On not saving money by moving

I forget every year that it’s going to happen, but because of timing, summer becomes a not-great period of the year for me. The three or so months before it’s time to renew my lease always turn into a sustained period of low-grade anxiety about Moving and other such Life Decisions. This is probably more of a big deal than it needs to be, since it seems like in the process of scouring Craigslist to decide where I should live for the next year, I should probably figure out things like what I want to do with my life, or at least what I wouldn’t hate doing from 9-5 five days a week.

So far I haven’t moved. Some of that is just inertia and the fact that moving is expensive and a pain in the ass. It’s really just easier to continue to stay here, especially since I’m the one who is furnishing the common areas here. I still vividly remember the incredibly not-fun day my parents and I moved me and all my shit in here, and it’s been years. Repeating that is not very high on my priority list (plus my parents likely won’t come up here to help this time).

But there are also a number of compelling reasons not to move: I’m not on the first floor so I don’t have too many bugs to deal with (I uh…don’t want to talk about the rats though. Those were dark days, and to anyone hoping that rats, like centipedes, stay on the first floor, all I have to say is hahahahahaha bless your heart, you sweet summer child). I’ve got a lovely sunny apartment, which is good for both my plants and for me, an actual solar-powered human. I love the neighborhood, which is quiet and residential. Literally everything I need on a daily basis is within a 25 minute walk: work, barre, the grocery store, the library, and two metro stops. And restaurants and bars when I’m doing that kind of thing. Also just to rub it in, I’ve got an in-unit washer and dryer, which is great.

The cons of my place: it’s old and creaky and there’s zero insulation. This means not only is it warm in the summer and cold in the winter, but I can hear every single thing that happens upstairs. I know this is just apartment life in general, but it kind of seems like being able to hear conversations or someone’s phone vibrate upstairs is just a bit more than normal apartment living (real talk though, I know the “normal” typically includes hearing extracurriculars. One day I will live in a place where I can’t hear my neighbors having sex-or worry about them hearing me-and it will be glorious). Some days I feel like a zoo animal constantly having people knock on the glass of my enclosure because there are just constant footsteps from above, back and forth and back and forth.

This seems like a good time to link to this evergreen YouTube video. But seriously, why is it that upstairs neighbors can never seem to just sit the fuck down and binge-watch Netflix for three hours like normal people do???

Rent is a double-edged sword here. On the one hand I’m super lucky because it hasn’t been raised since I moved in—I honestly think my landlord is at this point just waiting until I move out to make any moves on that front. And I super appreciate it! As far as rents for the area go, I’ve got a pretty great deal, to be honest. I’m certainly not likely to find anything similar in this neighborhood. On the other hand, it’s still expensive, at least for me. Giving just about 50% of my take-home pay to my landlord every month is a lot. There’s obviously a lot of room here for me to increase my income, but that’s another conversation (work could start paying us peons a bit better, too, but that’s another separate conversation).

The moving question intensified this year when a coworker mentioned that she was looking to move at some point in the next few months, so her place in her apartment could open up when my lease was up if I was interested (and bonus, her roommate is another coworker of ours so I already know her). I spent weeks considering this (in the midst of being told that I needed to find a new roommate by August and dealing with a reorganization of my department at work).

A bunch of my coworkers live in the area, and since I’m friends with them it would be nice to be closer to them. As the crow flies they don’t live too far from me, but it’s about three times faster to drive to see them than it would be to take the metro. Even from a frugal standpoint, the metro vs driving comparison here does not favor the metro, especially with all the track work they’ve done the last year and a half and the fact that once it’s late enough, metroing isn’t even an option. Also, let’s be real, the metro is kinda expensive. This has led to me going to parties (like New Year’s this year) and being super anxious about being okay to drive, even if I only had two drinks and stopped about three hours before I was going to leave (okay, I worry too much). Instead of that, I could, y’know, hang out with them all the time. And get drunk at Galentine’s Day Brunch and on random weeknights.

However, it would be a major lifestyle change. At the moment I only drive my car on the weekends and that’s not necessarily every weekend either. It sounds like either there’s not a grocery store in walking distance, or the route there isn’t walking-friendly. Yeah, it’s a pain to have to lug home heavy loads of groceries, but you know what else would be a pain? Having to actually drive to the grocery store. Given that I’ve got an old car with a bunch of miles on it, I’m not really looking to add significant wear and tear by having to drive to everything.

Not to mention that instead of my current walk to work, taking the metro/bus to/from work would take an hour. Yes, I’d be able to carpool with my coworkers, but they leave at the same time my alarm currently goes off in the morning, which isn’t an insignificant reduction in sleep. Part of the reason they leave so early is because they usually stop for coffee and breakfast on the way. I’d get a lot of opportunity flexing my resisting temptation muscles by having to refuse to join in on that every day because money.

However, despite these objections (half of which I’m sure were at least partially fueled by a general ew, change is bad mentality), I seriously considered it. Why? Rent plus a typical month’s utilities would run about $970. That’s something like a $140 difference from my rent and typical month’s utilities. Every month. That’s serious money, and that’s not counting the fact that I’d likely be saving an additional $100/month by cancelling my barre membership. I could keep it and do classes right after work, but that would mean I’d miss the carpool and have to metro an hour home, so that likely wouldn’t last for too long. Plus the apartment building has a free gym, even if I despise using the elliptical as my sole source of exercise. So that would be $240 I’d be saving a month, or $2880 a year. Plus the coworker moving out is the one with all the furniture, so I could move into an empty, unfurnished apartment without having to get rid of all of my stuff.

I couldn’t do it, y’all.

There were the one-time moving-associated purchases. The truck and likely paying movers to help with all my stuff. I’d have to switch my car registration and my residency over to Virginia instead of DC. Those expenses wouldn’t add up to $3,000 though, so I’d still be coming out ahead over the year. Plus I’m guessing groceries and the cost of living in general is potentially just a bit cheaper there.

But I’m just not ready to give up my lifestyle. I joke that because of my fantastic commute I’m stuck in both this job and this apartment until I die, but the truth is that it would be incredibly hard for me to sacrifice my current commute. I like not risking my life every day on the metro, y’know (#unsuckdcmetro)? Obviously if I switch jobs that might change, but I’ll cross that bridge when the job forces me to come to it. No reason to change my apartment and change my commute if I don’t have to.

This is ridiculous, but I like living in DC and not having to come all the way into the city to go to museums, etc. Parts of VA aren’t that far away, but it feels like a huge distance.

The thought of not being able to walk to the grocery store and everywhere else kind of hit me in the gut. Right now I usually combine going to barre and getting groceries, so my meal planning doesn’t have to be more than a few days in advance since I’m at both places all the time. If I forget something non-essential that I forgot to write on my grocery list, no matter. I’ll probably be there tomorrow or the day after. In theory driving to the store for something is easier (and would certainly be faster than me having to dash over there if I do forget something essential and don’t have the ingredients on hand for a different recipe) but it doesn’t seem that way. Plus even without working out, I get quite a bit of exercise in every day just by walking to things.

If I were super serious about becoming financially independent in the near future, I’d get rid of my super spendy unlimited monthly barre membership, since $100 is a lot when we’re talking about money I could potentially save each month. However, barre is the only form of exercise I haven’t hated since I quit dancing, and to be honest I’m getting a way better upper body workout than I ever did in ballet (which is to say, I’m using weights at all)! My physical health is certainly worth $100/month, and let’s be real, it’s way easier to wimp out when I’m working out alone at home following an online video than when I’m in a room full of people and an instructor is yelling at me. Since I try to go to barre at least 3 times a week, that means I’m paying a bit over $8 per class, and sometimes less since I do try to go more often if I can swing it. That’s a pretty damn good price to pay for group classes in this city! One day I will have to let the membership go, but it is not this day.

Aragorn speaking the truth

So, yeah, turns out I had a chance to stop paying an actual arm and leg for my rent, but I turned that opportunity down. Housing, transportation, and food are commonly cited as the biggest parts of anyone’s spending so those are the ones to focus on when trying to save money; I’m making a bad decision here if we’re going with conventional wisdom.

But so much of becoming financially independent means going against the grain of conventional wisdom, and there are as many different ways to financial independence as there are people pursuing it. At this moment in time and as much as I complain about it, my path to FI means spending a ridiculous amount of money on rent so that I can continue to live in this city in a non-awful apartment and walk everywhere. It won’t be that way forever (and while we’re talking the future, I’d love to live on my own and not have to worry about a roommate. A girl can dream, but did you know that it apparently costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500 for the privilege of renting an apartment by yourself? That sound you hear is me hysterically laughing and then crying). But I legitimately was unhappy when I thought about taking this particular opportunity to move, even though it would’ve been significantly cheaper. So here I stay.

With that decision made, another summer of moving anxiety has passed. Join in this time next year for the 2018 living situation existential crisis!

3 Replies to “On not saving money by moving”

  1. I think you made the right decision. Substantially increasing your commute to save $140/month isn’t worth it (assuming it is affordable to you, of course). Take it from someone who increased her commute for cheaper living and regrets it daily.

    1. Thanks for reading, Taylor! And I’m so sorry to hear you regret moving! It’s amazing how awful commutes can make your life, and hopefully you’ll be able to move again soon back to somewhere with a better commute.

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