Making the Decision to Improve Our Standard of Living by Spending More

by David Ning · 18 comments

apartment living

When is it appropriate to spend more money to improve our standard of living? This is a question that I’ve asked myself numerous times after I started living on my own a few years ago. After much discussion with my soon-to-be wife, we finally decided to move out of our current one bedroom apartment once Emma and I get married. In reality, we would like to move before our big day but we felt that it would be easier for our mental health to space out the stress.Currently, I live in a one bedroom apartment with a monthly rent of $1045 USD. Although the landlord increased our rent significantly from $920 less than one year ago, it is still much lower than similar sized units in the area. All would be great if only I actually liked living in this place. Unfortunately, much of the reason why I picked the city and apartment complex I live in is because of the cost. For months now, I keep trying to convince myself that living in a place I’m not totally comfortable in is worth it because I’m able to save more money.

As a result, my mood and also health has suffered. From trying to stay away from the apartment as much as possible to slurging to make myself happier, I have managed to save much less than expected by living in my current place.

After looking at just one other apartment, I was convinced that I needed to move. Although this represents a huge increase in monthly expenses, I believe that Emma and I will come out ahead in the long run because I will be much happier living in a nicer place and it will free my mind to earn more money than the amount that we can save. Here are some rough calculations to give you an idea of how much the differences in expenses are.

Cost Old Apartment New Apartment Difference
Rent $1045 $1690 $645
Trash/water Included $50 $50
Rental Insurance Not needed $18 $18
Gas to commute to my workplace $50 $250 $200
Gas to commute to Emma’s workplace $200 $100 $-100
Total $1295 $2108 $813


*Only expenses that will change are shown above

$813 dollars a month is not a small chump of change and we fully understand the consequences of spending that much more money each month. However, I feel that there are times in life when money should be spent and this is one of them. Also, we were originally going to buy a house earlier this year but decided to wait because of the downturn in real estate prices so the higher cost will let us get used to a higher housing expense.

During the coming weeks, we will look into more apartments and the cost might come down a little but I suspect that it won’t be much. What do you think? I imagine that I will get some comments of people telling me that the increase in rent is absolutely insane (to some degree, it is) but I just cannot ignore the fact that the new living expenses are still affordable for us and the fact that I’m living in a place that is inexpensive but not up to par.

I’d love to hear what you think.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Ross says:

    Quality of life means something and it all depends on whether you can comfortably afford the new place. Me, I’d stay in the old place and fix it up to my liking and deduct it from the rent.

  • Renters Insurance says:

    An extra $813 dollars a month would seem to go a little further these days. Besides the fact that lease prices throughout the USA have came down as much as 10% in places like San Francisco, the economy is in the dumps and who knows what’s going to happen to Social Security by the time the X generation retires, lest us also forget about how few companies are now offering pension plans and the ones that do, sometimes go belly up…ie, Enron and Bear Stearns.

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  • Betty Ann says:

    I say: “Run”.. you can make more $$$$ when you are at Peace and you can find ways to be FRUGAL to make up for some of the higher rent.

    I speak from past experience.

  • Peter Bielagus says:

    Hmmmm…this is a tough one. Money isn’t everything but $813 is a lot. My advice would be to think about if you spend another $813 on the new apartment where are you going to cut back? On vacations? Dinner’s out? Sometimes being house poor can be just as bad as living in a poor house. But if you truly feel its necessary as a financial advisor for young people I’d say do it. Just try to cut back as much as you can in other areas.

    I can offer one glint of hope. I’m not sure why you said in your old apartment you didn’t need renter’s insurance, but I think that should have been a cost in the old apartment as well. In other words, that is actually not a cost increase its the same.

    Renter’s BTW protects your stuff even when it is OUTSIDE of you apartment. A friend of mine had Christmas presents stolen out of his car (wrapped and everything). He didn’t bother with renters insurance so he really took a hit on that one. Renter’s would have covered that (car insurance would not) Be sure to shop around for it. Try http://www.youcovered.com. (You can get a quote without giving any personal information.)

    I hope it works out and happy holidays

    Peter

  • Double Journey says:

    Tripling your income is not as hard as it sounds if you plan early and right.

    I from a very young age knew I wanted to be successful, so I did the right things like studying hard and getting into the right school. I’ve been fortunate that my career of choice is both interesting to me and lucrative but I planned it that way.

    That’s actually one of the goals of my site, is to give people insight to my story and show people how to grow your career quickly.

  • B says:

    As time goes on, our living lifestyle will change.
    Increasing monthly expense doesn’t necessary means you have to change the way that you live. Like cutting back on other expenses. I would use this as a motivator to make myself work harder to satisfy my needs, and make more money. We need to have a bigger vision. For myself. I got myself a new car. Before I don’t think I can afford the monthly payment, nor i don’t think there is a need for a new car. But if you don’t believe yourself, you will maintain in the same lifestyle. Is that what you want? We have to look @ a bigger picture.

  • I think many of us can appreciate the situation you are in. I do believe in finding ways to be frugal on a daily basis, but the reason we do that is so that we can spend a bit more elsewhere if need be. I believe this is one of those times. It sounds as if a new start is needed for your new start with Emma, because you should not feel uncomfortable in your current home. Your home should be a safe, loving, nurturing environment for the two of you, and it doesnt sound like you have that now. If the $800 increase makes you uncomfortable, i would suggest looking for more ways to trim your expenditures, as even small changes will make a difference. Also, there may be some simple ways for one or both of you to bring in a bit more of an income each month. From recycling cans to writing a column for a local paper, this can assist with at least one of your added expenses, like your increased commuter cost.

  • MoneyNing says:

    Early Retirement: In my situation, most things I want can be bought so question (a) does not apply nearly as much as question (b).

    As for (b), I’ve always thought that the money saved will grow and it’s been the one thing that kept me from spending any money at all through life. However, I think I’m going a little overboard because of my conservation and paranoid nature. I’m trying to get out of that habit, and moving is one of the ways I’m doing so.

    Brent: I’ve thought about that but most things that I buy will not benefit my wife. For example, I would be quite happy with a new plasma/LCD TV but my wife couldn’t care less 🙂 At least the apartment will benefit the both of us.

    Edwin: Hmm. It’s great to hear from someone that is on the opposite side. Emma and I will really have to discuss this when I get back this week.

    Prince: I must’ve misworded the sentence. I should say that the apartment does not require one and I didn’t get it rather than we don’t need one.

    Merry Maid: It’s a great story you have there. Many people don’t have the motivation or the attitude required to save and I’m glad the two of you were able to save approx. 75% of your take home pay each month…

    Double Journey: Wow tripling your income in 7 years sounds quite good. I would be very happy when I triple my current income in ANY years 😀

  • Double Journey says:

    OK. I recently made the decision to increase the quality of my life as well. Despite almost tripling my income over the last 7 years, I’ve lived pretty much the exact same lifestyle. I decided it was time to change that.

    However, I’m very glad I’ve done this until now. I have a very good nest egg and am well on my way to be very comfortable for the rest of my life. If I did not feel this way yet, I wouldn’t be increasing my spending. It’s MUCH easier to keep a simple lifestyle and keep saving because you honestly don’t know what you are missing.

  • Merry Maid says:

    We’ll be making the same move as you, BUT I’m very glad i stayed in this crappy, run down apt for 6 months. I knew it would be only a year at the most so that helped. We had made a decision to stay here until we met our financial goals. It was very motivating to pay off the credit cards and the car. We’d ask ourselves, hmm, do we want this gadget/dinner out or do we want to move? Trust me, our apt motivated us to put about $3k/month out of $4400/month take home combined + 2nd jobs each (and paid over $4k in doc bills out of pocket, too). LOL.

    We wouldn’t have met our goal living in a “better” apt; and not just cuz of the higher rent. Here, who cared what the place looks like? no matter what we do, it’s horrible. But in the new place, we’re getting furniture to match and wall hangings, etc. We’ll also do more entertaining. Those indirect costs add up.

    But if you guys have a great emergency fund, low debt, and are comfortable with your retirement saving levels, why not treat yourselves? I understand completely…………

  • Why do you say you currently don’t need rental insurance? If your apartment was broken into, you wouldn’t have any insurance covering your personal belongings. If the building burned, same thing.

    The landlords insurance will not cover the tenants belongings. You should ALWAYS have rental insurance as a tenant.

    It is NOT a case of you don’t need it, but rather a case of you don’t have it.

  • Edwin says:

    Here’s a different perspective. My wife and I are living in a nice apartment in a good area and we can afford it but we’d wish we could trade with you and lower our expenses by the amount you are considering increasing. Housing is hard to come by in our area so we were kind of “stuck” for a while with our decision.

    Our peace of mind is hindered by the small amount of money we can save each month even though we like the apartment and are happy here. We’ve had a few rent increases along the way which didn’t help things and since it is a desirable area people are willing to pay more and put up with the increases. We’ll be moving out of the area soon but just thought I’d mention our situation because you really have to examine which of your goals are more important, saving money vs. current lifestyle and this is a very personal choice.

  • Brent says:

    I am in a similar situation, though not quite as bad. Two things to think about:
    1. you can get used to the higher costs before buying a house by setting aside that money. You get the benefits of saving (useful for a downpayment) and the understanding of what it will be like to live without that additional cash flow.

    2. If you are going to buy a house in the near future, don’t forget about the hassle and costs of moving the extra time.

    Also, think about if you can use that money to buy things that will make your experience in the current apt. better. For example, if a plasma tv will make the experience better, it would still likely be cheaper (for a reasonable one) to get a nice new tv than pay for a year at the new rent price. Also, once you have the TV it will make a nice addition to the new house when you decide to buy. So if you can get some new things and hopefully save some, you might be able to wind up next year with some fun toys, additional savings, and a year of living in an apartment that wasn’t that bad.

    Of course, if you can’t stand it, there is something to be said about enjoying where you live. Don’t be afraid to spend the money to make you happy, just make sure that it will indeed do so (and there aren’t cheaper alternatives).

  • Tom says:

    I lived two years too long in an apartment complex whose only virtue was cheap rent. I went from paying $650 to paying $1100 to rent a house, but gained peace and quiet and lost the nere-do-well neighbors. It was worthy every penny. If you can afford it, move somewhere that will add to your quality of life.

  • Emily says:

    I think it’s really you two’s decision. If you two will be happier at the new apartment, then I will say it’s worth the money. If not, then I’ll say just save money for your future house. That’s just my tiny opinions.

  • Jazmin says:

    Frugal is all fine and good, but miserable with money in the bank isn’t what life is about. If you can afford it (and I trust that you’ve crunched the numbers to know), then life is far far too short to spend it miserable.

    And yes, moving a month before getting married, into the condo that the wedding will be held at is a Dumb Idea ™. I proved that empirically. 🙂

  • There are two question only you can answer based on current income, future income, and in particular the law of diminishing returns.

    a) Are the $10000 per year best spent on an upgraded apartment or something else in the present?

    b) If saved, the $10000 will grow to substantially larger amounts, so would you rather have a higher standard of living now or in the future?

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