My Moving Dilemma — Is it Still Downsizing if it Costs More?
Over the past several months, I’d imagine that most people have been spending a lot more time in their homes. In turn, I’d be willing to bet that little things that may have only slightly irked them about their abodes previously have since been upgraded to full-on annoyances. That’s kind of been the case for my wife and me, as we’ve recently gone from wishing we could live in a different apartment to seriously considering a move.
Whether we realized it at the time or not, our efforts to declutter and get rid of excess items over the past few months has actually prepared us pretty well as we look for a change. Specifically, it made us wonder if maybe we should consider downsizing with our next home. However, we’ve run into one little hiccup along the way: is it still downsizing if it’s going to cost us more?
That’s right — while we’ve found an apartment we both like for a number of reasons, moving there would mean paying more. With me being a personal finance writer and her regularly proving to be the more logical and analytical one between us, this prospect had us both a bit concerned. Still, given the advantages of the new place, we ended up pretty torn.
On that note, I thought I’d share exactly what the apartment in question has to offer, what the downsides are, and then reveal what decision we’ve since reached:
The Advantages of the New Apartment
In 2021, an Internet connection is essential — and having a faster Internet connection is even better. That’s why I was intrigued to see that the apartments we were researching featured fiber Internet — something that’s not terribly common in Springfield just yet. Even better, this amenity (along with DirectTV) is provided to residents at no extra charge. Incidentally, this is similar to the arrangement we have right now, except that our connection has regularly proven problematic because, well, you get what you pay for.
To an outside observer, better Internet might not seem like that big of a perk. However, with both of us working from home, doing live streams, etc., the upgrade in speed and reliability really is a big deal. Plus, since it’s included with the apartment, we don’t need to worry about price hikes or calling to complain to the provider each year. Therefore, I think this will be a win overall.
Something I didn’t really consider when we were looking at different apartment options is how our utility bill might be impacted. Well, as it turns out, we may see a small but significant decrease in our electric bill because of the way the management company of the new place does things. First, the complex utilizes solar panels on the roof. Because of this unique feature, the company pays for utilities and then bills each tenant, tying the monthly expense into your rent payment.
Also notable is that, instead of billing residents on their actual usage, the payment is based on the square footage of your unit. With us having one of the smallest units on the property, this should work out fairly well for us. Plus, unlike now where we keep our thermostat just a tad above or below where we might sometimes want it to be, we can now make ourselves a little more comfortable while not being absolute energy hogs.
If there’s one thing that gets my wife and I riled up about our current apartment complex, it’s parking. For one, the area in front of our building has no painted lines, leaving our neighbors to park obnoxiously and reduce the number of spots available near our apartment. Additionally, there is currently no covered parking available to us, which has often meant stepping inside a boiling hot car in the summer or (more recently) cleaning off a snow-covered car in the winter. Given these experiences, covered parking was definitely on my apartment wish list — and one that the community we’re considering checks off.
Truth be told, while it will be nice to have a little protection from the heat and snow, my main motivation to attain covered parking is hail. Thankfully, since we’ve moved here, we’ve only seen small hail occur a couple of time. Still, whenever the forecast warns of severe storms, I do wonder what would happen to our vehicle if it were to be pelted with falling ice chunks. Hopefully we won’t need to find out now that we can keep our beloved little car safely under a structure.
When we decided to move to Springfield, one of my wife’s must-haves was an in-unit washer/dryer. That’s why we were excited when we saw that the complex we were looking at offered this amenity. Unfortunately for us, at the time that we needed a place, none of the units available were the ones with the machines or even with hookups. Since we needed to move fairly quickly (L.A. was expensive so we were ready to rush it), we settled for an apartment sans convenient laundry facilities.
Obviously we’ve been able to make do without them — but it’s always been an annoyance for us. Thus, when we learned that the unit we’re looking at actually did come equipped with a washer and dryer, we were pretty excited. What’s more, while the two machines are stacked for space-saving, each is full-sized. Add in the fact that using these machines won’t really impact our utility bill and this amenity is an easy draw.
Mixed-use community (and farmer’s market)
Last but definitely not least, one of the things that most attracted me to the complex is that it’s a mixed-use community. This means that, in addition to the apartment units, there is retail space. In this case, the area is home to several restaurants, a coffee shop, a few shops, and even a bank. Sure, it’s nothing terribly expansive, but I’m excited about having these small businesses so easily accessible to us.
On top of that, every Saturday, the complex plays host to a farmer’s market. As cool as the other shops and eateries are, I’m definitely looking forward to exploring what’s available at these weekly events. Hey, it may even allow us to eat a bit healthier and/or add some new items to our recurring dinner menu. Basically what I’m saying is that this apartment isn’t just a new place to live but also comes with a slight change in lifestyle.
The Downsides of the New Place
It’s smaller and costs more
When my wife and I separately made our lists of pros and cons, we both had the same two downsides: 1) it’s smaller and 2) it costs more. If you’re going just by number of items, the “pros” side definitely wins. However, there’s no denying that, when put together, these are two huge downsides!
Let’s start with the smaller part. Currently, we’re in a two bedroom apartment that’s about 900 square feet. Meanwhile, although the new apartment isn’t that much smaller on paper (coming in at around 850 square feet), it is only one bedroom. For us, this means that, instead of having a dedicated room for an office, the desks will now reside in the living room.
At first blush, this is nearly a dealbreaker. But then I realized that, while I do like having a room for an office, we never really use our living room. Therefore, while the extra space is nice, it may not be as necessary as I thought — and, in fact, we may be wasting the space we have now. Also, I should mention that just down the hall from the unit we’d be renting, there is a community room, which has plenty of seating, a full kitchen, and more. I’d suspect that demand for this room isn’t terribly high on weekday afternoons, so I’m betting we can commandeer it from time to time if we need a change of scenery while working. Additionally, once it’s safe to work out of coffee shops again, there would be one of those just mere steps outside of our door.
As for the “costs more” part, this is actually where my biggest hangup is. Setting aside things like utilities and amenities, our base rent would be increasing from $640 to $1,035 — basically, an extra $400 a month. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot! That’s the equivalent of buying a digital-only PS5 every damn month. So, how do I justify this?
Well, I’m not sure I can. Ultimately, I don’t take this increase lightly and part of me feels like it is silly to pay so much more. Yet, what I will say is that, after six years of living in an apartment that we weren’t thrilled with, we did manage to save up a decent chunk of money. In addition to having an emergency fund, we’ve also continued to save for retirement. Plus, even with the extra expense, we’d still be spending about a quarter of our gross monthly income on rent, which seems pretty reasonable. And finally, we deserve to have nice things and like where we live, right?
Even after I had mostly signed off on that logic, there was one more revelation I had: we could pay off the car. If you’ll recall, in the summer of 2019, my wife and I decided to purchase a used vehicle from a vending machine (it’s a whole thing). Well, although the payments on our four-year loan were pegged at $350, we’ve been paying $400 a month since then. Therefore, if we pay off this balance now — which is actually pretty doable for us — our monthly expenses would, in essence, remain the same. Yes, I realize that there are flaws in this logic as we will need to earmark funds for maintenance on the car and yada yada yada. But still, this realization made me think that, all things considered, this move might make sense for us.
If you hadn’t guessed by now, we decided to move. Our applications were approved last week and we signed our lease the next day. We will get the keys to the new apartment on March 12th and, while we’ve already turned in our notice to our current landlord, we’ll actually have this place through the end of March. Truth be told, I’m a little annoyed that our current apartment won’t prorate our rent out (I was foolishly thinking we’d leave on the 15th and pay only half-a-month’s rent), but the extra time will be nice as it will make the move itself less stressful. On that note, I’m also thinking that, with a full two weeks in which to move, we can be more methodical with our process, keeping ourselves organized and even discard unneeded items along the way.
Personally, I’m really looking forward to getting set up in the new place and taking advantage of all of its benefits. Additionally, I’m using the extra expense as motivation to push myself a bit harder when it comes to creating content and generating revenue. All in all, I think it will be a good change for us — but I’ll be sure to keep you updated either way.
Also published on Medium.