Re: Cost of living after move in
From: Deborah Mensch (
Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2007 14:12:56 -0800 (PST)
I have some personal perspectives to contribute on this question of cost of
living after move-in. For background, you should know that I moved from an
old (1932), drafty, four-bedroom, single-family home in Alameda, California,
to a tightly built (2001) townhouse in Pleasant Hill Cohousing (PHCH),
Pleasant Hill, CA. Several things changed about our expenses:

- Our utility costs went down a lot. We used passive cooling at PHCH rather
than air conditioning, because the design of the unit allowed it. Our
heating costs at PHCH were minimal because of the tight construction and the
other units insulating us on both sides. If we'd moved from a newer
townhouse, these probably would have changed very little. But the shared
internet connection in the community meant we paid maybe $8/mo for
high-speed internet instead of $40-50. Garbage and recycling expenses were
pooled and therefore less per household. (Note: some of our utilities at
PHCH were paid as part of our HOA dues -- overall we saved money compared to
paying all our own utilities and no HOA dues.)

- Our child care costs went down a lot. In Alameda all our sitters were
paid. At PHCH, most of our child care was traded with neighbors, either for
care for their kids or for home-cooked meals or other services (sewing, help
with computers, etc.). I'm an at-home mom, so we didn't need all-day care,
just the odd evening, or time for me to go to a meeting or appointment
during the day when my husband was at work. These child care opportunities
relied on the relationships we established in cohousing, and having people
we trusted who were willing to do some child care and needed something from
us (and some who were just plain generous). In my new community, we don't
have as many relationships yielding free/bartered child care. It's hard to
tell, yet, whether this is due to demographics in the community (e.g., fewer
at-home parents), or just the fact that we haven't been here long (a few
months), and those kinds of relationships take time to develop.

- Our children's clothing costs went down. There was a bevy of girls at PHCH
a couple of years older than my daughter, so she wore almost nothing that
wasn't handed down. The demographics matter for this, of course.

- Our housing costs went down because our unit at PHCH was much smaller than
our house in Alameda. As it turned out, going from 4 bedrooms to 2 was
pretty tight. Now, however, we're in a 3+-bedroom townhouse in Wild Sage
Cohousing (Boulder, Colorado), and things are pretty good. The reasons
cohousing helps our housing costs are that we don't need a guest room, since
there are guest rooms in the Common House that are available enough for our
needs; and we don't need as much dedicated play space in our house and yard,
since the kids' room in the Common House and the common green provide shared
play space.

I agree with others who have said that common meals don't necessarily save
money, unless you would otherwise be eating out for those meals. Common meal
costs vary from about $2.50 per meal to as much as $8/meal in communities
I've heard from.

As you can tell, most of our savings due to living in cohousing are related
to having young children and to having lived before in an old, drafty house.
(Exceptions: Internet service and guest room.) Your mileage may vary
depending on your own circumstances. I think any individual can make the
best prediction of what their own cost differences may be by considering
their own, very particular circumstances -- and some of the costs in coho
are hard to predict until you know who is in the community (hand-me-downs,
sitters, etc.).

Good luck,
Deborah Mensch

now of Wild Sage Cohousing, Boulder, Colorado, USA
formerly of Pleasant Hill Cohousing, Pleasant Hill, California, USA
working on forming Tumblerock, a new community in Boulder County, CO, USA (

On Nov 25, 2007 3:54 PM, Lisa Lackey <lisa [at]> wrote:

> I am a member of a cohousing community forming in Grass Valley.  I have
> never actually lived in cohousing, but hope to when this one is built a
> couple years from now.  In this market, we are struggling to find people
> who
> want to commit to being members, although there are quite a few that
> express
> interest.  One of the most frequent feedback I get is that they cannot
> afford it (even though we are priced at market rate for this area).
> It seems to me that figuring out what you can afford in cohousing is more
> than just the price of your unit.  Have there been any studies or
> documentation of household costs going down after moving into cohousing?
> It seems like many costs could go down once in cohousing,  for instance:
> Food:
>     common meals,
>     buying food in bulk with other households,
> Utilities:
>      energy bills decreasing because of unit clustering & sharing heat
> bills,
>     sharing internet & other communication bills
> Car expenses
>     easier to carpool,
>     easier to carshare
> Don't need to buy as much
>     sharing resources, so you don't have to buy everything yourself,
> Entertainment
>     not needing/wanting to eat out or go out as much, because of the meals
> and events in the commonhouse,
> I imagine there could be many more.
> Is it true that expenses go down after you move into cohousing, making
> life
> "more affordable" (outside of the original price of the home)?
> Thanks,
> Lisa
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