Financial Advantages of Having a Roommate and How to Find One

We’ve heard all about your roommate nightmares.

There’s the guy who walks around in his boxers eating all your leftovers, or the girl blasting Beyoncé at two in the morning on a Monday.

You’re thinking this couldn’t be any worse!

Well maybe it could. Before you ditch your roommate for a private pad, take a look at your budget and see if you can really afford to live solo.

According to data from Rent.com, you could be paying an extra $705 per month to live solo in Chicago or another $831 per month in Los Angeles. The same sort of price jumps are evident in every city in America and not just for rent.

When you share an apartment, you also can share the cost of groceries and cleaning supplies as well as the furniture and appliances. Divvying up the costs of those essentials help keep your budget maintainable.

Getting a roommate is one way that millennials can save money, making it easier to pay off student loans and plan for the future. For Kita Wheeler, who graduated from Hofstra with a degree in international business, it was a no brainer when she moved to Phoenix.

“It was just so much more affordable to live with a roommate,” Wheeler said. “It just wasn’t worth living by myself. The apartments I looked at were like $500 more for a one-bedroom, not to mention utilities and everything else.”

It works for people like Kita, but today more and more Americans are choosing to live alone. This year over 35 million people in the U.S. live alone, and that number has been steadily climbing decade after decade.

Keeping Housing Costs Under 35 Percent of Income

Review your budget before you consider joining those ranks.

Financial planners recommend spending no more than 35% of your monthly income on housing. Just because you have the ability to pay the difference between living alone and living with a roommate, doesn’t always mean you can afford it.

For example, if you live with a roommate in Los Angeles, you need to earn a lot more than the $831 it takes to move from a 2-bedroom into a one-bedroom apartment. Sticking to the recommended 35% of your income, you’d actually have to earn an additional $2,374 per month to live at the same standard you had sharing a 2-bedroom.

In other words, you’ve got to take home about $6,600 a month to be able to afford the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in L.A.

How to Find a Compatible Roommate

So the logical solution isn’t living on your own, it’s finding a suitable roommate, according to Robin Owsley of RoomieMatch, an online service that matches you with compatible roommates.

“Living through a poor roommate choice will not be pleasant, but moving frequently will cut into any funds you’d otherwise be saving,” she said

The incurred cost of moving from apartment to apartment (application fee, security deposit and movers) will eat into your savings. If you hire someone to move the equivalent of one bedroom’s worth of furniture, accessories and clothing across town, the estimated cos is $1,200-$1,500, plus whatever the deposits are for rent and utilities.

The smart, cost-effective thing to do is make sure you move in with someone you can comfortably live with. Then you can reap the benefits of living with a roommate.

“The advantages of living with a roommate over living alone are extensive,” Owsley said. “First of all, you’ll have greater personal security and safety, a better social life, and of course more space for less money. But you obviously can’t assume that it’s going to go well and that you’ll actually receive all those advantages unless you pick the right roommate.”

There are plenty of options when looking for roommates. The obvious is friends you already know, but what if you are moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone?

There is a range of online tools to help you along, but be very careful of scams. Make sure you do your research before signing up for any service.

RoomieMatch and Roomster are useful websites for finding available roommates and apartments. Craigslist is another option for finding a roommate. Just exercise extreme caution when vetting potential roommates.

If you went to college, use alumni networks to connect with people in a new city. Many universities have an alumni Facebook group. Join that and be on the look out for people in your area that need a roommate.

Getting the right roommate will ease a lot of pressure financially and help you live within your means.

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