Pros and Cons of Summer Roommates

Spring is coming to a close and summer is quickly approaching ~ although the snowstorm that hit this weekend makes me think otherwise! Second year in a row that we have had a Mother’s Day snowstorm.  What is up with this weather?!

Mother's Day Snowstorm

A Trip Down Roommate Memory Lane

It’s time for Mr. Debt Albatross and I to determine if we want summer roommates. We have hosted two roommates prior and had two completely different experiences.  Our first roommate experience was great.  Roommate 1 was all of the things you look for in a roommate. He was clean, respectful, pleasant to interact with, timely with payments plus much, much more.  He was well-traveled, a great cook, down-to-earth, helped out, and the type of guy who you would want to have a beer with and would leave the conversation knowing more than you had before. He was a bonus to our bank account and to our lives. The second roommate, while also a nice guy, did not connect with us the same way as the first roommate and he also struggled a bit on the tidiness front. (In short, Mr. Debt Albatross was not pleased with the way he left the kitchen almost every single night. It created an awkward, tense environment that was not worth the rental income). We were a bit spoiled with our first experience and now a bit jaded after our second.

We took the Spring off from roommates and now have an opportunity to host roommates again for the summer.  The expected rental income would be around $1875 total.  Not a fortune but certainly helpful to our debt payoff goals.

I’m painting a rosy picture of the first roommate situation and it wasn’t all rosy. Roommates are roommates.  You can’t eliminate the inconveniences of having a stranger in your house, the lack of privacy, the hopefully occasional times where they don’t treat your stuff exactly as you treat your stuff because you own it, the fact that they never seem to buy shared goods such as toilet paper, dryer sheets, or paper towels, or the house guests they invite over – hopefully planned guests but the chance of unplanned overnight guests as well.

Remembering It’s Paid Work

Hosting roommates (and I’m using the word hosting instead of having on purpose) takes work.  Home owners need to provide them with a nice place to live in exchange for a check each month. It’s a two way street. Some of the up-front work includes setting up the room and bathroom with furniture, bedding, sheets, towels, soap, shower curtain, a hamper, etc.  The long-term maintenance includes some basic cleaning, provision of the shared goods as mentioned above, addressing any issues that come up, and the continuous work to make living in the home a good place for them. That last item includes pleasant conversation in shared spaces, respect of their space and belongings, and the creation of a neutral or at best pleasant living environment.

Anytime we got frustrated with Roommate 2, I had to remind myself that he is paying us. We’ve all experienced landlords that think it’s a privilege to live in their home and seem to forget the fact that the renters are paying their mortgage. You’ll hear statements like “we just redid the floors, aren’t you lucky?” or the landlord will deduct money from the security deposit because they have different definitions of normal wear and tear than the law. (I had a landlord in college take hundreds of dollars from our security deposit for couch cleaning even though we kept the couches spotless and barely sat on them in the two and a half months we were there.  I had another landlord send us an angry letter that included a rant about not vacuuming the curtains before we left. Dusty curtains are careless but not unforgivable).

In my opinion, Renters aren’t going to treat a home the same way that an owner would – and that’s just the way it is.  Renters don’t have any long term skin in the game. It’s something that landlords needs to accept and consider in their pricing.

Now there is a certain level of acceptableness that is expected from renters. Roommate 2 who would explode food in our oven and microwave without cleaning it up, left the gas burner in the grill on all night then told us the next day we needed to buy a new one, spilled and left trail mix in the couch cushions of our new couch, left food in the sink instead of rinsing it down the garbage disposal every night, among other transgressions – that crossed the line.  The occasional transgression though should be expected and factored into the pricing.

 Figuring Out Pricing and Making It Worth It

We priced on the low side for Roommate 1 for a few reasons. First, we knew what the competition was pricing and we wanted to beat it. Second, we didn’t know any better.  Since then, we upped the rent $15 per month for Roommate 2 and $70 per month more than that for this summer’s roommates. We told ourselves that the reason we were upping the price for Roommate 2 was cable but we’ve realized recently it’s much more than just cable.  We had to pick a price that accounted for the financial and emotional costs of having a roommate (the toilet paper, utilities, the inconvenience, etc).  All in all, we are expecting to make around $20/day on the summer roommate(s) less any expenses.

When I first did the math and saw the extra income came out to around $20/day I was kind of disappointed.  I used to spend that amount each day on coffee and lunch at work. It seems so small! I bring my coffee and lunch to work now but the math is a simple reminder of how important it is to keep doing so. If we’re going to go through the inconvenience of a roommate, we need to make it worth it by spending less.

We ultimately decided to go for it and will be securing the summer roommate(s) later today.  I can only hope we have a situation closer to Roommate 1 but beggars can’t be choosers!


Bitchy Texts and the Start of a Side Hustle

There is a point in your twenties where your social calendar starts to revolve around weddings – and its great.  I love going to weddings! I love spending time with friends and family celebrating a couple that we all love.  The only downside to this joyous occasion is the expense for the bride and groom and their guests. The wedding reality TV craze does not help the situation.  I personally love a good episode of Say Yes to the Dress or David Tutera’s My Fair Wedding but these shows increase the expectations around weddings and all of the events leading up to the big day.  Between the bridal shower, the bachelor and bachelorette parties, and the wedding – it gets expensive.  Forget it if you are in the actual wedding party.

This leads me to my latest dilemma, one of my best friends from college is getting married in May.  Her bridal party is throwing her a bachelorette party in my state. I am not a bridesmaid but I was invited to the party and will absolutely attend.  I just want to stay in my own house to cut costs. I offered the party planners the use of my house and car and they took me up on the car.

The bridal party ultimately booked a fancy Airbnb apartment near downtown with modern furniture, hot tub, and great views.  It’s a fair price for a large group of girls and looks like an amazing apartment.  I just can’t meet our goal of eliminating 97k of debt this year if I don’t stick to budget.  At the same time, I feel guilty skipping out on the apartment since I was very close to a few of the girls in college.

I had hoped my friends would be supportive of my decision, especially since I communicated it to them prior to booking, but not everyone has read Mr. Money Mustache and “gets it.”  Cue the bitchy texts:


bachelorette party text

bachelorette party drama

bachelorette party drama

I love my friends and I understand WHY they are reacting this way – it just sucks.  Achieving this goal is super important to me and I’m not going to let less-than-supportive friends stop me.

Also, if you get the irony of that last text you’ll like the following articles on two of my favorite blogs.

Your Debt is an Emergency

Teaching a Debt Perspective to Twelve Year Olds


Side Hustle Update:

Moving on, I decided to put our house up for rent on Airbnb and VRBO.  Mr Debt Albatross and I will be renting out our house for a few key events at the university near our house.  We priced the rental on the high end to make it worth the inconvenience of having to find another place to stay during that time.  I’m a bit creeped out by having other people live in my house and sleep in my bed – but there is a price that would make the heebie jeebies worth it for me.

We already got one inquiry! It’s a woman that wants to rent the house for a full month this summer.  I gave her a quote and will wait to see the response. Truthfully, a one month rental goes against our original game plan. We were planning to keep the rental under 14 days so we wouldn’t have to pay taxes on the rental income and so we could face as little disruption to our normal lives as possible.  If we go through with this rental, we’d have to find some other place to live for that month.  It’s doable if we spend some of that time visiting our families or need to go on a work trip.

In addition to the rental income, Mr Debt Albatross has launched his own weightlifting club which we hope will bring in some extra cash.  He already has one paying client!  We both work long hours and really value our free time so we used the “what price would make it worth it” method to price this business too.

We’ll see how these two side hustles pan out!