How Much Should You Spend On Rent?

You again find yourself waiting on that next paycheck, you got bills coming up quick. This one’s gotta go to rent and utilities and your car. You’ll have to make those payments towards debt next time, and you sure as hell can’t put that money in savings.

Living in luxury doesn’t have to mean making millions or working overtime all the time. In fact, there’s a very simple way to figure out how to never want for anything, how to be debt free, how to and how to start putting away money. The secret is how much of your money you’re funneling into rent.

Just think about it. If you work full time, that means you’re spending all day, five days a week at work. Let’s say that you do this mainly to pay the bills, but your biggest bill is where you live. Is it sinking in? Let me try phrasing this another way- you spend 5% of your time driving, and 70% of your time working somewhere to afford a place you only spend 25% of your time, 12% of which you’re asleep.

This isn’t something I came up with by myself. It’s the result of advice from smart people, and from a simple equation. The answer to how much you should spend on rent is actually really simple: you shouldn’t spend more than about 25% of you income on your place.

That leaves 75% of your income for other bills and taxes, for repaying debts, for your car expenses, to put in savings, to spend on things or experiences, or even to work less hours. It’s an equation geared to how people actually spend their waking hours, and one that prioritizes abundance.

There’s a dangerous cycle we are prone to getting trapped in, and it’s the same as the paycheck to paycheck life. Each moth, you’re putting nothing of your pay in savings, half or even more to rent, and the rest to bills and other living expenses. In that situation, there is no growth, and you are held hostage as a human bill payer. In that lifestyle, you are in always in survival mode, which is the opposite of an abundant lifestyle.

If you want to follow the equation of abundance, you have two options:

Option one is to increase your income.

This is perfectly doable, and there are tons of side hustles you can start doing to earn extra each month. You could work more hours, ask for a promotion, or just start looking for a better paying job. The downside to this option, of course, is potentially spending more of your time at work.

Option two is to reduce living expenses.

There are lots of ways, big and small to do this. For example, think about how much you spend on entertainment. I mean really look, because it’s always more than you think. It includes how much you spend on fancy coffee and snacks everyday, how often you go out to eat, what you pay for cable television, your magazine and book budget, and whatever you spend on things you don’t really need.

The next step up is to reduce your living expenses with location. It’s no secret that some areas are more expensive than others. Like how living in the neighborhood downtown is more costly than the neighborhood just a few more miles away. Hell, even some entire states are more expensive than others. Arkansas is certainly a different economic climate than Hawaii. It all depends what your priorities are, and if you can find the same things for less elsewhere.

Maybe though, you don’t want to live in the middle of nowhere. You like the big city, your state, or the ritzy town where your friends and family are. For this situation, the best thing to consider is downsizing. Not just small everyday things like in the first example, but on bigger life expenses. An example of this is your car. A brand new car, as everyone knows, depreciates in value as soon as you drive it off the lot. Especially if it’s just a personal commuter rather than a commercial investment. Same with electronics like cell phones, which can now cost upwards of a thousand dollars before your cellular plan. Buying used or refurbished whenever possible can save you thousands on major purchases.

Another way to downsize, and the route I advocate for, is literally the size of your house. How much space do you really need? Do you actually use your big backyard? What could you save if you lived somewhere with just one bedroom fewer, or if you went all out minimalist. Consider rent that’s just $400 a month.

Waiting to win the lottery is no strategy to start living more abundantly. What opportunities would open to you if your rent was reduced to a quarter of your income?

Starting Over in a Suitcase

I moved to another state with a suitcase, a backpack, five hundred dollars and a student loan. It’s a funny thing, going through all of your belongings, deciding what you want and need and what just isn’t going to fit. I was faced with the question you’ve only asked yourself if you’ve tried to start completely anew:

What do I need to bring when I’m leaving everything behind?

There are a lot of uncertainties that accompany a move. Even if you’re just moving a few miles away and into a similar sized place, or you’re leaving temporarily, there are lots of unknowns about your new home. There is stress too, from going through all your belongings. It’s an eye opener to have everything you own packed away in boxes, and the space where it used to live so empty. I believe it’s a taste of a past life, one where we as human beings used to move from place to place, chasing the seasons and leaving to look for more than what we had where we sat.

It’s hard to know whats going to happen when you leave. Will everyone forget about you? Will you meet new friends and family and grow fresh roots? Will you make it out there? There are lots of things to consider and decide in a move, one of the biggest being packing. Especially if you’re moving from a cold climate to a hot climate or a hot climate to a cold climate. I was moving from the top of the Pacific North West to Southern California, and had never even visited the place I was moving. I saw it for the first time when I arrived. Needless to say, I was pretty high-strung in the days before my flight, and I probably made a dozen lists of what to pack. In the end, the best way to prioritize and organize my limited luggage was with three categories.

1. Replaceable

Things that are replaceable are of little or no sentimental value, they are extras or multiples, and they are also inexpensive, and not terribly difficult to find. For example, shampoo, flip flops, lotion, band aids, mugs, dinner ware and pretty much all of your cooking items, sheets etc. These things can be tricky to identify, because they are typically basic essentials, but they take up too much room and the cost of shipping it all would be the same as just buying it new when you arrive.

The biggest worry when getting rid of things is that you might end up needing it. The way to resolve that worry? Imagine you do get rid of that extra pair of shades and you end up missing them or really needing them. Couldn’t your just get another pair? Or make do with the first pair? Would it really be so difficult without them? Try to solve the hypothetical problem. If the solution is easy, or the dilemma not exactly an emergency, then you should be fine without it.

2. Essential

Photo by Héctor Martínez

Items that I deemed essential are the opposite of replaceable. They are things that are on the spendy side, they’re one of a-kind, and things that you wouldn’t get very far without. For example your medication, electronics, identifying documents like your drivers license, social security cards and birth certificate, as well as things like a good jacket, shoes and your glasses.

These are things you need to live. Not things you might need sometime, but items you use or wear pretty much every day. It different for everyone. I really needed to bring my computer and chargers, as well as my hair clippers that save me money I would have to spend paying for hair cuts every few weeks. Sometimes it’s not obvious either, but when you take a few minutes to think about it, you realize your sketch book and marker set you doodle with all the time are totally essential.

3. Sentimental

Photo by Laura Fuhrman

This category can be difficult, because it can be hard to leave behind knick-knacks that you collected on vacations, or gifts from family and friends, but it’s important to only pack the things that will give you joy and strength instead of the things that will hurt your back carrying or give you a headache trying to organize. Things you should let a family member hold on to or give away are heavy or fragile things like dishes, snow globes, jewelry and artwork. Other things to leave behind include large or otherwise cumbersome things like furniture.

I did end up bringing a few sentimental things that broke the rules, like large stuffed animal turtles a dear friend got me, a mug from my sister and photos, but they make me happy, and as long as you limit yourself to just a few small or lightweight things you’ll be in the clear.

How to live is the question we are all trying to answer. Settling, moving, more or less and with who are the important things, the rest are just details we figure out along the way. The truth is, you are responsible for your own happiness. Wherever you go, whatever you have, you are the navigator of your own life. I think day to day, we get so caught up with the “problems” we’re facing, and we forget that we are not bound by fear or worry, or by things. We are capable of so much more than that, we as humans are powerful, you are powerful. We’re not like trees, that stay still and are bound to the place they were planted. (Most of us) were born with feet and legs and brains that dream, we build cars and trains and planes and boats and space ships to go places because we’re explorers. *que the Intersteller soundtrack* We evolved to travel beyond what we know, to see and experience.

This life is too beautiful to not explore it, and too short to not seek out happiness wherever it might be.

Tiny House vs Boat

Considering going minimalist? Tiny homes, RV’s and even converted buses are becoming more mainstream alternatives to conventional houses and apartments. However there are unseen pitfalls to these trends and to life on wheels.

Photo by Seb [ P34K ] Hamel

First off, you need a place to go, there’s no such thing as free dirt after all. Unless you own land, you can’t just park and live wherever you want. Even if you plan on living in the city, there are zoning laws to consider. Most residential  zones have laws prohibiting buildings of certain sizes, or have strict infrastructure standards.

Photo by Katie Barrett

Beware of these picturesque images of a more simple existence. It is fantasy. Most of us in the modern world depend on a little something called electricity. How do you clean your clothes, power your computer, light your bedroom or keep food cold? Electricity is everywhere and not everyone can do solar power. Not just because of climate, but also because of the expense. It’s true, the panels themselves are becoming more affordable and may only cost you a few hundred, but the rest of the solar equipment can be costly. Batteries and converters alone can be priced in the thousands. If you really want to go the solar route check out my post about going solar.

Photo by Miryam Leon

Speaking of fantasy, ever seen one of these modern minimalist tree houses? Ever wonder where the toilet is? Yeah me too. The thing is, running water is just a part of life for most of us. Most of these tiny houses in the middle of nowhere or shipping containers with futons set out on a cliff aren’t actually practical. When you live on a boat in a harbor, the Marina handles all those things, often with facilities like showers, toilets, sinks and laundry rooms.

Where are these people anyway? I can never seem to figure out where exactly these tiny houses, buses and recycled urban shed people live. It always seems to be under the premise of “off grid” or in some hidden corner of the world paradise. I don’t know about you, but I like having visitors now and then. I like being a part of society (most of the time) and I find value in things like grocery stores and coffee shops because I don’t want to grow my own bananas and sometimes I just really want a nice foamy latte while I soak in the free wifi. But that’s just my way.

Photo by Benjamin Zanatta

Life on the road works for a lot of people, it’s just important to understand the realities. Every way of life has problems that need to be solved. There is value to living in the suburbs like there is value to living in a city high rise, there is no value in painting a false picture or choosing a path that’s not your own. There are easy ways and hard ways but the best way is always your way.

So You Want to Go Solar?

I was recently talking with a coworker about solar power. He had been telling me for a while about his plans to save up for an RV to convert and run with solar power. The first time he brought it up, he was super excited because he just ordered himself a few groovy panels that only cost a few hundred each. I was always curious about how much it actually costed, and I was impressed, because I thought they were supposed to be super expensive. But low and behold, here were some affordable panels! They were really cool too, because they weren’t like they big heavy and sharp industrial panels you see on buildings. Instead, they were flexible, thin and lightweight.

This is the one he showed me on amazon. I wanted to order one too, but I held off.

For vehicles or vessels, aerodynamics are important. It impacts speed, gas mileage, even placement and accessibility are important. Especially on a vessel, where tripping or stepping on something hard with sharp edges might mean taking a swim.

A solar powered sailboat is definitely appealing to me, it would mean weekend island hopping and coastal cruising with a working fridge, with heat and the capacity to charge electronics all without a noisy generator. Beyond that is the implication of world sailing- of going anywhere with just wind, water and sun.

I didn’t hear much about it for a while, but when I asked a few weeks later he didn’t seem so excited. He said he didn’t realize how expensive the entire installation set up was. The panels themselves weren’t any good without the different inverters and batteries. As it turns out, the panels are the cheap part of the setup- to find decently rated kits online I had to totally change my price filters to include results in the thousands of dollars.

So far, I’ve found a relatively cheap kit that includes almost everything for under a thousand bucks. The real wallet killer are the special lithium batteries, which end up costing as much or more than the kit each.

All in all, I would really only need about four thousand for everything, which isn’t really much compared to the tens of thousands it costs for houses and office buildings- but you’re talking to someone who pays less than four hundred a month for rent, and who’s car isn’t even worth two grand. So it looks like my rainy day fund is now a solar fund for the foreseeable future.

55 Little Reasons to Become a Minimalist

There are tons of benefits to living minimally, here are just a few reasons to get you started

1. For a sigh of relief

Stress starts to melt away when you have less to worry about, when you leave what worries you behind you never take that deep breath of relief for granted again.

2. To get your priorities straightened out

If affording your rent tops your list of priorities you’re doing it wrong.

3. For room to think

Less means more brain capacity freed up for more important things.

4. Time to relax

If you can’t remember the last time you slept in, or the last time you had nothing to do you might be exerting to much energy into cleaning and maintenance. The only thing we really have to spend is our time.

5. To have energy for the big ideas!

With all that extra time and relaxation, suddenly you have the motivation to go for what you’re passionate about.

6. Space to forget

Forget about your unhappiness, your life “fillers” and your regrets. Those things don’t move you forward and only serve to keep you hung up on the unimportant details.

7. To save your hard earned money

What is it that you wish you could save for instead of spending it on your water bill? See my article on how much it costs me to live on a boat.

8. Working less

Don’t really have many things you need all those hours for except to pay the bills? Maybe you really want the time to have fun instead? Reducing your living expenses may just be exactly the thing for you!

9. To break out of your shell

When you don’t spend half your time at work and the other half at home, suddenly, you have to meet more people and do more things than just sit alone at home on the couch.

10. Appreciation of the outdoors

If you live in a 30′ by 6′ rectangle, you probably don’t want to hang out there all the time unless you want to have cabin fever! This is where your relationship with nature begins.

11. So people quit buying you stuff

Do you enjoy spending time with friends and family but hate birthdays and holidays like Christmas and Valentines day? That might be because you don’t have the materialistic bug, which is great for a minimalist lifestyle. Now you have the perfect excuse to tell people not to get you anything; you literally don’t have the room for it!

12 . For more time to play

Quit flaking on your friends and partners, have the time to go out and have fun instead of working extra hours to make rent or spending your entire Saturday organizing and cleaning.

13. Getting comfortable with yourself

When you stop filling your life and your space with endless distractions, you’re forced to spend more time with yourself, and more time on yourself.

14. Making more friends

Not enough happens to you when you’re stuck at home. You miss out on meeting all kinds of people, and miss out on connections you won’t make otherwise.

15. Less time spent with your TV

Cable, Netflix and movie binging is a great way to check out of life. How many hours per day do you spend in front of a screen? What about in a month or a year? What could you spend that time on instead?

16. For your health

Some of the major causes of death in our country, like heart attacks, cancer, stroke and diabetes type 2 are heavily impacted by a sedentary lifestyle. Want to live longer and healthier? Minimalism helps contribute to an active way of life.

17. To find yourself

18. To really see whats around you

Open your eyes, look around yourself and be a part of it all

19. Inspiring your sense of adventure

Putting yourself in a different environment makes you an explorer of the unknown, who knows maybe you’ll get a taste for it!

20. Confidence

Feel empowered about your decision making, your capability and your potential to do anything you put your mind to

21. For your family

Be more present and have more time and energy for your family instead of putting it towards stress and worry.

22. To try something new

23. Live without fear

Fear of what’s next or the what if’s are what hold you back from taking the leap for your dreams. When you have less physically you literally have less to lose.

24. Breaking away from the norm

25. To find your happiness

26. Putting yourself to the test

You’re stronger than you know, and it just takes a leap of faith to find out just how amazing and capable you really are.

27. To understand freedom

You are not restricted by the confines of the social norm, nor are you bound by the expectations of others, by the cost to live or the things you think you need.

28. Satisfy your curiosity

Nothing is permanent, if you’ve always wondered what it might be like to live with less why not give it a try? You can always go back to the way things were, if you never try anything new you’ll never learn, and things will stay the same.

29. Kill your materialistic and superficial habits

Find yourself hating all the unnecessary junk you buy and collect? Or feel that your status is intrinsically correlated to the things you own or don’t own? Minimalism is a great way to change those feelings and that way of thinking.

30. Be more than a human bill payer

Ever feel like your purpose in life is to pay bills or be a paycheck for someone else? The reason is having a high cost of living, and the only way to stop feeling that way is to live below your means in a way that is still abundant in the ways you care about.

31. Rediscover wild abandon

32. For getting over your writers block

33. To inspire others

I admit, it’s always a bit of an ego boost to tell people that I live on a boat and see their eyes bug out as they start asking me questions like “do you cook there?” and “how do you go to the bathroom?” Just by being different and a more unique version of yourself, you inspire and open up new worlds to those around you.

34. Become the person you always knew your were

Never feel like the life that you’re living isn’t really you. Sometimes when we just go along with what we think we’re supposed to do, we lose sight of what we really want to do.

35. To see clearly what you love

In a life devoid of things, you learn what it is you truly hold close to your heart

36. Gaining new wisdom

37. For finishing off your bucket list

Or to make one if you’ve never sat down to write out your dreams and aspirations!

38. To become closer to those you love

39. Living a life of luxury

Luxury doesn’t necessarily mean million dollar properties, a ten car garage full of hotrods or vacations that cost thousands. Luxury can be things you already have, and is as simple as living a life feeling that you have enough.

40. To travel!

Who would’ve thought? That having less makes it easier to leave everything behind to see and experience what you’ve always wanted.

41. Time to pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read

42. So you keep learning

Feeling stunted? Or like you lose a few braincells every time you have to go through your junk drawer to find a pair of scissors? (You just know you’ve bought like five pairs!) Might be a sign you’re ready for a change,

43. Discover skills you never knew you had

Ever try something brand new, like ceramics, scuba diving or gardening and feel that you were born to do it? When you get stuck in a sleep, eat, work cycle you don’t get to find those parts of yourself.

44. To feel more genuine

45. Letting go of what holds you back

Minimalism is realizing the joy within yourself, rather than seeing it in the things and circumstances around us. You can start practicing this mindset without lifting a finger, by internally letting go of what takes joy away from you, and by finding things within yourself that make you happy.

46. To smile and laugh like you used to

47. Getting over yourself

We are just a tiny spec, on a little ball floating in a big universe. The things that you think are important, are really just a fleeting moment that time will undoubtedly forget. It’s easy to let life pass by, day after day concerned with distractions. That’s what makes living in the moment, and doing the things that bring you joy precious.

48. For sobriety

This one isn’t as obvious as some others, but for those of us that struggle to stay clean, having lots of distractions and ways to numb ourselves to life is what makes it easy to never face the real problems. Consciously choosing to be awake and open to living a life with less of what hurts us is a major game changer.

49. Ditch wasteful habits

50. Stop feeling envious

Comparison is the thief of joy and mother of bitter envy. When you live a life of luxury within your means you stop comparing yourself to everyone around you.

51. A chance to start fresh

Nothing is worse than feeling trapped in your current circumstance. Sometimes what you really need is a chance to start again doing things a little differently.

52. To leave the rate race behind

53. To have control over your life

You are the master of your own universe. No landlord, university or boss should take that truth away from you. You have exactly as much control over your life as you take

54. Because you can

You’re doing something right the moment people start telling you that you can’t. Grit and passion will always accomplish more than passive compliance.

55. Because you want to

The biggest reason to do anything? Because deep down it’s something you really want for yourself. Remember you can always change your mind.