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Living Rent Free: Respec(k)ting Yourself and Others

Roommate situations are rarely ideal, especially if you’re a young adult living at home or with a relative. According to recent studies*, there are more people between 18-35 living with parents (32%) than by themselves (14%) or with a partner (31%). There really is no reason to rush into big bills; it can certainly make you more a-debt than adult. So while staying somewhere rent-free is undoubtedly one of smartest ways to save money, it’s not always stress free.

It can be frustrating living with someone who has the power to say, “This is my house and blah blah rules and opinions,” because they just about always have a point. That is their house. However, every person has the right to feel comfortable and at ease at home, whether they pay one, none or all of the bills. It’s not about entitlement, but a mutual respeck.

When your housemate agreed to give you a place to stay, they also agreed to respect you. All parties involved must have an understanding that the space you share is not just where you all rest, but also where you recuperate from the world. It’s tough enough out there, you guys deserve to cohabitate in peace. It’ll take work on both of your parts, but you as a semi-permanent guest, should expect to go the extra mile.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make your expectations clear. Nothing inspires passive or direct aggression like a misunderstanding. The best way to avoid mishaps and beef, is to be clear about what you need from each other. Discuss important details, like the house rules and how long you intend to stay, to avoid surprises.
  • Turn your consideration levels up to 150%. If you haven’t been home in a while, you probably don’t remember that unwashed dishes really piss your mom off or that your dad hates loud music. Thinking about others when you act can smooth your transition. They’ll appreciate your effort.
  • Find a way to financially contribute. Yes, you’re there to save money, but don’t pretend you can’t do that while helping. If you can cover the light bill, volunteer. If your pockets aren’t that deep, keep the house stocked with groceries, laundry detergent, trash bags or anything you can.
  • Respect requests. If your housemate asks you not to do something, respect that and don’t question it. You have no idea how much it may hurt or disappoint them to have you deliberately ignore a direct request. They wouldn’t mention it if they didn't care. Don’t jeopardize your lifestyle.
  • Get out of the house! You need a break from your housemates besides work, school or other requirements. Go grab a drink with some friends or see a movie alone. Find a comfortable beach or park to read in. If you have a passion or hobby, go take a class. Time apart may just save your relationship.
  • Use the economic advantage wisely. The whole reason you’re in this living arrangement is to save money, so be sure to actually do that. If you’re saving to leave or planning to stay long-term, the people who are sacrificing their privacy to give you a home would hate to see you wasting that opportunity.
  •  Have an attitude of gratitude. Whether they’re your biological parents, some other relative or a friend of yours, they don’t owe you shit. By law anyone over 18 is on their own, as children in the foster care system know all too well. Admit it, they’re doing you a huge favor. Be grateful.     

Positive thinking along with thoughtfulness, compromise and communication can alleviate the tension in your home and create harmony. These tips can honestly be applied to any situation where two or more people live together. So put em to work, you owe it to your household. 

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