The Wall Street Journal

Roommates vs. Living Alone


The added expenses of living alone can come as a shock if not budgeted properly. These two Washington, D.C., area professionals compare the monthly costs of living alone versus living with roommates.

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- When you did move into your own place,
was there anything really surprising about that,
that you found in terms of the cost?
- I wish I had planned it better where I had a budget,
I knew exactly what I was gonna do in terms of each week.
I need to spend like $50 on food and no more.
I can't go out this weekend.
But I didn't plan it well at all.
I was like how am I gonna make this $50
stretch (laughing) two weeks?
That's a lot of ramen.
(playful music)
Hey, I'm Dave Han.
I'm 29, I'm an attorney,
I make between $70,000 and $80,000 a year,
I pay $1,300 in rent, and I live by myself.
- My name is Raquan Weterburn.
I'm 27 years old, I work at a non-profit organization
as a research assistant, I make $42,000 a year,
I pay $1,100 a month in rent, and I live with one roommate.
- That's a mouthful.
So I started living by myself
maybe around four years ago?
So I was just a year out of law school.
Found an affordable apartment,
or what I thought was affordable at the time.
This was before I was really good at making a budget.
So I've been living in the same apartment since.
- So you weren't trying to find
another Craigslist roommate? (laughing)
- I wasn't 'cause finding that next roommate
on Craigslist or whatever is so stressful.
- Oh, it's stressful.
- 'Cause I don't know who that person is
and I don't know if we're gonna vibe.
So I had to move out on my own and it was a good decision.
- You took the first opportunity you could
to move out on your own.
- I mean, I felt like the opportunity came onto me
because I was dealing with a lot of changes
and on top of that, I gotta change my housing.
It felt like the easiest decision
but it definitely was a lot more expensive
than I thought it'd be.
- (laughing) That's a good warning.
So my current apartment is actually my second apartment
that I've lived in post-college.
This one was a huge upgrade in my opinion from the last one.
My previous apartment was a basement apartment.
I finally was able to afford to move above ground,
but with roommates.
I really valued living somewhere that was centrally-located,
easy to get to work,
but also really easy to hang out and cultural things
'cause that's something I really value
about living in the city.
I'm from the middle of nowhere (laughing).
I've got a really nice, big bedroom
and the above-ground location.
- So I live just outside the city,
a little further out than you do
and our rents are, I mean, I pay more,
but not dramatically more than you do.
What would circumstances be
for you to be living by yourself,
if it had to be further outside the city?
- I would definitely want it to still be
kind of close to a center, like a city center,
have it's own kind of vibes.
So you live in Silver Spring, which is a great neighborhood.
They've got the whole downtown area,
where there's restaurants and there's shopping
and stuff like that.
- I mean, of course I would've done it differently
looking back, just knowing what I know now.
I learned those lessons
and even though I wasn't always right
or didn't do everything the right way, it still worked out.
I would want to move into the city again, actually.
So I think for me,
making that additional financial sacrifice
to pay extra money to live by myself in the heart of DC
would be worth it to me.
With your current living situation with the roommate,
would you say overall your decision to re-up on your lease,
was it worth it?
- Um, I think overall, yes.
In terms of my financial situation, it didn't change.
Being responsible with my finances,
I'm definitely at the limit
of how much I should be paying rent.
So you know when you have a roommate,
a lot of times you can split cost on things.
I feel like for me
that's definitely that's come up in my calculations
about things like splitting the wifi cost, toilet paper.
- Yeah, I wish I had those questions
before (chuckling) I went out on my own.
I just kinda took on those costs as they came in.
It definitely was tough the first year
before I got that next raise.
- I've noticed you tear the paper towels in half.
Is that a money-saving measure?
I've seen you do that. - Yeah.
Saves the money, saves the planet.
I definitely cut spending by a lot before
and I kinda just let that go
once I started making more money
'cause I feel like I earned it, you know? (chuckling)
So what are your thoughts on some time in the future,
y'know, living together?
- Yeah, it'd be fun.
Obviously, spending together is a lot of fun
and so yeah, I think that could be something to look into.
What about you, would you go back to having roommates,
even if it's me?
- Only for the right person, you know?
Only for the right person.
And I'm a big fan of the two-income,
one-apartment situation.
You got so much more money to spend.
It's a future thing. - Yeah?
- Yeah. - Definitely.
- I actually ate ramen earlier today. (laughing)
- Did you really? - I did eat ramen.
- From the pack that we bought yesterday?
- Yeah, I had some instant ramen.
- [Raquan] Was it good? - [Dave] It was good.

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