What We Learned from our Year of Cheap Living

Three weeks from Friday we move into our new apartment. It’s all of about 2.2 miles from our current address yet it’s an entire world away in some ways. At 758 square feet, it’s almost 1 1/2 times the size of our apartment now; plus it has an outdoor space, central heat/air, and a washer/dryer, among other amenities. It also costs $234 more per month and we have to pay our own water bill (our current place includes it in the rent).

We thought long and hard before making the decision to move. We knew it wasn’t going to be a financial burden to pay the increased rent. Rather, our reluctance was that we felt it might detract from our other financial goals. When I sat down with my fabulous budget spreadsheet to figure things out, a very clear picture emerged. We should have opted for the better apartment in the first place. Our year of living cheap did very little towards improving our bottom line. In fact, when we lived in Florida, where our rent was close to $1000 per month, we managed to save more AND travel more…both of which were our reasons for choosing the cheap apartment.

To offset not having a washer/dryer, we have been paying my mom $75 per month to do our laundry. (Before you say anything…my mom loves to do laundry. Once we rented a vacation house in Hawaii and she washed our bathing suits daily just because she wanted to use the fancy washer.) We also pay for a rec center membership ($40 per month) to have access to a pool, gym, and hot tub (all things that are included in our new apartment). When you factor those things out, we’re only increasing our rent by $119. Since the new place is more centrally located, we may recoup even more of this difference in gas savings.

The biggest lesson that we learned from our year of living in a cheap apartment was that happiness begins at home. You can’t accomplish anything if you are unhappy with your surroundings.

When we first looked at the cheap apartment, I had questions. Would I be okay without a porch or patio? Could we really cook like we love to do in the tiny kitchen with its single 18″ countertop? Would not having central heat/air be a blessing or a burden? Was one window enough? But most of all…could we live in this neighborhood? Would we feel safe?

We justified each of these reservations to ourselves. We could go to the park more often. We lived in a RV once and had no problem preparing food in that tiny kitchen. Surely the window air conditioner/heater would be sufficient. Who needs a window anyway when you have the world outside your door? And yes, it must be safe. After all, we’re just 3/10 of a mile from the Sheriff’s Office.

If you ever have that nagging feeling in your stomach that tells you not to do something, for heaven’s sake, don’t do it! From day one, we were never happy in our new home. We weren’t without reasons though (as you’ll see from the photos). From a leak in the roof that took 34 days to fix to a main breaker that blew one Friday, leaving us in the dark for the entire weekend, or the 3 days it took to replace the water heater, which subsequently caught fire; there was always something. Let’s just say maintenance has never been a priority here. And when they did replace things, like the air conditioner, they put one in that was too small to cool more than just the room it was in. Forget making a cobbler with those summer fruits – turning on the oven skyrockets the temp inside the apartment to over 90 degrees!

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Perhaps circumstances wouldn’t have been any different in the other apartment but I kind of doubt it. At the very least we could have spent more of our time this past year working toward our goals rather than trying to find ways not to be stressed out over our poor choice in apartments every day. I chalk this up (like so many things in our life) as a learning experience. We learned that cheap isn’t always good and for us, our home simply has to be a place we can feel at peace.

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