3 Reasons You Should Avoid Getting a Roommate, and 3 Ways to Do Just That

Roommate argument

Crowded house: You can avoid this kind of trouble by picking up the store-brand mustard from now on. (iStock)

Roommates. Most of us have been unfortunate enough to have them. And I’d guess that most of us rejoiced when we jettisoned them, too, either for our own place or one with a significant other.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, your $35,000 salary may make a roommate essential, and some people renting in dicey areas – especially women – have a roommate for safety reasons, I get that. Or maybe you’re the emotionally needy type who has to have people around you all day. OK. Or maybe you have some type of disability where you need someone around for health reasons. Understandable.

But for the rest of us, we like our own space.

Reasons to Avoid Getting a Roommate:

1. Alone time – Whatever you think of existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, there was one line in his play “No Exit” that he got right, the one near the end: “Hell is – other people.” OK, so maybe I’m taking an unnecessarily dim view of humanity, but really, the apartment renter puts up with a lot on a regular basis in his/her sometimes ridiculously underpaid position in the city, so why should they have to put up with someone else when they get home from a hard day at work? Remember, roomie may have been through a hard day too, creating a sometimes-volatile situation over who controls the remote or who gets to use the stove first.

Related: 4 Tips for Selecting a Roommate 

Worse yet, out of expediency you shacked up with Chatty Cathy or Nosey Norman, and today you’ve just been reprimanded by your supervisor about the volume on your headphones, the same supervisor who later asks you to “come into the office for a little chat,” something about “your productivity” being “a little off lately.” So when you get home from that horrible day at the office, all you wanna do is rest on the couch and forget about everything, watch some TV, drift off in escapist reverie but Cathy or Norman just won’t shut up; they just have to know “what’s wrong?” Don’t add to the misery by adding the “other” to your life.

2. The rent – Once you sign onto a lease, you (and your roommate) are liable for that money each month. Since you don’t live in the other person’s skull, you really don’t know what they’re thinking, or worse, what they’re about to do. Anyone can lose their job, many times through no fault of their own. If they do and can’t find another source of income quick, they may not be able to pay the rent and could fly the coup. You have enough to worry about without worrying about that.

3. Privacy – Cynical readers will note that this reason closely mirrors Alone Time, and they’re right. But this one is a bit more … private, where the actions of said roommate are not only annoying but flat-out embarrassing. Seems roommate Tim is going through an early midlife crisis and is hitting the clubs, hard, several nights a week, which wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t have a predilection for bringing home the occasional lass and being very loud with her when you’re trying to sleep. This happens a couple times a month – when you gotta get up at 7 a.m. the next day for work. Worse yet, the babes (and we’ll use that term generously) he attracts seem to have their own predilection for wearing next to nothing whist prancing around in the kitchen as you, half-asleep at 7:38 in the morning, prepare for your day. Worse yet are the ones who drink your orange juice (or other breakfast beverage) while talking to you like you’ve been tight since middle school. Some people may go for that kinda thing, but I assume most people don’t. Sartre’s looking quite good now, isn’t he?

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How to Avoid Getting a Roommate:

1. Rent in a not-so-chic neighborhood – OK, this one can be a little problematic. Because while we all want to save a little money, it’s not worth getting mugged or continually harassed over. But you don’t need to live in a spanking new apartment building in Arlington or Bethesda with a gym, apartment “store” and indoor/outdoor pool, either. Aforementioned bells and whistles are great, but you don’t need them. For those reading this blog, for what you’re likely getting paid, you’re better off renting something you can afford, even if it’s not as attractive and crawling with amenities. Why not try an up-and-coming neighborhood?

2. Pack your lunch/Skip the morning beverage – Captain Obvious. Didn’t George Orwell say that people have the hardest time seeing what is right in front of their noses? The city is a monetary temptress, with restaurants, luncheonettes, food stands, coffee shops and even CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens all perched on the landscape like virtual ATM machines (and there are plenty of them too, for those who like paying for stuff they don’t need in cash), waiting for you to spend money you really shouldn’t. Packing your lunch could save you quite a bit of money. If you’re not careful, you can easily spend an average of $50 a week on lunch and the morning beverage of your choice. Actually, with the mid-afternoon coffee or chai thrown in, and maybe a little trip to CVS for some candy … good Lord, for some of us, the weekly total can climb a bit over $50. But we’ll use $50; that’s 200 bucks a month (again, some will waste even more)!

Related: Must-Know Budgeting Tips for Your First Apartment

I’m not sure what packing your lunch costs, but it can’t be that high. Another tip: I know there are days when you’ll need that caffeine fix, I get it, you’re gonna buy your latte or coffee (and muffin) at times. But most work places offer free coffee, and many also stock tea, which of course is caffeinated. If they don’t, buy a box of fairly-cheap Lipton and store it at your desk; all you need is hot water and you’ll be set for a long while.

3. Buy generic –This of course dovetails nicely with number two. Now, if Oreos are your absolute favorite and you cannot survive without them, you’re gonna buy Oreos. Done deal. But for the life of me, why do you need French’s Mustard or Saran Wrap when the generics will work just fine? Be smart; buy generic where you can. Believe it or not, many generic soda flavors (excepting cola) are pretty good and quite a deal when compared to what they’re charging these days for brand-name 12-packs. Toughen up, once you’re a rock star you can use $100 bills to light cigars for all I care.

Find your next apartment in the area with Apartment Showcase.

Scott D

Scott D

Scott is a local writer and has been with the Apartment Showcase blog since its inception in 2010.

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  • Solid advice. Definitely relate to the “privacy” thing. Unfortunately, given the price of rent in NYC many people have no choice but to get roommates!

  • Anthony

    Just like Peter mentioned it’s difficult to live alone unless you have an affluent spouse, excellent income, hefty inheritance, among other things.

    I’m lucky that my rent stabilized apartment is dirt cheap and I don’t have to deal with roommates but not everyone has that luxury. Mostly agree with your list though.