When we got married, our first apartment was a very tight fit. It was a small, one-bedroom apartment with an awkward layout. Our living room had to be creatively arranged to accommodate a small couch, a television, and a chair for any guests that might drop by. There were also no locks on any of the interior doors, so people had to announce when they were using the bathroom as a precaution (this actually worked) and our stove was smaller than average.
It wasn’t the Ritz, but we enjoyed our time there and have some happy memories. We spent a decent amount of time finding this apartment, and it was well worth the effort. While many of our friends were confused that we purposely chose a small place based on only one of our incomes, we found it was a great start for our marriage. If you’re trying to decide on your first place as a couple, here are some factors to consider.
Big pros for our small space
I want to share some of the immediate and longer-term benefits we’ve had from renting a small apartment.
- Lower rent: Our rent was very reasonable for the area, and we had a great location across the street from the beach. That gave us more money in our pockets and a bigger buffer for our monthly cash flow. An added bonus with our small apartment was that the building had a laundry room. We had to schedule our laundry times with neighbors occasionally, but it was less than 30 feet from our front door.
- Less stuff to buy: The temptation to fill your apartment with stuff just isn’t there with a small apartment – there’s no space for it! Given our limited budget, this was a huge benefit.
- Encouraged us to explore: A smaller place encouraged me to get out of the house to stretch my legs and explore the world around me. Our location was convenient to many free and low-cost activities, and we discovered a number of ways to have fun without spending a ton of money.
I know some people would say that we lacked some convenient features in our apartment, and they’re right. After all, our little place didn’t have a dishwasher, and the layout was a bit odd. But these minor issues didn’t stop us form enjoying our home.
Why we chose a smaller apartment
At the time of our wedding, I was a full-time college student and starting an internship. The pay was good for the area, and even better for a student, but there was a long commute. Living in an area with a lot of traffic, I had to be smart about when I left for work and when I headed back home. My goal was to complete the internship assignment for the semester – there were no guarantees that it would continue, and I didn’t know how quickly I’d be able to find comparable work and pay if/when it ended.
At the same time, my husband was a recent college graduate who had been working for his new employer for less than a year. We looked at our budget and decided to focus only on apartments that we could afford with my husband’s salary.
We had specific goals that we wanted to reach, and keeping our housing costs down would help us get there sooner. One financial goal was to pay off our car loan. It was a good chunk of our monthly expenses, and the car was rapidly depreciating in value. We also wanted to build up our savings for the long term goal of buying a house. Having lower housing expenses allowed us to meet both goals and build our credit score as well.
When we moved out-of-state, we rented a larger apartment, but we still based it on one income. With no car payments at this point, the money that we saved was going toward our savings, and we eventually started house hunting.
Big help for us on house hunting
Being patient and keeping our housing expenses relatively low was beneficial for a few reasons. When were were preparing for the house hunting stage, we knew what we wanted in our first place based on our previous experience and that of our friends with their own places.
We also were used to resisting the pressure of buying a bigger space and moving out of the comfort zone of our budget. Believe it or not, it was the financial “experts” at the banks that were pushing us to looking at bigger mortgages. Buying a house was only one of our goals, and we knew that getting the biggest house we could afford would hurt us in the long run.
Thoughts on living in a small space
Have you ever made a conscious decision to live in a relatively small space? If so, what were some of the benefits and drawbacks that you experienced? Is there anything in particular that people should watch out for? And do you have any tips for finding a great deal on an apartment?