Make It Make Cents

My Roommate Makes A Ton Of Money But Only Buys One-Ply Toilet Paper

How do I confront her while keeping the peace in our household?

Q: My roommates and I all have varying financial situations. From a high-paying salary and full benefits career to a day job that pays the bills to being unemployed for the majority of this year, we are all on very different planes. It’s usually never an issue as we all pay rent and utilities on time, however, I find it very annoying how my roommate with the highest-paying job tends to be the most frugal with her spending. For example, when buying shared household items, we take turns purchasing them when needed, and she always buys low-quality items. I finally broke down and told her to please stop buying one-ply toilet paper. She also never calls an Uber for our group of friends when we go out together, even though the rest of us do so without Venmo requesting one another because we know someone else will call the next one and it will all even out.

She’s not self-aware about how her comments about money come across to those of us in different situations. When we were struggling to find a fourth roommate to fill a room, she suggested we all split the rent between the three of us and I had to tell her I couldn’t afford to do that. She’s the first to complain about money and says in front of our unemployed roommate that she never feels like she’s making enough at her job, even though she has packages delivered from her online shopping nearly every day. Is there something I should say to her about this or should I just learn to tune it out and not let it bother me?

A: Ah, this scenario begs the age-old question: To be or not to be petty? When dealing with a roommate situation, I suggest not further exacerbating drama that could seep into the comfortability of your living situation. Your shared space should be safe and comfortable for all who pay rent there, so while part of me wants to suggest you keep ultra-soft, aloe-infused, three-ply toilet paper in your room to bring to the bathroom whenever you (and you alone) need it, that’s probably not the best course of action here.

This situation calls for separating this roommate’s actions into two categories: the ones that impact you and your household directly (buying one-ply and never calling Ubers) and those that are ultimately none of your business (how often she shops online with her own money). The seemingly daily deliveries of clothes and who-knows-what-else likely wouldn’t be as irritating to you if you felt like your financial needs as a roommate were being respected. Go ahead and complain to your besties about how annoying it is to see yet another package from Sephora on your doorstep, but don’t bring it up with her directly — it’s not worth it for the sake of your argument.

Five minutes of awkwardness is worth a living situation that isn’t sprinkled with resentment.

First, sit down as a household and set a standard about the shared items you each purchase and use. This way, you’ll all know you’re spending around the same amount of money on items that are comparable in quality. Maybe this means you all land on a dozen-roll pack of two-ply toilet paper, an 8-ounce bottle of store-brand dish soap, and Hellmann’s mayo for the fridge. If you all agree on what products to buy, one person won’t consistently bring back Dr. Bronner’s and artisan avocado oil mayonnaise while another person opts for whatever’s on sale.

Sure, you might feel a little bit like a college dorm RA during the convo, but figuring out what items work best for everyone’s needs while still being reasonable to the roomies with stricter budgets is a good way to settle the feeling that you’re always buying the nicer shared apartment goods. You can even write up the list of agreed-upon items and keep it on the fridge for anyone to reference before they hit up the grocery store. Done and done!

As for the Ubers, there are some close friends that you know will always spot you the next time around. But living with someone doesn’t necessarily mean they automatically fall into that category. If she never calls a car, therefore picking up her end of that reciprocal arrangement, I’d go ahead and start sending her Venmo requests for her portion of the rides you’re funding. In a Bustle survey from March, over 250 readers shared their opinions on money and friendship, and one person even wrote: “As [the friendship] gets more peripheral, that’s when I feel comfortable requesting/being requested to pay back.”

Adulthood is understanding that your roommates aren’t always your besties — not everyone can live in an episode of New Girl, Friends, Will & Grace, you get the point — so you should feel empowered to discuss communal issues if they’ve been bugging you. When you find yourself opening up your Uber app during your next pregame, say something chill like, “I’ll get this one if you get the ride home?” or “I’ll get this one and Venmo request you,” gauge her reaction (and if she actually follows through with her end of the deal), and act accordingly. You shouldn’t be footing the bill for someone who doesn’t do the same for you. Money doesn’t grow on trees!

And, finally, when it comes to the things she says about money that come across as insensitive because of the different financial situations you and your other roommates are in, I’d first urge you to do some reflection to understand if her comments bother you because they’re malicious or because she’s not self-aware. A plain, “Hey, we’re in such different industries so I don’t really understand your financial situation since it’s not the same as mine,” might open her eyes to how her comments sound.

If you think she says things to purposely rub you the wrong way, creating boundaries about what money talk you’re open to outside of your shared expenses as roommates might be necessary. You’d be surprised how a simple “I’d feel more comfortable if we didn’t talk so in depth about our salaries and financial situations outside of our shared expenses” can go. That five minutes of awkwardness is worth a living situation that isn’t sprinkled with resentment. A peaceful house is good, but boundaries that help you all understand one another — and the importance of soft toilet paper — is even better.

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