This post is from Ashley B. She's 26 years old, lives in Minnesota, and works in the accounting department of a small company. This story is one of our Reader Stories series. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income.
I have never quite figured out why I was fascinated by finances growing up. Both of my parents were frivolous spenders but, even as a child, I was always very frugal with my money.
I graduated college with a four-year business degree and a relatively low ($12,500) debt. I purposely lived at home for a year when I entered the workforce, which allowed me to save somewhere around 70 percent of my income.
When I had saved about $20,000, I began to look for a house. I wanted something small and easy to maintain, and it had to be cheap since I was still in the beginning stages of my career and only making $25,000 a year. My first few searches resulted in nothing even remotely desirable. My budget was too low to bring up anything but old, broken-down townhomes. That's when I started looking at condos.
Get over it!
I had sort of had this prejudice that condos were for old people. They were just glorified apartments that you had to actually take care of yourself without being able to call someone to fix the oven for you. Once I started actually looking at them, though, I very quickly got over that prejudice.
I soon found one that I fell in love with. It was a corner unit, 1,000-square-feet with two bedrooms and two baths, in a nice suburb only 20 minutes from downtown Minneapolis. With the money I had saved for a down payment, my mortgage came to a mere $585 a month. With a $300 association fee my total monthly living expense was $885. None of my friends living in two-bedroom apartments were paying less than $1,000 a month in rent. Yes, I have to pay property taxes, but divided by 12, my taxes add less than $90 per month to my budget. I had a friend move into the second bedroom and pay me $400 a month rent so both of us felt like we were getting a great deal.
Other perks of condo living
Along with the low living expenses, I found so many more advantages to my condo lifestyle.
- Underground heated parking. If you live in a place that stays below freezing for several months at a time, like I do, this feature is invaluable! Never again do I have to carry groceries through blistering wind, rain, or snow! Also, the morning after a big snow storm when other people are scraping off their cars and heating them up, I just walk down to the nice 60-degree garage and pull right out!
- No yard work. Ever! No mowing, no raking, no shoveling!
- The highest electric bill that I've ever had was $55, and that was the month in the middle of the summer when it was over 90 degrees every day.
- Basic cable and water are included in my association fee.
- I feel extremely safe at all times. Most of the people who live in my building are older. Everyone I have met has been friendly and easy-going. Packages will sit by the front door sometimes for days at a time before someone claims them. Common sense tells me thieves are looking at the big single-family homes a few blocks down, not at the big closed-in building with the security-locked front door and no easy escape unless you want to jump down two stories.
- Surprisingly, noise is not an issue. Only rarely do I hear the neighbor's TV playing and even then it's so faint you almost have to second guess if you heard it. I've also had friends over at times when we've been loud and rambunctious into the late night and no one has ever banged on my door to complain so I assume it's not an issue for anyone else either.
I have been here for about a year and a half and I always tell my friends to consider condos when they talk about looking at houses. It's like having all the advantages of an apartment, but cheaper and with the financial security of owning your own place.