You Can Have as Much Avocado Toast as You Want, as Long as You Go Find a Cheaper Apartment

Because those exist and moving into them costs nothing.

Photo credit: Alejandro Forero Cuervo, CC BY 2.0.

I guess I’m sharing two Washington Post stories today, because in addition to “rich people holding out for lower taxes,” we also have some important financial advice for Millennials who happen to like avocado on toast:

Perspective | What’s keeping you from being rich? Not Starbucks coffee or spendy avocado toast.

“A person hoping to buy a $1 million home in New York would have to give up 20,440 avocado toasts at $10 each to have enough for a 20 percent down payment,” [The WaPo’s Jonnelle Marte] wrote. “In other words, it would take a very, very long time.”

Even if you ate avocado toast three times a day, you’d have to skip 19 years worth of meals to save up enough for a down payment. (One of the things the avocado toast and latte people always fail to mention is that if you’re not eating avo toast or drinking coffee, you do eventually have to eat/drink something else—which might be less expensive but it sure isn’t free.)

But then we get into the real financial advice.

First on the list is reduce your rent, a much bigger expense that will produce larger savings than giving up a daily latte.

Yes. Reduce your rent. On the surface, this seems like much better advice than “don’t buy toast and coffee,” because you could in theory save a lot more money, but let’s actually do the math on this.

First of all, we need to assume that there is a lower-cost rental available. Rents are rising month over month, which means that, if your landlord has not raised your rent for a year or so, the lowest-cost rental might be the one you are currently in.

“But… move further away/into a worse apartment/with more roommates!” Sure. You could do all of these things, but they come with their own costs. Moving further away costs you in both time and transportation. (Yes, public transportation too. I once lived in an apartment where I paid ~$8 per day to get to and from work on the metro.) Moving into a “worse apartment” where the heat goes out or the utilities stop working takes your time and money to fix.

Things I Have and Have Not Called My Landlord About

What about roommates? Sometimes it is less expensive to live with roommates—right now, according to Craigslist, I’d save maybe $200 per month—but sometimes they eat all your food or don’t replace the toilet paper or don’t pay their share of the rent. (I have paid rent for roommates before, and not all of them paid me back.)

But let’s say you do find a place that’s $200 cheaper per month, which theoretically nets you a savings of $2,400 for the first year. (No guarantees on the second year, because your landlord might raise your rent.)

You still have to pay to move there. First+last+deposit, plus the cost of transporting your belongings. In some cities you have to pay to get your current apartment professionally cleaned, or you won’t get your security deposit back. (Yes, that probably shouldn’t be in the lease, but yes, landlords put it in the lease anyway.)

You also have to pay for any new furniture or household equipment you might need during the process of the move. Stuff like a new broom or a new shower curtain, because you don’t want to move a wet shower curtain or a grody old broom.

So, of your theoretical $2,400 savings, let’s say you might actually save $1,400 of it. This means taking the money you would have spent on rent and putting it in a savings account every month, which you are totally going to do, right?

Also, if you saved $1,400 the first year and $2,400 every subsequent year, because you’re living in a magical apartment where your rent never goes up (or only goes up in perfect parallel to your income), it would take you 85 years to save up for the same $204,400 down payment that you could get by skipping 20,440 $10 avocado toasts.

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