Three not so little pigs
Photo by Diego Passadori

When planning my move to Seattle just over a year back, I asked in a forum whether it was possible to get a place within walking distance of my workplace downtown for under $1000 a month. I got laughed out of there. I left before they decided to put a dunce cap on me.

I ended up finding a studio in U-District (right by the University of Washington) for $875. It had a desk, a fridge, and a bathroom. The kitchen was shared among the 8 rooms on the floor. The washer and dryer were in the kitchen. It was about a 35 minute commute by bus.

I had gone to see this place at 8 on a Monday morning. I liked it enough, but wanted to see what else was out there. After seeing two more places and exploring more of the city’s bus routes than I cared to, I decided good enough was good enough. By the time I called, the room I had seen was already taken. Apparently, that’s how it goes in big cities. I ended up getting lucky and another room opened up.

I moved in at the start of September, hauling my two plus-sized suitcases across Seattle. By the time I had inflated my inflatable queen bed, the place had shrunk in half. The bed was flush with the back and left side walls. Two feet separated the other end of the bed from the desk and another foot separated it from the right wall.

Everything ended up working really well. I was comfortable in my small space. I had a library and both a Safeway and a Trader Joe’s within a mile. I stayed under $1000 and used my bus commute to read. I would later discover that the beautiful Ravenna Park was only a 5 minute walk away.

Ravenna Park in Seattle, Washington
Photo by Frank Fujimoto

This past August, my lease came to an end. My girlfriend had graduated and would be moving in with me. She was apartment hunting from 1,000+ miles and 3 time zones away. I, of course, had imposed strict guidelines: I wanted to pay the same I was currently paying, but for a nice one-bedroom apartment.

She called dozens of places and eventually discovered that the place across the street from me was available. I visited the place and it was nice. Rent was $1450, but utilities were $180 a month, which bothered me since I was currently paying about $10 a month. Plus, we were shipping my car so that would be an extra $100 a month for parking. We would also have to get our own internet. And to add insult to injury, the application fee was $100 and there was a $300 non-refundable cleaning fee… did the landlord think we were inviting the three little pigs to live with us?

So I called my girlfriend after visiting and told her the place was nice, but that we could find something better. She said OK. She called me back twenty minutes later and said she had talked to her parents and thought we should take it.

But the $300 cleaning fee, I said, and we’re going to have the car now and are going to have to start paying insurance which I wasn’t paying last year, and the utilities, and the stupid application fee.

I know, she said, but I’ve spent the last week looking around and I think this is a good deal. $1450 + $180 + $100 + $50 for internet is $1780, so you’d be paying $890, which is basically the same you’ve been paying. And the place is furnished and moving your stuff will be super easy.

My answer was basically grumble, grumble. I was even offended she had discussed it with her parents instead of me.

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. –– The First Law Of Holes

I needed backup, so I called my dad. He said to stop being a stubborn idiot and get the place. I called her back and said we should take it. She took care of the application and locked the place down. At the end of the month, she moved with me to Seattle. We spent a week in my little studio. While I went to work, she packed my stuff and cleaned the studio. At the end of the week we moved in to the new place. Moving, universally regarded as a pain in the ass, was a breeze. All we had to was make 10 trips across the street.

The new place is great. We have our own kitchen. The bed is no longer of the inflatable kind. We have a couch and a TV for movie nights. We bought a set of dumbbells since we now have enough room to workout. Sammy is working her magic to make the place feel homey.

Our apartment with some fairy lights lit as decoration
Our apartment with some fairy lights lit as decoration

We’re quick to complain, quick to realize when things are missing, when there’s not enough. It’s only fair to also step back and appreciate when things work out.

I moved to a new city and only spent one day apartment hunting. I stayed under budget and had a library, a beautiful park for weekend walks, and grocery stores within walking distance. My bus stop was one of the first on the route so I got to sit down and read every day. When my lease ended, I only had to visit one place, which we ended up taking. Moving out was easy. My rent stayed the same and I’m living in a much nicer place.

I think the original goal of this post was to talk about staying under budget in an expensive city (Seattle is up there as far as rent and cost of living go). But as I wrote I kept circling back to how lucky I’ve been. Maybe I’ll get around to writing about living cheaply in Seattle, but I think I’ll leave this one as it is––as an expression of how great it is to have someone who puts up with you and supports your goals.

I guess all I’m trying to say is thanks.