While in college it seems everyone is, or everyone acts like they are, broke. Terribly, horribly, mac and cheese, $3 burrito broke. Then, we graduate and some of us get high paying jobs, and some of us get…jobs. However, while this can be a temporary problem when going out to dinner with friends in the first category, it can seriously impair roommate relations. I love my two roommates, but the three of us are in different economic situations, with one girl in my leaky boat, and the other sailing away in a virtual yacht, or so it seems to us.
We recently discussed decorating the apartment and this led to a few hurdles, as L wanted everything in our living room to match and look ‘adult’, while M and I smiled nervously and thought of our sickly bank accounts. We nodded and agreed that something should be done, because while we had couch, TV, TV stand, rug, and chair, they were a hodgepodge of styles and, in an ideal world, redecorating would be terrific. But, this is the real world, so neither M nor I made any claim as to when this process of buying new things would commence. Ideally, for me, this would happen in a few years–when I got a better paying job. But, I wasn’t sure L could wait.
And, it should be said that she wasn’t bringing home Pottery Barn catalogues. Rather, since what we had already was working, perhaps not perfectly, but working nonetheless, even IKEA seemed like too much. Needless to say, this confused the heck out of L, and M and I were growing tired of shifting uncomfortably in our seats every time the subject came up. The situation finally came to a head when L asked us point blank what was going on. To be honest, it was a bit nerve-racking and a bit embarrassing to admit that we didn’t have the money to buy the dining table and chairs or the multiple vintage frames (L doesn’t like posters). But, it was a relief.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, tell your roomies the truth; they can hold it against you when you don’t do your dishes, but not for living within your means. Thinking back on it now, along with the range of rent we were looking at, the three of us should have also discussed how we wanted to decorate before we moved in together–if we had, this wouldn’t have become an issue. Avoiding it, however, solved nothing—and only exacerbated the problem.
Thankfully, M and I were lucky. After telling her L that it was a $ issue, not a matter of style, L shook her head, rolled her eyes (in a nice way) and sighed, “I’ll buy it myself, no problem. Why didn’t you just say so?”
Well, because money between roommates and friends is uncomfortable–especially if you don’t have it.
If you’re looking for further sources of inspiration the NY Times wrote a piece (it’s the second article on the page) dissecting the tumultuous relationship between friends and money back in May. No matter which side of the dollar sign you fall, it’s a good read.