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Today I have a guest post from Allea over at AskAllea.com. I was so happy when she reached out to me for a guest post because I love her holistic approach to financial health and her fun writing style. Hope you enjoy!
When you’re trying to pay off debt, you’ll do a lot of things to save money.
You’ve got a small pool of “lifestyle” funds you can have fun with. And with small funds comes big creativity.
I’m all about maximizing the dollars I do have:
- I plan my meals and cook at home.
- I rarely buy a drink at restaurants (but I always eat allllll the free chips and salsa they’ll give me — because, of course).
- I have a free Spotify account and put up with the annoying ads.
These are great ways to squeeze value out of a tight budget, but out of all the ways you can save money, it’s looking at your biggest, fixed expenses where you’ll save the most.
Why Lowering Your Rent Matters
I save with housing.
I’ve kept my housing expenses very low since graduating college. Like, $262.50 in rent low. It’s been key to keeping my fixed expenses manageable and allowing me to put money into savings, pay off debt early and travel.
I’ve been living with two women for the last year, paying supa-cheap rent and drilling through my student loan debt. After starting at $21,000 in student loans five years ago, I’m now down to $6,100. My debt goal is to put $450-550 each month toward my student loans.
In 12 months, they’ll be all gone. Abracadabra — poof!
However, juuuust as I’m on this path to being debt free, things changed.
When Cheap Housing Ain’t Cheap No More
With one roommate moving out to get married and the other hoping to live on her own in the next 6-12 months, I was reminded that affordable housing is a privilege — it’s not always available.
To stay in my current house, for as long as my other roommate will stick around, would cost me almost an additional $300 each month to cover the increase in rent and utilities.
When your sights are set on paying off your debt, $300 is a lot of dough!
Since I’m so close to being debt-free, I’m getting a little desperate. To stay on track, I’m determined to keep my rent low for just one more year.
When your rent is as low as what I’ve been used to, it’s hard to find anything comparable. And when you’d really like to live alone, it’s tempting change your goals to make room for higher rent.
Live Alone or Find a Roommate?
My internal debate between “live alone and push back your debt repayment, ‘cause it’s not a big deal” and “live cheap and take care of your debt like you know you want to” went on for a solid week.
I racked my brain for other places to live. What were my options?
Solo Apartment Life
- Approximately $700
- Upside: A place to myself.
- Downside: Mucho expensive. I don’t own a couch or anything to fill an apartment by myself. It would cost me money to own those things, kind of derailing the whole “paying off debt early” plan I have going on.
One-Roommate Duplex Life
- Approximately $475
- Upside: Cheaper than living alone. Only one person to share a shower with.
- Downside: I’m so over finding a roommate. At 28, I’d rather not have to worry about finding new-roommate harmony.
Multi-Roommate House Life
- Approximately $350
- Upside: Cheap.
- Downside: Sharing a house with three women. Did that for five straight years. I’m totally over it.
Live with Family
- Approximately no idea what that would cost.
- Upside: Cheap. No lease.
- Downside: Is it weird to live with your cousin, his wife and their newborn? Maybe. Felt that was coming a little too close to desperate to be safe.
A Creative Affordable Housing Option
Then, what do you know? One day I was at my friend’s house — she’s in her early 50’s and a widow of just over two years — and she says:
“What am I going to do with this five-bedroom house all by myself?”
Raising my hand slowly, “I’d live with you.”
Aha! The one housing option I didn’t consider before.
Live with a Family That’s Not Yours
- Upside: Keeping expenses low. Getting to live with my friend, plus she’ll have me around as company in such a big house.
- Downside: Mmm, any?
We agreed on a flat rate for rent and utilities. I’ll be paying close to what I’m currently spending, so it won’t rock my financial boat at all. Just what I needed!
The goal of paying off my debt as planned is what tipped the scale for me. The money I’ll be saving in rent is better spent on my debt repayment than going to a landlord. It’ll be worth it.
Sure, I can make my lunches at home, but cutting back on my grocery budget isn’t going to save me $300 each month.
Don’t count out the option of living with a family friend, empty nesters from your church or community, or anyone who finds themselves alone for some reason. If you’re lucky enough to find the option you should definitely consider it.
For one more year I may not have the solo-apartment-living life. But in one more year, I will be debt free.