In 2004, the two of us moved into a friend’s basement apartment. Our friend prefers to call it a “garden level walk-in”, but it does not meet the legal requirements to be called such. Therefore, we call it a basement apartment. Even today we refer to it as “The Basement”. We make fun, but it was a sweet deal for us financially and we fondly look back on our experience there because it made us who we are today; experience people.
It is an 800 square foot, two bedroom/two bathroom apartment in the heart of Denver’s Capitol Hill area and within walking distance of 25+ restaurants, bars, grocers and retail shops for which we paid $850 a month. We love walking, so the walkability was a great feature for us. Our rent included all utilities, including Internet and satellite TV.
Though we didn’t know it when we moved into The Basement, we quickly realized that this was the answer to our financial problems. At the time, we had $51,000 in credit card debt. Shortly after moving into The Basement, we acknowledged our financial foolishness and devised a plan to climb out of debt, no 1980s music montage included. In about two and half years we paid off our credit card debt and in about four years we started shopping for our own home.
Our Personal Reflection
When we started searching for our home we did a lot of personal reflecting and had many deep discussions. We knew we didn’t want to be house-poor. We had just climbed out of major credit card debt and didn’t want to be constrained by new debt. We eventually realized that what we want most out of our financial life is to travel and be prepared for retirement.
We had traveled together a little in the past and knew at that point we wanted to travel more. We are both in financial services and it’s been seared into our heads that we must save for retirement. Knowing these were our financial goals put everything into perspective for us.
Not only do we not want to be house-poor, we don’t want a gigantic house that costs a lot of money to fix and maintain. We want a home that’s safe when we are travel. We want decent cars, but don’t need anything extravagant. Club hopping and having our closets full of newer and newer designer clothes do not fit into our long-term financial plan and they have since been eliminated.
We eventually bought a 1,008 square foot condominium. It was a fixer-upper that wasn’t expensive, hasn’t cost a lot of money to update, doesn’t cost a lot to maintain and is in a secure building with a building and property manager.
Our condo, also, meets our architectural design aesthetic. This is more from luck than from intention. We are fans of modern design. Our condo was built in 1962 in the Googie or Atomic Age – think The Jetsons – architectural style. We know. It’s shocking that a gay, Mini-Cooper driving couple is into modern design. Since we moved into our condo, we redid the floors, remodeled the kitchen and painted and repainted all of the rooms.
We have done nothing with either bathroom. They both have their original, 1962 tile on the floor and halfway up the wall. One bathroom is blue and the other is what we call “jaundiced-yellow”. Quite unpretty.
It occurred to us the other day that we have traveled extensively over the last eight years, including to England, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and many places within the U.S., yet we have not remodeled either bathroom. When we went to Australia and New Zealand, we spent 30 days “down under” and spent $15,000 for flights, hotel, food, and entertainment and more – yes, with credit that was paid off immediately upon our return to The States. With that money, we could have remodeled both bathrooms and still had $5,000 left over for a nice vacation.
Why are the bathrooms not a priority for us?
Experience People and Things People
We pondered this for a while and came to the conclusion that of the many kinds of people in the world, two include “things people” (TP) and “experience people” (EP). Neither is better than the other. Neither indicates whether one is more educated, sophisticated, intelligent, financially responsible or principled. They just are.
Most people or families, as in our case, cannot “have it all”. As we have said before, that is reality and that’s okay. Trying to live otherwise for most people and families typically results in financial peril.
We are “EPs”. Rarely a week goes by when we don’t talk about a past, future or dream vacation. We love to travel. We love immersing ourselves in a city or town culture, walking all over and stopping in shops, restaurants and bars. We love meeting and spending time with the locals.
We were recently in San Diego celebrating our ten year anniversary. We walked over thirty miles in three days. When we were in Ibiza and Sitges, Spain a few years ago, we walked so much that we lost weight despite drinking sangria like it was the law. To some Spaniards, we suppose, it is the law.
This is what we love to do. We even walk extensively in Denver. We would much rather walk to our neighborhood bar for a beer with friends than spend $50 to $100 on a new toilet seat. Because we held off we finally found one for $20 that matches perfectly.
We “EPs” share the world with “TPs” – not to be confused with the typical TP as it relates to toilet seats.
TPs prefer to have things, such as a home that is likely bigger or nicer than ours. A bathroom remodel doesn’t steal from another goal of theirs. TPs prefer a nicer car and may have more current clothing. TPs may have children or pets. They may have cars that aren’t ten years old each.
As we said, there is nothing wrong with either type of person. The problem for both is the same. If either spends too much money on their experience or “thing” or can’t define their “thing”, they can easily find themselves in credit card debt or not achieving more important short and long-term financial goals.
Your Personal Reflection
- Which is more important to you? Are you part of the experience people crowd like us or are you a things person?
- Have you had the heart-to-heart with yourself or your spouse about what you most want to achieve in life, personally and financially?
We understand that we can’t have everything and trying to live otherwise will only set us up for financial failure. Most people can’t have everything. Because of that, if you don’t know what you truly want, in any aspect of life, you may never get it.
Find out what you want most in life and you’ll likely find out that you are either an EP or a TP. Knowing where you fall provides focus to make sound financial decisions that position you for financial success as you define it.
For more help balancing experience versus things, see our video about how to overcome guilty pleasures.