The Monetary Cost of Having Roommates

By Maggie Chaffee

One thing that is a blessing and a curse is having multiple roommates throughout your college experience. Freshman year you are assigned a stranger to live with or you get to choose someone.

For most 18-year-olds, they have had their own room or shared with a sibling their whole life. Never have they had to live with a friend or a stranger in the same small room. This is a huge adjustment and I know I was not ready.

I had my own room my whole life and was very lucky. During my three years of college, I have learned the unexpected costs of having a roommate.

I roomed with a girl freshman year that I had met a couple times before and we knew a lot of the same people. We were not close at all, and it was awkward the first couple of weeks living in such a tight space together. The biggest thing I was not prepared for was sharing things we both bought. We had an agreement that we would “switch off” buying things like toilet paper, groceries, and cleaning supplies. We didn’t want to have to deal with splitting the cost so we just decided we would switch off who buys everything. As you can imagine, this did not go exactly as planned.

The first week she bought all the cleaning supplies, and I bought all the groceries. We were both on eggshells, especially with the food. She didn’t want to eat too much of it, and I also didn’t want to eat too much of it. This resulted in a lot of both of us eating out and spending more money as well as the food going bad from not being eaten. Same situation with the toilet paper and the cleaning supplies. We both didn’t want to use too much and leave the other with nothing.

Slowly we started to get more comfortable with each other and things were more normal and working smoothly. Until of course they weren’t. Slowly we started arguing about who bought groceries last and how much it cost each of us. She would say she spent $50 when she bought it, and I would only spend $40 so it wasn’t fair. This heavily affected our friendship and made us argue far more than we would have if we did it differently. But what else were we supposed to do? Have two of everything? We didn’t have nearly enough space to keep that stuff in our small dorm.

We would end up waiting it out till one of us HAD to toilet paper. We decided it would be best if we just bought our own groceries cause we both like different food anyway. We still had the problem with storage. That was another argument. I bought the fridge, and she bought the microwave so it would turn into a debate of who deserved more fridge space or who got to use the microwave first.

Money can take a heavy toll on relationships. Especially living with someone in such proximity that you barely know. Having a roommate and sharing things has been something I have had to learn and deal with while being in college. I have learned it takes a lot of communication and setting boundaries. Even now I live with my closest friends, and we still struggle arguing over who bought what.

I know many other college students and post grads that have roommates that share this problem. The one thing I am certain is that money is not a reason to ruin a relationship over.

Maggie Chaffee is a junior majoring in journalism at the University of Missouri.

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