Author Topic: Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?  (Read 1465 times)

uneven_cyclist

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Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?
« on: July 20, 2021, 11:55:22 AM »
Hello All...I'm curious to get a bit of advice from the community about my situation...

My wife and I had a son nine months ago and we live in a small (700 sq. ft.) 1-bed. apt. in LA. 

Needless to say, we wouldn't mind having a bit more space and easier access to nature/green space.

A few basics about our situation:

*We work a few blocks from where we live -- same employer.
*She has to work at the office; I work remotely.
*I drive to my mom's each morning (25 min. drive each way) and my mom helps to take care of the kiddo during the day.
*My mom lives about 5mi./25 mins away from us/our job in a more expensive neighborhood (a similar apt. to our current apt. in this neighborhood might cost $2000/mo.).
*We earn together about $150k annually...net worth is about $325k...our rent is about $1700...annual expenses are about $60k.
*At this rate...we are hoping to reach FI in 7 years give or take...depending on a few unknowns -- one or the other of us may get raises, successfully launch a business, lose a job, etc.

We are not opposed to moving to a different city / place with lower cost of living, but it matters a lot to us to be close to family in LA and so we are wary about that and so at the moment our thought is to maybe hold off on that until we reach FI, considering that we have good jobs here + that we are close to family + that our family is helping with our son.

BUT...the tiny apartment right in the city is still a pain point...do folks have any creative thoughts/recommendations that might help us in our situation?

Thank you for your time, thoughts, and ideas.

Fru-Gal

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Re: Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2021, 12:16:10 PM »
One more thing, it seems like you also could afford to move closer to your mom and be in a bigger apartment. Being 5 miles from work isn't bad, and you'll spend the same on gas since you were driving to your mom's every day anyway. Another option: Get a remote workspace near your mom, then you don't have to drive home to WFH after you drop the baby off.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2021, 12:37:09 PM »
An optimized 700sqft apartment is plenty of space for two adults and a newborn. I wouldn't try to move until it's old enough to need its own bedroom.

Efficient storage can create a lot of living space out of seemingly nowhere. Think:
- shelves and cabinets
- bed with drawers underneath
- hooks
- closet boxes and organizers

There is likely a ton of "dead space" in your apartment right now. Get rid of it first and reevaluate.

TheFrenchCat

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Re: Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2021, 04:36:36 PM »
I grew up in a one bedroom apartment that I think was actually less than 700 sq ft+ a storage locker in the basement for bikes and such.  When I was born, I was in a crib that was in the walk in closet.  When I was old enough to need my own bed, maybe 3 or so, my parents divided the room in half with dressers with one bed on each side.  When my brother was born, they put him in their side of the split bedroom and they got a futon for themselves in the living room.  That last step I don't recommend, but they did that for a year before they moved to the house they saved up for.  But before my brother was born, the situation worked quite well and I was 6 when he was born.  A teenager might be more uncomfortable splitting a room, I could imagine, but I think you might be able to make your space work for you for quite a while. 

luchorpan

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Re: Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2021, 04:35:25 PM »
I think some of this will depend on your childís personality. We were in a ~700 sq ft 1-bedroom when our first was born, and we renewed the lease one more year. But by the time he was 15 months old it was clear he is an energizer bunny kind of kid. Go go go, climb climb climb, and once a day walks to the park were not sufficing. We moved to a place with a backyard after that (granted in a much cheaper city). If I were you Iíd wait and see how you all fare where you are, trying in the meantime to make maximum use of your space. But if it seems like your kid has no chill (e.g., mine has very little interest in coloring and only sits through books at nap and bedtime, even though he loves them then) it may be worth the extra cost to have more space and easier outdoors access. Even just having the ability to step out your door and blow some bubbles for chasing can make a huge difference for your sanity with an active child.

One other thought: is the free grandma childcare an indefinite offer? Thatís huge if so, and adding convenience for that may be worth hundreds of bucks a month. If your wife would be ok lengthening her commute (to/from work) in order for yours (to/from/to/from grandma) and your childís (to/from grandma) to be shorter, thatís something to consider too.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2021, 04:48:56 PM by luchorpan »

JJ-

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Re: Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2021, 06:33:15 PM »
I agree with Paul on evaluating dead space to optimize your apartment and not moving until you're forced to.

One thing to consider is going to Ikea for their tiny room models to get an idea of how to use dead & vertical space.

uneven_cyclist

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Re: Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2021, 11:36:27 PM »
Hey All,

Thanks for the ideas and suggestions.  I liked the question "what specifically is hard about the apt. with a baby?" Also the idea of going to IKEA for inspiration when it comes to setting up small rooms. 

I think in terms of square footage that the apartment we have now probably *is* large enough in terms of square footage to be happy...but that we are encountering pain points tied to other factors which, when *combined* with a lack of square footage, make for a challenging environment.

We are fairly good (not perfect but fairly good) about tidying...going through a periodic rotation of tidying Marie Kondo categories etc.

We actually have been able to make some recent improvements by re-organizing the layout of the living room: especially by using dahanger bike racks to hang up four bikes on the walls that were previously hanging just on hooks by the front wheels and cutting into our usable space and making one of the walkways into the kitchen tight which was frustrating.

There are a couple/few smaller gains to be made like this...e.g. there are some stored items hanging on walls that could be stored in cabinets and then things would look and feel more peaceful...

But ultimately, I think that the things that we notice most when visiting other peoples' houses or apartments or when traveling and staying in other cities etc. are things like how nice it is to have natural light (i.e. more than we have) or how nice it is to have access to a yard or a park right out the back door which we do not because we are in a densely packed neighborhood with other apartment buildings and lots of concrete.

So...even though I think we ultimately are going to want to move to a location that can provide us with more of these things that we really want, I will keep working on optimizing things at our current place for the time being...sometimes small changes can make a huge impact (like hanging the bikes differently!).  Maybe we'll go check out IKEA this weekend :)

Thank you all for your thoughts!

MayDay

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Re: Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2021, 05:24:26 AM »
Having had challenging babies/toddlers, I sympathize. If we hadn't had a yard I think it would have been much more difficult. Or like you said, at least a pretty quick walk to a park!

That said looking back.... They just get bigger! So the longer you can make it work in the small space, the cheaper it will be (obviously).

You just have to balance that with mental health.

300$ difference in rent isn't huge- I'd just keep a casual eye out for options near your mom, especially if she has a yard she's willing to share. Or even just other options with more light or a playground in the complex or whatever.


Luz

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Re: Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2021, 12:14:08 AM »
My husband and I are in a 420 sq. ft apartment with a 1 and 3-year old and I think we could make it work with one more kid! The layout isn't awesome, but it does have a huge walk-in closet that we fit a toddler bed and a mini crib into (in an "L" shape). The mini crib was at the foot of our bed for the 1st year of the baby's life, so a third baby will park there if we expand our family.  We moved in as students and stayed after having our daughter because the rent was cheap and it was doable with a baby. We renewed our lease again just before baby#2 arrived because of COVID economic uncertainty. We just renewed the lease today for another year, because we were surprised to find that it still adequate. It also gets us that much closer to our financial goals. Our regular monthly expenses are $24,000 per year for a family of 4, thanks in large part to this apartment.

The keys to making it work for us are:

-Remember our why
(I want to have a mid-sized family, stay home with the kids while they're young, live in Mexico for a few years, buy a house in a nature-filled HCOL state near family, and pile up our savings and investments. And I want to get started on those goals during the years my husband is in school and our earnings are low. Keeping our expenses super low was one way to go about it.)

-Keep the end in sight
(We're doing this for a limited time. That makes it an adventure rather than drudgery. I'll have good memories from this place, even if I'll be happy when we move on. It also helps to take it year-by-year)

-Get rid of most of our stuff
(We've become extremely minimalist in order to not feel cramped. There's no way we could fit 4 people + a bunch of stuff. The stuff had to go (that includes excess baby gear). I like the method of figuratively emptying out the entire apartment and bringing back in only the most essential items first. Or dedicating one bookshelf for books, papers, and electronics or one bin for toys and one drawer for art supplies, etc. Then filling the space with the most essential items first and once the space is full, donating the rest of the items. It wasn't until I got extreme about decluttering that the apartment started to feel roomy enough)

-Free up closets by using free-standing wardrobes.
(We have a wardrobe in the entryway for coats, bags and shoes and one in the bedroom for my husband's and I's clothes. Those items used to take up most of the walk-in space. The wardrobes essentially turned our 1 bedroom apartment into a 2 bedroom with space to spare for baby items I'm storing for a possible third baby. I second other's suggestions for hooks, bins on shelves, and under-bed storage.)

See it as a fun challenge.
(I'm always thinking about how we can best use the space. It's like a big puzzle. I get lots of inspiration from others living in tiny spaces (RV's, sailboats, tiny houses, apartments).

It sounds, however, like your situation is more about reconciling being close to family, reaching your FI goals, and concerns for quality of life. If it were me, (and if we're only talking about the expense -and not the income- side of the equation) I would prioritize family and quality of life, and rent something more expensive that had more natural light and less concrete, even if it meant FI plans were delayed due to higher cost of living.

« Last Edit: July 30, 2021, 12:16:52 AM by Luz »

Dicey

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Re: Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2021, 08:37:05 AM »
Questiins:

You're spending nearly two hours a day ferrying the baby to grandma's?

How young is grandma? What if the baby becomes an active toddler and grandma can't keep up?

What if grandma decides she wants her life back?

ixtap

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Re: Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2021, 10:35:37 AM »
I am still stuck on 700sq ft being tiny for a one bedroom. On the other hand, I can't imagine a good layout for that.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Tiny Apartment...Expensive City...Just Had a Kid...Ideas?
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2021, 10:53:18 AM »
I am still stuck on 700sq ft being tiny for a one bedroom. On the other hand, I can't imagine a good layout for that.
100 sqft for the bedroom, 100 sqft for the kitchen, 500 sqft for the grow operation.