Rethinking the house, picket fence, 2.1 kids, and a dog

Well... not the 2.1 kids.  

Before we moved to our current city, I had a list of requirements for living that I really thought were non-negotiables for us.

  • We must have two cars.  What if my husband has the car and I want to go somewhere? 
  • We must have three bedrooms, or at least two bedrooms and an office.  How can we expect our kids to share a bedroom or guests to sleep on a pullout sofa in the living room?
  • We must have at least 1,200 square feet of space. Anything smaller and we'll be too cramped.
  • We must have two bathrooms.  Who can live with just one bathroom?  
  • We must have a kitchen pantry.  Where will I store all of my bulk purchases from Costco?
  • We need a backyard. For our dogs, of course.
  • We must live within twenty minutes of work and/or childcare.  A long commute will suck the life out of us!

A 3 bedroom costs how much?

Then we moved to one of the most expensive cities in the country and our "non-negotiables" started to turn into a list of "conveniences" that we just weren't willing to pay for or even couldn't afford.  The opportunity cost of paying for an apartment with three bedrooms was an additional $400 in rent each month, or $31,000 over 5 years at a 10 percent rate of return. 

So our current living situation means that we:

  • Have one car.
  • Live in a two bedroom apartment...
  • ...that is barely 800 square feet big.
  • Have one bathroom with one sink.
  • Have no kitchen pantry.  And have almost no storage or counter space in the kitchen.
  • Have no backyard and the nearest green space for our dogs is a park three blocks away.

When I found our new apartment that we will move to in a few months, I never thought I'd be so thrilled to have two bathrooms again or that I'd think 900 square feet of space would be enough for us.  It gave me pause to start thinking about what is truly necessary for living, what is just a convenience, and the financial cost between the two.  

We can afford to spend more to secure our conveniences, but we've decided they just aren't worth it if it means giving earlier financial independence.  And to be honest, I think that denying ourselves some of these conveniences will just make us appreciate them more later in life when  they become more affordable since we plan to move back to a less expensive housing market.  (Or perhaps we'll grow to enjoying life without them.)

When it comes to balancing your own finances and quality of life, are there any non-negotiables that really should just be considered conveniences you want to hold on to?  How long are you willing to postpone early retirement in order to keep your conveniences?