Apartment Guru: Paying for Groceries Not Rent
My friend of many years invited me to stay with her in her one-bedroom apartment for the summer (four months). I didn't ask to share her apartment, she offered. I came down for the summer holidays to work and save money for school -- so I work one full-time job and one part-time job. Although I saved enough money over the years to buy a car, I now have all these extra costs associated with it and I'm not willing to use my savings account.
I have been buying the food for us since I came to live with her, unfortunately due to the car expenses I told her she should buy the breakfast groceries and I will buy the lunch and supper groceries, but I think I may have offended her. She chooses not to get a job, she's attending school full-time (she hasn't looked for a job for a year now!). I'm doing some online courses as well, so you can imagine I'm running haggard. I was wondering, what do I do? I know she offered and I'm repaying her back with groceries, but like I said, I think I may have offended her by asking her to buy some of them.
What should I do? Is it wrong to ask her to share the cost? It's about $300 to $400 a month for groceries for everything.
-- Confused Individual
The problem with your conundrum is that even though "she offered," you accepted. And you agreed to the terms which, from what it sounds like, is providing the groceries in exchange for free rent.
From where I stand it appears you have two choices. The first is to backpedal, explain to her that you are sorry you asked for her help paying for some of the groceries -- you were "running haggard" and didn't know what you were saying. Then, my friend, I would set yourself a monthly budget, say $250, and start cutting back on your grocery expenses. While your roommate put the task of buying groceries in your capable hands, she didn't specify what you had to buy.
A $250 monthly grocery bill for two is not only conceivable but actually quite reasonable, unless you are shopping at upscale stores. Look at your bill and see what items are expendable, or replaceable with sale items or less expensive (but still healthy) alternatives. Then to help your friend get over it, I might even suggest you make her a nice reasonably priced dinner. Try something like lemon chicken with rice or tilapia with mashed potatoes. That should do the trick.
On the other hand, Jen, a psychiatrist in Phoenix, Ariz., says quite plainly, "They need to have a sit-down, adult conversation about each of their expectations, needs and desires. " Jen wishes you had done this before you moved in. But I have a feeling you weren't anticipating the cost of the porterhouse steaks and caviar with which you have been providing the household.
I wouldn't begin your conversation with anything like, "Look Roomie, I never even wanted to live with you in the first place," or "If you could step away from the damn Ho Hos for ten seconds, I might be able to afford living with you." But rather something along the lines of, "First and foremost you are my friend and I want you to be my friend for a long, long time, so how can we both happily live here together and still meet that one goal?"
Summer will go by quickly and at the end of it, to have lost a friend -- especially one that likes you so much she wanted you to live with her -- would be a real tragedy. Try to focus on that rather than the retail cost of hothouse heirloom tomatoes and Neal's Yard Cheddar. Trust me. It's worth far more.
Now go hug your friend. And make her some breakfast.