I am either starting doctoral studies this fall or downsizing to a graduate student lifestyle in preparation for entering a program next fall (2013). What kind of living arrangement is likeliest to give me the best combination of economy and sanity?
I am preparing myself mentally to live a life of monastic penury: avoiding paid entertainment, making restaurant meals an exception, buying thrift-store clothes, etc. In a vacuum, I can do this easily. It will become substantially more difficult if others see me as a stingy, irritating killjoy. I am looking for a habitat where I can have the best quality of life while living on a limited budget.
While I do have some savings, the money will not sustain me for five years. I'd prefer to take on minimal loans, but would consider it if it was necessary.
I also have a strong psychological need for a place where I can feel safe, welcome, comfortable, and at peace. In a word, home. If I live in a place where I feel put upon, not welcome, or out of place, I have a hard time getting work done. As a student, I will have a lot of work to do.
For the sake of fixing a variable, let's assume I am staying in or near College Park, Maryland. My housing options appear to be the following:
studio apartment ($1100-$1200 a month)
Pro: maximum peace of mind; maximum control over utilities and expenses; can stock up on basic goods; can cook all meals at home without regard for roommates.
Con: rent far exceeds what a stipend will pay for.
shared apartment, 2-3BR ($650-$800 a month)
Pro: peace of mind; some control over utilities and common expenses; can stock up on goods and cook own meals;
Con: rent somewhat exceeds what a stipend will pay for; flatmates may insist on luxury expenses (e.g., cable, maid service); potential conflicts over common areas.
group house, 5-6BR ($500-$700 a month)
Pro: affordable rent.
Con: housemate conflicts; no control over utilities (heat in winter and AC in summer tend to be vastly overused); very limited pantry space; limited kitchen access; housemates may expect me to eat out instead of cooking.
rented room in SFH ($400-$700)
Pro: affordable rent, house maintained well.
Con: at mercy of landlord; no control over utilities; limited access to common areas; unable to receive visitors.
If you have been in a similar situation —
- What arrangement did you choose? How satisfied were you?
- Did your choice let you lead an economical lifestyle that was also low on stress?
- How did your housing affect your ability to be productive or successful?
Many thanks for feedback.