Lifestyle inflation: How to decide if it’s ever okay

Despite that I don't own it, I like my apartment. It's got a mountainous view, it's comfortable, and my neighbors are few but friendly. Sure, I'd like to own a home someday. But, unless I move to another city, that probably isn't going to happen in the next few years. I'm fine with that. Like my neighbor said, I'd rather live here than anywhere else, at least for now.

If you sense a wee bit of defensiveness in my tone, you're not imagining it. Part of me is trying to justify something.

After my upstairs neighbor moved out a few months ago, our management company began gutting their apartment. We found out they were completely updating it and tearing down walls to put in central air, a dishwasher and an entirely different floor plan.

It didn't take long for me to notice all the stuff I hate about our apartment: doing the dishes by hand — what are we, cavemen? — and no central air. Life shouldn't be this hard.

In case there's any doubt, I'm joking. My point is: I never really noticed these things until I learned about the amenities that will be enjoyed by the Future Joneses in Apartment 9.

“We should move into that apartment,” my boyfriend and I have been joking over the past few months. “Wouldn't that be funny? To move up one flight of stairs?”

But at some point, we got kind of serious about it. “Well, the rent will only be $240 more per month,” he pointed out. In our area, that's not a huge jump. Plus, we split rent, so we'd each only pay an extra $120 a month. “If we moved, we'd still be living below our means,” I conceded. “But I don't know.”

It's pure lifestyle inflation. And in recent weeks, I admit that I've started to mull over the question of whether lifestyle inflation is ever okay and, if so, how do you decide when it is okay? Here's how I'm sorting out my thoughts on the matter.

(Warning: This is another one of those “First World problem” posts. I'm really grateful to be debating over something like this.)

How will this affect my budget?

It's the first, and most important, question. Our spending will automatically change, monthly, with this expense. It's not something we buy once and get to enjoy it. It will truly inflate our lifestyle and our budget. To be honest, I don't really use a strict budget. I make savings goals each year, and simply aim to reach those goals.

I crunched the numbers to see what our spending looks like, using the 50/30/20 paradigm (50 percent bills/30 percent spending/20 percent savings goals) as reference. If we were still trying to get out of debt, it would change my perspective quite a bit, but here's how my spending stacks up in any event, generally speaking.

  • 27 percent: Bills and rent (14 percent rent, 13 percent bills)

  • 35 percent: Savings

  • 38 percent: Spending

I was surprised that spending was my highest percentage, because I consider myself a frugal person. But I guess it makes sense — my fixed expenses are pretty low, compared to the 50/30/20 method, and that's because I am so frugal with those expenses. I cut back on the things I don't care about so I can spend more money on the things I love, like travel and dining out.

If we moved to the new apartment, the bills and rent percentage would jump to almost 30 percent.

“That's still great compared to most people's budgets,” my boyfriend argued. Which is true, but I'd rather compare my spending to my own goals, not other people's expenses.

So back to the question: How will this affect our budget? I'm not going to budge on my savings goals.

I guess I could always take on extra work to make up the difference. That would keep my spending and income gap in tact. But dammit, I don't want to work more.

In that case, the extra money would have to come out of our spending. That means less dining out or less travel. I have to ask myself, Is the apartment worth giving up a bit on those things? And, in that case, is it truly lifestyle inflation, or just a trade-off?

(Note: My boyfriend and I haven't fully merged our finances yet, so I'm only calculating my own budgetary changes.)

What is the opportunity cost?

The extra amount I'd pay each month, $120, equates to $1,440 a year. And I could be losing even more than that, if you consider the opportunity cost. What additional opportunities are we giving up by spending that money?

For example, let's say we choose to invest that money instead. If I invest $140 a month, in a year, that's almost $1,500 (assuming a return of 7 percent). And in three years, that would be $4,800. If we combined our savings, that amount will jump to about $9,500.

Suddenly, I wonder if I really hate doing the dishes that much. Is a more comfortable lifestyle worth the opportunity cost?

And what is that cost in terms of my goals?

Let's say my goal is to save up for a down payment for a home in L.A. If I save that money instead, I could buy a home sooner. But how much sooner? Homes here are expensive, and, unfortunately, $9,500 would be about a tenth of what our down payment might cost. I might rather live it up in this apartment for the next three to five years at the risk of pushing back my homeownership goal a bit. In that time, maybe I'll pick a cheaper place to live, anyhow.

What am I getting in return?

I showed my boyfriend that figure.

“But it's not like we're not getting anything in return for our money,” he said. “Plus, we'll cut back on spending, not our savings.”

Even though I defended renting a while back, I couldn't help but argue:

“But we're spending more money on a place we don't even own. It's like throwing money away.”

“With that logic,” he said, “Why don't we just move into the cheapest apartment we can find?”

He has a point. Renting is just our reality. I'd love to buy a home someday; but if I stay where I'm at, it'll be a while before that happens. Isn't it okay to enjoy my income a little in the meantime?

Still, there's a part of me that feels we're spending more money on something, and, when it's all said and done, we have nothing to show for it, because we don't own it.

“When we travel, we don't own anything, either,” he said. “Except the memories. It's more of an experience purchase. In this case, we're paying for comfort.”

And here's the comfort we'd be getting in return:

  • A bit more free time: We'd save time doing the dishes. Also, when both of us have a busy week, we sometimes order out too much and avoid cooking. Cooking equals dishes, and I know neither of us will have time to do those dishes the next day, so it's just easier to order out. I'm not arguing that this dishwasher will save us money, but it might make it easier to avoid stress spending.

  • Brand new stuff: This is a rarity when you rent. It'd be really nice to use a tub and toilet that a hundred other people haven't used on a regular basis.

  • More space: The apartment is slightly bigger, which is nice, though it's not that big of a deal to me. I don't mind small spaces. But it would be nice to have more room for my home office.

  • Better aesthetics: The layout, lighting and amenities are better, making our day-to-day environment more comfortable and pleasant.

How frequently will I enjoy this?

Another important consideration in mulling over my lifestyle upgrade: Is this upgrade something I will enjoy often? It makes sense to spend your money where you spend your time.

A couple of years ago, we splurged on an expensive mattress, part of the justification being that we spend 8 hours a day on the thing. My back and I have zero regrets about that decision.

On the other hand, I once bought an expensive pair of heels. I work from home and rarely go to fancy places, so these shoes mostly just collect dust in my closet. Every now and then, I look at them and wonder if I should just try to sell them.

The apartment splurge is something I would enjoy on a daily basis, especially since I work from home. Also, I'd have more room for my home office, which would be nice.

I like being frugal. But, as we've discussed before, frugality isn't just about saving money. It mostly seems to be about optimizing value. I'm not saying that this move would be a frugal choice; I just wonder if it's inherently un-frugal. I'll admit, I'm leaning on the side of moving, because I have no real concrete goals, I'm just saving to save, and, hell, I want to live a little. I'm into personal finance for the financial freedom, flexibility and options. What's the point of managing my money so well if, when I finally get to the third stage of finance, I hesitate to spend it on day-to-day comfort and convenience?

It all sounds very rational, but the cautious side of me worries that I'm only justifying things. After all, I didn't get to the third stage by giving into lifestyle inflation.

Still, it sure would be nice to move into what now seems like the perfect apartment.

What do you think? Is moving into a better apartment a bad personal finance decision? How do you decide on lifestyle upgrades? Is there something else to consider?

More about...Home & Garden, Planning, Travel

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Owen
Owen
5 years ago

I suggest that you attach more weight to those aspects of the two living situations that will continue to draw your attention–e.g. the view, the extra flight of stairs to climb, the handwashing you do now–and less to those aspects you will eventually get used to–e.g. the new appliances, the change in size. (I may have put some things in the wrong categories: if the view out the window is the same every day, but having too little home office space bothers you regularly, maybe they should switch places.) It’s the things you will continue to notice that end up… Read more »

Erica W.
Erica W.
5 years ago
Reply to  Owen

I second the cut a deal with your landlord idea. See if you can get a dishwasher and central air in your current place — ideally for the same rent you’re paying now.

Terrance
Terrance
5 years ago
Reply to  Owen

Great point Owen. The building where I used to rent was renovating: new paint, berber carpet, all new stainless appliances and kitchen sinks, granite countertops, and they even added washers and dryers. They went apartment by apartment as people moved out. When all the empty apartments had been renovated, they started asking existing tenants to move into to the renovated apartments. The moves were completely free: no rent increases or lease extensions were required.

M
M
5 years ago

Kristin,

I have two thoughts on this. You asked..
As I lurch toward another winter in Canada, I wonder why not simply spend more time outdoors. You would have fabulous lighting and cool(ish) breezes most days. I wish I could be comfortably outdoors most of the year here. I would have a smaller, simpler space if that were the case.
But what if you committed to living in a new, splashy pad for for a defined time. Like 3-5 years. You can probably justify that limited expense. YOLO!

Beth
Beth
5 years ago

It don’t think it’s wrong to upgrade a little when you do it mindfully. That being said, I’ll throw a little more fuel on the fire 😉 1. Will being in a new place make you dissatisfied with what you currently have? (E.g. Will you want new furniture to better suit your new space? New decor?) 2. Can you negotiate the rent on the new place? You’ve proven you’re good tenants, and they can raise the rent on your place when you move out. 3. Are you being realistic about the pros? You’ll still be doing some dishes with a… Read more »

Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ
5 years ago

Lifestyle inflation is when you automatically upgrade without thinking it through and when you really can’t afford it. It sneaks up on you. In your particular case, this sounds like a carefully thought out upgrade. Your finances are in order, and the upgrade isn’t a huge leap, like going from a Mazda to a Mercedes. You talk about opportunity cost; perhaps you could look at this potential move as an opportunity. Obviously, I’m in favor of the move, but I’m in my mid 50s and I already have central air and a dishwasher. (And hubby takes care of the big… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
5 years ago
Reply to  Tina in NJ

“Donna Freedman likes to say that she’s frugal on things she doesn’t care about so she has money to spend on what she really wants.”

I agree, if you made an informed decision and you’re still living below your means then it’s not “lifestyle inflation.” I didn’t thoughtlessly buy my luxury sports car to keep up with any Joneses, I saved for years to afford that particular car that I loved driving and got a used one as well for much cheaper than new when the opportunity came up. No regrets.

Jon
Jon
5 years ago

So, while avoiding lifestyle inflation is a worthy goal, taken to extremes it makes no sense. What if we all maintained the lifestyle we had while we were poor college students, or poor newlyweds? Wouldn’t it be strange to save every dime, squeeze every nickel till it screamed for forty years of a working career, just to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in retirement? One has to determine whether a particular expense is in line with their goals, I suppose. There are other times in life when what appears to be lifestyle inflation is also a golden opportunity. If you moved… Read more »

KT
KT
5 years ago

What about the other expenses with moving? Even just going up a flight of stairs, there’s expenses. Like new checks with the new address, updating renter’s insurance (and your landlord may demand a more expensive policy for the new apartment)getting a new driver’s license with the new address, moving supplies, new “stuff” to decorate the new home, etc.

Will you have to put down another security deposit? Application fee?

Jeff
Jeff
5 years ago
Reply to  KT

Changing the address on a driver’s license is about $5 on average, when I did it they didn’t even bother to take a new photo, just reprinted it. Also the address on your checks hardly matters to anyone, it’s been a year since I moved and I’m still using my old checks without any issue.

Mrs. PoP
Mrs. PoP
5 years ago

I think mindful lifestyle inflation definitely has its place, but I think I’ve also taken Dan Ariely’s theories on hedonic adaptation to hear. Whether to improvements or steps down in quality, we adapt VERY quickly. So what’s new and shiny the first month will be old hat the next. (But in the case of the apartment you’d still be paying the new and shiny premium, just not appreciating it nearly as much.) For that reason, he suggests stretching out the timeline for improvements for as long as possible. Things like buying new furniture one at a time instead of as… Read more »

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
5 years ago
Reply to  Mrs. PoP

Except you don’t fully adapt to things that are repeated insults (I mean this in the economic definition of insult– a shock). As in, every time you wash something disgusting that you could have put in the dishwasher, that makes you less happy. You may get used to having the dishwasher, but you may never get used to doing icky dishes. Hedonic adaptation only goes so far.

Petra
Petra
5 years ago

I wash the dishes by hand.

I don’t know what kind of things you put in the dishwasher, or how you created them, but as long as you do your dishes the same day as cooking, you are just removing non-used food from it. It’s not an insult. It’s not hard. It’s not that much of “suffering” to have to do the dishes by hand.

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
5 years ago
Reply to  Petra

The OP indicated that she doesn’t like washing dishes. I was pointing out that you get hedonic adaptation from things that happen one time and you get used to, but not from things that are repeated over and over. The fact that you don’t mind dishwashing is immaterial to the example. Also, as I said before, insult is an economic jargon term that means negative shock.

E.B.
E.B.
5 years ago

I see what Petra is saying, but we could argue that for every part of life. I could deal with a full-size bed, or a house without a walk-in closet, or one bathroom as opposed to three….I mean really, we can “survive” just about anything in America. But the phrase “first world problem” exists for a tongue-in-cheek reason. Because a lot of times, we are in a position to change those “first world problems.” Obviously if you try to change each and every one, you’ll go broke. But if you do the math and you can afford to knock out… Read more »

adult student
adult student
5 years ago

I just moved into an apartment that costs 50% more than my old one, and am anticipating an income drop for at least 4 months, so my household is going from spending about 25% on rent to spending 55%. An increase of 27% to 30% sounds like nothing in comparison! (It isn’t pure inflation though, it’s moving to a more expensive area for one partner’s job. The solution is going to be drawing on savings until the other partner finds one….) If it is mainly a matter of a dishwasher, though, paying an additional $240/mo seems like overkill. I’m sure… Read more »

ChinoF
ChinoF
5 years ago

From the point of view of someone in the Philippines, where life is quite harsher, I think this: will this increase in expense reach the point where you become worse off when the proverbial brown stuff hits the fan? Some say this is pessimistic, but I say this really happens. I wouldn’t say things hitting the fan is the end of the world, but one does wish they could prepare better for such things.

Melissa Yuan-Innes
Melissa Yuan-Innes
5 years ago
Reply to  ChinoF

Hey, Kristin, I recently discovered GRS & love it. I’m a super paranoid person, so I’ll just chime in on the “brown stuff”: what about crunching the numbers if you broke up/someone lost income and it was $240 for one instead of $120 each? I agree with everyone that if the landlord just upgraded you, you’d get the best of both worlds. I was a student for a long time, so I totally get that upgrading can improve your life tremendously (we bought a house, installed dishwasher, and I told my husband, “It’s like a robot servant! I love it.”)… Read more »

Holly
Holly
5 years ago

Since I work at home and spend most of my time here, I am generally willing to pay more for housing I love. With that being said, I would probably not be as willing to upgrade in an apartment situation. Then again, I live in an inexpensive area with affordable housing. I might not feel that way if I lived in an area with housing prices that were out of my range.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
5 years ago

To “rent and bills” you need to add $200/mo per person for food for the real percentages.

Anyway, sounds like you’re fine for someone who doesn’t want early retirement in 7 years. Are you working towards early retirement in 7 years?

When you move, don’t forget to deduct the cost of your office space, % of utilities & home improvements, etc.

VA
VA
5 years ago

I have a standing dishwasher, and I love it! I think it’s a justifiable one-time expense that could be a good solution here.

Another consideration — rent is typically raised by a percentage of the current rent. Your rent increases are likely to be higher in the new place.

But I get wanting to move to a shiny new place too. It could be worthwhile.

Cath
Cath
5 years ago

By this reasoning, isn’t buying a house just lifestyle inflation that you justify with a yard and a bigger kitchen?

Beard Better
Beard Better
5 years ago
Reply to  Cath

There can be definite advantages to owning a house, especially if you live in the same area for a decade or longer (this isn’t the only consideration, but it is one). The lifestyle inflation part comes in when deciding on the type of house, the size, location, size of the yard, etc.

Jeff
Jeff
5 years ago
Reply to  Beard Better

If having enough room for a home office, a basement with my own workshop, a garage where I can work on my own car, a backyard where I can light up the firepit whenever I want, and the ability to turn my entertainment system up as loud as I want is “lifestyle inflation” then I pay for it gladly.

I can count the number of people I’ve known who wanted to go back to apartment living on one hand with four fingers left.

Lola
Lola
5 years ago

I think you are answering your own question when you talk about cutting back on things you don’t value in order to enjoy the things you do value. How much would you value this home? Over travel? Over the money you would save? In your circumstances, I would totally do it since your rent and bills are so low compared to your income. But then I am a nester and my home, the space, and how I use it are super important to me. I love being at home and wouldn’t mind spending more to sort of enjoy life more.… Read more »

Mary
Mary
5 years ago

We just moved and we discussed this to death. We own, but were living in the condo I bought on my own–a one bedroom. My husband sometimes works from home, so he would have to unpack his phone and monitor and work from the dining room table and then take it all back down. It was definitely too small. Since we were buying, the question of where to go next was really hard for us. Right now, just one more room (an office for my husband) is all we need to feel like we have enough space. But in a… Read more »

slccom
slccom
5 years ago
Reply to  Mary

If you move to a 4-bedroom now, and rent out one or two of those bedrooms (which is really easy in a college town!) you will save the costs of moving later. Just make sure you have a good school system where you live. Long-term, if moving isn’t likely in your future, this would make housing the least costly.

Chelsea
Chelsea
5 years ago

I have lived in places without a dishwasher, A/C and a washer and dryer so I have a point of comparison, and – especially with young children – I feel like those things (or at least not having to deal without those things) brings an almost immeasurable benefit to my life. I would rather work an extra year or two before retirement to guarantee that I will never have to drag a heavy basket of laundry through the snow again. So I’m all for a little lifestyle creep if you can afford it and know it will make you happier.… Read more »

sarah
sarah
5 years ago

I think it’s okay to spend money on something you want and can afford. You’re obviously being thoughtful about it. It’s funny, I don’t really care about a dishwasher but I will pay more in a heartbeat for wood floors over vinyl or carpet. One place I saw was carpet and he said they’d replace it with wood for $100/month more, I handed it over in a heartbeat. If it’s stuff you care about and that makes you feel better to be in your home, go for it.

Mike
Mike
5 years ago

Just Do It!

I remember wanting to move to the next vehicle because I couldn’t stand having to adust manual mirrors, such a pain and not having cruise control for my long drives. I have found that typically if you value something enough you can trim some other items, even the ones that you value just a bit so you wind up in between and compromise.

For example even if you only trim $60 a month from your spending budget and have to make up the extra $60 from your bills budget it seems very worthwhile.

Aldo@MDN
5 years ago

I’m not sure if heating and electricity are included in your rent, but if they’re not you might want to take that into consideration as well. You might pay a little more for electricity with the new dishwasher and all… not much more, but more.

At the same time, why not get a nicer place if you’re going to be more comfortable?

Ross
Ross
5 years ago

Perhaps with some negotiation you can get the upgrades you care about, without gutting the entire place. You can get a nice dishwasher for $500. Could you talk the landlord into sharing the cost if you install it? The central air is a bit more advanced, but maybe a more modern window unit would give you the conveniences you’re looking for. Just thinking a couple one-time spends would be better than signing up for an extra $240 indefinitely.

cherie
cherie
5 years ago

Well I don’t think there’s anything wrong with someone who’s debt free spending money on anything, including their own comfort. It’s really going to come down to how much you value these benefits in relation to other things you spend on currently. My only thoughts – where are you that there’s a huge difference between central air and window units? In such a small place I can’t imagine it being a big deal unless YOU are paying for the window units yourself [in which case I guess you already have]. Also, dishwashers are nice. But you still have to wash… Read more »

CV
CV
5 years ago
Reply to  cherie

“My only thoughts — where are you that there’s a huge difference between central air and window units?” Goodness – let me count the ways central air is better! I seriously have to chime in that this is an amenity that in so cal could be worth a move. One of my greatest aspirations in life is to some day be able to afford an apartment with central air, after living with window units in the SF Valley in So Cal (where it gets HOT in the Summer) for 11 years. I’d say my biggest issue is sleep. I’m a… Read more »

Laura
Laura
5 years ago

“I never really noticed these things until I learned about the amenities that will be enjoyed by the Future Joneses in Apartment 9.” 🙂 So it sounds like you’re succumbing to advertising! 🙂 Seriously, this is a telling statement to me – yes, the new apartment would be great, but it wasn’t something on your mind until you heard about a new opportunity. Given that, I’d guess the current place works just fine. If the rent was comparable or if you’d had a strong(er) desire to find another place BEFORE finding out about this opportunity, then I’d say definitely go… Read more »

Beth
Beth
5 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Good point about the advertising. I suspect Kristin was exaggerating for the sake of writing style, but if her neighbours’ dishwasher really has her feeling like a caveman and she’s suddenly worried about who has been previously sitting on her toilet seat, then is the apartment upstairs really that much different than a glossy home magazine, or an ad on TV? If what someone else has makes us feel inferior, it might be a good idea to take a step back and look at our emotions, not just our budget. Sometimes my friends’ lovely homes make my modest apartment seem… Read more »

Kristen
Kristen
5 years ago
Reply to  Beth

The flip side of this is to ask, will a new glossy apartment make your friends feel envious or uncomfortable? We previously made a “lifestyle inflation” choice to a gently used Mercedes. I spent a lot of time in the car and it was nice to have a sweet ride. What I underestimated was how it made my friends uncomfortable. They were generous and kind, but uncomfortable, none-the-less. It wasn’t worth it to me and it’s something I consider every time I think of purchasing or upgrading to something new.

Carla
Carla
5 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

I guess I’m a little dense but how would a friend owning a Mercedes make anyone feel uncomfortable?

Jeff
Jeff
5 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

I would be more concerned about the character of your friends if they’re that easily jealous about your things.

E.B.
E.B.
5 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

Ideally, people would not be jealous of their friends, but it happens. We have some friends who kind of out of the blue built a house that was so off-the-charts for what people in our area and age typically have, that it really threw us for a loop. All that time we thought we were sort of similar people, then suddenly they felt like strangers. Rich strangers that might now be looking down their noses at us, LOL. So yes, it was awkward for a while as we had to get used to the fact that instead of being similar… Read more »

Carla
Carla
5 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

@E.B., I hope that you admit that this is your problem, not theirs. I would like to think that a true friend would be delighted to be your company for dinner, no matter what type of home you have.

Beth
Beth
5 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

@Carla — I think it can come from either side. For instance, I’m one of the few people in my social circles who doesn’t have a spouse and kids. Sometimes that’s a difficult situation to be in because I feel left out or envious because something’s missing in my life. That’s on me. But sometimes people do treat me as “less than” because of my status. People make unkind assumptions and act superior, often without meaning to, or put down my choices. That’s on them. I admit that big, fancy homes intimidate me — but that’s mostly because I’m afraid… Read more »

Joel
Joel
5 years ago

Lets look at the facts. Your housing cost will jump from 14 to 30 percent. You’re not budging on your savings goals. You said you don’t want to work more. So the extra rent is going to come from the things you love doing, like traveling and eating out. Looks like the best choice would be to enjoy where you are right now. You’re on the right path. Keep banking the money. It will be there when you need it. Money in the bank will always give you more options. Try to resist looking over the fence to see if… Read more »

Ali
Ali
5 years ago

What about a countertop dish washer? You can get one on Amazon for less than $250

Justine
Justine
5 years ago

Have you considered asking your landlord to upgrade some of the pieces of your current apt? If you are great tenants and the place is outdated, they may be willing to concede on a few upgrades to keep you happy.

Saskia
Saskia
5 years ago

Living considerably below our means in a cramped apartment for quite a long time was a major factor in allowing us to save enough to make a down payment of around 70% of the price of the home we finally bought. We had no dishwasher and no space for one. I used to say, “I’m counting the days until I get a dishwasher. I just wish I knew how high I have to count.” Now that we have one I find it somewhat overrated, what with washing the stuff by hand that can’t go in the DW. We’re noticing lifestyle… Read more »

Marcus Kay
Marcus Kay
5 years ago

Do it, especially since you guys are splitting the rent. You would presumably save money on hiring movers since it’s in the same building and since you work from home, you’ll be spending a decent amount of time there and will enjoy the extra money you spent on a place you enjoy more.

Ms. Mintly @ MintlyBlog
Ms. Mintly @ MintlyBlog
5 years ago

People have already made a lot of great comments, but the one thing that really stuck out to me in your post was that moving costs money! I don’t know how you would plan to move your stuff – would you need to buy boxes? would you just carry stuff up the stairs a little bit at a time? would friends be willing to help carry furniture up the steps? – but it can be a hassle moving even a short distance away! I definitely like having a place that I enjoy living – and when you work from home,… Read more »

Kathy
Kathy
5 years ago

Here’s a thought; ask your landlord to spend the money. That is, ask him to exchange your toilet for a new one, install HVAC and consider putting in a dishwasher. You could easily stay in the apartment, he gets an already upgraded apartment for when you move out and you get to enjoy your time there. After all, it’s his property and he is probably already thinking ahead to the next tenants. The upgrades will make it more attractive.

Laura
Laura
5 years ago
Reply to  Kathy

I think that’s a great idea. Especially if you volunteer to assist/manage some or all of the remodeling, since your landlord will almost certainly raise your rent should you go this route. You might get a cheaper rent than if you moved into #9, as well as a taste of what it would be like to maintain your own property.

Ely
Ely
5 years ago

My sister and her boyfriend remodeled their whole kitchen just so they could have a dishwasher. My sister loves to host but the time they were spending on dishes really cut into their enjoyment. She is very happy with the choice – as well as the extra space and counter tops that also came with the remodel. They plan to be in the house forever, and they have no regrets. Central air is next on their list. I don’t know how you do without it in So Cal. That small increase in rent, given the amount of time you spend… Read more »

slccom
slccom
5 years ago

I’m betting that the upgraded apartment is already spoken for, though.

Marcia
Marcia
5 years ago

I wouldn’t like the extra steps or the $240 extra.

Brooke
Brooke
5 years ago

I think you’re falling into the trap of an either/or question. If you have lived in the apartment for a significant amount of time (more than 2 years), you could ask the landlord to install a dishwasher as an incentive to remain. Most landlords would rather keep a tenant than have to rehab an apartment to attract new residents. You may offer to sign a lease in exchange, which sweetens the pot for the landlord.

Carla
Carla
5 years ago

My husband and I considered this when a larger (2 bedroom) apartment became available in our building. Two bedrooms would really make a difference for us given the fact that I work from home and therefore don’t have much living space beyond work and sleep. The cons didn’t make it worth it for us. Rent has increased sharply in Portland since I took this apartment 4.5 years ago, so our rent would go up significantly – not worth it for an extra bedroom in the same building. Since I have “real furniture” (heavy, hard wood, some antique) we would need… Read more »

Beth
Beth
5 years ago

I keep coming back to this post because something is bugging me. I think it’s that Kristin and her boyfriend are making the classic mistake of looking at the monthly payment (rent) rather than the total cost. I’d wager when you factor in the costs of moving, increased utilities, proportionally higher rent increases, new decor, etc. that the cost will amount to a lot more than $240. (Not to mention the time and hassle involved.) That’s not to say they shouldn’t move, just that they need to do a little more math than rent increase. (The opportunity costs section was… Read more »

Beard Better
Beard Better
5 years ago

I don’t think there is as clear-cut of an answer here as there generally is for personal finance questions. There is no doubt that, on paper, if you do move you would either need adjust to saving less money or find a way to make up the difference elsewhere. On the other hand, people are not automatons that can move through the world without emotion. Just as it can be difficult to put a monetary value on time, it is also difficult to put such a value on comfort and convenience. I personally need to save money wherever possible, so… Read more »

Anne
Anne
5 years ago

I once did exactly that: moved up one flight of stairs. My husband and I were actually pretty young and broke at the time, but we could afford the small increase in rent. What we got in return was a much more beautiful apartment with better light and more windows. It was lovely and worth it. I was a student at the time and the hours I spent studying were so much more pleasant with the breeze and natural light. Fast forward 20 years ahead and we are homeowners with a beautiful house in a good neighborhood. We are aggressive… Read more »

Kale
Kale
5 years ago

We did this exact thing – not up a flight of stairs but the unit directly beside us. We had the same debate but ultimately decided to move and I’m so glad we did – haven’t regretted it once. Our rent did go up $225 a month (but we live in an old crappy building so the rent is still affordable). But to me it was totally worth it. We got: 1. New floors (our previous unit had terrible old carpet and mismataching tiles) 2. The layout was practically the same but some separating walls were pushed back so it… Read more »

Marsha
Marsha
5 years ago

It sounds as though your boyfriend wants to move up to the new apartment, and you’re obviously at least 50/50 on it. If it’s important to your boyfriend and you’re not really against it and can afford it, why not?

You’ve got to consider things other than money here. One secret to substaining a long-term happy relationship is to give in to your partner when you don’t really care one way or the other about something. Is a happier boyfriend worth $120 a month? I think so.

Alea
Alea
5 years ago

“But it’s not like we’re not getting anything in return for our money,” he said. “Plus, we’ll cut back on spending, not our savings.” NOT GONNA HAPPEN! Don’t ever plan to cut on spending to inflate a lifestyle, because there is always something that pops up like an ugly clown in the middle of a nightmare. The car insurance can go up, there is a fire in the building, your renter insurance will go up, you loose a tooth, which can cost $5k to $8k thousand dollars to replace, you get into a wreck and you don’t get the value… Read more »

Alicia
Alicia
5 years ago

Here’s my take: It’s not the additional expense of monthly rent that would stop me from moving. Especially since it sounds like the other apartment has several features (dishwasher and other new appliances, better layout, etc.) that sound like they justify the added expense. What would stop me would be that you don’t sound like you have any major problems with your current living situation, and are only considering this move because it’s so convenient. I’m sure there are other really nice apartments similar to the one upstairs, but it doesn’t sound like you ever considered moving into them. You’ve… Read more »

imelda
imelda
5 years ago
Reply to  Alicia

Thank you. This, exactly.

I can’t wrap my head around this post, or why they want to move. An extra $240/month to get a dishwasher and central air? (I assume they already have A/C)

An extra $240/month to move into the same sized apartment (i.e. not getting an extra bedroom), in the same location?

She did hint at better light and a better layout, but as you say, she seems to be perfectly happy with what she has now.

$240/month is a LOT of money. I just don’t get it. I’m not judging, I just really don’t get it.

Jessica
Jessica
5 years ago

Ask the landlord if a dishwasher can be installed in your current place. If that’s all you really want, then it’s not worth moving when you have other options.

Zambian Lady
Zambian Lady
5 years ago

You have your finances in order and you can afford the extra rent amount, so I would say go for it. I believe there are times when you just have to make yourself – if you can afford it. I am quite frugal myself, but there are times when I spend money just to please myself.

William
William
5 years ago

I like that this article is thoughtfully analytical, and not a preachy guiltfest. It’s not always a clear cut choice. Value based spending seems smart. Will future you be glad you moved or regretful? It’s good to think about, but tough to answer.

Ami
Ami
5 years ago

This sounds like a situation where you probably couldn’t make a terrible decision.

How about asking the landlord, who knows you, to let you rent the upstairs place for something in between your rent and the new rent? The landlord has had experience with you and presumably knows that you are a reliable tenant. Perhaps if you agree to sign a lease for a longer term (1 year? 2 years?) the landlord will be inclined to negotiate a deal. I know as a former landlord, knowing that my tenant was reliable was a big, big plus.

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
5 years ago

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! You all bring up some great points and a lot of this I haven’t thought about. For example, I never even considered that our landlord might be willing to do some upgrades to our current place. So that’s definitely worth exploring.
Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks and let you know we’re reading and mulling over all of your comments. 🙂

Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom
Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom
5 years ago

I say if you really want to move, look at what else is available on the rental market. Do you really want the apartment upstairs, or would you prefer an even more expensive place in the next building. How high would you be comfortable going up with your rent?

I’d also look into buying a countertop dishwasher.

Jim
Jim
5 years ago

I say you and your boyfriend work for a reason, and although being prepared for the future and saving is by your own admission the MOST important aspect, you are still working for a lifestyle that you can and should enjoy. The cost is within your means, the central air and heat and the increase in space albeit minimal seems to be important especially since you work from home and spend most of your day there. If you move, make a commitment to eat out less, cook at home more and make up the bulk of the extra cost by… Read more »

imelda
imelda
5 years ago
Reply to  Jim

“The cost is within your means”

People keep saying that. It kind of makes me sad. I thought we were all aiming to live *below* our means?

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
5 years ago
Reply to  imelda

Just to clarify–I’d still be living well below my means with the new place. I really appreciate your comment, though, and I’m purposely not defending or explaining myself in comments because I want to see every side of it, despite whatever justification I might have. Still, I wanted to chime in here to explain that I’m not condoning living beyond one’s means. The whole GRS philosophy is about spending less than you earn.That’s everything, and I haven’t lost sight of it! But I still appreciate your reminder 🙂

Jen From Boston
Jen From Boston
5 years ago

One of the things I was super excited about when I moved from my apartment to my condo was the dishwasher!!!! I had been washing dishes by hand for 8 years, and it wasn’t bad on the days I was just re-heating leftovers, but when I did a major cooking session it was a pain. Also, the dishpan took up a good chunk of my minimal counterspace. It’s so nice now to just put dirty dishes in the dishwasher. And, as an added bonus, especially since you live in CA, a dishwasher saves more water than handwashing (as long as… Read more »

E.B.
E.B.
5 years ago

Moving to the new apartment makes sense to me! Just make sure they don’t then remodel your old apartment to be even nicer than the one you just moved into or you’ll go through it all over again!

I kid, I kid. But based on everything you said, you would be getting a lot for your extra $120 a month. I cannot imagine having to dishes by hand or live without A/C!

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