You might be an entrepreneur if…you live in an apartment that is smaller than the apartment you lived in when you were a student and had just gotten married.
In the days of our parents the accepted standard of living was quite different than it is today. A couple got married and rented while saving up for a 20% down payment on a home that they didn’t expect to buy for 10-15 years. Today, a couple buys a home before they get married and have everything set up for their return from their honeymoon. The house they move into is twice the size of the one their parents bought, and 25% bigger than the one their parents own right now. But of course the young couple gets into the house with no down payment, a devastating ARM, and five years later they’re broke and divorced, so who’s really better off?
When my wife and I got married we moved into an apartment on 500 south in Provo, UT. It was the cheapest apartment we could find, and we got what we paid for. The walls were cinderblock with no insulation. The fridge must have been 30 years old and had to be replaced while we lived there. It was a studio apartment with no walls other than for the bathroom, which means when we had guests over our bed was sitting smack dab in the middle of everything. There were huge gaps in the wall around the air conditioner, which didn’t work very well. Our electric bills were spectacularly high which meant that in the end we weren’t really saving very much money. But we were young, poor, and going to school, and so we put up with it for nine months until we moved into on-campus housing which was not too much more expensive when you lumped utilities into everything, and was a lot nicer.
Then my business started doing better. When I say “better” I mean I actually started getting paid. I was making about $40K per year and felt rich, considering I was still in school at the time. And being the naive, young entrepreneur I figured the hard times were in the past and things were only going to get better. So my wife and I bought a new townhouse in Provo and moved in. Then I sold my business. Then the company I sold my business to went bankrupt and never fulfilled their agreements to me. I ended up having to pay $15K on equipment leases for equipment I no longer had. I had to pay $12K for cost overruns on office space my old company had intended to move into. By the time I was done I was $35-40K in the hole, was struggling to start up my new business, and now I had to deal with a mortgage on top of it all.
But somehow we made it for a while. Then we got the opportunity to house-sit for a relative, so we rented out our townhouse and moved into a larger house where all we had to do was pay utilities. That was good while it lasted, but such things don’t last forever. Soon we were looking for a place to rent, and by this time I had gotten myself head over heels into a massive amount of business debt and hadn’t paid myself a dime for a year or two and my wife’s meager income as a state employee was all we had.
We found an apartment in Draper, Utah that sat on top of a garage, and which could be rented for $500 per month, utilities included. It had a bathroom, a small kitchen, washer and dryer, and that was about it. Even without children it was a tight squeeze, but it worked and the price was right. My wife and I lived there for about nine months and were reasonably comfortable, although it was virtually impossible to have company over. Then we moved in with some family in Eagle Mountain to help out with a situation and stayed out there for another 8-9 months or so. After that, my situation with the business and my income hadn’t improved (I was going on three years without taking a paycheck of any sort) so we moved back to Draper into the same type of above-garage-studio apartment.
This apartment was arranged a little more conveniently than the first in that the washing machine didn’t crowd the toilet space and we could sit down on our couch without hitting our heads on the slope of the ceiling. But it was still the same size as the previous one, which was the exact dimensions of a standard, two-car garage. Luckily during this time an IKEA was built in Draper, which was a lifesaver. Cheap yet decent-quality furniture specifically designed for saving space. We ended up living there for about 18 months and by the time we left I was quite comfortable there, even though I missed having a garage and had to deal with scraping my car off all winter.
In mid-2007 the business improved and I started paying myself a decent salary. Then my wife and began planning to adopt a little girl, and we quickly realized an apartment the size of a two-car garage wasn’t going to cut it. We tried to make it work, even looking into buying a loft bed to add space, but ultimately it became clear that we just couldn’t fit the meager possessions we had into that space.
So in January of 2008 we bit the bullet and moved into a townhouse once again, which seems like a mansion after living in a small box for a year and a half. In some ways I miss the cozy confines of our studio apartment. I could just turn around to talk to my wife, whereas now I have to call her on her cell phone because she’s three floors above me. But I can’t see ever living in such a small space again. Not that I have any pride issues about it, and it’s not as though we’ve bought any furniture other than a small dining table, but somehow we’ve accumulated all sorts of “stuff” that I believe could fill a two-car garage from floor to ceiling throughout.
When I was 24, newly married, and just starting my business, if someone had told me that when I was 32 I would be living in a studio apartment above a garage because that’s all I would be able to afford, I would have thought they were crazy, but such can be the life of an entrepreneur. Be warned kids, it could happen to you. But if you think you can handle that type of thing, then being an entrepreneur might be the right occupation.Liked it? Share it!