The spouse and I are looking to move pretty soon, and we have another friend that is looking to buy in an even more expensive West Coast city. Because of that, we’ve been looking at pricing on apartments in our area, and trading complaints back and forth about the cost of living on the West Coast, particularly parts of California.
Apparently, a study was recently released by Harvard that says that if you pay more than 30% of your income (not sure if it’s post-tax or pre-tax income) to housing, you are “cost-burdened.” Just doing the math now, if we take the numbers from May’s budget post, our current situation has us paying just under 19% of our income to rent, which really isn’t that bad. However, if you took out what we’re paying towards debt, it turns into about 43% of our monthly budget goes straight to rent.
This, I think is where people get the idea that debt repayments can really screw up your life. The spouse and I don’t get to live lavish lifestyles in swanky apartments. We’re moving down to a one-bedroom, because it’ll be cheaper, and probably going to put up with living in a neighborhood that is less than ideal, so that we have more funds to throw at debt repayment. Having so much debt, paying it down so aggressively, AND living in a high cost of living area all add up to make living frugally and paying down debt that much more difficult.
That being said, given our current income, I’m not inclined to complain too much. If we want to move, we just pay a little less on my student loans (current IBR minimum is $600, we plan to throw $2,800 at it each month), for a month or two, and then just move. We’re living like this with a purpose – to be able to live better once the loans are gone. For a lot of people down here, there just isn’t that flexibility, and they’re the ones really hurting under the strain of high rents.
I’m not sure what the solution is, although it appears that there isn’t enough housing stock, so that’s maybe one place to start looking, and to try to overrule some of the NIMBY that happens, particularly in high-rent areas.
For those of us with high debt loads though, if we are choosing to plan this way, then we shouldn’t be letting high rents get in our way. It’s just one more thing to plan around. Hence the importance of having a plan and sticking to it (or at least trying to). Don’t let living in a high-rent area be the thing that keeps you from getting out from under.