The Benefits of Having a Roommate (Besides Saving on Rent)

by Mikey Rox on 17 February 2012 10 comments
Photo: Robert Judge

Since leaving home 12 years ago, when I was 18, I’ve always lived with someone else.

Most people my age have, in fact. Either they’re cohabitating with a lover, or they want to cut down on expenses by sharing space with others. And who doesn’t? We all want to save wherever we can.

For me, I enjoyed the rent savings that comes with sharing a house or apartment, but also I prefer to have someone around so I’m not lonely (and because I’m afraid of the dark — I feel better knowing someone else is there; go ahead and make fun of me in the comments below).

But besides those few reasons just mentioned, there are several other benefits to having a roommate. Take a look at what I’ve come up with, and tell me if you agree. (See also: When You Should and Shouldn't Rent)

1. To Share the Cost of Household Essentials

If you’re living with other people, it’s everyone’s responsibility to clean the house and share the cost of the cleaning supplies. If that’s not happening, it can create an awkward living situation. True story — I once lived with a closet crackhead who contributed zilch to the house, barely paid his rent, and invited friends over and let them tear into food that I had just purchased. You want to avoid confrontations with roommates at all costs to keep the peace, and pitching in equally in terms of household duties and supplies is critical.

2. For Carpooling

I doubt you and your roommate work together, but if you do, you’ve hit the jackpot on saving on gas and allowing your car to last longer by not using it as often. Even if you don’t work together, however, you can still carpool to other places, such as the grocery store or the mall if you both need or want to go at the same time. When I lived with roommates, I would always let them know when I was going someplace that they might be interested in. I was happy to give them a lift — plus, I had company. One of them (not the crackhead) would return the favor whenever he was going someplace that he thought I might need to go.

3. To Split Entertainment Fees

It’s common for roommates to split utilities and cable, but there are other items that can be shared as well. For instance, a Netflix account. If you live in the same house, there’s no reason to have more than one Netflix account. You’ll have to work out a way to make it work for all parties involved. The one-DVD-at-a-time plan probably isn’t a good idea — nobody will ever agree on a movie — but the three-DVDs-at-a-time plan could work for two or more roommates, and everyone saves more money than if they had their own separate subscriptions. Same goes for magazines. If you both like a particular magazine, why not go in half on the subscription?

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4. To Sit Your Pet

Anybody with a pet knows that dog-sitting and boarding expenses can take a large chunk of change out of your pocket at the most inopportune time — you could use that extra money while you’re on vacation. If you have a roommate, he or she will likely be more than happy to take care of your pet while you’re away. Politely ask them if it’s possible, and offer to show your appreciation by taking them out to dinner, which, unless they’re a glutton, will cost much less than you’d pay for professional pet services. If you want to save even more money, suggest repaying them by doing something around the house, like cleaning the bathroom or another activity that your roommate might normally do.

5. To Become Order-In Buddies

Unless you plan to eat the whole pizza by yourself, you should ask your roommate to share the food and the cost with you. By doing this, nothing will go to waste, and you’ll both be satisfied for less. This works for any kind of order-in that has a minimum delivery threshold, really. If the item you want is $7, but there’s a $10 minimum, you’ll probably end up purchasing an additional item you don’t want to meet the minimum. Before you do that, though, ask the roommate if there’s anything he or she would like. It’ll save you a few bucks.

6. To Deter Would-Be Intruders

Some roommates have different schedules — and that can be a good thing. If someone is always home, there’s less of a chance of an intruder getting away with your stuff. I once lived with roommates, and we had a break-in in the middle of the day. No one was home at the time, but if they were, they could have stopped him. However, if I were the unfortunate one to have been home at the time, I would’ve hidden under the bed like a coward. Note to you — don’t ever live with me.

7. To Unlock the Door When You’ve Lost Your Keys

This has happened to me on several occasions, and I was thankful that my roommate was home when I called so he could unlock the door for me. Better than sitting on the stoop forever, or even worse, calling a locksmith.

8. To Have Your Back When You’ve Had Too Much

When I lived in Baltimore, I had a roommate who I would go out on the town with. And on occasion, I would have too much, but he always got me home safely. I did the same for him; we had each other’s backs. Even if you’re not going out together, it’s still great to have someone in the house to make sure you haven’t overdone it when you stumble home, and if you have, to make the right decision regarding your well-being.

What are some other benefits to having a roommate? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture
Guest

It's odd that I make a comment on a post like that, but how refreshing! While I like not seeing anyone if I want, until recently, I had a basement apartment That I let a person in need use for free.

I'm not a landlord type, but as you say there are benefits.

Guest's picture
Jen

#9 - to supplement my savings, so I can make needed repairs and replace decrepit appliances

Guest's picture

My last roomie totally saved me when I broke my foot walking down the stairs at 6:30am. She found my lying in the middle of the kitchen floor crying and insisted on taking me to the hospital. Good thing too, because it turned out to be a nasty break. While I was on the mend she drove me to work in my car (which is next to the metro that she'd then take to work), walked my dog for me and performed tons of little things like carrying my dinner plate to the table for me - which is amazingly hard to do on crutches.

My current roomie hasn't had to save ME from any total disasters yet, but I often tell him when he absolutely needs to go to the doctor and to refrigerate items that say "Refigerate After Opening" on them. So, I've probably saved his life several times by now. And he walks the dog for me if I'm running late or stuck somewhere.

The extra income is great (I own the condo and rent out the room) but I think I'd really miss not having another person around.

Guest's picture

Watch our for roommates with pets that will pretty much neglect them altogether and always be asking you to take them out, feed them, watch them, etc. On the flip side, don't take advantage of your roommates by assuming they will love to do all these things all the time - Don't forget to say thanks!

Guest's picture
Debbie M

Roommates are also good for showing you new ways to do things. Half my recipes have come from roommates, plus I learned about the wonders of the rubber spatula and having scissors in the kitchen from roommates. I've learned about basically all my favorite bands from roommates. And they've shared good books and movies and exercise moves and party themes and who knows what else.

Admittedly I've been very lucky and never had an evil or negligent roommate (except when they were in plays--then they were negligent about house cleaning). And duh, note to self, opera majors are in plays--that's what operas are.

Getting married will maintain some of the advantages, but I'll have to do more of my learning elsewhere.

Guest's picture
Lois

Hi Mikey:
I am not laughing at you for being afraid of the dark. I do not like it when the sun goes down! I am alone now after the 'loss' of my husband who passed away recently. I have a large room that would be ideal to rent but I fear hassles and problems and I am dragging my feet about renting my room. I did not like strangers in the house even when he was alive to deal with problems that might arise. Now its just me.

Some things I am concerned about: What if they move in and then don't pay or don't pay on time? What if we don't get along? What if they bring people over (I am a social moron, I do not like strangers and anyone who rents would have to agree to a very limited guests policy? What if they move someone else in? What if they wreck my place? What if they steal my stuff?

So, I have many misgivings and yet, like you, I don't like being alone, especially at night (its so creepy and quiet with my husband gone) and of course, I could use the money. But all the possibilities above overwhelm my thoughts and I just don't place the ad or look at the 'room to let' wanted ads.

I love 'Wise Bread'; its my favorite new website and look forward to it every day.
It must be a great writing gig, you are very fortunate!

Mikey Rox's picture

Thanks for the comment, Lois. I'm glad I'm not alone in being afraid of being alone.

If you don't want to rent your home out to someone on a full-time basis, why not try renting on a short-term basis. You'll make more money than you would renting full time, because vacationers are willing to spend more per night, you get to meet people from all over the world (who leave after a few days), and you have the safety of the service on which you're registered to ensure that nothing bad happens to your home. I've written a piece on it here: http://www.wisebread.com/7-steps-to-market-your-extra-space-as-a-vacatio...

Check it out. It may be the answer you're looking for.

Have a great day!

Guest's picture

Nice list! I'm going to use it - with credit of course.

Additions:
For emergencies - big and small. Locking yourself out is a small one, falling and breaking a bone is a big one.

Learning how to do things in other ways than what you learned as you were growing up. I keep all my socks in a basket - learned from a housemate.

Company - someone to ask you how you day was. Even with texting etc. the human connection feels good.

Getting the right housemate - that's more of an issue. I wrote a book about how to do that: "Sharing Housing, A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates."

Guest's picture

There's a lot to be said for having a roommate.

There's also a lot of joy to be found in living alone.

Guest's picture
Cat

As a single mom, having a roommate has been a great way to supplement my income. I'm very picky about who I allow to rent a room because I have children. We will often have exchange students which I find is a great way to expose the family to other cultures.

Once we had an older roommate that was a huge help when our dog had an emergency. She kept the dog still while I drove to the vet.