Welcome to our new place – with pics!

I’m posting pictures of the new flat from when it was mostly empty. I don’t dare post pictures of how we’re living in it now, with all of our belongings in disarray and our visitor (my Mom!) sleeping on a mattress on living room floor. :mrgreen:

The specs are:

  • 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom (2 Zimmer)
  • 50 sq m (538 sq ft)
  • balcony
  • basement storage unit
  • ground floor, slightly raised (Hochparterre)

Rent: 500€ (including all utilities)

Pics are below!

Germans don’t appear to favour open concept interior design, so another hallway awaits you as you open the door. 🙂 We like that our hallway is not so narrow, and has bends which makes it visually more interesting compared to a boring long tube.

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Bathroom is on the right. Yay it’s renovated! Plus it has a tub!!MAWI7778.resized

VOILA! Here is the kitchen!! Or the room that will eventually house the kitchen once we install it. (Yes this is normal in Germany.) We have since installed a modular kitchen that I will post later if I remember.

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Our living room with the previous tenants’ accent wall. We don’t love it, but the alternative was to have them rip it out (as per contract) and leaving us with a wall full of glue residue. Wall paper here is not just decorative btw. It’s the actual wall plaster.

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Our view into the courtyard where the doggies play! It’s also the entrance to our balcony.

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Our bedroom is off of the living room and is of a decent size.MAWI7786.resized

A view from the balcony and our car + trailer on moving day. So nice living on the ground floor. It took Martin and a friend to unload the full trailer in 15 minutes, while my Mom and I received everything from the balcony.MAWI7805.resized

So that’s our place!

Some friends and family were a bit shocked that we chose this flat, because they think it’s too small or not nice enough or something.

But we love it! It’s even fancy to us because it’s in better condition than other flats we’ve lived in, and we mainly chose it for location. We’re a few steps from the downtown strip, which makes it so convenient to get things done and to shop for food.

More importantly, we’ll finally get to enjoy ourselves, instead of being in a hectic in/out everyday. For the past 5 years, our apartment has felt like a locker meant to store our things, that we just happened to sleep in too.

This is the first time that we are both living and working in the same city together. Okay technically Martin works in the next city over, but it’s only a 20 min bike ride and he loves biking.

It hasn’t even been 2 weeks yet, but this simple life feels soooooooooo good.

Optimizing our lives

Last week we moved into our new rental apartment in a town closer to Martin’s work.

Now instead of commuting for hours everyday in opposite directions, Martin is biking 20 minutes to the office and I will be working from home once I clear all this German paperwork!

Our quality of living has instantly improved.

I almost want to cry because this life is sooooo much better already!

We have a lot more time together and more energy to support our cancer-fighting lifestyle.

We will also save at least 300 EUR per month from less driving, less train usage, and lower rent!

All that will go towards our FIRE portfolio, which I’m very excited about. :mrgreen:

But even if moving increased our expenses (like if we had to move to a higher cost of living area to reduce our commutes), it would still be worth it to me. Life is just more peaceful now, and not like the candle is burning at both ends. It’s NICE!

As a side reflection, this recent move marks our 5th move in my 5 years of living in Germany. That right there is a snap shot of what it’s like to live abroad while trying to support our jobs. i.e it’s been stressful (and I didn’t even mention that we need to install and/or remove kitchens for every single move!!).

We just got internet connection at the new place this morning, so I’m planning to get back into the blogging mode soon. Maybe I will post some pictures of the mess that is our new apartment! 🙂

Renting is great!

A few steps from our new home.

A few steps from our new home.

We found our soon-to-be new place in Niederrhein. 🙂

Our move-in date is in mid-November, and we can’t wait!!

I said we were considering buying a house or a flat, but we didn’t find anything compelling enough. Plus I ran the numbers and also started investing again, which makes me want to not spend too much on anything.

Our new place is smaller and cheaper than what we have now, which we didn’t plan on, it just worked out that way. More importantly, the new place is in line with our FIRE and health goals.

Martin will be able to bike to work in 30 min, or take the train 8 minutes. I will either work from home, or will rent a coworking space 15 min away (walking). Long commuting will soon be a thing of the past. Excitedddd!!!

We’re dropping off our signed contracts this weekend, and are thrilled the hunt is over. :mrgreen:

Working and living in the same city together is a dream come true. We had been hoping for it for years, without wanting to change anything. Now that we’re putting in the effort to make it happen, we see that it was only hard because we made it hard.

Where to live and whether it matches our FIRE goals

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Currently we pay about 610 EUR per month for rent, which is affordable, but we think the place is worth max 500 EUR per month based on other comparables in the area. Since we are interested in FIRE-ing, we can find much better uses for an extra 100 EUR per month!

So we’ve been toying with some options, but keep going back and forth on what we want/what is feasible. Mr. German and I are really different, so that can make it hard to come up with a solution that suits us both. *sigh*

As with all blog entries here, I’m writing to figure it out, while also communicating to Mr. German in a way that is not overbearing to him (he is new to FIRE and personal finance in general).

Goals

It’s important to keep both of our goals in mind.

Ms. Canadian Expat’s goals: to reduce our housing costs to 400 EUR per month or less, so that we can balance out the cost of our car (!), and put the extra money into the stock market to generate passive income. I need to generate enough passive income so that I can retire from my field in 7 years. Ideally, I would like us both to be able to leave the workforce in 7 years (if we want), so we can be FREE and do things more fun than working 50-60 hours a week!

Mr. German’s goals: to live somewhere comfortably, that is cheaper than where we live now, but not so far-out that it makes it difficult for my dear wife to commute (she already commutes 1 hour to work each way); to be close to nature, and to have time for hobbies that don’t involve talking about FIRE-ing in every single conversation!

^ I’m paraphrasing Mr. German here. If he wants, he can help me clarify his goals further, but that seems to be what I get when we speak about it.

options

Here are some options we’ve been toying with.

Option 1: Buy a ‘normal’ flat in our cheap city. I wrote about it here. We’ve been looking at 2 bedroom flats near the main train station. Ideally we’d like something we can afford in cash, because anything that involves a mortgage will mean we will be paying more than 610 EUR per month, which makes achieving the 4% rule (our FIRE goal) harder to do in 7 years.

Cons: Hard to find something that we can afford in cash; can’t find one we like or agree upon; we keep changing our minds/arguing about this. 😕

Option 2: Buy a studio apartment in our cheap city, and use tiny home design ideas to make it functional (like what these 2 Brooklyn roommates have done!). We had considered renting a studio for about 300-350 EUR per month, but in reality, landlords only want to rent these out to singles. So, why not buy a studio instead? We can comfortably afford this, while still having some cash left over for my stock investment strategy.

Cons: Mr. German is not so comfortable with this; it requires potential renovation work, and we both work busy full-time jobs; more pressure on Mr. German who is the handy one out of the 2 of us and also the German speaker; we may have a baby soon, which may make the space tight; if we don’t like living so small, it may be hard to sell and we don’t prefer to be landlords.

Option 3: Find cheaper rent. We can easily find something in the 400-450 EUR range in our city, in an area that we like. We haven’t done this yet because we can’t decide on whether we should continue renting or buying. We’ve actually switched sides on this issue. I used to want to own, while Mr. German was more hesitant about it. Now he is all for owning, and I’m less committed to it. I’ve mainly ducked out of searching for apartments and instead, have focussed on setting up a stock investment strategy for our passive income stream. But if Mr. German can find something nice, I’m also fine with buying.

Cons: a feeling of living in a temporary space; potentially missing out on getting into the real estate market while it’s still affordable; installing a kitchen in someone else’s space again (many flats here don’t come with kitchens, making moving a huge PITA!).

Option 4: Staying put in our [overpriced] flat. We really like our flat, we have a great view, and it’s easy for both of us to commute to work. We’re also right across the street from grocery shopping, and 800m away from the forest where go mountain biking every weekend (or everyday for Mr. German). Living here saves us a lot of time and hassle. One of the reasons we haven’t moved yet is because we can’t find anything as good as what we have here. Lifestyle-wise, this place hits all the marks and keeps things simple for us.

Cons: Overpriced rent, feelings of not getting a good deal, not being open to change.

Anyone have ideas for us? We’re open to what you think!

I lean more towards option 2 (buying a studio) or option 3 (cheaper rent), while Mr. German is more for option 1 (buying a nice flat) and 4 (staying put). Of course, life can’t be totally agreeable between us. 🙂

Would you consider downsizing to a studio apartment?

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That’s exactly what Mr. German and I are thinking of doing. Or rather, I’m thinking of it and he’s sort of with me on it. 🙂

We’d be downsizing from our current 65 sq metre (700 sq ft) flat to a 35 sq metre (376 sq ft) flat.

If we did this, our rent would go down from 610 EUR/month, to 300 EUR or less/month. These are warm rents I’m quoting.

Already we’re living below our means.  610 EUR is affordable for us even though we’re probably paying 100-200 EUR/month more than market value for our place. In comparison, my colleagues easily spend 1400 EUR per month on renting 80 sq metre (861 sq ft) flats in a neighbouring expensive city.

But I can’t help but feel we can do better. Especially since we’re thinking of moving anyway, why not give 35 sq metres a try?

While it may seem extreme, with the right layout, it’s actually quite nice for us. We used to live in about 32 sq metres when we were students, and it was great.

We’re also trying to be more minimalistic, and having less space will help.

Plus, I get really giddy thinking of halving our rent! Not only because we will save more, but because my aim is to set up passive income streams that will cover our costs. It’s much easier to achieve this when our expenses are low, thus making early retirement all the more reachable, and sooner. :mrgreen:

The most difficult part of living in 35 sq metres is having to ‘explain’ to family WTF we’re doing. Already my in-laws tsk at us for living in a flat that is not that nice. We actually think it’s VERY nice, but it doesn’t have up-to-date finishings like the gorgeous places Mr. German’s siblings live in. Still, our current flat is a ‘normal’ place to live that won’t raise questions. If we suddenly move to a studio, that would appear insane for a thirty-something professional couple. 😕

It can be hard to go against the grain. People don’t like it when you do things they don’t understand.

Though we shouldn’t let other people’s judgements deter us from working toward our goals. Life’s too short to be slaving away at a job just to pay for a lifestyle we’re not even interested in!

Should we continue renting?

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Last year, Mr. German and I moved into a rental apartment in a nice area of our city.

At the time, we were in a pinch to find something fast so ended up settling for a place that was over our agreed upon budget.

I like it here, I really do. But ever since we moved in 7 months ago, I’ve been wanting us to move out.

The frugalista in me can’t take that it’s so pricey for the area. If it was 100-200 EUR per month cheaper, I would love it. But because it costs so much, and will go up every year by 20 EUR per month (which btw, I think is illegal!), I have higher expectations and can’t get over that we are getting a bad deal.

I hate bad deals!!

So we started apartment shopping immediately after moving in, but have been looking to buy, not rent.

This made sense as we finally feel we are in a position to buy. Though buying a place will mean an increase to our expenses, and also a decrease of liquid capital.

Since my goal is to bring our expenses down, and to generate passive income through dividend stock investments, I’m unsure if owning our primary residence makes financial sense to us.

There is another rental down the street for 100 EUR less per month, and it appears to be in better condition too. It also has 2 bedrooms instead of just 1, is closer to the train station (good for me!), and is a 3rd floor rather than a 5th floor walk-up. No parking though.

It’s a pain in the ass to move again, especially so soon. Especially for another rental.

We are also in the privileged position of not having to chase cheap rents. Even though our rent is a lot right now, paying an extra 100 EUR per month is manageable. Although I still think it’s a lot of money to lose.

Rent is our biggest expense. If we went around tweaking everything else, we probably wouldn’t be able to save 100 EUR per month. So adjusting our biggest expense will also have the biggest impact.

I think what I would like to do, is to visit this cheaper rental, talk to the landlord, and find out more about it. Maybe it could be the right place for us and we could stay there for a few years while focusing on saving and generating passive income. Or maybe we’ll figure out that it’s better to stay put.

We won’t know until we try.