I can remember the fear like it was yesterday.
My husband and I had decided we were ready to get rid of our debt fast and would downsize when we moved to a new town.
Apprehensively, we pulled up the usual real estate websites and started looking for a rental in Albany. The prospects weren’t good. We needed a yard for our dogs. There was no way I was taking two babies and two large dogs out for a walk three times a day. Unfortunately, most houses we found had major issues like being run down, on a busy road, unsafe heating elements for the kids, or mold.
Every once in a while, I’d cheat and look over at the “Buy” section of Zillow- all these big beautiful, clean houses we could live in! But, then I’d think about my humongous student loans and get myself back in the rental game.
I’m not going to sugar coat it- Downsizing is downright scary. We get used to being sprawled out and having all this STUFF. It is hard imagining ourselves being comfortable in a smaller space. But, downsizing is a great way to help pay off student loans fast.
So, here is a totally honest breakdown of the process: The three scariest things about downsizing, the three best things about downsizing, and three ways to make the process easier.
The 3 Scariest things about Downsizing
1. Selling the current house and house hunting for a rental
It was hard to find a rental house that would meet my family’s needs. But, before we get to the rental, we had to sell the house we were living in. Not going to lie- that was a pain in the butt. If you’re thinking about downsizing, I would only sell if I wasn’t going to take a huge hit financially. Thankfully, we didn’t take a loss on our sale. We still ended up throwing away plenty of money, but only a little more than what we would have thrown away if we had rented for two years. If you want to know how to stretch yourself to the mental and physical limit, forget Tough Mudder, try getting a house “show ready” in an hour with two toddlers and two dogs while working full time. We had over 50 showings in 2 months… it sucked! But, we got the house sold.
2. Getting used to a smaller space and fitting our stuff in a small house
We had a bunch of stuff and we didn’t want to rent a storage facility to store the stuff… that would negate the benefit of saving money in a smaller rental. Thankfully, the house we found had a large attic storage space, so we could store our extra couch, etc., there. But, it was definitely a challenge getting used to a smaller living space.
I miss double vanities! How did people survive without them (I’m being halfway serious here). But yeah, getting used to sharing my bathroom space with my hubby was difficult. Now, we have it down to a synchronized dance and I have learned how to put my hair tools away (she said begrudgingly).
3. Getting over the "what will others think" hump
We got a lot of skepticism and condolences from family. Living space is a status symbol and we definitely went down in status. I hate to say it, but I cared… a little. At least I noticed. There are still some family that will make every excuse under the sun not to come over. So this process really highlights who your real friends are and who you should keep at a distance… which is a blessing really.
Once we got over all of those mental hurdles, here were the best parts about downsizing.
The 3 Best Things About Downsizing
1. Saving Money and Demolishing Our Debt!
I can’t tell you how good it feels to be done paying off my student loans in just 17 months! Downsizing had a heck of a lot to do with it. Smaller house meant not only a smaller housing payment, but also smaller utility bills. We also spent less money on decorating and such. Downsizing to a rental also meant no major unexpected house repair expenses.
2. De-cluttering our lives
The downsizing process made us get rid of a bunch of junk that we didn’t need anyway. Our lives got more simple and efficient. When we first made the move to New York, we ended up putting a bunch of boxes in the attic that we didn’t open for a year. Once we finally opened them, we realized it was all stuff we didn’t need and we got rid of them. Bam! Streamlined. Let me tell you it brought me a heck of a lot of Joy.
3. Less Time Spent Cleaning, More Time Spent Living
Less space meant a lot less to have to keep clean every day. This definitely helps when you have babies because they tend to fill every corner of livable space with their toys!
3 Ways to Make Downsizing Easier
1. Downsize When You Move to a New Town
Many physicians have non-compete clauses in their contracts so we end up having to move to new towns to get other jobs. If you’re moving to a new town anyway and starting over, use it as an opportunity to make it easier to downsize. Your social circle is completely changing anyway. No one in the new town is going to gossip about why you downsized.
2. Rent a Dumpster from the City
We had a great time throwing out junk and simplifying our lives while unpacking boxes. The city parked the dumpster in our driveway and we chucked stuff in it while unpacking. We donated the stuff that was in good shape and threw out the rest. And we don’t miss it one bit. If you’re ambitious and have the resources, you could try to sell some of your extra stuff to make a bit of cash too.
3. Get the Family on Board
There is no way I could have done this without my husband on board. Thankfully, he has always been all in. I thought my kids were too young to understand, but they werent. My 3 year old knows exactly why we aren’t buying a big house and he knows why we had to pay off our macaronis. Visually representing the debt with the macaroni jar helped the kids understand what we were doing. It also helped the adults to stay motivated. And I also love that my kids are getting a financial education through this process.
After the Downsize
Once you have downsized, sit back and enjoy the automatic savings. You’ll get used to it after a couple of months and life will go on. You’ll realize you’re not deprived, you’re living like most of middle class america. Once you start seeing the progress you’re making with your debt, you’ll start to love the whole thing as much as I do. So go find your freedom!
Stay frugal, everyone!
Standard Disclaimer: Not meant as individualized financial advice. Images from unsplash.com.