Here’s a quote from a good post on the difference between “feeling broke” and “being broke,” that also touches on tactics for getting by when you’re pretty close to that latter category—topics I wrote a lot about for Wise Bread.
What made me want to comment is a bit right near the beginning where the writer talks about the discontinuity in housing prices: Down to a certain price point you can pay a little less and get a little less space and slightly downgraded amenities, but there’s a breakpoint where that quits being true:
That’s the drop-off you experience at the lower price levels – there’s nothing between “This is a tiny but acceptable apartment” and “Slum apartments in stab-ville”.On The Experience of Being Poor-ish, For People Who Aren’t – Resident Contrarian
The point I want to make is that this is only true in general. If you had to find 100 apartments that were cheaper-than-basic but not in a slum, you’d probably be out of luck. But unless your job is to find apartments for poor people, that doesn’t really matter. For your own household you only need to find one apartment that’s cheap but not in a slum, and across your city there’s probably several of those. (Maybe a small apartment building that’s not part of a complex, maybe a three-plex or four-plex, maybe a duplex owned by a retiree who is looking for a very low-maintenance tenant, maybe a big old house that was cut up into apartments, etc.)
The author is clearly aware of this—he goes into some detail on applying similar thinking to furniture (where you only need to get a great price on a great dining room table once and it’ll last the rest of your life). Applying it to apartments is different for various reasons (mostly having to do with urgency and risk—you can’t just wait indefinitely, because being homeless is different from eating off a TV tray table while you look for a great deal on a dining room table), but it’s not completely different.
For the first decade after my former employer closed the site where I’d worked, Jackie and I did a lot of that—looking to satisfy each need we had with one instance where we could get something of very high quality at an especially good price. It’s a tactic that works great, but only in a narrow range of circumstances. It’s not so good for people working long hours at a difficult job, because they lack the time and energy to do the search. It’s also not so good for people who are really broke (not just broke-ish), because these sorts of deals often require that you have cash on hand to close the deal immediately.
Here’s one of my old Wise Bread articles applying this thinking more broadly: How to have an above-average life for below-average prices.