This May, my boyfriend and I will be celebrating our 6 year anniversary. Many people are surprised that we still don’t live together. We spend many nights together and might as well live together, but the costs of living together would dramatically change our budgets.
As many of you know, four years ago I lived in a studio apartment in Silicon Valley. In 2007 when I moved in rent was $905 a month, utilities included. The next year, a big, evil apartment management company bought my complex and raised my rent to $1100 a month. The following year, when they raised it again to $1295 per month for the large, but definitely not luxurious studio, I moved out and got myself roommates.
I’ve never done well with roommates — both because I’m not always the cleanest of people, and because I can’t stand other people’s noise when I’m in the mood for silence. But this time around things worked out. One of the girls I live with is more of the mother type, so as much as my occasional mess bothers her, she helps keep me on track, and I do my part to keep my mess enclosed in my room. We’ve had one roommate move out, due to her schooling taking her to another part of the state, and my consistent roommate’s girlfriend moved in. She’s never home (she works until 11pm at night) and is very quite. The motherly type roommate can talk a lot, but generally is respectful if I go into my room and don’t want to have a conversation. All in all, the living situation works out.
My apartment is in a condo complex and is quite lovely for the area. We have a complex pool, we are right off the freeway, and in the beautiful hills of Silicon Valley. The 3br 2ba is about $2200 per month total, and since I have one of the smaller rooms I pay $645 a month in rent. Utilities split come to $70 max, even in the cold months. When I moved in I was paying $605 a month in rent, so in three years it has only gone up $40 a month in rent, which is really not bad at all. I shudder to think of how bad my financial state would have been should I have stayed in my studio apartment (which is now going for nearly $1600 per month to first-time renters!!!)
But as I get older, living with roommates feels a bit juvenile. Yes, I have my own small room which can fit a full-size bed and not much else, and a large shared living room which is decorated relatively nicely by my roommates (with my bookshelves and books being my only contribution to the space), but it just doesn’t feel like my home. I always feel like I’m living in their home. Which would be fine if I were single, but the fact of the matter is I spend a large number of nights each week at my boyfriend’s house. I feel comfortable with him, even in his free-standing wooden shed where he lives (it has internet and electricity but no plumbing or kitchen, you have to walk into his hoarder grandparent’s house for that.)
Now that he’s turned 30, he has perked up about the concept of moving in together. I’m ready for it too, but the finances don’t make a lot of sense. He made $25,000 in income last year (taxed at self-employment tax rates.) Living for “free” (he pays bills, for his car, and food, but not much else) he can live on $25k per year. Since he made so little, after taxes, he was able to take home $22k in 2011. He has $8k in an emergency savings account, and no other savings. No debt either, so he’s doing fine as long as he stays in his freemium model of living. As soon as we move in together, and as soon as we think about our future, this all changes.
I made about $100k last year, maybe $65k-$70k after taxes. Putting out incomes together, $90k after taxes should be enough to live together, even though I’d clearly have to pay more of the rent. A decent 1br in the area goes for $2000 / month, maybe $1800, but after utilities that would be $2000 at least. Even if he were to increase his income substantially and we could split this 50/50, that would be $1000 per month or about $350 more per month, $4200 a year that could be put into my investing accounts.
On the other hand, moving in together would likely force my bf to get a full time job with a reasonable salary, which, in the short term, would reduce our spending ability quite a bit, but in the long term may enable him to increase his own earnings. It’s difficult to go from $25k to a $70k salary, but if you take a full-time job at $50k and earn basic income raises, eventually you will get up to $70k per year. Ideally together we will bring in $200k pre-tax by the time we have our first child, which would let us live on $100k per year, and have $30k-$50k for savings. But that also would require that we both continue to work full-time with no time off for parenting other than the few weeks one gets in the US from your job.
Regardless of the future, I wonder what is best for now. It seems like I should stay in my current living situation as long as possible, saving as much as possible, till the time comes when we get married and it is more rational to move in together. But I’m also tired of living like a young adult with roommates when also having a very stable, long-term, committed relationship. And I’m even more tired of spending so many nights in my boyfriend’s shed, without plumbing, and having to wander through the woods in the middle of the night to get to the main house, where I trip over his grandparent’s mess, and eventually find the one bathroom in the house with no working sink.