We Lived with Our Friends…And Stayed Friends
Before we get to today’s post, I want to thank everyone who nominated us for the Plutus Awards! We are so grateful and honored to be finalists for Best Frugality Blog. Thank you!
Three years after we got our first apartment, the rent was going up. Again. We were thinking about buying a house, but not yet ready. The fee for a month-to-month lease, plus the rent increase, was simply more than we were willing to pay for a one-bedroom place.
At the same time, our best friends’ basement tenants moved out. Someone suggested we move in with them. No thanks, we thought. We’d like to actually stay friends. They also had an infant, which could make the arrangement more complicated.
But the idea grew on us. We looked at other apartments but didn’t find anything we wanted. We were unsure whether home ownership was a good idea for us at all. We had a great longstanding relationship with these friends and our common faith created a basis for resolving conflict. If we could live with anyone, it would be them.
Both families could afford a full-size rent or mortgage, but we enjoyed the mutual benefits of saving money. It was frugal friend synergy at its finest. We settled on $375 for rent and utilities. While we lived there they finished paying off their student loans, and we worked on paying down ours while continuing to save for a house down payment.
Most people would warn that living together is the best way to ruin a friendship, but we remain dear friends. I think we only “fought” once in our year there, and that was just one tense conversation about moving the laundry, which quickly resolved with apologies.
Living with another family did have its challenges. We moved in during the winter and the first week we were freezing our butts off in their basement, even while running up the electricity bill using space heaters. We asked if there was anything we could do, opened and closed some vents, and were much more comfy after that.
We also had to learn to share their galley kitchen, including the refrigerator & freezer. I stocked up less than I would otherwise, we chose certain items to share, and communicated about cooking times. Sometimes we shared meals, sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes we ate our different meals together, sometimes we took our food downstairs to our living area. The shower was also shared–we had a private half bath–but it was fine as long as no one took too long.
We had plenty of space and privacy in the two large lower-level rooms we rented. Fortunately their baby was sleeping through the night by the time we moved in. I’d pity anyone who lived with us during my daughter’s first year!
I also figured out how to balance hanging out with my friend (and mutual friends she had over) with spending quality time with my husband. I couldn’t live in constant slumber party mode with my bestie, though it was great to spend more time with her.
We enjoyed lots of fun times with our friends without having to go out and spend money at all. Each family did some decluttering to make room for each other. We also grew a special relationship with their daughter. Neil even declared himself to be her godfather (we’re not Catholic). I learned a lot about early parenting from their example, and was also on hand to babysit for times like when my friend needed surgery.
A year in our friends’ basement allowed us to save money for our house down payment, but also confirmed we really wanted a house. We ran tons of calculations and decided we’d view our home not as an investment but as a residence. We determined we wanted a house within a mile of these friends. Previously we’d been looking in three neighboring cities. Now we knew our kids had to grow up within walking distance of one another.
Living there also provided a perfect trial for the neighborhood and home style. Most people don’t get to live in a house in their neighborhood before purchasing there. We already knew our neighbors and had a feel for the area by the time we decided to settle down in it. Previously, I refused to view bi-level houses during because I didn’t like the aesthetics. But living in the bottom half of our friends’ bi-level home opened our eyes to all the functional benefits of that blueprint.
Our contract on a home 0.7 miles from theirs fell through and two days later, and the asking price on a bi-level down the street dropped $20,000. We bought it and six years later, we often remark that we couldn’t imagine living any further from them. My five-year-old can walk or bike there, and our kids play together almost every day. We’ve continued having meals together with regular taco nights.
Going against standard wisdom and norms was definitely the best choice for us in this case. Living with our friends was an unconventional living arrangement that not only saved money, but also bought us time to figure out whether, where, and when to buy a home. Both families benefited on financial and relational levels. Since then, we’ve even talked about buying a property together. For now it makes most sense to stay put, but we look back on communal living with fond memories.
This past month we rented out our downstairs bedroom & bath for the first time. It was just for a month, but the space is ready and we’re open to renting or hosting guests there in the future. We’re so glad our friends gave us that alternative and would love to offer the same option to others.
Did anyone else live with friends or family as a married couple? Or rent a room of your home? Would you ever consider it?