In my last blog post, I touched on my experience of moving out of my parent’s home as a single South Asian woman. I thought I would add to this by sharing the obstacles and problems I’ve faced during my journey so far and my current situation.
A decent 2-bedroom apartment costs approximately £1050 PCM in Manchester’s City Centre. I know this because half of this figure has been the cost of my rent for the past two years.
When I first qualified as a journo, I had taken a pay cut to move to Manchester so I could write for a newsroom and jump start my journalism career. I was at entry-level but I was willing to make the sacrifice in order to “make it” in the world of digital media.
During my flat search, I quickly realised that I couldn’t afford a place on my own and I found myself a flatmate from Sparerooms.com. We moved into a nice flat right by Victoria Station and only a twenty-minute walk away from work. We shared all the costs; from council tax to water and electric bills. At the time, I was thankful that someone was there helping me. That there would be another person on the other side of my bedroom wall at night and I wasn’t alone.
They say ignorance is bliss and I can vouch for it because for at least a year and a half I lived in the moment with no regard for my future or my finances for that matter. My monthly pay would be drained to the very last penny after my rent; bills and food were accounted for. I was happy and I was free but more importantly, I was completely independent.
I think the blanket I was living under was abruptly stripped from me when I was discussing housing with a close friend. We were complaining about how everything was so expensive and after comparing notes I found out that her joint-mortgage payment was considerably less than what I was paying to SHARE an apartment. This completely baffled me. It made me think about all the dead money that was going into my rent payments and everything my dad would say about it including the fact that I would “never see that money again”. You know, all the typical comments you get from the older generation who probably bought houses for £30k and paid off their mortgages in no time.
Don’t get me wrong, I get where they are coming from. Why “waste” money when you could invest money? Why not live at home and save for a deposit? Although it sounds like the sensible option, the short answer to that was: I didn’t want to. What got to me was that I had grown out of wanting to live with a flatmate and I wanted my own space. I was single at the time and my friends were either sharing with a partner, married with a mortgage or students. I knew I didn’t fit into any of these categories and so I started researching how much it would cost for me to rent alone.
Bearing in mind, as I mentioned above, a two-bedroom flat in the city centre costs £1050 PCM, a decent one-bedroom apartment in Manchester City Centre costs £800+ and I wouldn’t even be able to share the bills with someone else. My other option was a studio- apartment but these were also pricey at approximately £700. I didn’t want to use all my money on rent and bills because how would I have any fun? How would I buy clothes or makeup, book holidays or save? I couldn’t. Logic would state that a one-bedroom apartment would be a little bit over half the price of a 2-bedroom apartment but that rarely is the case.
What frustrated me was that people who were in a couple would live together, share a bedroom and pay a fraction of the cost I would have to pay because I am alone. It was like the world was punishing for not being in a relationship. Not to mention the whole council tax debacle. How is it fair for that a single person only gets a 25 per cent discount on council tax when if there were two people living together they can split this amount?
According to research by Hamptons International first-time buyers need 10 and a half years to save for a deposit. The report showed that “Sharing rent and everyday household costs such as food and bills means that a couple can save faster – under half the time of a single first-time buyer.” NGL, this whole situation got me feeling down for months because it made me feel like, again, I needed a partner to get on with the rest of my life. A concept which I had tried so hard to get away from seemed to be everywhere I looked. I had moved out and away from the Asian community but I was still feeling the pressure to be in a relationship for different reasons.
MY UNSTABLE RELATIONSHIP WITH MONEY
This whole conundrum had me thinking about how I’ve viewed and handled my finances in my twenties.
When I was living at home I realised I was privileged enough not to have to worry about rent, or living costs or bills. I was raised with the viewpoint that men should be the providers and I would soon be married. In Islam, it is the man’s duty to provide for his wife and family. My mum had made me aware that a woman can also make money and work but her money is her own money. She can choose to spend on her family if she wishes, but it is predominantly the job of the man to look after his family. I always liked this rule. I mean, why wouldn’t I?
And so, because of my ignorance towards my future finances, I had no problem with splashing out on designer clothes, bags and shoes and going out for a fancy meal every week. An £899 Chloe bag to me at that point was an investment: it never crossed my mind that one bag cost the same as rent and bills for the month. Or as a lump sum towards a deposit for my own home.
I can’t say my friends were in the same boat as I was because I had a handful of friends who started saving for their weddings and houses when they were 16. I found this bizarre because 1. they were single – surely you would worry about finding a man first and 2. wouldn’t your husband pay for your house? Just thinking about how my mentality was more than a decade ago shows just how much I had geared my whole life towards getting married.
IS RENTING REALLY ALL THAT BAD?
Traditionally, everyone bought houses because that was the done thing and it was almost mental to rent and throw your money away.
Nowadays there is definitely a generational shift where more people are looking to renting as an acceptable long-term decision because of many reasons including:
-Increasing house prices
-Difficulty in being accepted for a mortgage
-Difficulty to save deposits due to the cost of living being so high
-Flexibility – not everyone wants to sit at home and save for a mortgage that they will be paying off for 20+ years. Not being tied down to a massive commitment like that means you are open to more opportunities and more of a chance of growing as a person. If anything, it is frowned upon if you decide to settle in the same location and the same job for 20+ years because you are shutting yourself off from personal development. It is more common for millennials to job-hop and try different things than stay in the same workplace.
-Prioritising fun and life experiences like travelling over security and having to save for a deposit. One of my friends had been renting in London from the age of 20-35 and although he has finally managed to save for a deposit, he used the money to go across the world and rent abroad instead. He said he was tired of the rat race and wanted to experience L I F E. He hasn’t regretted it yet and it is coming up to his third year of living outside of the UK.
This made my mind wander to Drake’s “everybody dies but not everybody lives” lyric because I want to really live not just breathe and survive every day mundane life and routine.
Last month, I was speaking to a client at work in the planning and development sector who told me that the average age of a first-time buyer is now 40. Here I was worrying and comparing myself to everyone else when really it seems that many of us are in the same boat. As soon as I stopped comparing my financial situation to people who are in relationships I immediately felt a wave of relief.
After absorbing all the information I found I knew I had to sit back and ask myself if renting is all that bad – without any bias.
Would I honestly be able to save for approximately ten years? I’d be living the life of a pauper, stripping myself from any kind of luxuries like eating out and buying myself a new pair of jeans. Do I want a house that badly that I would want to sacrifice spending for ten years of my life?
RENTING STIGMA IN THE ASIAN COMMUNITY
I didn’t know if the stigma around renting is the same or more prevalent in the South Asian Community so I put the question out to you guys on Instagram and this is what I found…
The general consensus from all the amazing people who took the time out to message me and tell me their stories, is that renting is generally viewed as a means to an end, a temporary fix until you have either graduated, got married, saved up for a mortgage or if you are going through a divorce.
People who can’t afford to get on the property ladder are often looked down upon in the community. Failure to keep up with appearances and live in the traditional way by owning your home can be the source of a lot of stress and anxiety.
Reading all the messages showed me that I wasn’t alone in my view that rented accommodation isn’t seen as home to a large part of the South Asian community. I moved out two years ago but my dad still believes that my real home is in Preston with him and that I should come “home” at the weekends as my flat is not a real home. It is not mine. However, after a long day at work, I look forward to my apartment, it is what I identify as my home even though it is technically not owned by me. A bit of a sweeping statement but I know Asians lease cars all the time, this doesn’t hold the same negative connotation as renting a house, although it’s not that different is it?
I am now at a crossroads because I could save for a deposit for a house or I am now at a position where I can comfortably afford to rent and live alone in Manchester.
Part of me doesn’t want to lay down roots and have commitments. Part of me wants to travel the world but the anxious side of me wants security. The indulgent side of me wants nice furniture and a sofa from Made.com but the adventurer wants to leave everything behind and teach English in China or Japan.
I’m still figuring out the answer to my question of whether I should save or experience life although I’m leaning more towards the experiences side.
Do any of you think about this?
Let me know in the comments or as usual bombard me with Insta DM’s because I love it!
Thank you soooooo much for reading,