I'm typing this while lying on the couch of some kind strangers who've opened their home to the next cohort of teachers in this town. Tomorrow the first order of business is finding a place to live for the next year, and all eleven of the new TFA teachers are planning to plunge into the house hunt en masse, hoping to maximize our odds of getting the whole thing sorted out as efficiently as possible. Our orientation coordinators and some current teachers were kind enough to vet some places for rent and compile a list, pretty much a necessity since the rental market in our town of around 15,000 apparently operates primarily by word of mouth.
There are numerous options. I'm still not sure whether I want to try to live alone so I've also been sussing out the suitability of one of my acquaintances from Institute as a roommate. We both require a fair amount of private space, quiet, and solitude to function; don't really care whether it's possible to see the floors of our bedrooms beneath the clutter; aren't fond of keeping dwellings cold during the summer months; and like large dogs, an important consideration since she's been volunteering with a weimaraner rescue group for a couple of years and is eager to adopt one of her own. It all sounds promising.
Coming in, I set a target of spending no more than $400 a month on rent, possibly a bit more if utilities are included, reasoning that that's what I paid last semester so it ought to be quite manageable on a teacher's salary. It turns out that could get you a two bedroom house around here. An apartment complex that looked quite decent from the outside is listed as having one and two bedroom places available for $150 to 200. My potential roommate is especially interested in a three bedroom, two bath house with a big deck, fenced back yard, and landlord who welcomes pets, for $650 a month.
Does spending $325 a month plus half of utility costs seem reasonable? There's a constant trade-off between present comfort and future benefit when making financial decisions. As much as I'd like to maximize my savings during the next two years, I also want to live somewhere I'll look forward to coming home to.