I’ve officially decided that I pay too damn much in rent. I knew when I moved to San Francisco that rent would eat up the biggest portion of my budget (and choosing to live alone would only worsen that effect), but I saw it as just another life advancement: A big-boy apartment meant big-boy costs.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that really, this was just a justified form of lifestyle inflation. Did I need to pay a ton in rent to live alone just because I could? Definitely not. And the idea of it being “the next step in my life” and all that was pretty much just mumbo jumbo: People twice my age live happily with roommates, and after all, I was still renting.
So, moving forward, I’m imposing a rent ceiling on myself, where I don’t pay more than a certain amount of rent. Here’s more detail on why.
Expensive Rent Is Contrary To My Financial Goals
The “rent or buy” debate is a popular one—especially in my own head! For a while, I thought I would be OK never owning a place and always renting. It meant less hassle for me and more location and job mobility.
The cons of renting are well known. You basically pay off somebody else’s mortgage at a premium while building no equity of your own. Even the idea that renting provides more mobility has been challenged before—you can always rent out a house or condo that you own, after all.
Lately, as I grow to really, really like both California sunshine and my job, I’m thinking that buying a place and setting down roots could make sense. To even think about buying a house, you need to save for a down payment. The quickest way to not do that is to tie up your fixed monthly expenses, the largest of which is usually rent. If my endgame is to buy a place, renting an expensive studio is completely contrary to that goal. Hence, the need to put a cap on my willingness to pay for space.
I Want To Prevent Further Lifestyle Inflation
Over the past 6 years, my living situation has changed dramatically. At 18 and 19, I was living in the same room as somebody else, and I didn’t find it weird or stressful. At 21 and 22, I was living with a bunch of roommates in Boston and later New York. 23 was a brief spell at my parents, and 24 has brought me across the country to a San Francisco studio.
When it comes to living situations, I’ve nearly done it all at this point. And the thing is, never once—even when I was sharing a room—did my living situation make me completely unhappy or otherwise affect my life in a major way. I always adjusted, and arguably, more important things (the people I spent time with, the work I was doing, etc.) had a greater influence on my happiness. That’s something I want to maintain.
Living alone is scary to me because of the room (pun intended) it provides for me to get attached to more “stuff”: more personal space, more furniture, more things that shouldn’t matter to me. I want to get back to a place where I’m valuing the more important stuff, and I think returning to a roommate situation will help me do that.
There will be a time when living alone makes sense (i.e., when/if I buy a place), but until then, paying somebody else’s equity for something that has marginal impact on my happiness just doesn’t make sense.
Do you have a rent ceiling for yourself? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know in the comments!