About me Budgeting Early Retirement Journey

Season 1, Episode 3 The Case for Geoarbitrage

So one of the initial stressors of budgeting was finding an affordable place to live. Therapeutically unsound, my thoughts exist in an all or nothing world. In my proposed spending budget of $2,500/ month, the recommended spending on housing (30%) was $750/month, all in. At my current spending, I was spending about $1,000/ mon on housing including rent and utilities.  I just couldn’t make it work. The cheapest apartments were running around $775 and they were old and looked old and undesirable. I was living in a new apartment that touted itself as luxury and I liked it. I loved it when I first moved in because it was brand new and it was close to work. Now, I like it because it’s comfortable but I’ve since fallen out of love with it because of management, neighbors, and the fact that it doesn’t have an oven or central air. The last bit is a mixed blessing because my utilities hover around $35/month.

I searched high and low and almost gave up on budgeting because I couldn’t find a way to house myself in a desirable way for $750/mon. They just don’t make housing for one. In graduate school, I could get shared housing for around $525/mon for my own room and bath and that was still true. That would certainly be below budget and it certainly made more than one list I created in the initial stages of my  Master Budget.  The thought of it made my heart sink but I did seriously consider it because I was desperate to make the budget work.  I even sent out a couple emails to shared housing on Craigslist.

As I continued to play with the numbers and try out  different retirement scenarios, one divine day, the energy efficient light bulb brightened a bit. Why was the budget dictating me? Why was I working around it? I was supposed to be telling the budget what I could do, not it me. It was supposed to work for me.  Essentially, I was just formalizing what I was passively doing anyway to establish some sort of focus, some sort of endgame. I, originally, wanted to know how long I would actually have to work because instinctively it didn’t make sense that I would have to work as long as all the families with children from a pure cost perspective. This journey started off as one of curiosity, something that had long since left me, and it took a turn towards entrapment but I freed myself.  I simply started with the total I wanted to spend each month and subtracted the fixed costs like student loan payment and my housing costs first and then used the remainder to budget for other expenses. Sigh, something as simple as that almost made me throw in the towel.

So I started all this to talk about geoarbitrage, and I digressed. The point was, in the search for trying to house my self comfortably for $750/mon, utilities included, I searched far and wide. My search included cheaper apartments, shared student housing, trailers/mobile homes, tiny homes and other states. One of the bloggers I can’t remember had mentioned leaving an expensive state like NY and moving to North Carolina for less.  I live in NC and while the housing is affordable here for 2 income earners with 2 kids ($525 x 4  = $2100 no an unreasonable amount to house a family of four), it is less affordable for a person who wants to house just themselves.  Technically, our job allows us to work remotely for our current project. This is new and so far only 2 people have done this. The biggest drawback for me is that if our client takes their business elsewhere, we’d either need to move back or find another job.  It was a lot to think about, and while a couple small towns in the Midwest are in the back of my mind, once I made the budget work for me, it became less of an issue.

So how did I end up in a $1,000 studio apartment with no oven you might ask? Well, when I came back here for this job I thought I was getting ready to start my adult life. I would stay in the apartment for 2 years and move out to my forever home and establish roots, community, and maybe even run for local office. Isn’t that the dream we’ve all happily waited in line to achieve? It certainly is here and especially where I work. I couldn’t figure out or verbalize fully why I stuck out so much at work.  I even sought therapy without much success. When I realized I was too beautiful to work for 30 more years, I found myself feeling very stuck, and thus the beauty of this journey. While I am still  tethered to this place and a regular 9 to 5, the rope doesn’t feel as tight as did just 3 months ago. Come along for the twists and turns that are sure to follow!

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