Back to school is stressful and costly enough without the added tension of having chosen the wrong roommate – and paying for it, leaving students wondering if a roommate agreement isn’t such a bad idea.
Hospitality and Management student Theresa Meehan lives in SAIT residence out of convenience because she is from Trochu, Alta., but she is without a vehicle because parking is just too much.
“I can save $2,000 over eight months between insurance and parking,” said Meehan.
Although this year her and her one roommate get a long well, she said that based on her experience last year with three roommates, her recommendation is to “know your boundaries.”
“If I have my door closed, don’t bother me,” said Meehan.
She said she finds residence this year expensive at about $850 per month, compared to last year at Red Deer College, which was $550.
SAIT Travel and Tourism student Emma Gracia, who rents with her sister, said that it is best not to “move in with your boyfriend to save money,” and that sticking to living with family is a good idea when possible.
“I had an awful roommate in high school,” said Gracia.
Gracia said she learned at a young age to be careful who you live with when her mom rented out a room in their home to help cover living costs, and “all he did was smoke and drink.”
Gracia’s classmate Claire Jubenvill recommends making sure you get to know the person you are moving in with first by spending time with her.
“I had a roommate who had a different guy every night,” said Jubenvill.
Jubenvill said had she known her roommate had a Tinder habit she would not have moved in with her.
“Definitely talk with them a lot,” said Jubenvill.
SAIT student Ian Chu said he chooses to live at home with his parents to keep costs down as he works towards his second diploma, mechanical engineering, after graduating from the business program at a time when jobs were scarce.
“I may look like a ‘mama’s boy’ but you have to save your money,” said Chu.
Chu is not alone. Many students interviewed said, if given the option, would choose to live at home while attending post-secondary education for the financial benefits.
When ACAD student Garrett Vollstaedt decided to return to school he moved back in with his parents.
Vollsteadt said that although moving back home after living on your own can be an adjustment at first, in the long run it is worth it financially.
“I think the biggest thing is to have enough money coming in so you can afford to live comfortably, not living in an expensive apartment eating ramen,” said Vollstaedt.
Vollsteadt said he was paying $1,000 a month to rent a room in Canmore, and his fellow tenant was less than desirable.
“All he did was smoke weed and ride his bike,” said Vollstaedt.
SAIT Radio Broadcasting and Television student Mike Elliot is another who returned home to save money while continuing his education.
Elliot said he too , had a roommate who did not do his share around the house.
Elliot said he and some friends moved into a house together and decided to post an ad on Kijiji to find someone to fill a vacant room to lower the shared $1,400 per-month rent, but now believes they should have done more interviewing to find the right fit.
“He just sat in his bedroom,” said Elliot.
Elliot also said that the roommate refused to clean his own dishes and then would deny they were his, saying “for moral reasons” he refused to clean anything that may have touched meat – leaving dirty pans for months at a time.
Elliot said that “what needed to happen and didn’t happen” was sitting down with him as a group and talking about what needed to be done.
“That, and ‘vet’ properly,” said Elliot.
The bathroom was the room that students agreed needed the most rules and discussions around etiquette.
MRU student Amyee Haslam said, “It is a communal area, and the place where you clean and you s***.”
Haslam had a roommate who was new to Canada and had never used modern plumbing before.
Haslam said that now that she realizes that the girl did not know how to use a toilet properly.
She is not opposed to putting up bathroom etiquette signs, with pictures, for the sake of all cohabitants, when you are moving in with people you don’t know.
Haslam was paying $500 per-month to rent a room in a two–bathroom house with five other girls until her landlord wanted to increase it to $600 and she moved out to find a place with friends for a lower price.
Haslam said that based on that experience she recommends living with people you know and with whom you have things in common.
U of A Engineering student Connley McQuaig, who lived in residence last-year, said that he felt like he worked so hard to get into the university away from his Calgary home, only to get there and feel like he was in “jail.”
McQuaig shared a bathroom with three toilets, three sinks, and two showers, with 20 strangers.
“The communal washrooms were for sure the worst part,” said McQuaig.
McQuaig said, “Hearing students ‘hork’ in the same shower that I am going into next, and brushing my teeth while three guys stunk up the place in the stalls right behind me.”
McQuaig chose residence for his first year because he did not know the city, nor the people, and this year he moved into a duplex with four other engineering students.
McQuaig said that residence appeared cheaper, but in reality the cost of living in the house and in residence is “about the same” when you take into consideration the cost of the university meal-plan versus buying your own groceries.
The average cost of renting one room in Calgary is $564, the average of a two-bedroom apartment is $1,232, and the average five-bedroom house is $2,684 according to the website www.rentboard.ca.