Saturday, 10 September 2011


If one more person tells me that renting a house is 'dead money' I swear, I will scream. In fact, I reached this point quite a while ago, but it seemed impolitic to start shrieking at the downstairs neighbour, particularly because I had just hit his car and we had arranged matters fairly convivially up until that point.

When you come out of university, you are almost certainly without money. You are without money in exactly the same way that someone who left school at eighteen is without money. To buy a property is inordinately expensive, tens of hundreds of thousands of pounds. As such, it's frankly bizarre to expect someone in their early twenties to afford a house.

And yet renting is considered by anyone about ten years older than you to be the worst decision you could possibly make. “It's dead money!” they will cry. “Save up for a deposit! Find the money! It will be your PENSION!”

So as I sit here paying my rent, I would like to take a moment to take you through why the above statements are a lie, difficult, impossible, and a downright evil lie, in that order.

1. 'Dead money' is a phrase I particularly loathe. It's that weird, Thatcherite fetishism of money, that money should in some way be doing something. The money IS doing something, and that something is putting a roof over my head. You tell me that's dead money and I'll invite you to sleep outside.

A lot of people choose to live with their parents in order to save up for a mortgage. That's fine. That's your funeral. I lived with my parents for a year, until my sister and I were having daily screaming arguments and I spiralled into what I now realise was the beginnings of a bad bout of... I don't know what, exactly, as I don't wish to be too dramatic, but I think I may have cracked if I'd stayed much longer. It was the point I realised I was crying into some toast on a daily basis that I knew something had to give. I houseshared for a time, and now I'm sharing with Mr DG. I couldn't afford to live by myself, and neither could the majority of people I know. I found the method that worked for me.

This method keeps me with a remarkable sense of self-worth and also means that I am now of much better terms with my family. My parents are even coming for tea tomorrow. That is a healthy parent-child relationship, aged 24. My mother still desperately trying to iron my shirts was really not that good.

2. That said, saving up for a deposit is a jolly good idea. I am all in favour of savings. I really, really am. Mr DG and I try to squirrel away what we can every month, admittedly currently towards The Great Social Event Of 2012 i.e. our wedding, but it means we know we can do it. We don't go out a great deal. We eat cheaply. Buying new clothes are a distant world. Savings are a priority, for us.

However. You need approximately 10-20% of the worth of a house to get a mortgage. An average house around here is £100,000 pounds. That's £10-20,000. My annual salary is somewhere between those two figures. So that's at least a year of saving, even if I somehow managed to spend £0 in that year. So, er, where is my deposit meant to have come from between then and now?

Before any smartarse points it out, I am aware that at the moment it tends to be cheaper in terms of monthly payments when you compare mortgage vs. rent. However, I refer you to the £20,000 deposit above.

3. 'Finding the money is entirely possible'. Unfortunately, none of my wealthy relatives have yet revealed themselves. Bastards. I have also failed to find an old map with an 'X' marked on a treasure island, win the lottery, or worked out a way to rob a bank that is morally correct and 100% likely not to get myself caught.

4. A pension?! MY PENSION?!! What? The money is LOCKED WITHIN THE HOUSE. Locked there UNTO FOREVER. That's like saying that my rather lovely pair of Converse (three years old this year!) is a pension plan. That's not how it works at all. I have bought the shoes, I own the shoes, I will not somehow miraculously get the money back from the shoes. It is money invested, yes. It is a sensible investment, as they go. However, your pension is your pension and your house is your house. Telling people their house was their pension is the reason why we are about to have a whacking great pensions crisis. (Guess what generation is paying for that one, too?)

In conclusion: your average graduate cannot and does not have a mortgage. Your average graduate spends the first few years of post-graduate life doing doggy paddle to keep above water. If you can afford, and want, an aspire to a house then please, go for it! If you can't, though, don't go insane trying to get one. Don't make yourself ill. Try not to encourage any more recessions in terms of becoming over-stretched in your borrowing. (Think of the next generation of graduates there, perhaps.) Try to remember that having a roof over your head is good and safe money, and that our communal fetishism over property-owning as a nation is just plain weird.

And don't ever, ever tell me again that renting is 'dead money' because so help me I will not be responsible for my actions.

There is a Graduate Myth post here, somewhere, but I felt a bit of rage was possibly the way forward.


  1. I don't even have aspirations for owning a house because I know how unlikely it is in my lifetime with my planned career path. (Unless the NHS suddenly starts paying its occupational health workers a footballer's wage, and then I'm quids in.) Renting is wonderful - I get to live in this lovely flat with my partner rather than out on the streets with all my linguistics books.

  2. I am aware that at the moment it tends to be cheaper in terms of monthly payments when you compare mortgage vs. rent.

    As someone with a mortgage, I can tell you that this is also A FOUL LIE. Not that I regret owning a house, but my mortgage is definately more expensive than rent.

    Also, yeah, rent is not 'dead money'. It would be nice for everyone to be able to buy a house, because it hopefully will leave you slightly better off. I hope. But that is not the world we live in, no.

    Also, for a lot of graduates, buying is not necessarily the right thing, even if you have the deposit. People don't necessarily settle straightaway after graduating! I am contracted to be in the same place for four years so yes, it makes sense to buy. Less than that, and I think I would be renting, because once you've bought a house, god knows how you get another one and move ALL YOUR STUFF OMG and stay sane on top of that.

  3. your blog is so good. as a recent graduate everything you say rings true. keep writing!

  4. I agree. I hate the phrase “dead money” what does it even mean? Money is not alive. Did you say money fetish? Thank you, that is such a great phrase. Some people, including my peers, worship money and investments. I on the other hand worship experience, friendships and happiness; money is neither here nor there. In some ways it depends how you were brought up. I know people from traditional middle class families who stand to inherit the parental home one day, who’ve had it drummed into them that life is all a journey of hard work leading up to the reward of marriage, kids, a driving licence and a home of your own. Whereas, as a child of two hippies who brought me up on a council estate and have not two pennies to rub together themselves, I am renting around the country, quite happily. I have no desire nor ambition to own a home. It was never drummed into me and I’m just, to put it bluntly, not arsed.

    What I like about renting is that it equals freedom. Yes you can be turfed out by the landlord or the rent can rise. But then, you can move! Whenever and wherever you like! Nasty neighbours don’t equal years of depression and turmoil for the renter, he simply moves away. A flood, fire or infestation needn’t be costly or devastating, it isn’t the renter’s home nor his problem.

    Do I ever want to own? No. apparently in Europe renting is the norm and buying the exception. When I was growing up, before Thatcher tore it all down, I lived under the socially-housed for life notion. Now it’s the privately rented home for life notion. This is how it is in countries like Spain (so I’ve heard and will have to investigate when the time comes) where I want to move in a few years to teach English. I’d like to move around Europe for a time until I get tired and slump for a bit. But nowhere in my life plans is there a need to own a home at any point.

    Yes renting is more expensive in the longer term. I’ve actually undertaken a spread sheet-based exploration of this taking into account all factors, and concluded that it probably costs twice as much as owning, over a lifetime. But for me money is transient, it is not something to be counted, lamented upon or worshipped, it is simple a means to an end. I know I can always earn money, an intelligent, well-spoken girl who’s been working since the age of 15 is never going to find themselves out of a job, no matter what the climate. So as long as I’m able to make an income I’m happy to spend that income, even throw it away at times on things like trips abroad, clothes, wine and roofs. And it’s those times hanging around in Nashville bars wearing £100 shoes, rat assed drunk knowing I’ve got a home to return to that makes me feel alive, not small pieces of fabric based on absolutely nothing.