“After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”– Spock, “Amok Time”; STAR TREK: The Original Series.
We live in roughly a 1,000 square foot, two bedroom, two flat apartment building.
I found out a few months ago that our landlord’s other apartment was vacant. The other apartment was renting for nearly $400 more than our current apartment, but it has three bedrooms, is two stories, and has a two car garage in the back. When our landlord told us it was vacant, I momentarily thought about living there and then dismissed the thought due to the high rent.
Now, I find myself thinking about the apartment all the time. When it is nice enough for me to walk to pick my son up from preschool, we sometimes walk by the apartment (that is now occupied). It is not a pretty house. It has ugly brown wood shingle-type siding, the front porch is drooping, the windows are old. I don’t know what it looks like inside, but the outside is not attractive. Still, I keep walking by.
I find myself yearning for the two floors, the three bedrooms, the two car garage. Never mind that we only have one car and the apartment is 20 minutes further from the subway line, so my husband would have further to walk every day. Never mind that my son doesn’t even have to share his current bedroom yet because my daughter still is not sleeping through the night and is still in our room. Never mind that my husband is planning to graduate with his Ph.D. next year, and we want to move out of the area. Never mind that we could not afford the extra $400 in rent and that trying to do so would put us behind in our goals for the future. I keep walking by. . .
When my husband and I were first married, we had very little money, but alot of student loan and credit card debt. All we could afford was a tiny basement apartment that flooded in our bedroom when it rained hard. We had to be thrifty to pay down the debt and improve our standing, so we were. And, we came to enjoy it. It became a contest to see how much we could save, how much debt we could pay off.
Then, gradually, I made more money, he got busier with school, and the thrifty contest ended. We used to line dry our clothes, but we began to dry them in the drier. We started going out to eat more as we became busier. Once we were out of credit card debt, we didn’t go back in debt as we spent more, but we squandered the opportunity to save the money and make a positive impact on our future. We began to live paycheck to paycheck.
We still have a comfortable living, but I desperately want to quit my job and take care of my kids when my husband graduates. We are learning to become frugal again. That means we must relearn the lesson that wanting is usually better than having. That apartment is probably not much different than our current one. The simple fact is that I was content with our apartment until I heard about the other one.
I find when trying to learn to be frugal again, I must face the wants and understand that the reality is not as fulfilling as the dream. Then, inevitably, the next step on this journey becomes a whole new set of wants. Instead of wanting something bigger and better, I will want other things, like a larger bank account to safeguard our future and buy our own home, not rent someone else’s.