We Share Our Apartment with Cardboard Boxes. Moving from a house to an apartment can be difficult, but it's often necessary when you move to a more expensive area.I wrote this on my laptop that sat on the kitchen counter. I'm not trying to be cool – I just don’t have enough room in my tiny apartment for a desk. Much of the small space is filled with piles of cardboard boxes containing my husband’s video game and DVD collections. We haven’t opened these boxes in nearly two years, but he’s very attached to them, so we still have them.

Our life wasn't always this way. We used to have our own home with twice the square footage of this place. We had two whole acres of wooded forest to ourselves, where I would practice archery; grill burgers and steaks; and let our dog, Juno, run around to her heart’s content. That was when we lived in Alaska.

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Now we live in Fort Collins, Colorado, and the real estate market here is insane compared to our old location.

If we were to buy a similar home here, we’d need to shell out $250,000 minimum. That's nearly $100,000 more than the cost of our last home. Suffice to say, we won’t be buying a house here anytime soon. Regardless, the high home prices have impacted the rental market, as well, and now we’re spending nearly the same amount on rent each month as what our mortgage used to be. But instead of a home, all we get is a tiny apartment with appliances that – I’m pretty sure – are older than I am.

Settling Into a New Reality

We had a lot of challenges in transitioning from being homeowners to becoming renters. For example, most apartments don’t allow pets. But we have a dog and two cats that we weren’t willing to get rid of. And we could've found a cheaper place outside of the city, too. But I don’t have my own vehicle to get around, so I depend on the public transportation within city limits.

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Plus, we'd started collecting all the stuff that being a homeowner entails – much of it stuff that was too expensive to sell, only to re-purchase when we’re able to afford our own home again. My bow and firearms cost us nearly $1,700, for example. And my husband’s collection of woodworking tools cost nearly $2,000 – something that we’d only be able to sell for a fraction of the cost. We didn’t have room for all that stuff in our apartment, so we stashed them in a storage unit at $50 a month.

Dealing With the Mental Fatigue

Being homeowners was a point of pride for us. It meant in some way that we’d succeeded (whether or not that was actually the case).

As renters (again), sometimes we can't help but feel as if we've failed.

More importantly, we can’t live the lifestyle we want anymore. My apartment neighbors would be none too pleased with me if I set up an archery target in the courtyard. My downstairs neighbor already gets annoyed with the bits of dirt that rain down onto his patio from my futile attempts at growing vegetables in container gardens. We can’t even fit a grill on our patio. I tried pan-frying a steak inside once, but I almost set the apartment on fire.

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Looking at the Bright Side

Sitting on one of those cardboard boxes, I do get to see a major upside to all this: we chose to live in a cheap apartment and not buy another home right away. If we had invested in a home, we would have jeopardized our financial success, and we would probably be bankrupt by now. Instead, we’re using the savings to stash away in a special savings fund for a down payment on a future home.

And if nothing else, living here has helped reinforce my desire to be as frugal as possible while enjoying the “small” pleasures life has to offer!