Updated on 05.17.07

Why I Want A Home: Six Frugal Things That Just Aren’t Convenient In Our Apartment

Trent Hamm

As I’ve mentioned before, my family currently lives in a very small two bedroom apartment. We don’t have the room to do many of the things that I would love to do, frugal things that would save us a lot of money. Here are six things that having a home of our own will permit us to do.

Laundry Our current cost for a load of laundry is $1.00. Our current cost for a dryer load of laundry is $0.75. We also have no place to store our homemade laundry detergent so for now we’re using Tide, which is much more expensive per load. Given the amount of laundry we do, this type of thing is bleeding us dry.

Gardening Right now, our “garden” consists of two potted tomato plants. One of the first things I want to get when we have our own home is a compost bin where we can throw in some organic waste (coffee grounds, potato peels, etc.) and yard waste and have wonderful rich compost to spread on the garden, then plant a wide variety of plants in it – tomatoes, okra, eggplant, peppers, lettuce, onions… I can’t wait!

Deep freezing Our only freezer space right now is a small space over the top of our refrigerator. When we get a home and have a deep freezer, we will have it filled quite quickly. How? Well, for starters, I have a half a deer and a quarter of a cow – already processed, mind you – sitting in someone else’s freezer, just waiting for us. Plus, having our own freezer will allow us to prepare a lot of meals in advance and store them away to be popped in the oven as needed.

Canning Theoretically, we could do this at our apartment, but we barely have room for the process and have no cupboard space to spare for the product. I have a ton of empty Mason jars sitting in a spare room at my parents’ house, so the only cost once we get the space is the food itself (mostly from a garden), the lids, the water, and the energy. I love canning tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, tomato juice, salsa, jams and jellies, apple butter … such things were a major part of my childhood experience.

Storing Right now, we pay $40 a month for a storage locker which is about twenty miles away from where we live, meaning more gas expense when we access it roughly once a month. As soon as we have a house, no more – the entire contents of that locker would fit in the loft area of a good-sized garage.

Entertaining We basically have no way of entertaining more than one or two guests at once right now, and on occasion it has been necessary to entertain more than that, such as the event of our son’s baptism. In that event, we rented a place to use for a gathering afterwards where there was no place for food preparation, so we had to order food. With another child on the way, we don’t want to repeat the experience, so instead we’ll be able to entertain everyone at our home – far, far cheaper. It also enables us to have dinner parties, socialize, and build some relationships that we’ve not been able to build before.

Does it say anything about my personality that moving into a new home has me excited about ways I can save money over our expenses right now?

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  1. Sure Trent: Your savings will move on to the next level, money attracts more money. No wonder you are excited about moving on to the next level. Are you getting an inspection done for you house to get an estimate of repairs down the years that may come up?

  2. Rick says:

    Trent: sometime, can you talk about making a compost pile? I have vague recollections that you may have addressed this before, but I can’t find it on your site. So if you could devote a post someday to the do’s and don’t’s of making a compost pile, and what to do with it, that would be great.

  3. tofu713 says:

    a home, means more spending.

    My suggestions:
    use a laudrymat that you can use your own deturgent… or make it a night with a friend and borrow their’s in exchange for beer/dinner/etc

    meh, not much you can do there. No local farmer’s market nearby?

    deep freezing:
    these suck up electric costs like crazy. You spend more in energy costs than the time of a preprepared meal. what all is in your freezer now that you need a second one… gish.

    i don’t understand the problem here.

    sell the stuff you don’t use / need on craigslist.

    nice thing about not entertaining at home… no cleanup.

    overall: i guess it really depends on how tiny your apartment is and how many people are living in it?
    benefits of not owning a home:

    repairs (things break and you have to pay for them, not a landlord)
    maintenence (oh and lawnmowers aren’t cheap and they don’t run themselves)
    utility costs (no special bulk pricing, you pay it all… and most apartments use utilities alot more efficently than a home)
    your rent is just the same as a house payment… cept you don’t pay property taxes, interest, etc.

  4. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    There is no problem here at all, tofu. I think you misunderstood the post: a home can save you money in some ways over living in an apartment, which is contrary to the general thinking that a home is always more expensive in every dimension than an apartment.

  5. Becca says:

    I have the best of both worlds, I own my apartment. I get the equity and tax deductions but living in an apartment, as the above commenter pointed out, saves you money on so much. Lower utility bills, repair costs, and taxes, no need to spend on landscaping, and the cost of common needs (roof, boiler, entryway, etc.) is shared with many others. My building has individual storage spaces in the basement as many apartment buildings/complexes do.

    If you’re the environmentally concerned type, living in a freestanding house leaves a far larger footprint no matter how much gardening you do.

    I mean, there are many joys in owning a house, but I don’t believe saving money is among them. But if you’re talking owning versus renting in general, you could have a point.

    PS, you’re getting away with highway robbery on your laundry; mine is $1.50 each on the washer and dryer. Of course, I’m in a co-op, i.e. I co-own the building, and so the money basically goes back to me or at least into the running of the building rather than someone else’s profit.

  6. Becca says:

    Hm, I posted too soon. Looks like I misunderstood your post as well. Carry on then! And enjoy homeownership, it’s wonderful.

  7. jake says:

    I am going to repeat what many have mentioned about getting a home inspection before you make any offers. In fact I would get a second inspection just before I sign on the dotted line.

    I’ve heard too many horror stories from friends and family that its one of the first things I always bring up when someone tells me they are thinking of buying a house.

    If you want further evidence check out the show “flip this house”, it shows you the extent some people will go to to cover up some serious problems with just paint and wallpaper.

    Of course this becomes more serous the older the house. But I would still do it for a newly built house, just to be sure the contractor didnt take any shortcuts.

  8. corey says:

    I can’t tell you how much this same thought process has been occupying my mind lately. Next month we’re moving out of our apartment and renting our first house. The garage has me so geeked, I’m looking forward to brewing my own beer again, and I’ll actually have room to do both beer and wine! Then there’s the gardening, canning, compost, and finally being able to change my own oil. I’m right there with you.

  9. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Not only am I having a formal inspection, I’m having a friend who builds homes for a hobby visit it as a freebie just to see what he can spot.

  10. Tim says:

    Best of luck with the new home purchase. I agree with others in that owning a home is not only about the saving/not saving money — obviously, your quality of life is going to see a big improvement when you can take on all of those things that you list.

    One thing that I would also echo is the importance of that home inspection. Even newer homes can very often have fairly significant issues. On that note, however, make sure you do your research on the inspector themself…ask for references and preferably find someone who can reccomend a good one. Where I’m from, a home inspector doesn’t really need any credentials and they don’t accept anything in terms of liability either.

  11. I dream of the day I become a real homeowner. Like you said, the laundromat is inconvenient for me and it’s $3.25 for wash/dry! You can imagine how deep of a hole my wallet feels every time I put in one load. So I’ve taken to hand-washing and line drying until I figure out my next plan.

    Good luck with the new home!

  12. Financial decisions aside… I can’t wait to own a home, especially because of your last reason. I hate not being able to entertain people in my home. It’s ridiculous having a superbowl party at my place, which I did this year. We had 12 people stuffed in my cramped 300 sqft living room. It was a nightmare…

  13. Michelle says:

    How much do you think the freezer will cost to purchase and power? I assume you plan to get an ultra-efficient model, right?

    One benefit you didn’t mention is having space to keep tools for repairing your home and cars. Do you plan to do much in that regard?

    We have a home, but unfortunately only a crawl space instead of a real basement. It just barely has room for the furnace, washer and dryer, and a few odds and ends tucked into corners. No room for a freezer or general storage.

  14. Michelle says:

    Regarding make-your-own laundry detergent:

    Since it’s so cheap to make your own, and you enjoy making it, why not make extra and try to barter (or sell) it at your local farmers’ market?

  15. Anne says:

    “Owning a home” does not necessarily mean a single-family house. Just wanted to point that out.

  16. Mark says:

    Deep freezers only use about $30 dollars a year of electricity for the smaller types (from energy guide on 8.8 cu ft Kenmore). The key is to keep them full so there is less air for it to chill every time it is opened.

    Also we just moved into a new house. I think the greatest joy in our entire house for my wife is not having to use the tiny stacked washer and dryer that was in our apartment.

    You did a good job of pointing out some of the less obvious saving a home can provide.

  17. Entertaining……. much easier to do in a home. One great thing about an apartment, though – it forces you to accumulate less crap

  18. icup says:

    Someday you should do an article about canning. Maybe a simple overview with a basic howto, nothing fancy, just an introduction. My dad was really into canning when I was a kid, but the only thing I know about it is that it involves a big dangerous looking (to a kid) cooker, and the end result is delicious.

  19. db says:

    I am totally excited for Trent and his new homeownership! It IS possible to do some of those things in an apartment however.

    I still rent, and I always insist that where I rent includes a washer/dryer (or at least the hookup). Also, I have adequate room for the sort of entertaining I do (I have a separate dining room and a den/office). My apartment has a storage space off the patio that fits my storage needs.

    Of course, the kitchen is still ridiculously small, there is no place for a deep freezer or storing canned goods, and the biggest issue is I can’t grow anything that won’t grow in containers on my patio. Of course, there is community garden space available nearby but I’ve never been THAT motivated to grow tomatoes. I’d also really like a linen closet.

    Sadly, most of the homes I can afford right now are tiny too — my biggest gain might be the gardening space. But my day is coming.

    Have fun in the new digs Trent!

  20. awh says:

    I agree with your list of savings-to-be-had from living in you own home. However, I use a laundry-soap recipe that takes less space, so you might be able to use it.


    one bar of fels-naptha soap, grated
    one cup wahing soda
    one cup borax

    mix together and store in a jar

    use 2 Tablespoons per load (add to washer before loading in the clothes)

    This recipe washes 32 loads of clothes. The whole batch costs less than two bucks to make. I think that might be cheaper than most branded laundry detergents.

    It may be possible to use other soaps to replace the bar of fels-naptha (which grates to about 2 cups of flakes), but I haven’t tried any other kind.

    My sister sent me the recipe after clipping it out of her local newspaper.

    Best wishes on finding/buying a home.


  21. KMull says:

    We are in the same place. Not enough space, want a dog, etc. Looking forward to reading about all of the processes.

  22. Mama Money says:

    I hear you–we’re apartment dwellers as well. On the bright side, living in a small space limits the amount of “stuff” we can accumulate, thus saving us money.

  23. Bil says:

    It’s a myth that standalone freezers are energy hogs.

    Even large (20 cu.ft.) chest freezer won’t run you more than $50/year in operating costs.

    And you can store tons of food, for months, at the typical -20F temperature of a standalone freezer.

    It’s amazing how much free food we get from gardeners.

    A Food Saver is a must to package (shrinkwrap) food for the freezer.

    About the only thing we can anymore are tomatoes.

    All other food is processed for the freezer.

    Freezing uses MUCH less energy than canning.

    Also, food usually tastes better when it hasn’t been cooked as long as canning requires.

  24. Susanna says:

    One other cost-saving thing about a home vs. an apartment: you can put a clothesline in the back yard and save money by using the dryer less.

  25. Dean says:

    wahing soda?

  26. Kim says:

    All of these things that you can do in a home to save $$$ are great, but homes are money suckers. We had a nice one for 8 years and we figured that we could have paid rent on a nice apartment, had someone to do the maintenance, lawn, etc… Invest the $$ we used for our down payment and the money we spent on repairs, redecorating, and upkeep, and we would have had loads of money saved now. We could have put close to 50% down on a house had we just lived in an apartment all of that time. Now, we ARE moving in an apartment and can’t wait.

  27. Roddy6667 says:

    When you buy your own washer and dryer and pay for the water and gas/electric to heat the water and dry the clothes, you will be spending more. The laundromat is the cheapest.
    When you own a home, if the roof leaks or the furnace quits in January or a pipe breaks or the toilet refuses to flush…you call the landlord.

    I rent now, after 3 houses. I lost $90,000 on the last one. Houses go down in value, too. My savings have never grown faster.

  28. Angela says:

    We’re in the same boat for all the same reasons, plus two dogs and tired of having neighbors who can hear us snore the walls are so thin.

    Yes having a home can be costly, but its $2.50 a single load at our cheapest laundromat. Even with only two loads a week, plus drying at .25/6mins we easily spend $10/week on laundry. Thats $520 a year. Without taking into account gas to get there (15mins) and detergent, etc. Forget about the weeks we do the blankets and bath rugs or extra coats.

    We’re looking forward to having a garage again, not splitting bills that aren’t even half ours and other issues. We’ll be able to make a big garden (although ours is currently pretty big) and can, get a freezer and a foodsaver and break out the dehydrator. My grandparents were big preservers and I miss it with all my soul.

  29. Shell says:


    We moved into a townhouse, family of four with about 900 sq. ft. Just wanted to share how we tackle these issues. We’re within walking distance to the library, green market and downtown. The only thing I would love to do is tear up the cement backyard (all 16’x22′ of it), add solar panels, replace the antiquated windows and hook up a water collection system.

    We bought a portable washer that hooks up to the sink, with two kids it is a god send. I hear ppl scoff at the idea, but when the other option is hundreds of dollars at the laundromat and lugging everyone there and back…no thanks. We hang out clothes to dry, i’d love to say outside, but in florida it is almost too humid, so they get hung around the house. I am looking into one of the fold out racks that fold out from the wall for the future, right now we use the expanding racks and hangers.

    URBAN HOMESTEADING! You can use vertical gardening to get the most out of your space. Look into squarefoot gardening as well. We devised a way to compost directly in our “garden” and we bury compostables directly into the potted plants. Plus you can look into the table top worm composters they have out.

    deep freezing:
    Our deep freezer is energy star, it uses 26 kwh a year. We have no room for it so it sits in the corner of the living room and the kids use it as a magnet board, a white board and a junk collector.

    I’m learning! :)

    We try to get rid of as much stuff as possible or it will own you.

    Potlucks take care of the “storing entertainment cookware and servingware” issue and we have a lot of modular furniture…chairs that fold and tuck into spaces, floor pillows that hide under beds, etc. We can get 15-20 ppl comfortably in our home.

    Good luck!

  30. Heather says:

    Half a deer and a quarter of a cow? Ew. You know what saves a TON of money? TONS AND TONS of money? Vegetarianism.

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