether you’re 20 or 50. The money part is the no brainer part of this equation. What you’re really wondering is how this improves your social life.
The College Years
When you’re in college, it’s time to try new things and meet new people. One of the best ways to do that is to get a roommate or move in somewhere where lots of people share a house- and I’m not talking just getting an apartment with someone you’ve known your whole life. I know there are roommate horror stories out there, but there are also lots of success stories as well- just no one tells those.
Here’s the thing, by living with someone you haven’t known since middle school, you are introduced to a whole new group of people. You get invited to parties or events that you otherwise wouldn’t even know existed. When you throw parties, a wider group of people comes over.
Who knows, your roommate may even become your best friend for life, but even if they don’t, you’re better off for having lived with a stranger. You learn to compromise and what household chores you hate and which ones drive you crazy if they aren’t done. And trust me, knowing those things about yourself in advance makes the transition to married life a lot easier.
Early Post College
At this point, you’re probably only rooming with friends or, at most, friends of friends. You’re much less likely to take in a stranger or live in a group house with strangers, but that’s okay, because your social life is still better (and cheaper) than it would be without roommates. If you live alone, you have to go somewhere to hang out with your friends, or convince one of them to come over to your house. When you’re roommates, you don’t need to go to a restaurant to have dinner together, or hit a theater to go see a movie. One person pays for Netflix, the other covers the RedBox. The more people who live there, the more fun the house can be. And, you still have access to more people as your roommates start making work friends and dating new people, you meet them.
The First Married Years
Let’s be honest- very few people want roommates at this point. I didn’t. In fact, I was really looking forward to it being just C and me, with no roommates. But it was hard financially. We went from paying $1350/month in rent split between 5 people to $1400/month in mortgage, with just the two of us. And, we moved 50 miles south of where we worked. Our social life went even further away. We were out of the house 12+ hours every workday. We didn’t want to drive up to see friends on weekends; our friends didn’t really want to drive that far to see us. If we’d had a roommate, we probably would have been a lot happier.
Married with Kids
I know, it seems odd to have a roommate at this point in your life. You’re supposed to be living this independent nuclear family life. But then, that means your life pretty much revolves around the nuclear family. Having a roommate gives you adult socialization with someone other than your spouse, without leaving the house. There will occasionally be visitors who are their work friends or people you don’t know as well, giving you a chance to talk with adults who aren’t the parents of your kids’ friends. Your world is bigger.
And, if your roommate happens to be a member of your chosen family, you also likely have a built in babysitter. That makes getting out for date night with your spouse, or even the occasional weekend away, that much easier- because there’s already an adult that you trust living in your home.
My step-father died while he was in his mid-60s, and my mom was in her 50s. Having roommates kept her house from being too lonely. It gave her someone to go out with or to stay home with. In fact, it made it possible for her to enjoy weekends at home, instead of feeling the need to be out doing something (probably spending money) because the house wasn’t empty and lonely. She didn’t need the money (in a quirk of our government system, she was paid more in monthly benefits for him being dead than he got for being retired), but she needed the companionship.
Having a roommate has also allowed her to travel without worrying about the pets, because just like with the kids (well, maybe not just like) there’s already someone you trust living in your house, who can take care of the animals when you’re away.
I know for many people, having a roommate once they are married/fully into adulthood seems strange. In fact, some would claim that would mean at least one of those people had failed to launch. I certainly was enjoying our time with just the two of us, when a good friend lost his job in Canada just as his work visa was expiring. He had no job and no place to live. He moved in with us for 9 months while he looked for work.
I’m married to a homebody. While he will have a good time if I drag him out, he’s happiest staying home. The same was true for our friend. Having a roommate actually improved my husband’s mental health and was good for our roommate, too. We were happy for him when he got a great gig out of state, but sad to see him leave.
So when my husband’s best friend of 20 years lost his dog shortly before his lease ran out, and he approached us about moving in, we said yes without hesitation.
After all, we’re saving money, and improving our social lives.
Erin, thanks so much for sharing your guest post here at Money Wise Pastor! Bringing in a roommate is a great way to save money and it instantly adds to your social life!
Has anyone else brought in a roommate to share expenses, outside of the college and early post-college years? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments section. Thanks!