When Meg Tully and her boyfriend moved in together in February 2022, they each saved more than $1,000 a month by living together, compared with each renting their own apartment.
The decision to cohabitate seemed inevitable at the time, after moving from Australia for work to live in Newton, where they knew no one. Saving money was the icing on the cake.
But then in November, they broke up after four and a half years together. And their living arrangements no longer made quite as much sense.
While the concept of young couples moving in together is hardly new, Tully and her ex-boyfriend were among the record number of young, unmarried couples who moved in together in 2022. According to Census Bureau data, approximately 11 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 lived with a partner who’s not a spouse last year, an all-time high. That’s about 3.2 million people, roughly 650,000 more than before the pandemic.
COVID may have influenced couples to cohabitate sooner, whether it’s because they quarantined together, worked remotely and had the option to move in together, or had plans to move in together prepandemic and COVID changed the timeline, said Tyler Jamison, a professor for the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of New Hampshire.
Finance and logistics were also major factors, at least according to a Realtor.com survey released in February, in which 80 percent of cohabiting Gen Z couples cited one or both of those factors. With housing costs skyrocketing and inflation driving up the cost of nearly everything, many young couples are moving in together sooner than they anticipated to save money. Nearly one in four respondents who moved in with a partner said they saved more than $1,000 a month.
And in a housing market as pricey as Boston — where in March the average monthly rent was $2,081, according to Apartment List — that can make a big difference.
Tully and her ex-boyfriend (who declined an interview request) split $2,050 a month — which included utilities — straight down the middle. When they separated in November, he covered the full rent for December and January until he found a roommate in February, while Tully moved out, into a string of sublets — all more costly than what she’d been paying before.
Knowing she’d pay more for housing on her own, Tully said, was a serious disincentive to ending the relationship. And seeing her ex-boyfriend go into debt as he was searching for a roommate was hard, too.
Although the breakup was unrelated to living together, Tully said, in hindsight, it would have been better to have found her own space in the beginning.
“It’s a lot to just move to a new city and knowing one person and living with them,” Tully said. “That becomes the center of everything, which is a lot of pressure.”
It’s not to say that moving in together early in a relationship is inherently negative for a couple, Jamison said. It could have a good or bad outcome, depending mostly on the couple themselves.
“You’re now sharing a space and you are having to coordinate household duties, which is a major area of stress and negotiation for couples in general,” Jamison said. But if the couple openly communicates their expectations prior to making a decision, chances are that moving in may not hinder their relationship.
May Chen, 23, said moving in with her boyfriend, Spencer Wong, 23, sooner has allowed their relationship to move faster. The two met on the dating app Hinge when they both attended college in Houston. Once Wong graduated in May 2022, they moved to a $2,900-a-month South End apartment to be closer to Wong’s family in Massachusetts and because Chen wanted to move out of Texas.
“We didn’t want to be long distance,” Chen said. “And when moving to Boston, I didn’t know anyone since I’m not from here... [Wong is] my only familial connection.”
They’d been dating less than a year when they made plans to move in together. It was sooner than either had expected, but they found being upfront about expectations and planning ahead in case of a breakup helped make the choice less nerve-racking and brought them closer together. Plus, sharing the load helped make it easier to pay for groceries and other expenses, since they split costs, something Chen wouldn’t do with a regular roommate.
Having a roommate is a necessity if you’re a young person living in Boston, Wong said. “If you want a one bedroom by yourself — unless you want to be further away from the city — it can be pretty difficult to find.”
For many couples, moving in together proved to be a positive in their relationship.
After dating for six months, Adrienne Kaplowitz, 23, and Nicholas Malkemus, 24, moved in together in Brookline to save on housing costs in 2021.
They’d actually broken up right after graduating college that May, worried that living in different cities post-graduation would be difficult on their relationship. But they both got jobs in Boston, got back together, and after apartment-hunting separately, they realized it would be more convenient and affordable to move in together. They found a third roommate and split a three-bedroom in Brookline for $3,300 a month.
“[Their roommate] was used to living with a couple, which had been challenging for us to find,” Kaplowitz said. “The rent would then be split between three people and that made it super affordable for us.”
Beyond saving money on rent by splitting the costs, moving in together has also taught them how to split their spending on nearly everything from Wi-Fi to groceries, Malkemus said. While friends and family were concerned about them moving in together early, they felt that they were always on the same page.
“I feel like we just knew each other really well and are really well matched,” Kaplowitz said.
Soon, Malkemus will be attending law school in California, so the pair have made plans to move to the Bay Area to live in a one-bedroom apartment. Together, they’ll be paying a total of $2,900 in rent, utilities, and parking.
“For us, [moving in together] was definitely the right decision,” Kaplowitz said. “I’m always so grateful that we could do it and that everything is going so well, but it’s definitely not right for every couple. It’s sad that some people might have to do this out of necessity rather than want.”