I moved to Sydney in January and began apartment hunting immediately, wanting to get out of corporate housing and to feel settled. Although I did not know the city well, I knew the criteria for my new place – walking distance to work, unfurnished, big enough bedroom for my queen bed and dresser and…comfortable. After looking at more than a dozen places, I found a just built, brand spankin’ new one bedroom apartment that checked all my boxes and came with all the necessary appliances.* The fact that it was also significantly cheaper than most of the places I had seen sealed the deal. I put in the application and moved in a few days later. I loved my new place with the shiny hardwood floor, the large windows and Juliet balcony.
My furniture was scheduled to arrive a couple of weeks later via a big boat from America, so I only had an air mattress that first night. I suffered an allergic reaction on my walk home and shot myself with an Epi pen as my eye swelled shut. I laid down at 8:30pm on a Thursday night and quickly fell asleep. Swollen, but content.
A couple of hours later, I was awoken by very loud music. Music so loud that I could hear every word to every song. The floor of the bedroom vibrated from the sound and I cursed my inconsiderate neighbors. I tossed and turned for about an hour before I got up to explore. Stepping outside my apartment building shocked me. The pleasant neighborhood I remembered during the day was replaced with loud and multiple nightclubs. One particular club boomed a mere 100 feet from my bedroom window and I realized that the inconsiderate neighbor was actually a business who would be playing loud music three times a week for most of the night.
I walked around for a while nursing my swollen face, crying over this new development and generally feeling sorry for myself. I signed an 18 month lease! I tried to convince myself that the music could not be that bad in my bedroom and went back to my bed several times to try to get some sleep. I used earmuffs and hid under the blanket, but could still feel the vibrations from the music next door. On one of my desperate jaunts outside, I met a fellow who lived in my building. When I asked him how he could sleep through the noise, he recommended ear plugs and said that he hoped to get used to it eventually. He wanted to move out, but simply could not afford to.
Could not afford to.
Those words snapped something inside me. I hailed a cab and went into work around 2 am to sleep on the couch in the library. The next day I emailed the realtor telling her I needed to break the lease. Six hours in this new apartment ended up costing me almost $2700.
I found another apartment a couple of weeks later and I have been living in it for a few months. The new apartment is more expensive per month than the first and coupled with the initial loss, I will be paying $13,650 for the privilege of not living above a nightclub for the duration of my tenure in Australia. If I had stayed in that apartment and invested that money in a fund earning me 5% interest per year, in 40 years, I would have more than $67,000.
It was worth it. Money is a tool and the first use of this tool is finding a happy place to lay your head at night.
Yes, it was painful losing that money for not doing my homework on the neighborhood. Yes, I cringe when I look at my charts and see February’s astronomical number.
Yes, to put it eloquently, costly mistakes really suck.
But, bad things will happen. Life is a game of chance and occasionally, it will deal you out a terrible hand. It is much easier to deal with these incidents if you have a little bit of a cushion. Plans are worthless because life will throw you curve balls, but planning is everything. The most valuable thing money can buy is freedom from worrying about money. Plan to build an emergency fund. Put that decision first and foremost. Psychologically, the knowledge that you “can afford it” when the universe throws lemons at you, changes your outlook on the world.
*Most apartments in Sydney, annoyingly enough, did not come with a refrigerator, washer or dryer. Realtors I met tried to convince me this was actually a good thing. I failed to see their logic.