Before Chi Baik moved into her 240-square-foot studio in Seattle last year, she told CNBC Make It that she
“didn’t even know they made small apartments like this.”
The 26-year-old’s “micro” studio’s open layout is enough to accommodate a queen-sized bed and wardrobe, with space under the bed for storage and a bed for her dog Bear.
Baik moved in September 2022 and used to pay $1,550 for the location. Her building was subject to income restrictions in January, and her rent has fallen proportionally to her income — about $27,000 a year from her Ph. sponsor and undertake additional grading work. She currently pays $1,157 per month for rent, plus $100 or more for utilities.
Her kitchen has a modern finish with a two-burner stove but no oven. Since everything is outdoors, she uses shelves for decoration and two wardrobes (including one with a washer/dryer inside) to keep things organized. Thankfully, a floor-to-ceiling window brings in natural light which makes the place feel more spacious, and she also has a surprisingly large bathroom.
Last year, Baik left her job as a teacher outside of the Washington, DC area — where she makes $60,000 a year and pays $800 to share a townhouse with friends — and moved to Seattle to become a Ph. . student at the University of Washington, where she studied special education.
Money is tighter than before and this is the first time she has lived so far away from friends and family. Still, “it feels like I’m starting a new chapter in my life and I’m really excited about it,” she said.
Baik’s favorite thing about living in Seattle is being surrounded by nature and trees, and experiencing life alone for the first time. She said her brother, who is two years older and lives in Philadelphia, encouraged her to take the big step and embrace the challenging transition.
Baik knows most people would think $27,000 is “too little money,” but says, “I feel so grateful to have made so much money, that I have a home to live in, especially in Seattle. The homeless population is really huge, and that makes me even more grateful for the money I’m making.”
Depending on her spending for the month, Baik’s rent is about 40% to 50% of her expenses. Her other major spending categories are food (she subscribes to HelloFresh and mainly cooks at home), shopping (for herself and Bear’s pet supplies), and transportation (she She currently doesn’t have a car and uses both public transport and Uber to get around).
Baik doesn’t have the money at the end of the month to regularly save, but she does have about $3,700 stashed and nearly $70,000 saved across two retirement accounts from her teaching days. Her brother advises her to set aside 30% of her salary for retirement, which is “not too difficult” as she is about to graduate from college.