You've heard about Mardi Gras. You've seen the pictures. The people seem friendly. You know the words to the song "Blue Bayou." You like to drink. But how do you turn the worst hangover you've ever had into the foundation for a long lasting home-sweet-home?

Here's a newsflash: most of what you know about New Orleans is just a stereotype. Just as most Los Angeles natives don't spend all their waking moments at Universal Studios and Disneyland, most New Orleans folk steer as far away from Bourbon Street (the party street) as they can. Furthermore, New Orleans isn't all drunken grime; it is a beautiful, charming, friendly and surprisingly sober city for those who live there.

Brimming with a unique culture of Cajun, Creole, and Jazz, the "Nawlins" is also blessed with an extremely low cost of living, allowing you to spend much more of your discretionary income on important purchases. Like beer. Yes, summer temperatures often reach triple digits, and humidity and thundershowers are never far away. But what's wrong with a little heat, rain and humidity when the entire town is drunk and naked? Whoops… fell back into that stereotype thing. Sorry.


The first thing you have to do is decide how much are you willing (and able) to pay in monthly rent. Before you start searching your couch cushions for quarters, we have some good news for you: the cost of living in New Orleans is incredibly low. The average rental cost per person is about $400 a month, a sum which often gets you such token perks as hard-wood floors, high ceilings and rod-iron balconies. Living in New Orleans is an amazing bargain.

A good way to find your upper limit for housing costs is to divide your monthly net income (after taxes) by three. If this figure seems unusually low, you have three options: 1) make more money, 2) consider living in a really cheap area, like the Bywater, or 3) save money on rent by finding a roommate.

Finding a roommate

Getting yourself a roommate is an outstanding way to lower your housing costs, as long as you feel confident that your roommate won't be a total nutjob. To find a roommate, you can either find someone yourself or you can use a roommate agency. There are websites out there, such as Roommate Click, that will charge you a service fee and screen out any weirdos. Or you can always just look through the classified ads in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and find a roommate on your own.

Either way, you must carefully choose your roommate or you will rue the day you opted for one. Obviously, not all strangers make good roommates, but less obviously, not all friends make good roommates. There are some people whose company you might well enjoy during the day, but who would drive you crazy if you lived with them. In an effort to screen unsuitable persons from your life, you should ask all potential roommates the following questions to assess their compatibility:

  • Have you ever had a roommate before? What, if anything, bothered you about your past roommates? Did you fight with your roommate a lot? About what?

  • Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend or other friend who will be staying here frequently?

  • Are you promiscuous? (Do not be afraid to ask this one. You probably don't want strange people sleeping over a lot, and if you explain that this is the reason you're asking, it will establish what you consider unacceptable ahead of time.)

  • Do you smoke? Drink? Do drugs? If yes to any, how often? Will you share your drugs?

  • Do you stay out late on weekdays?

  • Did/do you have any credit problems?

  • Do you have any pets?

  • What is your occupation?

  • What do you like to watch on television? What music do you listen to?

  • Do you know how to clean up after yourself? Do you cook? Do you drink directly from the milk container?

  • Do you know how to clean a toilet?

Whatever you ask, in the end you should feel very comfortable with your future roommate. If you do not, you are taking a big risk shacking up with this person.

One last note about roommates: try to arrange it so that your roommate co-signs the lease. If your name is the only one on the lease, then you shoulder the entire burden of responsibility for the apartment from a financial standpoint. If your roommate loses his/her job (and by extension, a steady cash flow), you'll be stuck paying his/her share of the rent. Then you'd be angry, poor, and kicking yourself for not following our sage advice.