It's okay to want a nicer home now and then. It's not okay to always want a nicer home.
Sometimes I think I should move “up” to a “better” home. Some triggers for this thought include: frustration with my current place – for example not having a big enough workspace; feeling that I “should” be living a certain way given my age and station; visiting the Jones’ place down the street; and, say, advertising.
Stupid advertising leave me alone!
For background, I live in a lovely newly-built condo building near Old Montreal. My unit is a single-room place on the larger end of the studio spectrum, at around 600 sq. ft. I also happen to own it, which is nice. The building has very few amenities, the intent of which is keeping the running costs low. Low cost given the location / proximity to work was the main deciding factor for me.
While reading about some Montreal development history a couple nights ago, I stumbled upon a new-ish building that I had always assumed was an office building. Turns out it’s a mix – some office space, some living space. And it’s pretty much my dream building, as far as living in a city goes. (I’m not sure what it says about me that I covet living in a place that others would mistake as an office tower.)
I immediately started (seriously) thinking. Would it be possible to live there? How would I make that work?
I started running rough numbers and thought about selling my current place vs renting it and googling what was currently for sale in this new building.
I won’t get into the dull-as-dirt reasons WHY this place appeals to me. Instead, I’ll simplify it to the most appealing: the view. A great city view attracts me like no supermodel ever could – and is the main thing I am currently missing – so I’ll use the view as a single point of reference to refer to all the reasons I’d be encouraged to move.
Just imagine looking out your window every day at that:
A stroke of financial luck
There are a lot of reasons I’m living in Montreal right now, but there is one enabler that’s important to this topic: savings. In 2011, I started a company with a friend and that led us here. To do so, I lived with no income for an entire year (and was prepared to go longer.)
Had I not been able to do that, I wouldn’t have been able to capitalize on the opportunity to start the company that brought me here.
I place a large personal value on the freedom to change your entire life around when you get into a bad situation. But you need money to do that, so I’ve gotten used to living below my means. WAY below. You never know when you may need a large cushion full of money while you recover from an injury, or may want to throw all your stuff in storage and head to Asia. Point is: relying on the income from any given job to maintain one’s current lifestyle is very scary to me and something I would recommend everyone avoid like a stray sock on the metro.
Back to the dream house
Seriously, did you see that view? Maybe you don’t care for it as much as I do, but anyone who’s ever had a meeting with me on a high floor of any office building will tell you, I stare out the windows like a 12-year-old boy looking at boobies.
Compared to the building I live in now, the cost is just about twice for the building with the view. The same size place would be just under double the purchase cost, and double the maintenance fees. Yikes.
And it’s not like I’m living in squalor over here. My place is everything I need, and it’s only a 15 min walk away from the other building so it’s not like I’m in a vastly different neighbourhood. For example, here’s the kitchen before I moved in:
(If you’re curious, the banner photo of this post is the view from my first place in Montreal.)
The useless desire
Logically, I know that moving into a nicer home won’t change my happiness baseline. I’ll grow used to the new home. And if against all wisdom it could increase my happiness somewhat, or gives me more “space” to think and create, any potential gain would be offset by stress from the increased cost. My income and assets would have to increase significantly to offset that.
And yet, it’s the view I’ve always wanted. Something in my head goes: gimme gimme gimme.
Fill the space you have
Let’s forget about the place with the view and think about my current place compared to a bigger multi-bedroom home in the same building, which was an option I didn’t choose. A single-room studio is not exactly the best place to build a family. Or have visitors. Or store your sex robot.
They say whatever size home you have, you will fill it. Well, I didn’t buy one that has much room for other people. I actually thought about this when I bought it. I thought about eventually having a wife-or-equivalent. I thought about where friends and family would stay when they visit.
I sometimes think: if I moved to a place with multiple bedrooms and lots of space would I be more inclined to fill it? Would those empty rooms be such an ever-present reminder that I would seek out people to put there?
In other words: would the probability of finding a partner increase if I lived in a bigger home? Would I have a lot more guests with a guest room? Would I make fun new friends by AirBnb’ing /Couchsurfing the spare room?
I think about that often. Maybe I chose the place I did subconsciously because I find the idea of a bigger home and a family a threat to financial security. Maybe I’ve seen too many cop shows where the nice family in the nice home is living off of credit cards and the father resorts to being a drug mule to keep it all going.
I really don’t ever wanna know what it’s like to eat a condom full of drugs.
The dangerous desire
Maybe I just need to calm the eff down, but here’s where I really get worried: I may NEVER value the view or the family or the stranger
danger fun over increased financial freedom. No matter how much I may want those things, they’re in direct contrast to the thing I need to feel safe. And that thought can be scary.
And that fear can be just enough to make my normally-risk-averse brain want to conquer it and go, “hey man, you deserve it! You work hard, you can spend the money on the view you always wanted.” or “hey, you know that girl you like, why not ditch the condoms and see what happens.”
That’s a pretty dick move, brain. You won’t be saying that when we’re on the street after the economy collapses and our baby-mama is giving handies to keep the kid in nappies.
This is a metaphor or something, btw
A nicer home is just an example I chose because I think it’s something to which everyone can relate. But that’s not really the point I’m trying to make. I do this with much, much smaller things.
“I could go out to dinner, but that’d cost $30 and I have potatoes at home.”
“I could go to a movie but it’s $12 and staying home and watching a movie on Netflix is free.”
“I could take the metro home, but it’s only a 30 minute walk and I’ll save the $2.50”
I worry that I can’t handle reasonable financial balance and that I have to drastically over-compensate to be comfortable. And because of this I’ll never get to discover a lot of things.
And then I think, “yeah, but, the real goal is contentment. Being okay with where you are and what you have.” It’s a great goal, I think. But then I look out my window and see this:
Why I wrote this post
Having this blog is great for dealing with emotional nonsense like wanted a nicer home. I write about it, and suddenly the excitement and emotion is gone. I put it on paper so I don’t have to think about it anymore.
So no, don’t expect me to move any time soon. The plan was always to stay here for 3-6 years and unless something major changes, I imagine that’s what I’ll do. In the meantime, I’ll continue saving up for a view.
When I got the mortgage for my current place, the bank guy looked over the purchase agreement and said, “You know, I do a lot of these. Most people come in with a budget and then buy a place that’s slightly over that. You’re the only one I can remember who came in with a budget and then only spent half of it.”
I felt proud. But I don’t know if I should have.