Author Topic: Need help getting through to roommate  (Read 6223 times)

fireferrets

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Need help getting through to roommate
« on: September 12, 2014, 08:38:38 AM »
My incredibly talented roommate got a job this April at an interior design firm. But it ended up being a 20min each way commute for her. She's paid ~41K annually, but she complains that she can't save anything because there are too many expenses and the gov't takes too much of her salary. I've asked about her expenses and suggested some improvements (look around for cheaper auto insurance, get a lower usage cell plan, etc.) - quick and easy things - that she could take to see almost instant savings, but she simply isn't motivated by these ("It's not that - it's the gov't taking all my money!"). I mean, there are a dozen fields she could easily cut back in ($200 per month in groceries, for instance) without feeling any change in lifestyle. I really want to see her successful and want her to feel like she's not just scraping by each month, but when she's not willing to try even taking the bus ("I spend the same amount on gas in a month as a 30-day bus pass"), I don't know what to do. I showed her the epic MMM blog. I showed her how to use Mint (which had been a huge slap-in-the-face for me to wake up and take control of my shit).

How can I get through to her? Has anyone else had this experience with a roommate or friend who simply refuses to see the light? I am positive she agrees with my reasoning, but just won't take action. Please I need to get through to her before she burns through her small monthly savings (she still owes some student loans, but she's planning on buying a $60/month gym membership because she "exercises harder in a group class"). Any ideas would be appreciated. She's my best friend, so I don't want to do nothing while she drowns herself financially.

ShortInSeattle

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2014, 08:48:14 AM »
You can't get through to her.

Live your life and be a good example. When she actually wants to change, she will.

You're a good friend, but one of the most annoying lessons in life is that you can't fix people. But you can still be a good friend. :)

Jellyfish

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2014, 08:48:30 AM »

How can I get through to her? Has anyone else had this experience with a roommate or friend who simply refuses to see the light?

Hard truth - you can't.  If she doesn't want to change she won't.  It sounds like you've done what you can to lead her to water, you can't make her drink. 

zataks

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2014, 08:49:05 AM »
You can't change her; she has to decide to make the change for herself.  Sounds like right now she just wants to blame someone and not take responsibility for not having $.

frugaliknowit

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2014, 09:01:10 AM »
How much is the rent she pays you?  Just wondering what percentage of gross income it is?

Chranstronaut

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2014, 09:29:14 AM »
You really can't change anyone, but modeling good behavior and being supportive of them are great ideas from the other commenters.  In my experience with friends like this, bringing up ideas without judgement and then just letting them sit in the back of her mind for months or years might help her figure it out for herself when she's ready.  But she has to be ready.

The only thing I believe a roommate has any chance of influencing are mutual housing expenses or activities you do together.  Maybe there are ways to save on bills around the house together with minimal impact?  Sometimes it's easier to approach cost-saving opportunities from another angle if she's feeling defensive about money.  Examples could be things like: "I want to start taking shorter showers to save water!"; "Would you like to join me in turning off the lights in empty rooms to save electricity to help the Earth?"; "I'm having so much fun experimenting with making my own fancy coffee at home instead of buying them at Starbucks! Do you want to try one?"
Few or none of these things might appeal to her, but it can be fun to have a purpose together and if money doesn't motivate her, maybe helping out Mother Earth or cooking new foods together will. 

You're a good friend who cares a lot.  Like someone said, you can always be a good friend to her no matter her view on personal finance.

fireferrets

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2014, 09:37:11 AM »
How much is the rent she pays you?  Just wondering what percentage of gross income it is?

She pays $366/month for rent. My boyfriend and I share a room, but we still split the rent 3 ways with her.
When our lease expires, we may be parting ways (as my place of employment is moving) and she can situate herself closer to her work (hopefully).

fireferrets

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2014, 09:44:39 AM »
The only thing I believe a roommate has any chance of influencing are mutual housing expenses or activities you do together.  Maybe there are ways to save on bills around the house together with minimal impact?  Sometimes it's easier to approach cost-saving opportunities from another angle if she's feeling defensive about money.  Examples could be things like: "I want to start taking shorter showers to save water!"; "Would you like to join me in turning off the lights in empty rooms to save electricity to help the Earth?"; "I'm having so much fun experimenting with making my own fancy coffee at home instead of buying them at Starbucks! Do you want to try one?"
Few or none of these things might appeal to her, but it can be fun to have a purpose together and if money doesn't motivate her, maybe helping out Mother Earth or cooking new foods together will. 

Excellent advice! Actually, this has been mildly successful. She doesn't mind when I close her blinds and turn off the A/C during the day. This is a good passive way of showing how small changes can add up, without pressuring her to do anything.

Thank you!

fireferrets

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2014, 09:50:57 AM »
Thank you for your replies, everyone! You've really put it into perspective for me.
Of course, I can't change her, and trying to is asking for trouble.

I hope that one day she'll see the light and if she needs help, she'll know I am there for her. She's very bright, so I know eventually she will figure things out for herself.

Jellyfish

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2014, 09:59:26 AM »
And if she doesn't figure things out, you can still be there for her as a supportive friend.  One of my closest friends is very smart, I actually went to business school with her. She has an MBA in Finance but has pushed herself to the edge of bankruptcy by living beyond her means and buying things based on what she "deserves" instead of what she can afford.  I tried for so long to "help" her with advice and finally decided the best way to help was simply to listen.  Maybe someday she'll change when she's ready. 

No Name Guy

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2014, 10:16:28 AM »
The Govt takes all my money as well...it's the single largest outflow I have* it taxes - I paid more in taxes than I did on my mortgage (when I had one), more than I spend on food, cars, etc. 

His / her problem in that regard ("Govt takes all my money") might be that they have their withholding set improperly.  Is this person young / inexperienced when it comes to taxes?  Are they one of these types that set their W-4 to "0" "so I can get a big refund!"?   

Even though it's a whine, there may be some truth to the complaint.

* - His / her complaint however is no excuse for being sub-optimal or refusing to act elsewhere.  It's excuse mongering.  I take the tax bite as a given.

Oh - and running some quick numbers on the IRS page, a single person making 41k who puts 10% into a 401k plan and otherwise doesn't have any other deductions to itemize (e.g. Standard) will pay about $3,500 / year in Fed Income Taxes. 
http://apps.irs.gov/app/withholdingcalculator/index.jsp

Throw in another 7 or so percent for Social Security / Medicare / UI, for about another $2870 or so.  So, just for the Feds, he/she is on the hook for about $6,370 / year.  That's $530 / month.  Seeing as that's significantly more that their share of rent, yes, I'd agree that it's a legit complaint, especially if they're young and don't realize how expensive Government really is.  But again, that's no excuse to not optimize elsewhere.  One wonders where his/her other 2900 / month goes.

Depending on your State, you might have State Income Taxes as well.

Oh - and I totally agree with the other comments.  You've tried to lead them to water, but it's up to them to take a drink, so to speak.

socaso

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2014, 01:16:04 PM »
Perhaps she could catch you reading a useful book like "Your Money or Your Life" or "Tightwad Gazette" and you could tell her about the ideas in this great inspiring book you are reading. She sounds like she might be young. I remember being so offended when I got my first grownup person job and saw how much I was paying out in taxes!

fireferrets

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2014, 05:26:20 AM »
Update: I haven't said anything to her about her financial state for a week now (we last discussed it sept 10). And she came home very proud yesterday saying she paid off her student loan debt!! "That's what the mustache guy says I should do, right?" (haha) She is definitely starting to take control of her situation now - being more cognizant of her expenses and calculating for the long term.

Thank you for your help, everyone!

Chranstronaut

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2014, 07:59:30 AM »
Update: I haven't said anything to her about her financial state for a week now (we last discussed it sept 10). And she came home very proud yesterday saying she paid off her student loan debt!! "That's what the mustache guy says I should do, right?" (haha) She is definitely starting to take control of her situation now - being more cognizant of her expenses and calculating for the long term.

Thank you for your help, everyone!

YAY!  I'm excited for your friend.  Whether or not she cares about money mustaches, it's a great accomplishment to pay off student loans!  Hopefully she's feeling empowered :)

J Boogie

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2014, 11:04:34 AM »
The Govt takes all my money as well...it's the single largest outflow I have* it taxes - I paid more in taxes than I did on my mortgage (when I had one), more than I spend on food, cars, etc. 

His / her problem in that regard ("Govt takes all my money") might be that they have their withholding set improperly.  Is this person young / inexperienced when it comes to taxes?  Are they one of these types that set their W-4 to "0" "so I can get a big refund!"?   

Even though it's a whine, there may be some truth to the complaint.

* - His / her complaint however is no excuse for being sub-optimal or refusing to act elsewhere.  It's excuse mongering.  I take the tax bite as a given.

Oh - and running some quick numbers on the IRS page, a single person making 41k who puts 10% into a 401k plan and otherwise doesn't have any other deductions to itemize (e.g. Standard) will pay about $3,500 / year in Fed Income Taxes. 
http://apps.irs.gov/app/withholdingcalculator/index.jsp

Throw in another 7 or so percent for Social Security / Medicare / UI, for about another $2870 or so.  So, just for the Feds, he/she is on the hook for about $6,370 / year.  That's $530 / month.  Seeing as that's significantly more that their share of rent, yes, I'd agree that it's a legit complaint, especially if they're young and don't realize how expensive Government really is.  But again, that's no excuse to not optimize elsewhere.  One wonders where his/her other 2900 / month goes.

Depending on your State, you might have State Income Taxes as well.

Oh - and I totally agree with the other comments.  You've tried to lead them to water, but it's up to them to take a drink, so to speak.

Absolutely.  I lean a little wacko libertarian myself... I use that mentality to motivate myself to live on less since I'll need to put more towards pre-tax savings if I want to keep that $6,000 or so every year.

tax-brackets.org will give you a quick snapshot of how much you'll pay in state and fed tax. 

If you don't want to max pre tax savings and live on less, it will cost you.  In my case, it would cost me $500/month not to max out.

Malaysia41

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #15 on: September 19, 2014, 11:16:47 AM »
And if she doesn't figure things out, you can still be there for her as a supportive friend.  One of my closest friends is very smart, I actually went to business school with her. She has an MBA in Finance but has pushed herself to the edge of bankruptcy by living beyond her means and buying things based on what she "deserves" instead of what she can afford.  I tried for so long to "help" her with advice and finally decided the best way to help was simply to listen.  Maybe someday she'll change when she's ready.
Wow. 

There's a lesson here.

If university professors teaching masters level finance can't teach a person to mind her balance sheets, I don't hold out much hope for a nagging roommate.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Need help getting through to roommate
« Reply #16 on: September 19, 2014, 11:57:29 AM »
Taxes. Oh yes.  I remember in history class learning that the Lord took 10% and the Church another 10% in medieval England, and came home all indignant and vented at the dinner table.  My Dad just looked at me and told me how much Federal and Provincial income tax (as a %) he paid.  That was certainly an eye-opener.

That doesn't mean that we can't optimize both our taxes and our other expenses, just that we need to be aware of where our money is going and make appropriate choices.