So there I was in 2008 finishing graduate studies at Texas A&M University with a job offer that required moving to a little town called Gillette, WY. I remember my recruiter mentioning the name of the city and all I could think was “holy crap this place is going to be freezing cold”. Before you run with the idea of saying … “how were you able to say yes without even knowing where in the world this place was” …, well that’s not how it happened. My employer actually flew me there to have a look around before I took the job.
The wife joined me in 2010 and I can honestly say we checked all the boxes in our bucket list making sure we did all the outdoor stuff you should do in this beautiful area of the country. The best part of our entire stay was the friends and relationships we built, and the opportunity to save a big percentage of our income [~50+%]. The pictures below show some examples of our adventures.
Fast forward to the end of 2010 and after a normal day at the office, I get a phone call from my boss saying I was being transferred to Denver. Initially, I was kind of pissed because we were having a great time in this cozy little town; however, I realized the opportunity was too big to pass on plus the wife was excited about the next chapter of our lives.
We got to Denver and immediately realized how expensive this city was (and still is today). My office was located in downtown Denver and not knowing exactly where we wanted to be we decided to rent our first year in the surrounding area with the purpose of giving ourselves some time before pulling the trigger on buying a property.
Now check this out … you remember I said we were able to save more than 50%+ in Wyoming? the reason was simple, 1) rent was ridiculously cheap, 2) outdoor activities, for the most part, were low cost, 3) we had no state income tax and 5) we did not have as many temptations as you would when living in a big city.
So here we are in Denver, looking for a place to live and our benchmark for comparing costs was the 2×2 apartment we rented in Gillette for $1,025/month… big mistake.
We started touring places and everywhere we went the rent was just ridiculously higher compared to our baseline. When stopping by all these awesome apartment complexes we would get excited with the apartment and amenities but all this excitement vanished the minute we found out how much money we would have to throw away for rent. That evening my wife and I went to the drawing board and started assessing options which included the layout, $/ft and more importantly the experience we wanted to have.
The First Mistake
Like I said, Gillette was ultra cheap and we kind of got used to having a bigger place so the 2×2 was our default choice. Even though we had the conversation to discuss metrics for evaluating options, we barely talked about downsizing to 1×1 … why? drum rolls … we wanted a bigger place to host family and friends.
The difference in price between a 2×2 and 1×1 was pretty significant. Looking back it may have been ~ $150-$200/month. We found this awesome place and started negotiations for a 2×2 and did not bother evaluating the 1×1. After having some back and forth with the manager we got into a 1-year lease for a 2×2 that was marked at $1,750/month but we got it down to $1,625/moth … not bad right?.
One thing we were told was that “rent in Denver moved dramatically” meaning that we should expect changes per market conditions at the end of year one. As soon as I signed the lease they got us on the hook. To our surprise [not because we did not expect an increase but was shocked by the %] our renewal note arrived toward the end of the lease and the rent increased 32% to $2,150. This was just outrageous!
The way I interpreted this increase was basically the apartment complex betting we would stay [due to the inconvenience of having to move] or leave. Either way, they were in the driver seat. Their big argument was that rent in the area had increased due to demand but to me, this was all bull shit. As soon as we got that letter we started looking for another place around the area but pretty soon realized the new number was not far away from reality. We visited many complexes and the rent was very close to the new number we were dealing with.
The AHA Moment
One day while visiting other places, my wife and I looked at each other and reflected on the need for having a 2×2 apartment. You remember I said we wanted that floor plan because we were expecting family and friends? well, the brutal reality was we only had visitors once or twice in that year which means we basically paid ~$200/month or $2,400 extra for a storage room during our first year. We took a step back and decided to now focus on a 1×1 with a rent of around $1,475.
The moral of the story is we should have let our situation and needs drive our decision instead of assumptions on what others would need from us
The nature of the Denver market triggered conversations with the manager at our apartment complex. We figured, moving to a different place to save a few $$ was not going to be worth the effort. The manager worked with us and was able to offer a fair deal that enabled us to stay. This time we went for the 1×1 apartment. Not only was the size of the apartment appropriate for what we needed but pushed us to get rid of stuff we sold and/or gave away. After all was set and done the funniest thing happened … we had more visitors in the 1×1 than the 2×2 with no issues accommodating them at all.
I can honestly say this experience caused a positive inflection point (IP) in our lives. Not sure, if you know what an IP is but according to Investopedia is “an event that results in a significant change in the progress of a company, industry, sector, economy or geopolitical situation and can be considered a turning point after which a dramatic change, with either positive or negative results, is expected to result”.
In other words, it basically represents situations and experiences, we as human beings go through, that require a decision on our part. It will require making fundamental changes in hopes of achieving better results; however, if you remain passive you’re at risk of walking down a path that will lead to sub-optimized outcomes and ultimate failure.
I strongly believe our first year in Denver taught us a lot. It made us realize some decisions are tough on their own and there’s no need to make them even tougher by bringing outside elements that have no place in that equation. From that point on and until this day we focus on our needs and we let those drive and influence our decision-making process.
It’s funny but peer pressure is also a driver that WE consciously or unconsciously LET affect the way we make decisions. I think it’s absolutely detrimental to happiness and has the potential of leading you down the path of self-destruction.
We are no strangers to peer pressure but we have figured out ways to deal with outside influence. The answer is simple … emotional intelligence and the fact we don’t really care about what others think.
We have been surrounded by environments that demanded a lot from us. Our perception was there was an expectation in demonstrating certain behaviors that were not in line with our core values. You might be prompted to say “man I feel sorry for you”, but it was actually the opposite. Despite the fact we thought we were being viewed as freaks, it taught us that we must remain disciplined and honest to ourselves and nobody else.
I truly believe you should know who you are in your core and reflect on the things you value in life.
Our experiences have certainly helped us better shape not necessarily who we are but more importantly who we want to be. This has and continues to require a lot of team work which basically translates to having very well defined common goals, open communication, collaboration, and passion in the way we want to experience things in life.
Let me share some examples of perceived expectations and challenges we’ve overcome.
The expectation of buying brand new cars: I bought a brand new Toyota Rav4 back in 2010 and to this day I don’t believe it was the smartest decision I could have made. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great SUV and I loved it; however, I should have realized it was (and it still is) bad business to invest or put a lot of money on depreciating assets. Back then I didn’t know what I know today so at least I can say I’ve learned my lesson … Will never buy a new car again!
The expectation of having to upgrade vehicles: So we had the Rav4 for a while and it was big enough for a family of three. Soon after, we started getting questions around timing for switching to something bigger to accommodate a future baby and/or relatives. By now you should know what my thoughts were. A few years later, the wife got into an accident and the Rav4 was totaled. As a result, instead of buying a new and huge vehicle we settled for a decent sized certified pre-owned (CPO) SUV super comfortable for US and for our needs.
The expectation of eating outside all the time: we enjoy going out and experiencing local restaurants; however, we don’t do that every day. The reasons are obvious … it adds up. If we get an invite from friends and we know the place is going to be expensive we either offer a less expensive option or politely find a way out. I recognize the latter might be easier said than done but if these are truly your friends then it should be OK.
The expectation of having to spend money just because: I’ve been literally told I don’t spend enough money. This might make you laugh but it’s true. We’ve been out to the mall (not my preferred destination) with family and friends and they get surprised to see that we can go in and out empty handed. They don’t realize IS NOT that we don’t like spending money IS that we like spending money on things we need and to a lesser extent truly want.
- Make decisions based on your personal situation and your immediate needs.
- I know it’s important to think about the future especially as it relates to financial decisions; however, don’t let it get ahead of yourself in situations that might not be beneficial.
- Peer pressure is overrated, live your life and don’t let others get in the way on your path to happiness.
- If you don’t have anything positive to say then keep your mouth shut.
- Team work, collaboration, open communication are key elements for staying on target for achieving your goals.
- When in presence of peer pressure, don’t be rude. The point is not about destroying your relationships, instead is about sharing and providing perspective on things you value in life.
- I encourage you to take a step back and reflect on who you are at your core and what happiness means to you.
How do you manage outside influence in your decision-making process?
Until next time … JJ