More roommates = more money + more fun

street houses colorful
Abstract:

Ever thought about finding some roommates to save money?  Well, getting one roommate would save the average American renter about $6,000 per year, while getting two roommates would save $7,600 per year.  Despite the diminishing marginal returns of extra roommates, there’s actually a lot to be said about the non-financial aspects of platonic cohabitation as well.  Hear me out…

A little background:

Throughout my college, grad school, and bachelor days (roughly 10 years), I was lucky enough to live with about 25 different people. These roommates brought incredible richness and variety to my life… I owe many of my greatest memories to them.

Of course, there were times when having roommates seemed less than ideal (competing for shower time early in the morning for example, or dirty dishes piling up), but those were the exceptions (and good character building anyway).  The pluses definitely outweighed the minuses, for example

thanks to roommates I…

  • got really good at NBA jam
  • lived in a better location than I could have otherwise
  • had a little extra money to go out on the weekend
  • paid off student loans much faster
  • learned how to really step up my cooking game
  • got ridiculously good at nerf basketball
  • had significantly larger social circles
  • met a few potential ms. flannels
  • got to vent about work on a regular basis
  • was exposed to all sorts of new food, ideas, music, movies, books, etc.
  • got tournament-level good at N64 super smash brothers (fox all the way)
  • traveled more
  • lived with Jung Youth, an up-and-coming rapper (opened for Mobb Deep recently, touring the U.S.) (his new song actually takes place during our time together in NYC, check it out..) (I’m personally a big fan of the J Dilla tribute album)
  • was more active, although maybe partied a little more often than I should have too 🙂
  • learned how to play handball
  • etc.
nyc skyline

good times in nyc

I could go on and on; it sort of reminds me of the LCD Soundsystem classic, All My Friends.  For me, the phase of life that stands out the most for having roommates was my early working years.  There is something really challenging about those first few years of work… the transition from school, with all that free time and vacation, to 40+ hours a week, 50 weeks a year is a really difficult pill to swallow.

So it was nice to have roommates around to blow off some steam, vent about our crappy bosses, have a beer, play nerf basketball, go to the park, throw darts, and/or have some epic smash brothers battles to dissolve all that stress.  That phase of life would have been a lot less enjoyable living alone.

But I don’t mean to wax poetic strictly about male bonding and all the friends I’ve lived with over the years.  The real point of this post is to look at the one-dimensional aspect of roommates: saving money.

The numbers:

So how much money do roommates save?  To answer this question I looked at U.S. average rents for studios / one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom apartments.

The base case is that someone lives alone in a studio or single-bedroom apartment.  Then I compared that to living with one roommate in a two bedroom apartment or two roommates in a three bedroom apartment.  Throw a little bit of utilities into the mix (internet, water, electricity, etc.) for $100 a month or so, and here is what you get:

Living with one roommate:

  • 10-Year NPV: $60,309
  • 10-Year ROI: 78%
  • 10-Year Payback: 0.6 years
roi - get a roommate

click for link to live spreadsheet

chart - get a roommate

Living with two roommates:

  • 10-Year NPV: $7,6017
  • 10-Year ROI: 118%
  • 10-Year Payback: 0.5 years

roi - get 2 roomates

Commentary:

Okay, so not everyone will live with roommates for ten years, but it is hard to argue with over $60,000 for just picking up one roommate, or about $6,000 per year.  Two roommates is closer to $7,600 every year on average.  (Roommate number two must be a real slacker, only bringing in an extra $1.6k every year…. probably a lazy dishwasher too.)

So that’s that on the financial side… roommates save a ton (TON!) of money over the long-haul… almost enough money to cut 1.5 years of work off the average worker’s career every decade (not to mention all the other non-monetary rewards discussed above).

A quick aside about group living:

I don’t live with roommates anymore because I get to live with my one and only (plus our adopted four-legged friend), and the sacrifices of adding a third person to the mix would outweigh the benefits for us at this stage in life.  But I do know couples that still make roommates work, and I actually think it is a pretty cool arrangement.  In fact, the Afford Anything blog recently had an entertaining post about this exact thing.

Plus, as I’ve harped on many times before, more time with family and friends = more happiness. Social connection is arguably the key to happiness according to the positive psychology folks.  And guess what; living with friends and/or family is a great way to ensure you spend more time with said individuals.

Denmark is a great example of this.  They are one of the happiest countries on the planet, and according to the Happy documentary, they also have a larger percentage of their population living in group arrangements than any other country in the world.  Without a doubt, there are other factors that contribute to their happiness, but I’d guess that community living is likely one of the most important.

dutch bikes

The Dutch also love their bikes.. very forward-thinking bunch.

In the movie, the residents shared community spaces, gardens, kitchens, etc., but they also had their own private apartments.  The parents assumed shared responsibilities for looking after the kids, and because of group meals, families only had to cook one dinner per month.  Not to belabor the point, but the kids seemed to especially enjoy community living, developing sibling-like bonds with all the other youngsters running around.

There are surely financial rewards to be had in this kind of living situation as well, and compared to living privately with just our family or living with roommates, community family living would actually be an ideal situation for the FG crew… but that is the topic for another day.

Conclusion:

Living with roommates is first and foremost a fun, rewarding, and character-building experience, but it also saves a whole bunch of money.  And when you’re young, poor, and just starting your career, it’s arguably a really good move.  Even later in life, group living situations probably bring a lot of the same benefits.

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Comments

  1. Ahhh roommate living! So cheap. It’s really the only way for a young professional to live in a high cost of living area.

    I’ve had good roommates and bad roommates. The worst was a group house where one of the guys turned out to be a closet meth addict and disappeared one day along with everything valuable in the house. I never got any of my stuff back and I ended up losing more money than I would have saved.

    Lesson learned: Always have a key locking deadbolt on your bedroom door when living with roommates. Never made that mistake again, and never had anything stolen.

    The second worst was another group of guys that I didn’t know very well but it was cheap and near work. I was working 14 hour days, and came home one night to find the police and fire all around the house. Turns out one of our roommates, who no one had seen in a while, had actually died in his room. The owner/roommate got concerned after not seeing him for a week and discovered the body.

    So that was fun.

    My room in that house was only $275 / month… so on the bright side I was able to save a bunch of money!

    I had plenty of non-disastrous roommates as well. The terrible ones loom larger in my memory though 🙂

    Much happier now to live with Mrs. FW and Frugal Hound. The best roommates of all!

  2. I think if you don’t live with roommates as a single person as you mention are losing so many things from income to social circles to a better living, couldn’t agree more.

    Mrs. Even Steven and I have talked about a family living arrangement in the future, i’m going to watch the Happy documentary seems like a fun watch.

    • Let me know what you think… we loved it. I wish family / community living arrangements were more common in the U.S. I feel like there isn’t really much opportunity for that kind of lifestyle in most cities, but maybe I’m underestimating things. Admittedly haven’t checked it out yet, but do plan to for our next move/s.

  3. I once read about a woman who was able to quit her job because she rented out both her bedrooms and then slept on the couch. Roommates are not my ideal situation, but I would do it again if necessary.

    Also, if you liked the movie “Happy” (produced by Tom Shadyac), you should watch the documentary “I AM” which is about Tom Shadyac and his downsizing. Here is a multi-multi-millionaire who sold his mansions and stuff, moved to a trailer home (granted, it is on Malibu beach) and chose to bike to work… all while becoming much happier.

    • Roommates are like the ultra simple version of becoming a landlord I guess, haha.

      I’m adding I AM to the queue right now. Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. marvin mcdude says:

    I love this post. Thanks for writing it.

    Definitely something to think on.

    MM

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