Why Getting the More Expensive Apartment Could Be the Better Financial Decision
Finding a new home can be hard, especially when so many apartments come with various perks and different prices. While your first instinct might be to go for the place with the lowest rent, some amenities are worth the extra cash (and may even end up saving you money).
I’ve lived in so many apartments that I now have a very good idea of which amenities I am willing to pay for — and why getting the more expensive apartment could be a cost-effective decision.
Splurge for the full kitchen
Major cities seem to be full of these “pod”-style apartments that come with low rents but no kitchen. Maybe there’s a dorm-sized refrigerator and a stove, or maybe the kitchen is down the hall. Yes, the price might be great, but be aware that you’re setting yourself up for higher costs down the road.
Why? Because eating out is expensive — and so are constant grocery trips to get the type of convenience foods you need for a kitchenless apartment. A stove is essential for low-cost cooking: spaghetti, soup, grilled cheese. I also like having an oven because I love baking cookies for friends or bringing muffins to gatherings, and replacing those with a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates can add up.
If you go for a place that doesn’t have everything you’d expect in a kitchen, your wallet could end up regretting it.
A washer and dryer can save your clothes and your cash
I had a hard time justifying the splurge for an apartment with a washer and dryer in the unit. The apartments with laundry rooms down the hall or in the basement were noticeably cheaper (about $100 less a month), and the complexes without a laundry room at all were even more affordable. But in the end, I’m glad I sprung for the more expensive place. Getting to do my laundry at home has definitely paid off.
Without a laundry room in your apartment complex, washing your clothes can be extremely time-consuming. It could take a whole day to drag your laundry around the block to a Laundromat, watch it spin, and haul it back to your door. It’s a much easier trip when the laundry room is in your building, but you still need to stay close so you can switch loads when it’s time (and make sure your stuff doesn’t get stolen). You also have to pay $5 or $6 for every load you wash and dry.
With my own washer and dryer, I could wash a load when I woke up, pop it in the dryer before I went to work, and fold it when I got home. Time is money, and when you’re saving time on your laundry, you can use that extra time to work more hours or get some much-needed rest.
Plus, being able to do your laundry on your schedule means you don’t need to have as many clothes. I go through laundry pretty quickly: every day I wear my work clothes, pajamas, sweats for the gym, and sometimes an evening or party outfit. If you don’t have the time to do laundry when you need to, you’ll run out of clothes and end up buying extras of everything, which can be expensive. Also, in-unit washer/dryers always seem to be gentler on fabrics than laundromat machines.
Go for the washer and dryer in the unit if you can. It’s worth the money.
If you have a car, pay for secure parking
Some apartment buildings make you park outside, some have carports with a roof, some have community garages underground, and the most expensive places include your own personal garage. You might be tempted to choose on-street parking for the lower price tag; after all, your car doesn’t care where it lives, right? But beware, because you could end up paying way more for car repairs than you would on rent.
Exposing your car to the elements — even the sun — can cause a lot of wear and tear, so you really want to get a place that gives you a parking spot with some sort of covering.
But even if you park in a covered or underground parking space, you run the risk of damage. I used to live in an apartment with a window that opened to the parking lot behind the building. I was shocked at how many times I saw people open their car doors and dent the side of the car next to them.
If the perpetrator doesn’t leave a note, that damage is up to you to fix, and that could cost a lot of money and a ton of time. But that isn’t the worst thing that could happen.
I have friends, a married couple, who always park their cars next to each other on the street. One night they heard a noise from their window and went out to find that someone had crashed into both of their cars and drove away. One car was totaled, and the other required expensive repairs.
Of course, it isn’t likely that a drunk driver will hit both of your cars in one night, but if you plan to park your car on a busy street or if you live in a big city with lots of traffic, a garage is probably worth the money.
A gym can save you a lot in the long run
I’ve lived in apartments with gyms (and some without) and found that having access to a place to exercise is surprisingly cost-effective.
A lot of times, apartment gyms are not very fancy, so if you’re big on working out and staying in shape, you might want to stick to your 24 Hour Fitness or Bally’s membership. But if you’re looking for a casual place to do some cardio (or a place to get away from your roommate for a little while), an apartment gym is absolutely worth the money.
I wasn’t sure if I would ever use the gym in my first apartment, but I ended up getting into a routine where I’d hit the gym after work. It ended up being the best thing I did. I felt healthier and less tired, and learned that I can be more efficient during the day when I work in a little bit of physical activity.
I might not have signed up for a gym on my own; it’s expensive and it can be hard to convince yourself to drive to the gym and actually work out on a daily basis. Yes, having your own workout equipment at your apartment complex can raise your rent, but in my experience, it’s still cheaper than getting a gym membership — and the convenience of having the gym so close is definitely worth it. In the end, a gym could really save you money.
A computer room will save on your printing costs
If you’re a student, this might be a big one for you. Some apartment complexes have computer rooms and printers, and this can be a great perk. Printers can be expensive and bulky, and doing your printing at the library or at FedEx can take up a lot of your time — plus you have to pay per page. When I lived in an apartment with computers available, it was extremely convenient. I used it to print papers for school, print tickets for events, etc.
Since then, I’ve moved on and ended up getting my own printer. It’s nice to still be able to print any time I want, but the upkeep is expensive and time-consuming. I always have to make sure I have ink and paper, and every time my printer breaks I have to take the time to figure out how to fix it. I miss being able to do my printing from the computer room, and would love to have that amenity in a future apartment.
A hot tub is a must-have for your sore back
Having an apartment with a pool might seem like an unnecessary luxury, especially if you’re not a big swimmer. Pools are expensive to build and upkeep, and that’s reflected in rent prices. However, while a pool may not be worth the extra money, a hot tub might.
I once lived in an apartment with a pool and hot tub, and I found myself stepping into the hot tub with a book and a cool drink every other day. I have a long commute and at the end of my drive home I had a ton of back pain that would keep me up at night. The warm water and jets helped relax my muscles and soften the ache, but it also saved me a lot of money. Usually, I would spend around $60 to $80 dollars every couple of weeks for massage or acupuncture, but with my frequent use of the hot tub, I didn’t need those treatments. My hot tub time also gave me a relaxing place to read, and deeper sleeps at night, which made me more productive at work. These perks made the heightened cost of the apartment totally worth it.
Jilly Pretzel is a fiction and nonfiction writer from Southern California. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Chapman University and now teaches writing at California School of the Arts in San Gabriel Valley. She has recently written for The Penny Hoarder, Love TV, and Orange Coast Magazine.
This story is part of The Billfold’s Moving Series.
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