financial discussions with the girl next door

Quality of Life vs. Saving Money October 26, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — girlnextdoorfinance @ 6:56 pm

About a week ago I posted the following question on Networth IQ to solicit some feedback, and I’d like your opinions, too. Let me know what you think!

I’ve been saving money pretty steadily for the past 2 years, but I have decided to go back to school (working on an MA in Economics, thinking about applying to PhD programs) and am now a full-time student again. I’m 25.

Right now I rent a super cheap apartment a few miles away from campus. My total house-related expenses (rent, utilities, internet, etc.) total less than $300 per month. I live 5 minutes from campus (by car), but have to leave my house 30 minutes early in order to find parking and get across campus. I’ve found myself eating out more lately (even though I actually LIKE to cook) just because I have so little free time and am constantly rushing between work and school.

Today I looked at an apartment that is a 5 minute walk from my building on campus. Living there would significantly increase my quality of life. I would spend much less time in transit, I would have no reason to go through drive-thrus (since I would have to walk back to the apartment first to get my car, so at that point I might as well grab dinner at home!), I could walk home for lunch instead of grabbing crap to take to campus with me (which usually means Easy Mac or something similar, since it’s easy to transport), and I could probably cancel internet because campus wireless might reach there (and if it doesn’t, I could force myself to walk 5 minutes to the library or another building on campus rather than paying $50/month to have internet at home).

Rent at this apartment would be $425/month. Utilities would run an additional $30 to $50, from the estimate I was given. The apartment is one bedroom, so there’s no possibility of getting a roommate (it’s allowed to have more than one person in the apartment, but I don’t want to share a one bedroom with anyone). I also don’t know a lot of people here, and most students have leases locking them in for the school year so it’s unlikely I’ll meet anyone through school who is looking for a place.

I’ve gotten into the habit of saving a lot of my money, and watching my savings dwindle (and having debt again!) since I’ve been in school is stressing me out some. I know that I can afford the bills at this new apartment, but I’m not sure if the increases in quality of life would balance out the new stress of not being able to put money into savings. I won’t have much left over after I pay the bills, especially in the spring semester.

Is it worth it to save less so that my day-to-day quality of life would be much greater, given that “quality of life” here means living conditions and transportation? If it was a question of entertainment/lattes/etc. my answer would easily be I don’t need that, save the money. But for this, I’m not so sure. (And I’ll still be contributing to my Roth IRA. That’s one piece of savings I refuse to give up, even though I only contribute $200 a month.) How do you all determine when to sacrifice some saving to increase quality of life, and vice-versa? Any advice for me?


2 Responses to “Quality of Life vs. Saving Money”

  1. KarinsBuckaroo Says:

    Could you bring lunch instead of buying it out? I’ve been bringing lunch everyday and eat it at about 2 or 3pm because I work until 9pm. Its much better for me than what is available to purchase.

    And what about riding a bike. Often secure bike parking is much, much closer our destination than car parking. You may find your total travel time via bike less. It certainly is here due to traffic.

  2. As a MBA student myself, I understand the necessity of frugality. The less you obligate yourself to others (ie: landlord, bank’s, etc) the more freedom you have to have choices. As an economics student you know this is simply an economic problem. What is a more scarce resource: time or money? The answer to that will provide you the answer you seek.

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