Are You Moving in With Friends to Save Money?

BY busadmin  January 16, 2009 at 12:02 PM EDT

Auction posting; file photo

Question/Comment: I heard Paul Solman say yesterday… wait, you are Paul Solman… that the economy is so bad, lots of people are now moving in with friends to save money. Is this really true?

Paul Solman: In the interests of full disclosure, I asked Tom to send this email, so I’d have an excuse to answer it.

(Regular readers of the Business Desk may remember that Tom is the humor author – “Senior Moments” – and PBS writer and executive – “A Science Odyssey,” “Nova,” “ENTERPRISE” – with whom I co-wrote a book called ‘Life and Death on the Corporate Battlefield’ many years ago. He is NOT the guy from the New York Times.)

Anyway, Tom and I were talking about the crisis and its effects and I mentioned that, in the past few days, I’ve spoken with people of all ages (30s to 50s to 70s) who either have, or are about to, move in with peers. Not family, though I know plenty of those too – in Ohio, San Francisco, Los Angeles.

I’m talking about “roommates” or, more accurately, “housemates.” A young friend in northern Michigan reports that people there are renting out rooms in their houses and that he doesn’t know ANYONE who is still living alone – because of the need to share expenses.

The data is clear: it costs two people living together roughly 20 percent less than the cost of two people living separately, all else equal. I once lived in a house with 13 others (in the so-called “Sixties,” which actually spanned 1965-1974 or so. I lived there in the early ’70s). I’m sure our expenses were considerably less than 1.6 times the cost of living individually, even with Tarot-card-reading Frank, who paid nothing at all. (At a house meeting, he was defended for making “a spiritual contribution” to the house. I swear.)

Anyway, Tom, what I’ve got thus far is just anec-data but they seem to be all around us. To get a better idea of the phenomenon, though, how about I ask our readers? So here’s a question for YOU:

ARE YOU, OR ANYONE YOU KNOW, CURRENTLY SHARING LIVING QUARTERS WITH A NONPARTNER OR NONFAMILY BECAUSE OF FINANCIAL DIFFICULTY? OR ARE ABOUT TO?

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ELABORATE.