Should I take the leap to live by myself or wait and save?
January 6, 2019 5:28 PM   Subscribe

I can sort of afford to live by myself, but I'm hesitant for financial reasons. At the same time, living with roommates (in general) has induced several breakdowns. What should I do? Snowflake details inside.

This is probably going to sound like a permission post. That's exactly what this is, as I really need to get out of my own head. Please gift me the knowledge of your own life experience!

I've been living with roommates or in dorm situations since for nearly 12 years (I went to boarding school). My mother passed away right at the beginning of this 12 year period, and she was pretty much my whole family, so on breaks I had the pleasure of staying with all the undesirable "friends of family" and estranged family members she kept me from, enduring physical and emotional abuse along the way.

I say all that to say that I'm exhausted with living with other people.

Luckily, I have never had a roommate from hell situation when it comes to post-college: no stolen stuff, no unclean people, no rent unpaid types. But things like:
--roommate having loud sex and then chewing me out for asking her to be quieter
--roommate using my stuff after I asked her not to, then getting angry at me about it
--roommate making a big deal about what type of shelf I buy to use for my stuff in a common space, but then not caring to bother about anyone else's opinion when putting up their own things (like a hideously colored curtain)
--vegan roommate always annoyed when she's in the house and I'm cooking meat, but never saying this was a problem during the roommate interview
And of course the standard things like people being loud when I wish they weren't being, or roommates bringing friends over after midnight and talking right by my bedroom door, or leaving their gross hair in the shower, etc. All with different people.

I'm tired of it. I'm so tired of it I've cried about it multiple times. At times I've also felt suicidal. I'm irritated and frustrated everyday. I've changed my work schedule to avoid my latest set as much as possible.

All things considered, my roommates aren't terrible people. Really, they aren't. But I have nothing in common with them, hate having to engage in small talk, hate being around them, hate when they're home. I've lived with friends, and it's been easier, but still trying at times, and right now none of my friends are looking to move or moving around where I need to be (close to work).

For the longest time I felt trapped, since I live in a high COL area where you pretty much need a 6-figure salary to live alone. I make well below that at my job.

But a few days ago I found a studio in my area for well under market rate, but it would leave me with only about $250 at the end of each month, once utilities, student loans, medication, and groceries are also accounted for. Additionally, since first and security is required upfront, more than half of my (miniscule!) savings would be wiped out. I don't have (or believe in getting) a credit card, so I couldn't use one to offset other purposes. My savings right now is only $5500, and it's all I have. And I do mean all. (re: no family support).

I would be okay with getting a second job and have the time to. I have a 9-5 right now with no dependents. I've been considering really trying my hand at work online opportunities, too, like freelancing. I made $250 my first 2 weeks proofreading on upwork last year, for example (I had to put it on hold because life happened, but I'm ready to try my hand at it again).

My original plan was to wait until June or July to move out and find another set of roommates (on a month to month lease right now) and in the meantime get a better handle of working online or finding a part-time job so that I could save more money, as I feel more at ease the more money is in my savings. But I am so, so very fed up with roommates that I don't think I could do it again. I don't even think I can wait. And this very rare opportunity is (if the landlord approves of me) staring me in the face. But also FOMO is probably a logical fallacy.

So, what should I do? What would you do?

(Thank you in advance.)
posted by adelaide to Human Relations (33 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I mean, if it doesn't work, you can always go back to cohabiting, yes? I say go for it.
posted by emjaybee at 5:41 PM on January 6, 2019 [13 favorites]

I live alone. It's a financial sacrifice. And it's worth every. damn. penny.

+1 to you can always go back to roommates. Give yourself this gift. You deserve it.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 5:47 PM on January 6, 2019 [53 favorites]

I hate to be cavalier with other people's money, but I also think that mental health is priceless. You sound like you are due for a break, so you have this internet stranger's permission to do this version of self-care.
And I think emjaybee is right, there is a safe out if you end up needing one.
posted by vignettist at 5:48 PM on January 6, 2019 [13 favorites]

Will it cost more? Sure.

Will it be better for you? Absolutely.

Do it.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 6:07 PM on January 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

You're tired of living with roommates that you've cried and felt suicidal. You found a studio that you can afford with careful budgeting. I say take it!! Take that studio! You'll be able to breathe, concentrate, think and focus on more on freelancing so go ahead and do it.
posted by foxjacket at 6:15 PM on January 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

Do it! You will have so much more bandwidth for things like a second job or applying for other jobs that I don't think that financial situation is untenable.

Living alone is expensive and worth it! Just do your due diligence to figure out if there's a reason the studio is so cheap.
posted by momus_window at 6:16 PM on January 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

There may be options available to reduce costs in other areas, like maybe your student loans could be reduced with a different payment plan. Also, at least according to Consumer Reports, credit cards can be used responsibly and available mostly for emergencies. Also, if you want more support with the emotional stress, ThereIsHelp.
posted by Little Dawn at 6:25 PM on January 6, 2019

If the new apartment is really a decent apartment under market rate, this sounds like an opportunity you shouldn't pass up. There's a chance everything will go to shit and you will wind up having to find a cheaper place with roommates again, but there's also a chance things will get better and better and you will be a lot happier.
posted by value of information at 6:28 PM on January 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

I lived alone for most of the time I was single, and the sheer pleasure of coming home at the end of the day, shutting the door, and having a whole little space where no other human being was allowed was delicious. I think it was also pretty important to my mental health and well-being. It wasn't always the most economically sensible option but that doesn't mean it wasn't the best for me. It sounds like you can afford it, even if things will be a bit tight for now; this is certainly a problem that is worth solving with money.

Good luck - I hope you get that studio!
posted by DingoMutt at 6:33 PM on January 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

I would do it if I were you.

But if you are really concerned, perhaps there are compromise options?

There are ways to live with others where they are not right in your common spaces, but where it's not as expensive as living on your own. For example, sometimes you can find a boarding situation where you are technically someone's lodger, but have your own entrance, own kitchenette, bathroom, etc, and can avoid seeing much of them. Sometimes if you are really lucky you can find a caretaker position (for a property or a person) where you live in your own space on the larger propery, and where you have set responsibilities at set times, and otherwise are left on your own.

Another desirable living situation is where you share with a weekend commuter, i.e. someone who needs a room during the week but goes home to a family elsewhere in the weekends. These kinds of people also don't usually feel much ownership of the living space, since it isn't their primary residence, so you don't have to put up with e.g. terrible decorating choices, lots of stuff in common spaces etc. And they rarely have visitors.

Could you afford a two bedroom place where you AirBnB the other room (assuming landlord and local laws allow)? The landlord might be willing to agree to something where they take the AirBnB profit, but give you a heavily discounted rent if you do the logistics of the AirBnB meeting people, stocking bathroom supplies, cleaning, etc. Depending where you are, an AirBnB might only have someone staying it in once a week or once a month or so...

It can take a while to set up these kinds of opportunities, but if you know that's the kind of thing you need, you can take your time looking, and it can feel like you are less trapped in your current situation since you have a longer term plan.
posted by lollusc at 6:43 PM on January 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

+1 for going for it! I moved on my own almost exactly four years ago, and despite a couple of brief short-term living with people situations (like < 1 month) have lived in studios/small one bedrooms since. I love it so much. I respond really strongly to unexpected people noises, and so it's just a lovely gift for my nervous system to have undisturbed space to think, eat, exist, be. I think after what you've been through you will find it similarly relaxing.

Two quick notes if you decide to go for it:

- Beware lifestyle creep/hedonic adaptation in general! It's easier to manage the cost of living alone if you don't immediately buy lots of new furniture (grab used stuff when you can), a big TV, etc. Appreciate the space for what it is, on its own terms, and slowly build and grow that/focus on low-cost nesting things that make you happy.

- Anticipate you may feel a little lonely. I adopted my cat Jane 1.5 years into living alone and it's one of the best things I've ever done. She's a sweetheart and asleep next to me right now. I also listen to lots of podcasts, try to host friends and family regularly, cook for people now and again, etc. But really, I would strongly recommend a kitty if it's allowed in the lease and if that appeals to you at all ^_^
posted by elephantsvanish at 6:56 PM on January 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

Do it! You can cut back in other areas.

The only caveat: is there a reason that's not obvious to you why this apartment is under market rate? Just make sure if you can that you really are getting a good deal.
posted by peacheater at 7:15 PM on January 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

I would totally do it. Having your own space is amazing
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:29 PM on January 6, 2019

I was in that situation 11 years ago this month and I went for it. It was totally worth it. I couldn't afford Internet and I ate ramen and off-brand cereal for most meals for a while. There were big roaches and the floors were so bad I got a massive splinter.

I have a house now that I really like, which I share with my husband and children. But the 18 months I lived by myself in that apartment are some of the happiest memories of "home" that I may ever have. To be in charge of my own space...what a gift. Do it for yourself.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:01 PM on January 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

This is really great encouragement, guys, thank you.

@lollusc -- This is good to know and are options I'll consider if this doesn't work out. But how would I find opportunities like this? My apartment hunting experience is limited to Craigslist and Facebook. (Also I can't afford a 2 bedroom place, not in this city).

@peacheater and @momus_window: I'm definitely interested in why this place is cheaper than normal. It's not cheap as to raise flags of a scam, but still. Luckily the current inhabitant, not the landlord, is the one who posted the craigslist ad. (I'm assuming he's at the end of his lease and wouldn't have anything to gain from lying about the place, but we'll see). What would be good things to ask him and to look out for?
posted by adelaide at 8:22 PM on January 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

It might be worth explicitly asking about whether there have been any issues with bedbugs, mice, roaches, or any other pests if you haven't already, as well as mold. It might also be worth asking about the neighbours... whether there were issues between them and the current tenant/s. Not that this would be a deal breaker per se, but it's a conversation that could give you some potentially useful info.

I am also nthing go for it though, unless there is a current pest problem etc! You sound like you really need the physical and mental space and you can always go back to a cohabitation situation if you need to down the road.
posted by DTMFA at 9:02 PM on January 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

(I'm assuming he's at the end of his lease and wouldn't have anything to gain from lying about the place, but we'll see).

He may not be at the end of his lease. Perhaps he's breaking the lease and needs to find a replacement, and you would be paying the rate he had from sever years ago, but it will jump to market rate in three months. Perhaps he's hoping to sublet to you, with or without the landlords approval.

Or perhaps it is the end of his lease, and he gets on we'll with the landlord and doesn't want to leave them hanging but can't send living next to that shitty midnight drummer any more.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:11 PM on January 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

Craigslist and Facebook should not be your only outlets. Look for "For Rent" signs in nabes you like, ask friends, check Nextdoor (maybe you can find a less intrusive basement/carriage house situation) broaden your network, talk to an apartment broker even.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 9:11 PM on January 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

The only thing better than living alone is coming home to the one you love.

I am old (50s) and currently living alone (except when my spawn are home from college. Until you live alone, you do not realize how many compromises you make living with even the best roommate.

I think living alone, even if it is a financial hardship, will lead you to making decisions that will advance your career and life.

Assuming the apartment is legit, go for it.
posted by AugustWest at 9:53 PM on January 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding others about getting information from the owner, rather than moving in and immediately getting a market rate rent hike. Moving in and out costs would drain your savings.

I am suggesting a different route.
Make a six-month plan. Study cheap housing options within range of work, groceries, church, gym and other regular activities. Put the word out among friends and acquaintances that you need cheap housing for one person occupancy.
This may include renting a room over someone's garage, or in a trailer park, or sharing rent with someone who travels for business.
Have a back-up plan if things get sketchy. Good luck.
posted by TrishaU at 10:07 PM on January 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

But a few days ago I found a studio in my area for well under market rate, but it would leave me with only about $250 at the end of each month, once utilities, student loans, medication, and groceries are also accounted for. Additionally, since first and security is required upfront, more than half of my (miniscule!) savings would be wiped out. I don't have (or believe in getting) a credit card, so I couldn't use one to offset other purposes. My savings right now is only $5500, and it's all I have. And I do mean all. (re: no family support).

I'm going to be the voice of dissent and say that it sounds like you can't really afford this. $250 is not a lot of money, and you're talking about putting half of your emergency savings into this place as well? You're literally saying, "I have no safety net other than the money I've saved for myself, and I want to spend it so that I have no safety net at all."

I think instead of moving forward with this place, you should focus on any one or all of:
-getting your second job or freelancing so that you can save more (bonus if you get an actual second job is that you will be out of the house you hate more often!)
-finding a new job that pays more or lets you move to a cheaper neighborhood in your current city
-finding another place with fewer roommates/an uptight person who travels for business a lot. If you've been living with other young 20somethings, just know that there are plenty of broke people in their 30s who want a quiet unobtrusive roommate and are quiet and unobtrusive in return.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:45 AM on January 7, 2019 [11 favorites]

Living by myself in my own apartment was one of the greatest gifts I gave to my early 20s self. :)
posted by azalea at 1:47 AM on January 7, 2019

once utilities, student loans, medication, and groceries are also accounted for

You need to add in savings, so take 50 off that, and what about health insurance? And are you 100% sure you are on IBR for you loans where you can be?

All of which is to say: YES TAKE THIS PLACE.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:24 AM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Another voice of dissent that $250 buffer is not enough to live on your own, especially if your savings is taking a big hit. Sorry. It does sound like you would love it but I think it’s too financially risky for you at this time. I would personally try to double that buffer before considering this.
posted by like_neon at 4:23 AM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Adding to the "go for it" chorus. If you can pay for all the basics and still have 250 left over? To me, that is wealth. You will benefit greatly from being able to breathe your own air and order your own space as you like. Potentially also, with this breathing room, you will be able to consider at some time in the future another shared living situation, and have the leisure to find one that suits you much better. There is in my experience a kind of psychic residue built up from having to deal with unpleasant or troublesome people in ones living space on a daily basis, that can poison future connections if not allowed the space to resolve.

Good luck! and I am envious of your opportunity, to be honest.
posted by luaz at 5:43 AM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

That apartment sounds sketchy, proceed with caution and don't give the tenant any financial information / SSN / etc.

Can you save more aggressively to give yourself more of a cushion and to show you can make a budget with $X for housing work (for the next live alone deal you find)?

Can you take a much longer commute to afford living alone?

Finding chill-er roommates is also a good option, I think you're setting the bar a little low for what you're tolerating.
posted by momus_window at 7:39 AM on January 7, 2019

Chiming in to say that I initially panicked at only $250 left, but then I saw what you'd subtracted out to get there and yes, I think you're in good shape. Do it.
Or at least call the ad and see what the deal is, and keep looking for a place in that price range if this particular one isn't going to work for you. I can feel your pain, you sound really frustrated right now, and it's really exciting to have this opportunity right now - but your original plan had you waiting till July, so if this particular landlord doesn't work out, don't panic! Just keep looking, you've got several months to find the best possible studio in your price range.
posted by aimedwander at 7:43 AM on January 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Do it. But be conscious that it is a luxury and try to remember that going forward. My partner and I live separately and we would do much better financially to live together, but I have to consciously remember when I pay that rent that I am paying more to be in a situation that is better for my happiness and mental health. It sounds like you are in a similar situation. When you can't afford something you want, try to remember that it is because you are making a good decision for yourself to live alone.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:36 AM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

In case it's useful, as you sound like you're also interested in third ways, I'd just say I found it a huge improvement living with just one other person compared to living with a whole bunch of roommates. If you're sharing with eg. 3 people, the odds are high that one of them will be annoying to you (especially if it's the kind of place where people move in and out as individuals, rather than a group of friends who have one spare room). If you go searching for a place with only one other person living in it, you can meet them, get a feel for them, be honest with them about your preferences in a flatmate, and you get to decide whether they're the right person for you to live with. The odds are just better than you'll find someone you gel with that way.
posted by penguin pie at 9:27 AM on January 7, 2019

As a follow up to my previous comment, which was stilted and rushed, I am trying to speak to your feeling of not having a safety net and the possible related emotional impact. For example, my experience with credit cards has been that when used responsibly, they can have a positive impact on a credit score, and they have been a comfort for emergencies, like when I got surprised with a brain tumor diagnosis this summer and had about two weeks to get ready for brain surgery.

And then I called one of my credit cards and asked what was that payment protection thing I'd been paying about a dollar for every month, and then instantly, payments started and continued until the entire balance was cleared. And then my car got stolen, and thankfully returned a few days later, but in the interim, knowing I had a credit card to help get me to multiple medical appointments every week was one of the things that made a huge difference in the scale of how much I was freaking out about the situation. I know that credit cards can be awful, especially for people who use them to live beyond their means, but having a line of credit available may reduce some anxiety, even if it is a less-than-ideal debt to take on.

I also mentioned student loans, because I have a lot of familiarity with the kinds of flexible arrangements, deferments, and forebearances that may be available. On my private student loans, I recently exhausted all of my forebearances under the terms of the loan, but my lender still granted me another one due to my circumstances. Just becoming more familiar with your student loan options could help reduce financial anxiety, because then you can know that if you do get financially crunched, there is some flexibility available with the loans.

Ultimately, though, I am most concerned about your mention of feeling suicidal. I am trying to encourage you to consider more financial options so you feel more secure and less stressed, but I also encourage you to find more emotional support, because there is help.
posted by Little Dawn at 3:47 PM on January 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks for being my internet parents, everyone!
I decided against the place after all. Instead, I'll save a little more for the next 6 months and get a better handle on both working online and what other opportunities there are to live alone (already on Craigslist I saw two more opportunities pop up in the last few days; they're just a bit further than I'd like, so maybe this isn't as rare as I thought).
posted by adelaide at 4:54 PM on January 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Another thing to consider while you're researching your plans: If you must have a roommate, see if you can rent a 2-bedroom or whatever and then have THEM move into YOUR space. You interview people, you check their references (and their social media!), YOU lay down the house rules. That may put you in a more comfortable situation, emotionally. Very best of luck and fab cheap apartment wishes for you!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 4:03 PM on January 9, 2019

Commenting a month later for the curious to say, I'm reneging on my previous decision. The roommate situation has only worsened, and waiting has become untenable.

Logic may say I should save a bit more, but I've come to believe it will in fact be more logical just to leave. One can take only so much emotional harm. One can always find a way to earn more money these days. Not so with having better control of one's mental health.

For anyone in the future who reads this and is in similar situations, I would strongly, strongly recommend leaving.
posted by adelaide at 8:19 PM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

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