Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Lives well with others

I’ve lived with roommates I wasn’t related to since I was sixteen years old. I went to a boarding high school and lived in a dorm then and throughout college, so I’ve been accustomed to living with others for more than a decade. When I moved to New York, I immediately moved in with roommates—there’s no other way to afford it, especially when you’re working a stipend-only internship.

As I’ve moved in the city (I’m in my third apartment in four years), I’ve downsized the number of roommates I have, from four other people to three to two to one. My current roommate and I moved in together with the goal of being indefinite. We don’t have a lease so we are free to move at any time. We didn’t plan a specific date to “break up” aside from guessing that we’d probably split after about 15 months—enough time to enjoy our amazing balcony for two summers and then hopefully we’d have super fantastic powerful jobs and be able to afford our own places.

The sad thing is, for the amount of rent and other expenses I’m paying right now, I could already have my own place. We absolutely fell in love with our apartment and so agreed to a price that was $100 per month over our budgeted amount. Then I had to compromise with her on window air conditioners (which I never had before), a bigger cable package (I probably wouldn’t have cable at all) and things like that. When you factor in everything that I’m paying for above rent, I could have a decent studio in an outer borough, or even up in Washington Heights. I wouldn’t have cable, and maybe not even internet, and certainly not air conditioners, but it would be mine, all mine!

Once I realized this, it soured a little of the experience of living with someone else, even though she’s a friend. My previous apartment was dirt cheap split three ways so I was able to save a lot of money—and that’s why you live with people, right? If I’m not actually saving money at this place, what am I waiting for? If I can already afford my own place, even though it wouldn’t be nearly as nice as this apartment, why go through the…well, hassle of living with another person, even if I happen to like said person?

Really, the only thing that is keeping me from moving anytime soon is money. It’s expensive to move! We spent a pretty penny on this place, paying a broker’s fee and buying paint for it and furniture that we’re going to have to split up (note to readers: do NOT jointly purchase furniture with someone you’re not sleeping with. It can’t end well, and I’m not sure yet how we’re going to handle it). I just finally got my security deposit back from the last place I lived, and frankly I’m not entirely sure we’ll get a deposit back from this place at all. They’re so paranoid about every little bit of possible damage I can see them blaming us for things that were there before, despite my careful documentation of the place before we moved in. Since it’s a private home, we have much fewer rights than if we were living in a building.

I think, in the long run, that I will end up moving out before the end of next summer—possibly as soon as this spring or maybe even the holidays. All of my spare money right now is being saved with that in mind. I’m not actually sure that I’ll move into my own place—a recent conversation with my boyfriend has both of us thinking we might be ready to take a big step in our relationship—but that would be ok. It wouldn’t be about living with someone to save money and then not actually saving any money by living with that someone, but about living with someone you don’t want to live apart from (and probably saving money in the process!).

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