Q: There are three of us that have been living together in a house near campus. Two of us are in college and one has a job in the community. I’ll call my roommates “Martha” and “Sara.” Martha is a senior in college and will be graduating in December, and Sara has a sales job in this area. Sara has a lot more disposable income than either Martha or me. I realize this problem may not seem important, but it is when you don’t have much money. Every time Sara brings a girlfriend home, they eat everything in the house. She feels since her girlfriend is a guest that the cupboards are open to her. Martha and I don’t have much money for food or anything else so we are careful when we buy groceries. Last week we went to the grocery store together and bought enough to eat for the next two weeks, which was the two weeks that we had lots of papers due and finals.
Sara had a date on Sunday night while Martha and I were at the library studying until quite late. Well, when we came home the kitchen was a disaster; pots and pans were dirty, lots of dishes were in the sink, and when we looked in our cupboards and the refrigerator, most of all the food was gone. I sat down in the middle of the floor and cried. Not only didn’t I have any money for more food, but even if I did, I didn’t have time to clean up the mess and go buy more groceries. I’m sure you think that I overreacted, but I am so tired, anyway, and just don’t see how I am going to get through finals – and now this.
When we moved in together we agreed to each have a cabinet for our food and a shelf in the refrigerator and freezer. I watch what I eat and can’t afford to eat out a lot, so I usually have lots of food around. Sara usually eats out so she doesn’t have much here to eat. Our agreement was that we would always ask if we wanted to eat someone else’s food, and we would pay for it.
I have been noticing some of my food has been missing but didn’t mention it because I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it or seem like a penny pincher.
I can’t afford to move and our lease isn’t up until December, so we really need to work this out. I tried to talk to Sara but she just throws down some money and laughs at me, telling me to go buy whatever I want. I end up feeling foolish for making a big deal out of it and most of the time the amount of money she gives me isn’t enough to cover the food she has taken. Besides, I don’t want to go buy food again; I don’t have time. Martha won’t stand up to her at all. She says it isn’t worth the fight.
Do you think I should try to resolve this, or just accept what is and try to get along with Sara?
A: Sara does not respect the rules you agreed upon, and doesn’t honor your economic situation, your space or your time. Of course you feel upset. After finals are over (I know you won’t have time until then) set up a time with Sara to talk about this problem – try to enlist Martha as well. But with or without Martha, tell Sara how you are feeling about her raiding your food, how it inconveniences you and that you can’t afford it. I would make sure she understands that this is a big deal to you. Don’t accept her just laughing it off. If you can’t get her to agree with a workable solution for the both of you, I would look at some ways to keep her out of your food. You could get locks to your food cupboard, keep your food in your room, locked, and get a small refrigerator and keep it in your locked room. Hopefully, Sara will listen to you and hear your needs, and it won’t have to come to this. Good luck.