My House in Shifts: From 3 Housemates to 6.5, and Back Again
I have been called everything from "economical" to downright cheap. Sometimes I let my friends and family make me feel bad — guilty, even — about my low-cost lifestyle. And other times, I am proud to call myself a "frugalista.'
After living at home with my parents for one year, I had finally saved up enough money to put a down payment on a property. Carpooling and eating in for 12 months was bound to make a girl want to blow her money on one giant investment!
The condominium I fell in love with was too good to be true. It was in an amazing location (just a mile away from the bustling town center and Kiplinger-ranked night-life of West Hartford, CT) and boasted a first-class gym, social room, and swimming pool. But my dream home was four times my annual salary, and I'd only planned on spending two times what I brought in a year from my job as a materials science engineer. I knew it was an amazing property — and an even more amazing investment opportunity — so I bought it, knowing full well that it would mean renting out the second bedroom.
Two bedrooms, three housemates
Elsa was not only a colleague, but a dear friend — someone who could get me into clubs that I wasn't cool enough (or rich enough) to get into for free, and more importantly, she knew how to make her own sushi. She had me at "sushi."
The rent money that came in certainly helped with the mortgage payments, but I was still way in over my financial head. Matt was a good friend of ours who worked on the night shift. When he told us his sublease was about to run out, we joked, "Why don't you move in with us? You sleep when we work, and we work when you sleep!" We all laughed for few seconds and then realized that it might not be as crazy as it sounded. (I personally couldn't help giggling as the dollar signs rolled in front of my eyes, like an Atlantic City jackpot.)
The official arrangement had Matt sleeping on the couch, paying me $450 for the pleasure of not having the privacy of his own door. And being the hippy that he was, he didn't come with too many things. He was also a vegan who rarely ate, and he never used the dryer after washing his clothes, which suited me just fine as the sole utilities financier. This also helped to offset Elsa's "princess showers," which she couldn't seem to tear herself away from.
After three months, I was actually making a profit of $100 a month. For anyone who grew up in a boarding school or loves the company of others ALL THE TIME, I would highly recommend this unique, social lifestyle. I was often woken up at the crack of dawn when the third shift ended, but this was usually forgiven with the receipt of a five-minute back massage to start the first shift off on the right foot! And what can I say? Eating free, made-to-order sushi in my pajamas was a luxury not many can say they've had.
Two's company, six-and-a-half's a crowd
As the months went on, each of our situations grew more interesting. And three interesting situations — whether you multiply, add, or take something to a power — can quickly turn to chaos.
Elsa announced that she was pregnant. This not only meant that her boyfriend moved in, but it was also the end of my pajama-sushi fantasy. Matt started bringing over female suitors. This was fun at first, but I soon found myself texting through the walls to Elsa, "OMG can u believe we can hear everything?!" and "i have 2 use the bathroom! can u set the sprinklers off so they will go away?" Finally, I got engaged to my boyfriend, whose couch I used to sleep on when I was studying abroad in London before we even got together. And yes, he moved in, too. My condo had gone from a habitat of three to a habitat of six. And a half.
Back to normal (that is, if "normal" means privacy and not renting out beds by the hour)
Eventually, Elsa moved out. But that was only after 8½ months of hot flashes, baby showers, and false alarms. Matt and his flavor-of-the-month moved into Elsa's now-vacant room, and I was back to only making some money on the condo, and not a profit. His latest girlfriend was a city slicker, well-to-do, and didn't have the same desire to live in a commune as he did, so they soon got a place of their own in the city. (But only after he sold his car, got a job closer to home, and got a bike.)
This left my then-fiancé and me all to our lonely selves. It was certainly a change going from the chaos of six-and-a-half bodies to only two, but it was nice in a strange and quieting way. If you like privacy and other associated marital normalcy, I'd highly recommend living alone with your fiancé. Do I miss the rental income? Not really. Elsa and Matt only gave me a small portion of their monthly paychecks towards the mortgage. As it turns out, husbands give the whole thing!
This is a guest post by Higgins Bealing, an engineer by day (trying to save the planet through green initiatives) and an MBA student by night. She divides her time between West Hartford, CT and Ithaca, NY and has found many ways to pinch pennies through carpooling, renting out her home, and writing for environmentally friendly blogs.