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Help Maggie with a housing question!

Hi Kristen!
I love your blog that I started reading maybe a year ago! I’ve been pondering a question so much lately and thought maybe you have an opinion on this.

My partner and I live in a very expensive city that we love and where we work. Currently, we have a very affordable rent (because we live in a very small apartment that is not in a hip area, but it’s still good).

When our first child will be a bit older, however, I believe it’ll be very hard to stay here.

I am now constantly debating what is more important:

a) low(ish) rent
b) location, some kind of proximity to work
c) more space

I would love your input on this because I find your approach to these questions so inspiring.
Keep up the great blogging work!


This is a question that would be easier to answer with more data.

(How long is your commute? How big is the difference in rent? What space concerns do you have?)

But given what you shared, I’ll do my best!

Roscoe Village house

In favor of lower rent

Since you live in a super expensive area, I’m assuming that a high rent payment would squeeze your budget pretty tightly. If that’s true, then I would be inclined to try to stay where you are as long as possible.

If you can keep your rent as a smallish portion of your budget, then you can have so much more freedom in other areas. Without a huge rent payment, you could:

  • travel more
  • buy better groceries/get some takeout
  • pay off debt
  • save for the short-term and long-term future

In short, if you manage to keep housing costs low, everything else in your financial life will probably feel easier and less stressful.

Roscoe Village house

In favor of location

Moving near work seems like it could possibly be a win in the stress department, but probably not the money department.

However, if you moved to a place near your work and you could ditch (or almost ditch) your commutes, could you get rid of a car? That would help to offset the increased rent costs.

If you didn’t have such a long commute, would you have more time and energy to do things like cooking at home? 

If you lived in a cool part of the city, would there be enough free things to do to make up for your tighter vacation/entertainment budget? (since the rent would be using up a lot of your money)

A white Chincoteague lighthouse

In favor of space

If your current lack of space is driving you nuts, then I definitely would not consider a move into a hipper part of town.

What you’d be able to afford there would certainly not be bigger than your current apartment!

A tiny house on wheels.

I think I remember that you are pregnant with your first baby, and I can definitely understand wanting some more space. We lived in a one-bedroom basement apartment when we first became parents, and it was a bit of a challenge. I was really thankful when we moved into a townhouse with multiple bedrooms!

That said, there are creative ways to work around a lack of space, and you can usually get by with much less  kid/baby stuff than you’d think. 

Also, I think home space can be more or less important depending on how much time you spend there.

If you are homebodies or you work from home, maybe more space should be a priority.

But if you are always out and about, then maybe more home space doesn’t need to matter so much.

(Since I’ve always worked from home and since our kids have always been homeschooled, space mattered to me more than it might to someone else!)

You have to decide what’s most important to YOU

Given the limited information that I have, I personally would be inclined to stick it out in the low-rent situation as long as possible, and in that time, try to maximize the rent savings by paying off debt and saving for the future.

That way, you’ll be in good financial shape when more space becomes a necessity.


I think this is a question that should be decided based on your priorities and your particular lifestyle. You and your partner are the ones who know what you value most!

Readers, what are your thoughts on Maggie’s situation?

P.S. Mr. FG and I lived in a $425/month basement apartment for the first 2.5 years of our marriage. It was not ideal (what basement apartment is ideal??), but on our small salaries, we were able to pay off every bit of debt, pay for some medical bills, and save up for a down-payment on a house, largely because our housing costs were so low. So, my advice to Maggie is probably colored by my own experience!

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Monday 5th of July 2021

My first apartment (post-college) was only $375/month. It was one bedroom/bath, and the rest was literally one large room with a kitchen on one end, couch on one end, and a table in the middle. The carpet was disgusting, the ceilings were low, and it was a little dim. But, I personalized it, it was cheap, it allowed me to get debt free, and I loved it for that. My vote is to stay where you are in the cheaper housing until you are debt free.


Saturday 26th of June 2021

I say stay in the low cost renting as long as you comfortably can, put all the extra money aside so you have a down payment for a house, THEN decide between space and location. Hubby and I started in a small 1 room apartment, paid off all our school debts, then I got pregnant. We moved in a townhouse, had baby #1 and #2. After 5 years, and after putting all extra money on the mortgage, we sold the house with 100 000$ to invest in a new one, our "dream house". 5.5 years later, our house is paid off. On very average salaries (maybe even on the low side actually). It can be done, but I believe in starting small and building from there.


Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

We live in NYC and just went through this decision making process (my twins are 2.5 years old). For us the options were to move to NJ/NY suburb or stay in the city which would involve higher rent. We have to move out of our current home bc it was partially subsidized by my job, and I am leaving for another position. What we realized was a lot of the suburbs did offer more space, but were still rather expensive because taxes are high. We would also need another car and entering the city would involve a daily toll plus parking. The commute would also be longer and require a lot of scheduling to avoid rush hour over the bridge. In the end, we decided to pay more for less space but stay in the city and reduce both of our commutes. That way we have more time for our family while also being close enough in case there were any emergencies with the kids. There are also so many public parks and playgrounds in the city and there are always children using them, which is nice. Ultimately, we will rent for two years and then re-evaluate.


Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

Short and long term planning need to be in play. Keeping rent low and protecting your finances during these unpredictable times is important, in my opinion. Your baby will be little for a while so you have time. More space LATER?

Maybe keep what’s working for you for now,SAVE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN, and keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities that may present themselves along the way: Someone moving and needing a quick sale, someone with a perfect rental coming up on market, friends who have space to share or rent, a fixer upper that you find.. who knows?

Short term I’d stay put with a longer term goal of finding more space WITHIN MY BUDGET, and keeping aware of when that comes available.

Right now our housing and rental market is nuts, so staying put in a good situation sounds safest to me.

All just my thoughts.. you have to carefully consider your desires, your emotional temperament, and your financial situation.


Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

There are no easy answers to the time- money-space trade-off. I think that you have to consider how you live and have to decide what is most important to you. When my 3 children were small, I insisted that we move into one of the best school districts in the state. Unfortunately, it was also one of the most expensive areas in the area, and this presented challenges. Although we found a smallish house that we could afford, there still were many months when things were super tight — necessities only. When they were teen-agers, I often wanted more space, but we could not really afford a bigger house in my little town. Despite occasional challenges, I have never really regretted this decision, because it was in line with what I valued. We have been in our home 22 years! I still like where I live.

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