December 10, 2008

The High Cost of Living

Yesterday I very nearly made a VERY foolish money decision.

I'm currently on the hunt for a new apartment. I set an upper limit for myself as far as what I could afford (and was willing) to pay per month. But last week I saw an apartment that absolutely enchanted me. A two-story, one-bedroom, working fireplace-equipped, full-size-bathtub-adorned palace. It had a dishwasher. It had a (little) view. It had a huge walk-in closet, and the building had a rooftop deck. The stuff dreams are made of.

The price, however, was exactly the upper limit of what I had planned on. And that price included NO utilities. So it was really more like my upper limit plus $75-$150 per month. Which was, technically, over my limit.

But I loved it so much that I filled out the application and put down a deposit while they checked my credit. Two nights ago I got the call that I had passed the check and they wanted to rent to me.

And my heart sank.

I looked again at the numbers and realized that while I could afford it, even with the utility costs, moving in there would leave me no income to use for extra payments on my debt. Granted, mostly that's student loan debt. While it is quite a lot -- just under $40,000 -- it's at a fixed interest rate of 7.5%, and student loans are classified by many as "good debt".

But whenever I look at that balance, my heart sinks a little. I see it as a barrier between me and freedom -- the freedom to not work, to travel, to do what I want and live where I want.

So I called back and said I wasn't going to take the glorious apartment after all. And as luck would have it, someone else came along that same night and put down a deposit, clearing my guilt about changing my mind. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something?

I'm listening. And I'm still looking for a place. But my "upper limit" has come down significantly. And hopefully my student loan balance will too.