For five years, I lived in a house with three other women, paying $262.50 each month in rent.
As a recent college grad, it was the holy grail of cute-house-sweet-neighborhood-cheap-rent situations. Though the basement left muuuuch to be desired, it was a nice place.
We called it the Beach House. Not because it’s near a beach (um, Nebraska), but because it looks like it should be.
Four women, one shower. Nothing glamorous.
And by the time I moved out in 2016, I had lived with 10 different women in this house.
Avoiding Lifestyle Inflation
I had many opportunities to move out, but every option would undoubtedly cost me more than $350 a month in rent and utilities.
The idea of a two-bedroom apartment with one friend was only mildly tempting. I wasn't going to give up a huge money-saving opportunity when it was already in my hands.
Because core expenses are where you have the greatest opportunity to save.
When you're aware of your big expenses — like housing, car payments, groceries — and do your best to keep them low, you have more control over your budget.
Once those expenses go up, it’s hard to get that margin back in your budget. (And that's called "Lifestyle inflation." It's a real thing.)
Make a Decision
I knew this: If I wanted to pay down my student loans, eat something more substantial than Ramen and/or have a social life where I can go to concerts and travel, I couldn’t go upping the one core expense that was the easiest to keep low.
“Don’t make me leave this house and pay more somewhere else. Please. Pleeeeease...”
I chose to keep my living standards as they were: four women, one shower, one fridge, no dishwasher, a glitchy oven, snowy street parking and a history of pests in the basement (pretty sketch, actually).
Sure, it wasn’t always ideal, but I learned a ton having roommates — and killer dance parties in the kitchen added to the charm.
Cheap rent was a bonus.
The Long-Term Goal
One of these days I’d like to get a quaint house, pay someone else to mow the yard (cuz that’s why we have budget, right?!), have an old dog who is as lazy as I am and likes to cuddle, while hosting friends and strangers over for brunch.
I’m shooting for these things within the lens of financial freedom, though. I don’t need that now, not yet. Even though I could buy a home, I really don’t the burden of homeownership and a level of responsibility that makes me cringe with anxiety. Oy.
I want to ease my way into Future Allea’s little-house and old-dog lifestyle. I don’t want those responsibilities and expenses overnight, anyway. I’ve got time, goals and patience.
In the meantime, I’m living with roommates, paying inexpensive rent and enjoying my tiny bedroom and proximity to friends.
If you’re debating whether you’re crazy for being in your late 20’s and living with roommates, just know that you’re not alone. I’m doing it, and it’s fun. It’s also fiscally responsible :)
What You’ll Save
I compared my rent at the Beach House to a typical apartment rate of $600 a month in Lincoln.
In 5 years of paying $262.50 per month, I paid $15,750 in rent.
In 5 years of paying $600 per month, I would have paid $36,000 in rent.
So, based on an average expense of living by yourself in Lincoln, I’ve saved $20,250 over the course of five years.
Go ahead and do the math for yourself and compare the costs before making a move, since that new rent expense will be a fairly permanent part of your budget.
Your clothing budget can change from month-to-month, but your rent will stay the same.
When Your Rent Gets Cheaper
If you’re looking at moving somewhere with cheaper rent, determine what you’ll do with the difference in rent prices when you move.
(This is a very proactive move, and Future You will appreciate it.)
If you’re currently paying $600 a month, but you’re planning to move in with a roommate for only $400 a month, what will you do with that $200 difference?
Make a plan for it:
- Will you automate it to savings?
- Budget it for student loans?
- Put it toward retirement?
- Start a side hustle?
That’s up to you! By downsizing (or down-pricing), you’re at a great advantage. You weren’t used to that $200 in your budget before, so how can you maximize it now?
Related: Find Out Where Your Money Is Going
There’s this weird thing in my head about what it means like to look like an “adult.” For some reason those thoughts include things like houses and dogs and cars that don’t break down — but there’s something to be said for the waiting, the meantime. That's where I am.
You can save a lot — now, and in the long-run — by keeping core expenses low.