There are some people who truly enjoy having a roommate because they like having someone around, but most people choose to have a roommate simply for the financial help. The cost of living continues to rise, so even an established professional can struggle to pay bills or live the lifestyle they enjoy without someone to share the rent with. Having a roommate always sounds fun for a minute, but don’t be naïve and think that you will ever experience any problems. Here’s the complete roommate survival guide for the few inevitable bumps in the road whether you move in with your best friend or a complete stranger.
Choose the Right Roommate
Some people make the mistake of looking for a roommate that shares similar likes. This is not always necessary. You don’t even have to become friends. If you are caught up in finding a running partner to train for that upcoming marathon then you might pass up that medical student who will literally never be home or in the way because they are either at school or an internship.
The person you choose does not have to be just like you. Sometimes it is better if they are not, because it can be distracting. If you are busy socializing with your new roommate, your goals may be put on hold or pushed back. Not to mention, they will have friends of their own, and may not have time to hang out with you anyway.
Establish Ground Rules
Don’t assume that your roommate knows what you are thinking or where you stand on something, and don’t wait until a problem arises to establish some rules. Before you even move in together, rules should be established to make sure everyone is on the same page. Below are a few topics you should definitely touch on.
- Visitors – Are friends and/or significant others permitted? If yes, are overnight visitors okay, or should all guests be gone by a certain time? Will guests need to be announced ahead of time?
- Temperature – Will there be specific temperatures that the heating or cooling will need to be kept at to save energy? Are fans and personal space heaters permitted in bedrooms to increase comfort level?
- Chores – If you both think the other person will take care of the trash, unload the dishwasher, vacuum, etc., then nothing might ever get done. Creating a chore list can be helpful. You can even rotate it weekly if you find it fairer. If you live in a house, you need to make sure you include mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, salting sidewalks and other outdoor chores to the list as well.
- Expenses – Deciding who will pay which bills needs to be established, but there are other expenses as well. Who will pay for items that you both use? Garbage bags, paper towels, toilet paper and cleaning supplies are good examples.
- Food – Will you pitch in and share food? If yes, will there be a problem with friends eating over? Sometimes it is easier to split the fridge and pantry, so you both have your own designated food areas.
- Specifics – Is smoking or drinking permitted in the home? Are pets allowed? What time should the radio and television be off at night? Are there any morning rules?
Don’t feel bad bringing things up. It will be much better off if you get everything in the open up front, because this will reduce conflict later.
Communication is Key
Whether you have one roommate or five, it is not always easy to find the time to discuss concerns or go over bills that need to be paid or things that need to be purchased. A weekly meeting will keep you on track and eliminate a lot of problems. Decide on a time when everyone can meet every week for a few minutes, and make this a priority.
It is also a good idea to have a dry erase board to write notes on. When information is read, everyone initials that they saw it, so there is no question whether everyone received the information.
When a concern does arise, deal with it immediately. If you overlook something and just let problems pile up, you will end up exploding. This is not fair to the other person either, because they can’t know you are bothered by something until you tell them.