Is it stupid to consider this apartment given my situation?

It’s time to tell some of my story I guess, because I could really need some advice. I’ll drop the facts first for those who don’t really care about the background. :slight_smile:

TL;DR
In short, my GF and I are now living in an apartment for 2100.-, and we are considering moving to one that’s 2900.-. The current tenant is a friend and we could take the place over.
In terms of salary I’m currently receiving 8400.- after deductibles on my bank account each month and I’m covering rent + food for both of us. The GF is still studying. She works part time and so she can cover her own health care costs, clothing, make up and all that. The new apartment would cost 2900.- CHF. She can contribute ~400 CHF rent per month, which would make the 2900.- rent be just a bit less than a third of my income. Still a big yikes!

But:

  • The new apartment is in the same village as we live in now, which geographically is really the best fit for us
  • We live so close to Zurich now, that I can cycle to work every day. In the last 6 months I maybe took the train 10 times. So almost no expenses there.
  • Taxes are super low here
  • We don’t own a car
  • We don’t have expensive hobbies
  • No pets or children

Reason for the move
So looking at the numbers, it looks like it’s too expensive, and I need to explain why we want to move:

2019-2021: We moved together in a small, okay-ish apartment for 1700 CHF per month. Little did we know that next door on the same floor an elderly couple lived, who had no respect for anyone. On top of that the walls were so thin, that you could hear normal conversations even when they were not yelling, or when they were on a phone call. Fast-forward a year and they hated us because we complained a few times. They had their grandchildren over who would tear the place apart until 1:30 AM at an age of just ~4 years old. During these two years we did not sleep well, we didn’t feel at home at all, and I despised living there with every single day that passed. But it was tough finding a new place for the same amount.

2022: By chance we managed to score an apartment near Zurich, at the lake. We now pay 2100 CHF. The increased rent is cancelled out by the lower costs for public transport and lower taxes. On top of that our commute is way shorter, which gives us more time in general. We have been here for a few months now, but it turned out that the previous tenant was not very honest with us. It’s not as bad as the previous apartment, but we can still hear everything that goes on in this house. I don’t want to go into too much detail. But long story short is that the family owning the entire house is living in the bottom floor, and we involuntarily participate in their every day live. They are loud and inconsiderate, and we can’t do anything about it because they own the place and grew up when all apartments were occupied by family members. So they never learned any different.

I’m at the same point again where I don’t feel comfortable in my own home. I hate coming home from work, exiting the train at my stop, walking back to the apartment. The problem is, I also don’t see any quick remedy. We have been looking for apartments for a while again now, but in and around Zurich they are often crazy expensive. I don’t need to tell you guys. Somehow I also refuse to accept, that a couple needs to shell out close to 3000.- CHF in rent in order to be happy and have a somewhat decent place.

Saving rate
My current saving rate is ~1800 CHF per month in ETFs and 573 CHF per month into 3rd pillar. By moving to this new place, my saving rate would drop from a total of 2373 CHF to 1673 CHF per month. But honestly, I don’t even know what I’m saving for anymore. I don’t think I will ever own a home, because of how expensive everything is and it just doesn’t look realistic to me. Also it starts to feel like my drive to save money is making me more and more unhappy. I thought about what I could spend money on now that would make me happier, and there really is nothing material other than a home where I feel comfortable living in.

I’m just worried, that with this saving rate I’ll never see FIRE before being old and grey. But then again I’m currently only earning 110k CHF with an enginering Master’s degree, and there’s no reason to assume that I can’t score a few 10k more over the next years. So on one side I think I should worry more about increasing my salary, on the other side 2900.- for rent just doesn’t sound mustachian at all. On top of that my gf will also have her master’s in a year or two, and then I hope that we can soon enter the 200k territory.

Salary progression so far
Last but not least, my professional development for those who are interested:

  • 5 years ago: I finished my Master’s degree and started working as a Lab Assistant. 70k salary, stayed for 1yr
  • 4 years ago: Worked as Software engineer in startup 1, 90k, for 3yrs
  • 2 years ago until now: Software engineer in startup 2, 110k, 2 yrs

In this 5 year period I somehow managed to save ~ 150k. It’s not bad, especially given that I only started investing about 2 years ago when I discovered this community through, ironically, an ad for Selma. But reading other people’s numbers here I still feel very humble with my income and savings.

I’m sorry for the long post. It’s difficult to keep it informal, but also explain the desperation sufficiently without getting too emotional. I’m interested in similar stories maybe, and how other people see this. Finding an apartment near has been a topic for me for a few years now and it feels like I just can’t take it anymore.

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Thanks for sharing.
I understand the feeling, as I was also at some point running out of my nerves when hearing each footstep in the old building I used to be in.
And I have a (very) light sleep.

They don’t, it “only” requires (luck and) patience.
Which you might have run out of with these conditions, so I completely understand.

If you still really like the 2900-place, the girlfriend will hopefully soon complete her studies and start working full time, so look at it as potentially a short/mid-term price for your mental peace (which is 100% worth it). :slight_smile:

And don’t despair about “being far from FIRE” - you are only at the start of your career/s, and your income/s will grow. :muscle:

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Thank you for sharing your story.

Where do you spend the money that you don’t save?

8’400 net income

  • 2’100 rent
  • 2’400 savings
  • 1’000 taxes (just an assumption)
  • 300 health insurance

That leaves CHF 2’600 for everything else. You have no car, low transport costs, no pets or kids, no expensive hobbies, that leaves only food and entertainment. Care to elaborate a bit more where this money goes?

Don’t get me wrong, I think you are on the right path and had good success already, but I think there could be some potential for optimization in regards to expenses :slight_smile:

As stated before, you are only at the beginning of your career, and once your girlfriend starts earning a good salary as well and your income increases, your savings will skyrocket and suddenly FIRE will come way closer.

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Thank you for sharing.
I cannot help rather than giving my support and my story.

I live in an old building own by a régie for an Invest fund in the centre of Geneva.
Most of Swiss buildings must be badly soundproof ad I have heard this story many time.
My neighbours upstairs are walking heavily heel first and they go to bed pass midnight. They were also moving furnitures at night in their bedroom above mine…
Luckily the neighbours at my floor were hearing it as well.
So after talking to them with no effect, we complained ti the régie by co-signing a letter and luckily they changed their behaviour and now wear flipflop. We can still hear them but it is better.

Next, I need to talk to my neighbours playing guitar during day time that I can hear in the living room.
It was disturbing during lock down but less now as I return to work.

Thanks for sharing your story with us!

One but simple advice: FIRE is not a race against others. It’s your race. It’s at your pace. Plan for the future but ensure you enjoy and live the present.

Can you find a cheaper place to live? I think you could find a place north of Zürich or farther out or around the lake but without direct train connections. Or in another canton like Argau. Cycle to work is a massive benefit that not many have.

Choose your battles!

Don’t worry too much about income now. After 5 years of work, I have never dreamt to have the salary I have today. Things will come. But you need to make sure you give 110% at work and focus on better yourself and things will come. No slack.

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This a thousand times.

Offtopic: I can highly recommend the book “Four Thousand Weeks”, was an eye opener for me.

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First, stop thinking about your financial situation as a miserable one.

I earn less. But my wife earns almost the same.

99+% will never become FI and have to work until they are “old and grey”.

Second, are you sure that your next apartment will be comfortable for you? If you are so sensitive to noises from other people, try to rent an apartment in a newly built house. Or a whole house. But I am sure it is not possible/too expensive close to Zürich. So you probably have to go further away.

You still don’t have to if you move.

Depends on what you call “a somewhat decent place”. An apartment with the host bedroom, huge living room, guest room and an office room? Probably yes. A one bedroom apartment with a living room? Probably not.

In the end it comes to what do you want and how much you are ready to pay for it. So make a list with all pro and contra factors and decide together with your girlfriend.

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What’s the point of saving for later if you’re not happy/comfortable today?

I’m generally not a big spender, but have never saved on the two things that I really cared about - one of which is housing.

You can easily afford it. Go for it.

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Fair point, you’re right. Something is missing. And I have to admit I don’t know exactly since I stopped tracking daily expenses a couple of years ago :sweat_smile:
My best estimate is this:

  • 1000.- Groceries
  • 100.- Restaurants
  • 66.- Internet at Home
  • 46.- two phone plans
  • 60.- public transport to parents / friends
  • 30.- Bicycle maintenance / new bike
  • 300.- Random stuff that is needed. Clothes, electronics, new blanket…
  • 200.- Vacation. Not going on monthly vacations, but this is probably the monthly average we spend over a year.

Total expenses: ~1800 CHF, still leaving ~800 CHF unaccounted for.

So yeah you are right, I should be able to save more and I probably do. The saving rate I mentioned before is from my standing orders. But I sometimes re-balance the portfolio, where I have 80% invested and 20% cash. So I’m probably saving more effectively than what my standing order suggests. Guess I should start tracking my expenses again, which I will.

Also true. I suppose that once I make 1-2 further salary jumps, I won’t sweat the higher rent anymore. And since I’m working at a startup, there’s no reason to assume, that my salary will be lower again at some point. It doesn’t get “worse” this, and it’s already quite good :joy:

Looking at these numbers, I’m actually quite proud to be able to save so much, given that one salary feeds two people in our case.

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Thanks for the encouragement

I guess you are right. It’s easier to muster patience when you don’t hate your current situation so much :sweat: As I wrote above, my plan is to buy into Genossenschaften in and around Zurich, and then hopefully find something nice in the next few years, where prices are okay and neighbours respect each other.

Thanks for the reassuring words :blush:
My hope is that with more peace of mind, I can actually focus again on my personal growth as I did in the past when I had more energy left after work and on weekends.

It always helps hearing from others, that they have similar problems and that it’s not the end of the world, so thank you! I’m glad you were able to cause a shift in their thinking if they now are at least wearing Flip Flops.

In the previous apartment we tried talking to the elderly couple, and we even had our landlord with us at the same table. But it was hopeless because also in that case, this couple was the owner of the apartment. I’m now very weary when I hear that flat owners live in the same building, next to rental apartments. My experience so far is that they always assume to have more rights and you have zero leverage over them, since they cannot be kicked out by anyone. That’s my lesson learned.

Guess I have a new book to read then :smiley:

I’m not, don’t worry. I feel quite lucky actually when it comes to the financial aspects. But that’s why it frustrates me even more, that we can’t seem to find an apartment that we don’t hate living in.

If there’s one criticism I have about mustachianpost.com, then it’s the big headline on the front page saying “FI at the age of 40”, because for most of us it’s probably not going to work out like that. And seeing the headline stresses me out every time. I’m in my mid 30s now.

I’m quite sure it’s better since I have spent a few days and evenings with my friend there already. The only downside is that it’s on the same busy street that we currently live at. But if we start looking for apartments below 2500.-, close to Zurich, in a new-ish building, but in a quiet street, it becomes almost impossible :joy:

And I hopefully never will. This was just to say that my monthly expenses are low (I hope).

Thanks! Decent place is a place where I feel comfortable and happy. We are currently living in 60m2 and could totally stay here for a few years if it wasn’t for the outside factors.

That’s what I keep asking myself more frequently these days. I’m from a family where at our low point we did not even have money for Christmas presents. My parents are doing phenomenal by now, but the paranoia of having no money is sticking to me. Once had my master, I started saving for my first 20k as an emergency fund, to feel save. When I had that, the goal became 40k just to be on the safe side :sweat_smile:
The number kept growing while at the same time I was happy with my living standard. I really don’t need it. But what having a lot of money means for me is the same as it does for most people here I guess: the feeling of independence, and the peace of mind knowing, that I could be without a job for 2 years before running out of savings.

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Let me share a quick “off topic” trick for all the people in “thin wall” buildings that have difficulties falling asleep. It’s actually a trick used with infants as well.
Grey noise. You need some kind of “boring” noise near you that cover any other annoying noise, because the problem is not the noise the neighbor does, it’s that it’s not regular enough.

A simple trick is to switch on a fan with a timer at low speeds. It will make a humming noise and will switch off after a while. Just don’t use a moving fan because when they move they might make an irregular noise.

sorry for the offtopic.

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That seems a bit excessive to me, we spend around 1’000 on groceries as well for two adults, a dog (fresh cooked food with high quality meat) and a baby (diapers etc. included). However, it’s not bad at all and way better than most couples I know.

The other items seem reasonable and mustachian to me.

I was in the same situation for around 5 years with my wife, the only difference is that my wife has a low paying job and now works only 50% to take care of the child.

That’s impossible for I’d say 99% of people, only people with ridiculously high salaries (tech, upper mgmt. etc.) or extremly frugal people can achieve this (“Early Retirement Extreme” is a good read, he lives from 7’000 $ per YEAR).

Well I’m 46 and still half my way towards FI - if that may cheer you up ! :rofl:

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Or music. Helps me tremendously to concentrate.

So about half of the forum, you say?

Oh, and I believe we’re having a few super-frugal people, too.

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The problem with music is that…you like it. I personally like music, so I’d be more or less listening to it, rather to use it to cover noise. I’m talking about falling asleep. During the day is perfect. (I use smooth jazz or thing like that (“study girl” anyone?) )

Snap back to reality, ope, there goes gravity…

Rightly so.

The thing is: you obviously don’t seem to be looking for a merely „decent“ (acceptable) apartment.

  • super low taxes
  • very quiet
  • cycling distance from Zurich, one of the most expensive cities (housing/real estate) in Switzerland
  • oh, and the location just happens to be by the lake

:point_right: all of these factors come at a premium, they are, so to speak, an (affordable) luxury.

Back to the question: is it stupid? It‘s hard to argue against your - and your girlfriend‘s - happiness if that new apartment makes you happy, isn’t it? Is it a very „Mustachian“ choice? I doubt it.

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First,I doubt that half of the forum earns super hig salaries or is super frugal, it’s just that mostly the people with high salaries tend to share it.
Second, this forum is hardly representive for the average joe in Switzerland.

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I mean, you are right. I would just like to explain myself. We ended up in the current apartment because a friend of a friend moved out, and we desperately wanted to move away from the other place. The fact that with the move I was able to save 200.- CHF monthly in taxes, and 150.- monthly for ÖV was my justification for spending 400.- more on the new apartment.

These are by no means hard requirements. It’s just nice when the net-sum of expenses doesn’t change much after a move :blush:

This one stood out to me most from your list. I think there’s a lot of potential to save (at least compared to the other ones). If I may suggest one (rather short) thread in the forum to you: Eating cheaply - Meal plans, where and what to buy

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If that includes food at home + work/uni (i.e. all but going out for dinners) for 2 people per month, IMO it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

I am probably averaging
~300/month groceries
~200/month work canteen

And I don’t buy any fancy stuff nor too much meat (mostly Migros).
Sure one can get lower (Aldi/Lidl/Germany), but not worth the effort and lack of choice for me personally.

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