Living in a "shoebox"

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Living in a "shoebox"

Postby InvestorNewb » Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:59 pm

Hello,

I was wondering if any Bogleheads go to extreme levels of frugality by living in a few hundred square feet or less. This could be in a "shoebox" type apartment or a vehicle like an RV. My rent is quite high so I was sort of toying with the idea of looking for a shoebox apartment.

I wouldn't consider myself cheap though - I eat out every day (sometimes 2x). I'm just tired of writing a hefty check to my landlord every month, and housing/condos are quite expensive in my area for one person. I would also prefer not to have roommates.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby Dave76 » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:04 pm

I thought about the RV idea as well. I'm not sure if it would conflict with employment and state residency/domicile status.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby momar » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:05 pm

It can take a lot of money to live a minimalist lifestyle like this. Anytime you need something, you need to buy it. You won't have room to store much of anything.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby livesoft » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:06 pm

Sure, doesn't every man have a "man cave" in their McMansion?
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby ossipago » Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:11 pm

I've lived in a 300 sq ft apartment. It was in a great location, and I enjoyed it a lot. I found the space perfectly livable with a futon and a desk with storage; with some creativity, I was able to keep everything essential plus make room for some decently space-intensive hobbies. I think you'll typically find these in very urban areas where RV living is impossible, and thus they won't be cheap. However, I was across the street from a grocery store, walking distance to work, and 5 minutes walking from legions of restaurants, shops, bars, and transportation options.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby Teetlebaum » Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:16 pm

300 sq. feet? That's huge! (Japan’s Coffin Apartments Are Not for Claustrophobes). More seriously, on some guy's money-saving site I read about how he lived in on $7000-$8000 a year by staying in an RV. But he split costs with his girlfriend.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby Paul78 » Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:38 pm

I live in a shoebox but I still pay $1100 a month in rent. lol
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby market timer » Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:38 pm

In my adult life, I've never lived in more than a 500 sqft apt, generally with no furniture aside from a bed, dresser, and bookshelf. Rent is still over $2000/month.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby xram » Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:46 pm

Rent $2200 per month
6225 square feet
Way too big for me
FYI: it's not in NYC...

Hoping to move out and buy an older 2500 square foot house for hopefully 200k or so...
Still looking.....
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby eddiejov55 » Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:54 pm

Me and the Mrs. currently occupy 700 square feet. $660 per month in rent. We are house shopping but have lived here for 3 years...I love it. The Mrs...not so much :)
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby ddj » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:20 am

A worthwhile documentary on the subject. Others exist too.

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/we-the-t ... se-people/
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby stoptothink » Fri Apr 05, 2013 1:27 am

I've been living in an unfinished basement for the past 10 months. It's probably 500+^ft, but I don't have walls or other amenities most people deem necessary in a residence. I am never home due to work and other responsibilities, it's in the home of one of my GF's best friends (and she lives right down the street), it's about a mile from my office, and rent is less than 5% of my take home so it is pretty much ideal . My last apartment with my ex-wife was 530^ft; I loved the place, but she hated it because we couldn't entertain.

I am definitely one who views housing as a consumption item, I don't have any desires to have a large home. I prefer a small place, besides the financial benefits it keeps you from accumulating too much stuff and it is almost impossible to lose things. Wish the GF had the same view; although very bogleheadish in every other way, she already owns a nice 2100^ft home (she calls her "single" home) and is in the process of buying a ~3500^ft home which she says will be where she raises her kids....maybe it's a hint?
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby cb474 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:36 am

I used to live in a 370 sq ft apartment. It was fine, in terms of space. Mounting shelves high up on the walls, instead of having free standing shelves and furniture is a great way to save floor space and still have a decent amount of storage. I made the shelves myself, so they had a nice custom fit appearance. Now I'm in a place more than twice as large, with the same stuff, but no shelves on the walls, and it's hard to imagine how it all used to fit so comfortably in a much smaller space. So if you're creative, I think you can make a pretty small space really comfortable.

But the 370 sq ft place wasn't cheap. Just in a central location in a major city. Indeed, ironically, friends would come over and comment on what a large place it was (for the city). The new place in a different city, though larger and nicer, is about the same price.

The thing I've found, when I think about downsizing to save money, is that there's nothing in a location I want to live in that's cheaper and not pure junk. People don't make nice small places (unless it's Manhattan, Tokyo, Paris--but then it's not cheap). It seems like the market has kind of figured out how much money people have to spend on rent or mortgages and is going to offer you what you can just barely accept for that price. Below a certain price, it quickly becomes undesireable properties and/or locations.

In the end, it's always seemed like a puzzle in which the real estate market is one step ahead of me. So unless you're already in a place that's way larger and fancier than you need, I wonder if the decent inexpensive shoebox in an acceptable location really exists.

Maybe that's all just a complicated way of saying, there's not much of a market for shoeboxes--accept in places where space is at an extreme premium and then they're expensive anyway. But if you find one, more power to you. I think you could make it into something you'd like.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby Epsilon Delta » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:25 am

InvestorNewb wrote:I wouldn't consider myself cheap though - I eat out every day (sometimes 2x).

Apparently you can do without a kitchen, that should save 50 sq ft or so. :)
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby Barefootgirl » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:47 am

It seems like the market has kind of figured out how much money people have to spend on rent or mortgages and is going to offer you what you can just barely accept for that price. Below a certain price, it quickly becomes undesireable properties and/or locations.

I love this comment. This very thought has crossed my mind so many times and I think it may extend to other consumables as well.....

Since real estate pricing is driven nearly entirely by location, I am very curious as to where some of these posters are living. Assume that $2200 for less than 700 sq ft is a major metro area and $660 for the same is a rural area...

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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby cb474 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 5:59 pm

Glad you found my comment interesting. It's a thought that was won arduously through looking and looking for places that would better suit my needs or finances and never finding anything that was even close. I guess you could say I've been defeated by my own desires. I am unwilling to accept the locations or step down in quality required to find something less expensive.

But one thing I really have found is that being willing to compromise purely on size, as the OP entertains, does not seem to get my anywhere. There's a certain bottom limit to the size people seem to want in a given location, which I'm already at (in my area a one bedroom about 750 sq ft apartment). Anything below that is just pure junk, in a horrible building, or some crazy lightless basement apartment with a hotplate for a kitchen. It's aimed at an entirely different type of tenant.

A decent reasonably priced shoebox doesn't exist. Or if there is a smaller place that's nice, it's just as expensive as what I have (either because it's fancier or in a better location). Perhaps this is only true in highly desirable areas though. It would be intereting if the OP decides to pursue this idea to know what he finds.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby tuckeverlasting » Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:02 pm

My apt is under 500 Sq feet and has everything I need. It is modern and cute, in a desirable location with a view out the huge windows. I did have to get used to the size but now quite like it. It is 2 rooms plus kitchen and bath and the price is right.

I had to pare down my possessions which I needed to do anyway. Small is beautiful!
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby truenorth418 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:13 pm

I live in a 300 sq ft 1 room apartment. It may seem small but is not unheard of in NYC where I live. When I moved into the city I promised myself I would continue to save as much as I had while living in the suburbs, so a small, less expensive place was the way to go. Not only do I save on maintenance charges, but I didn't have to spend money on lots of furniture to furnish the place. When I get stir crazy, I go outside for a walk or drive. My family and friends tease me about it sometimes, but I have become financially independent and retired at the age of 47 as a result of my frugality.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby kitteh » Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:19 pm

Part of the Arcade Providence's 225 sq ft $550 a month apartments in downtown Providence. I'd live in this in a minute if I weren't living in the old family homestead. A lot of what I have is superfluous. Maintenance on a house is a real headache.

Living area, full kitchen except no stove - has a microwave, bathroom, bedroom, even an extra fold down bed for a guest. Food places downstairs. Laundry room on site.

Image
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby ossipago » Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:18 am

cb474 wrote:Glad you found my comment interesting. It's a thought that was won arduously through looking and looking for places that would better suit my needs or finances and never finding anything that was even close. I guess you could say I've been defeated by my own desires. I am unwilling to accept the locations or step down in quality required to find something less expensive.

But one thing I really have found is that being willing to compromise purely on size, as the OP entertains, does not seem to get my anywhere. There's a certain bottom limit to the size people seem to want in a given location, which I'm already at (in my area a one bedroom about 750 sq ft apartment). Anything below that is just pure junk, in a horrible building, or some crazy lightless basement apartment with a hotplate for a kitchen. It's aimed at an entirely different type of tenant.

A decent reasonably priced shoebox doesn't exist. Or if there is a smaller place that's nice, it's just as expensive as what I have (either because it's fancier or in a better location). Perhaps this is only true in highly desirable areas though. It would be intereting if the OP decides to pursue this idea to know what he finds.


A large part of this is due to zoning ordinances, which mandate minimum apartment sizes for renovations and new construction. This means the small units tend to be older housing stock - and thus not particularly nice. Some cities such as NYC, LA and DC are moving towards approving more microlofts and other very small living spaces.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby mrpotatoheadsays » Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:27 am

InvestorNewb wrote:Hello,

I was wondering if any Bogleheads go to extreme levels of frugality by living in a few hundred square feet or less. This could be in a "shoebox" type apartment or a vehicle like an RV. My rent is quite high so I was sort of toying with the idea of looking for a shoebox apartment.


Go extreme!! A cell at Supermax in Florence, Colorado is quite roomy... and free.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby pennstater2005 » Sat Apr 06, 2013 9:46 am

livesoft wrote:Sure, doesn't every man have a "man cave" in their McMansion?


"man cave"

What a horrible, horrible word.
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Thanks to rent control

Postby Teetlebaum » Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:41 am

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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby VictoriaF » Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:22 am

A shoebox is in the toe of the beholder.

My benchmark is a 20m^2 (< 300 sq ft) room in a communal apartment with a shared kitchen, lavatory and bathroom. There was no running hot water, and I had to warm up water to do the dishes; otherwise, the apartment had all modern conveniences. Excellent location near the city center and parks, with outstanding public transportation which usually was not necessary because the most interesting places were within walking distance.

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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby Default User BR » Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:56 am

VictoriaF wrote:A shoebox is in the toe of the beholder.

My benchmark is a 20m^2 (< 300 sq ft) room in a communal apartment with a shared kitchen, lavatory and bathroom. There was no running hot water, and I had to warm up water to do the dishes; otherwise, the apartment had all modern conveniences.

No hot showers means "not civilized" in my book.


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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby VictoriaF » Sun Apr 07, 2013 11:58 am

Default User BR wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:A shoebox is in the toe of the beholder.

My benchmark is a 20m^2 (< 300 sq ft) room in a communal apartment with a shared kitchen, lavatory and bathroom. There was no running hot water, and I had to warm up water to do the dishes; otherwise, the apartment had all modern conveniences.

No hot showers means "not civilized" in my book.


Brian

In the bathroom (as in bath room) there was a gas heater that allowed us having hot showers and hot baths. But washing dishes in the bathtub was not an option.

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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby halfnine » Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:39 pm

momar wrote:It can take a lot of money to live a minimalist lifestyle like this. Anytime you need something, you need to buy it. You won't have room to store much of anything.


I lived in 400 sq ft or less for about 10 years. Can't recall a lot of things that I needed to buy. On top of that just because one needs something doesn't mean one needs to buy it. One can often rent it or borrow it. One can even lend out their stuff for friends to use as needed provided they store at their place as well. Or friends may store stuff in return for other favors.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby Savvy » Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:54 pm

My wife and I live in a 450 square foot apartment and pay a total of ~$625 a month (including utilities). We love it. Easier to manage and clean and prevents us from buying more stuff since we don't have room! :)
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby xram » Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:11 pm

I once lived in a 3 foot by 4 foot hole in the ground behind an abandoned warehouse. It was great. Utilities were low. Just me sitting in a hole with a 59 inch flat screen. Hard to entertain but you get used to it. Wind and water were little bit of a problem but nothing I couldn't deal with. The guy next to me had a 5 by 7 hole in the ground and I thought about digging a bigger hole in the ground but decided that would be a little too extravagant for my tastes. Good luck.

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Last edited by xram on Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:19 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby Boglenaut » Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:14 pm

It's been 40 years since I read it, but you don't want to turn into that character from "Stranger in a Strange Land".
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby kitteh » Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:18 pm

halfnine wrote:
momar wrote:It can take a lot of money to live a minimalist lifestyle like this. Anytime you need something, you need to buy it. You won't have room to store much of anything.


I lived in 400 sq ft or less for about 10 years. Can't recall a lot of things that I needed to buy. On top of that just because one needs something doesn't mean one needs to buy it. One can often rent it or borrow it. One can even lend out their stuff for friends to use as needed provided they store at their place as well. Or friends may store stuff in return for other favors.


What is all this stuff momar needs to buy?
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby Mudpuppy » Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:24 pm

My concern with apartment buildings filled with small living spaces is not so much the stuff I might accumulate... My larger concern would be the stuff my neighbors might accumulate. I was watching a series of videos on small living spaces in large cities (much smaller than 300 sq ft) and the amount of stuff people packed into some of those places was nothing short of a fire hazard. Then again, there's nothing stopping a pack rat from moving in next to you in a regular apartment complex either. But it just seems like the potential for having a major fire hazard in close proximity increases as the density of housing increases.

On the other hand, I also saw some very well-organized, creative solutions to living in small spaces while watching those videos. Many of them revolve around the principle of multiple use... such as a bed/couch/dining bench or using creative cabinet solutions to store items out of sight when not in use.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby Rob5TCP » Sun Apr 07, 2013 5:55 pm

I lived in a 200 square foot co-op across the street from the UN called Tudor City. I loved the location,I was in my 20's and out every night.
It was the perfect apartment for me at that time. My present apartment is about 4.5 times that size and suits me well now.
Still that was a great 6-7 years.

Below is a similarly sized apartment in the same building.

http://www.tudorcity.com/Sale5tcp1710.html
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby Epsilon Delta » Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:16 pm

xram wrote:I once lived in a 3 foot by 4 foot hole in the ground behind an abandoned warehouse. It was great. Utilities were low. Just me sitting in a hole with a 59 inch flat screen. Hard to entertain but you get used to it. Wind and water were little bit of a problem but nothing I couldn't deal with. The guy next to me had a 5 by 7 hole in the ground and I thought about digging a bigger hole in the ground but decided that would be a little too extravagant for my tastes. Good luck.

Xram


I would have extended the hole a foot just so I didn't have to fit the TV in diagonally. I guess I'm just decadent.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby protagonist » Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:29 pm

The home I live in approx. 8 months a year is, I think, around 2400 sq ft., 4 br Victorian. Very nice place. There are rooms I hardly ever use.

The home I live in approx. 4 months/year is, I think , under 500 sq. ft. , could be closer to 400 not counting balcony, I don't know. Not a shoebox, but a studio apartment.

Neither one makes me more happy than the other. Happiness and its roots are deeper than that. The studio is a hell of a lot easier to take care of.
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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby webslinger » Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:30 pm

For those Bogleheads in the New York metro area or those planning to visit, you may want to see the exhibit called "Making Room " at the Museum of the City of New York http://www.mcny.org/. It is quite an enlightening exhibit displaying some of the most innovative and creative concepts for living in small spaces by architects and designers. One highlight, is a life-size, wall through 300 sq foot apartment.

Side note: the Museum of the City of New York is one of the many gems the city has to offer.

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Re: Living in a "shoebox"

Postby protagonist » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:52 am

webslinger wrote:For those Bogleheads in the New York metro area or those planning to visit, you may want to see the exhibit called "Making Room " at the Museum of the City of New York http://www.mcny.org/. It is quite an enlightening exhibit displaying some of the most innovative and creative concepts for living in small spaces by architects and designers. One highlight, is a life-size, wall through 300 sq foot apartment.

Side note: the Museum of the City of New York is one of the many gems the city has to offer.

Webslinger


That sounds very interesting....could be useful for ideas. Thanks for the tip.
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