One in four Americans now live alone. That’s a pretty high number when you consider the cost of living in metropolitan areas such as Honolulu. But when you think about the freedom to be yourself at home, as a recent New York Times article illustrated, it seems like a pretty sweet way of life.
“I leave all the cabinet doors open; it looks like a poltergeist went through them,” says Capsun Poe, 32, a political staffer. “I'll also sleep wherever feels comfortable at that moment: sometimes it's the bed, but the living room floor actually calls more often than you’d think.” (Confession: When I bought my place, I made sure I recarpeted with a high-quality carpet and super padding, because I knew I’d be passed out on the floor a lot. So Poe isn’t so unusual.)
My classmate Deb Aoki—a manga blogger for About.com—admits, “I forget that I’m not wearing a bra—until the UPS man comes by!” (No worries, Deb, people in my condo joke that we are a “pants optional” building.) Due to the freedom to toss things wherever they land, Aoki has to throw a party at least two to three times a year so she is forced to clean up, which is one tiny step to her house not being featured on “Hoarders.”
“Living alone allows me listen to boy bands without losing my street credibility,” says 34-year-old ad exec Brandon Suyeoka. “Plus, I can watch romantic comedies whenever I want. On the flip side, I can also watch slapstick humor whenever I want.” (Hopefully this confession gets him lots of dates.)
After rattling off a list of odd things he does because he lives alone, Honolulu construction management project manager Myong Choi’s PG-rated eccentricities include “The five-second rule becomes the 10-second rule—but I do keep my floors spotless! Also, toast becomes a food group in my house.”
Independent living seems to bring out the most eccentric qualities in people…or are they? Maybe they’re just qualities that were always in us, but they blossom in a solo environment because no one is looking.
After yesterday’s flashbacks of my first awful roommate, I thought I should explore the pros and cons of living by yourself or with others. If you’re at a crossroads in life and are considering living alone or getting a roommate, think about the various costs involved before you make that leap.
Whether you rent or own, it can be expensive to live alone. Bearing the rent/mortgage by yourself is a huge undertaking, not to mention the cost of utilities, repairs, furniture, and appliances. There’s also a huge misconception that having only one mouth to feed costs less than feeding a family, but you have to account for paying higher prices for smaller portions, or inevitable wastage.
MyMoneyBlog.com has a pretty good and realistic approach to hard costs of living with others. Their formula breaks down the estimated savings of getting a roommate, in which the cost of living is the square root of the number of people living together. So the square root of 1 is 1, meaning all the costs are yours to take care of. Two people in a space means the cost of living is the square root of 2, or 1.414—so you’ll pay 70 percent of what you would pay if you were living alone. Living with two other people brings your expenses down to 50 percent of what it would cost to live alone.
If your goal is to save more money and you don’t mind potentially living with oddballs, roommates may be the way to go.
As long as the oddball isn’t you.