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How Far Would You Go to Save Money?

A year ago, I moved into a new apartment building. It’s a luxury building, and I was the very first tenant to occupy the 600 square foot space with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. At the time, the brand new building was offering 2 months free rent, bringing the pro-rated monthly total to just within my price range. Fast forward 12 months and my lease is up. The rent is going up $90 per month and my two free months are last year’s news. Needless to say, the apartment is no longer renting for a price I feel comfortable paying.

Searching for Something New

I live in the greater DC metro area, which is a very expensive place to rent [1]. I had a roommate for the first two years out of college [2], but have lived alone for the past year. I would be willing to share an apartment with a friend, but am not really willing to live with a stranger. Since all of my friends are locked into situations they’re happy with, I was once again searching for an affordable studio or 1 bedroom.

I found a newly converted basement apartment in a great location. All utilities and bills are included, down to cable and internet. I would be saving a total of 41% of my current housing and utility expenses. With the money I will save, I can likely pay off my student loan balance (my only outstanding debt) in the next 12 months – a full 11 years ahead of schedule. The cons: shared laundry with the homeowners and a kitchenette with only 2 burners and a convection oven. The apartment is probably 30% smaller than what I have now. The walk to work is longer, but the walk to public transportation is shorter.

Things to Consider

Before deciding whether to make this leap and sign a lease on this apartment, I came up with a list of major considerations:

  • I spend most of my non-work time at home. It’s probably worth being comfortable!
  • Housing is one area where it might make more sense to spend money up front [3] to save money in the long run. With a reduction in kitchen size, I might be tempted to eat out more, thus erasing some of my savings.
  • Paying off debt ahead of schedule is always preferable to the alternative.
  • I’ve enjoyed living alone and would like to continue doing so.
  • Since graduation I’ve lived in managed buildings with on-site maintenance, secure entries, pools and fitness centers. On the other hand, I’ve used the latter fairly irregularly, the basement is part of a house in a very safe neighborhood, and maintenance needs are likely to be minimal since the unit is brand new.

The Big Decision

So my question for you is – how far would you go [4] to save money [5]? Does the answer differ depending on whether or not you have debt to pay off [6]? What would you give up to eliminate your debt? Would you take a substantial decrease in your standard of living? Would you switch your diet to consist of slow cooker [7], one-pot, or microwaved meals? Would you give up cabinet space, closet space, and living space? Or would you suck it up and pay the money to keep what you are used to? Alternatively, would you live with a stranger in a nicer building?

I’m getting close to needing to make a decision, as my lease ends at the end of this month. I’d appreciate any help you all can offer before then!