Living in a shared house for the first time can be a wonderful experience, but sometimes it can also be a bit nerve wracking! To make sure you make the most out of your time living with others, Tom, a PhD candidate from the School of Chemical and Process Engineering, will share his experiences and top tips about house sharing. Whether that’s finding the best way to put up with any little annoyances, fun activities to take part in collectively, or how to make the most of your money with friends, Tom covers it all.
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So, you’ve just got your student house or flat and are moving in. Congratulations! Whether it is with friends you already know, or with a group of people you haven’t got to know yet, these will be the people you will know very well over the next year. Between casual encounters in the kitchen, to house parties, or even binging shows together, these will be the people you spend time together with most and can develop into friends for life. If that doesn’t happen, that’s ok; you might not be best buds, but you can be best housemates.
- Group chats
You will certainly encounter different personality types while living with others, but each one can have its own merits. Even the most annoying housemate can have aspects of them that you can fall in love with. And if someone decides to prank you by covering your entire room in tinfoil, that took a lot of time and effort and speaks volumes as to how much they care! Engage! Make an effort to be friends. A big part of how your experience will transpire depends depend on how much you engage with your housemates. The first thing to do is get a group chat to make sure everyone is up to speed.
2. Spend time together
For many it can be tough to get home after a gruelling day in lectures or the library and then interact with talkative housemates, but a little effort can go a long way. Some days spent alone can be fine but making a habit of it can distance you from the group.
A terrific way to get to know new housemates can be to do activities together. Escape rooms, mini golf, hitting the town, or a walk along the canal can all be fantastic opportunities to bond as a group. If someone isn’t quite ready to engage with the group, don’t force them and let them have their space. Keep sending those invites but do not be offended when you get turned down.
3. Be honest
It won’t always be sunshine and roses living with others. Expressing expectations of how things will work while living together can be beneficial and resolve arguments before they start. Topics that often come up can include noise levels, cleaning responsibilities and energy usage if you are not on a bills included residence. Agree on the rules about heating, showers etc. For sceptics, show them how much energy costs per hour. As with most things in life, communication is key!
Apply Hanlon’s razor rule: never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. People often don’t do mean things on purpose, and sometimes accusing them of such can result in an argument. However, avoiding conflict can result in resentment building which can make the situation worse. Communicating the issue without stating a direct accusation can be the best way of getting a problem off your chest can help relieve your own stress and keep the house harmonious. Having an awkward conversation, whether about finances or anything else, may be unpleasant in the moment, but it is worth it in the long run.
4. Splitting costs
In terms of cost of living, having a straightforward way to see who owes what can make getting each other shopping, or the payment of bills easy (this will most likely include energy and broadband, as full-time students are exempt from council tax). Apps such as Splitwise (GooglePlay, Apple AppStore) allow you to track all costs with all housemates and evenly split expenses. Aside from paying your bills, this can help lower other costs for everyone. One person purchasing a large amount of something everyone uses can prove very cost efficient overall.
Essentials such as toilet paper, teabags or tofu will all be cheaper if you buy a mega pack and split the cost. The latter can even contribute to group meals which is fun, perhaps gets you closer with your flatmates and reduces energy usage! For large dishes you can get everyone involved or launch a collaboration with a single friend. For more tips on how to food shop on a budget, see our other blog here.
Food isn’t the only thing you can share. Having a single streaming account for Netflix, Amazon, or DisneyPlus that is logged into everyone’s device will save a chunk of change every month. Just make sure to give the owner of the account a little kickback!
Don’t keep your finances totally separate from your housemates. Remember, costs are often cheaper as a group.
Written by Thomas Barber, Doctoral Researcher in the School of Chemical and Process Engineering