Monday, October 19, 2009

Would You Take a Roomate?

There is a reason things have been vacant around here for the last three weeks. Mr. DFx40 and I became roommates with my 20 year old cousin last month. Before you make too many assumptions, let me give you a little more information about the situation.

His Situation
Cousin DFx40 always impressed me when we were growing up. He had a job throughout high school to pay for a used car he was bought from his parents and to pay for his insurance. He had this job while being heavily involved in more than one extracurricular activity. The reason this impressed me is because I didn’t have my first job (outside of babysitting) until my freshman year in college. My parents also supplied me with a used car they were through with and paid for my insurance. Cousin DFx40’s parents were divorced when he was pretty young, and he didn’t get much direction before or after he graduated from high school. After his first year of college he dropped out because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, and he didn’t want to take out more student loans until he figured it out. He found a job that offered more hours and moved in with another family member. Then he got himself into a little trouble when he lost his job and didn’t tell anyone for 3 months. When his parents and his roommates parents found out, they confronted him about it and gave him a few choices. Move home, move in with aunt and uncle, or move in with us.

Our Situation
You might think we’re a little off to offer a spare room to Cousin DFx40 based on his previous record. But when we sat down and really thought about the decision we realized there were many more reasons in favor of letting him stay with us than against.

We understand his frustration. Even though both of our parents helped with out with out insurance while we were in school, we did marry young and we both paid (and are still paying) our way through college. We knew how overwhelming it could feel, and we still feel overwhelmed at times when we look at how far we still have to go.

We are in control of our finances. If our electric bill or food bill goes up drastically before he is able to pitch in we will still be able to fit it into our budget. And because we have been able to pay off so much of our debt, build our savings, and pay cash for Mr. DFx40’s current tuition, we will be able to give him some tips and teach him how to manage his finances.

We have plenty of spare room. We live in a 3 bedroom house (not counting a large game room with walk-in-closet) and we have an extra bathroom. That is more than enough space for all of us to have privacy whenever we want (or need). There will be times when it might get a little cramped, but I think we were created as social creatures and we need daily human interaction.

He is family, and I love him. Enough said.

Your Situation
I will be the first to tell you that although our situation is going smoothly (so far), having a roommate is not for everyone. You may have small children in your house, you may not have an extra room, or you may not know anyone to share an apartment or house with. In this case I suggest you look for other ways to save or make money. But if you are in a position similar to ours, you have the extra room, and you know someone well who needs a place to stay I say go for it. But I do have a few suggestions.

Agree on things before they move in. Decide on things like how much you are going to charge for rent and if that number will cover any increase in utilities. Also think about food. In our situation we are buying and preparing food for him, so we will include this in our rent. He is welcome to eat out whenever he wants, but he has yet to choose that option.

Put something in writing. This is just as important for you as it is for the landlord of an apartment complex. If something goes wrong between you and your roommate, this will be a very important document to have. If things don’t go wrong, it is still good to look at every once in a while to remember what everyone agreed to. I suggest reviewing it regularly to make sure everyone’s needs are still being met.

Learn to be forgiving and always get a second opinion. Sometimes with roommates (especially family) feelings get hurt. Learn to forgive and learn to talk to someone you trust about the situation before any confrontation. I have already discussed a few situations with my parents to determine if I was overreacting or justified in my feelings. It is nice to have some input from a neutral party.

What about you…have you (or would you) ever had to take a roommate? What steps would you take to make sure everything went smoothly?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, way to offer grace to your cousin. Also awesome how you guys are working down your debt. My wife and I are actually doing Financial Peace right. Most of our debt is college loans, but debt is debt!