As we get closer to the transition from our big house to our small apartment, an unsettling thought crossed my mind. With our current income, we’d be able to comfortably afford renting a bigger, more expensive place. Selling our house and moving into a small, inexpensive apartment is great for us - but what about the other families that can’t afford a bigger place? Did we steal the opportunity from them to live here?

When we toured the apartment, we were sandwiched between two other potential tenants. I don’t know their economic situation, but it’s likely that our family is the outlier here. Most people in our area wouldn’t consider cramming a family of five into a two-bedroom apartment if they could afford something bigger. We’re a little bit…different :)

We have a high credit score and enough income to comfortably pay the small apartment rent with money to spare. While the landlord didn’t communicate whether these factors were a part of the decision to choose us as tenants, I’d imagine they helped our case.

The fact is, there’s another family that missed out on this apartment because we got it instead.

Our schools are highly ranked and the apartments here move fast. Lots of families try to rent in our suburb so they can have their kids in these schools - the competition is high.

Knowing that we could have afforded to rent something bigger in our area, are we being selfish in our frugal move to live smaller?

Living Smaller at the Expense of Others

Keep Thrifty Family is happy, Other Family is sad, Landlords are neutral

Look at that smug jerk on the left...

By choosing to live smaller, we may have taken the place of a lower-income family that now won’t have the opportunity to live in our community and have access to our schools.

On the flip side, we are living according to our values and spending significantly less each year on shelter than the alternatives.

The landlords may have had a slightly tougher time renting out their bigger apartments because one less family (us) was looking. At worst, they may have had to drop the price a bit to get them rented.

This really looks like a selfish choice - after all, we’re the only smiley face!

If We Had Chosen to Live Bigger Because of Guilt

Keep Thrifty Family is sad, Other Family is happy, Landlords are happy

If we had chosen not to pursue smaller living, it’d certainly be better for someone else who would have gotten our apartment.

But we’d be unhappy because we’d be stuck spending more money for a bigger space that we don’t need.

What about the landlords? They’d be happy - because they’d still get to rent out the small apartment and a bigger, more expensive apartment to us.

This option is better for everyone except us. But should we have to sacrifice our values?

Our Dollars Have Power

Accept what you cannot change, change what you cannot accept.


So, should we have just rented a bigger, more expensive apartment?

Of course not. That’s a losing attitude that assumes we are powerless to impact the world around us.

The best situation for our community would include sufficient housing so that we can live small and the other family can as well.

We’re not powerless here. This is a situation where we can be a part of changing the world around us. Here’s how:

By living smaller, we’re sending a message to the landlords and developers out there. If landlords see a higher interest in smaller apartments, they are going to do two things:

  1. Raise the price a bit in the short term
  2. Work to build or buy more small apartments in the long-term (which will then bring the price back down)

By pursuing what we want, we can actually change the landscape of what’s available.

That’s the economics of supply and demand.

There’s no reason we should feel stuck living bigger if it doesn’t align with our values. By pushing to live smaller, we can help create a community with housing that matches our needs and the needs of others.

Living Smaller (the long-term picture)

Keep Thrifty Family is happy, Other Family is happy, Landlords are happy

Doesn't that look better?

By living smaller, we increase the demand for two-bedroom apartments in our community. Over time, landlords will work with developers to make more two-bedroom apartments available. As a result, we’ll get to live in one and other families will too.

We’re happy because we’re living out our values and spending less.

The other family is happy because they get access to our community and schools.

The landlords are happy because, well, they’re making money :)

It takes some time for all of this happen, but the alternative is a permanent picture with at least one frowny face.

Call it what you will, but our frugal move to live smaller is the right move for our family and can help shape our community to better support frugal values.

Keep Thrifty and Carry On

It’s easy to get caught up in dangerous lines of thinking when making big life changes. The world wants to find ways to separate you from your hard-earned dollars and hard-fought values. You’re going to get enough pressure from the outside already - don’t add to it internally.

Finally, remember the power of your dollars:

Every dollar you spend is a vote for what’s important. Vote with your values and you can’t go wrong (Tweet this )

Have you ever felt guilty or selfish for spending less? What was the scenario? Did feeling that way change your behavior?