Here's the biggest issue: I've been royally spoiled with each of these my whole life. I've always lived on the safe east side of milwaukee; I've rarely had to pay for housing; aaaaand my roommate has always been awesome. The lone exception was last summer when I lived in the ghetto, paid $325/month, and lived with 2 cats.
At any rate, I've looked at options from near downtown to way out in the burbs; from alone, to with up to 4 roommates; from 10x10 no closet, no bathroom to a 900 sq ft loft with new appliances and everything. And what have I learned?
- Near downtown does not always mean better than the burbs. This may be a TX phenomenon, but the burbs also have a number of communities of and options for the younger crowd. Plus, they're generally safer.
- When you go to check a roommate situation, focus on the roommate, not the living space. Unless you're independently wealthy, you're not going to be spending enough time in your apartment to justify extra costs that would come from prioritizing living space over roommate situation. And if you are that rich, why would you take a roommate?
- Costs add up quickly. A $500/mo rent in a 2br is MUCH cheaper than a $600/mo 1br. Not only are you splitting utilities and internet/cable costs (totalling ~$200/mo in this area), but you'll probably find many other cost saving features of sharing--be it food or whatever. Multiply all those seemingly small differences by 12 and that's your annual savings (wow, tough math, I know--but it seems like few folks my age bother to really think it out).
- Location, location, location. Especially in Dallas, a few blocks can make a SIGNIFICANT difference. Between slum an $500,000 house, or between walking and driving to bars or whatever else you might need.
That being said, I'm still no expert. But I'm at least confident that whatever my decision is, I can live with it. Besides, as long as your safe and don't have any major catastrophes, it's really not that big a deal to live in a shitty apartment--as long as things work most of the time, you can be perfectly happy there most of the time. And most of the time is pretty okay with me.