Twinkle Stanly, a content producer, lives in a tiny studio apartment in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
She spends about 20% of her income on rent, she said, which lets her save up.
Stanly loves the space and the low cost, but it's harder to socialize and do remote work.
Twinkle Stanly is, in her own words, a "solo, independent, single girl."
Stanly, a 25-year-old content producer born and raised in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, lives in her own 350-square-foot studio apartment. At first, living in the small space was purely a financial decision — she said she paid about $7,700 a year for the spot, less than the roughly $10,000 most studios there cost — but she's come to love it.
"You have to be a lot more selective about the things that you buy, the things that you keep," she said, adding that it's easier to clean.
"It's made me a wiser shopper because I used to hold a lot before when I was living with my family, and I had a much bigger space," she said. "I wanted to move into minimalism and essentialism. So having a small space really helped that in a lot of ways."
It's no secret that the youngest generation of workers is facing a housing crunch as homeownership gets further and further out of sight, rent prices skyrocket, and the available housing stock seems to get smaller. In the US, houses are shrinking, even as prices go up. Renters are opting for microstudios and tiny homes to have an affordable space to call their own.
Stanly said that in her observation, more people in Dubai were also opting for smaller living spaces. Even so, Stanly — who said she's putting about 20% of her income toward rent — has noticed that she's an outlier among some of her peers.
"I've always been really good at saving, but it's only when I speak to others that I understand how much they struggle in just paying rent," she said.
Real estate group CBRE finds that apartment rents in Dubai grew by 27% in 2022. Even prospective homebuyers are crunched: A report from property firm Knight Frank finds that house prices in Dubai have grown by 225% since the third quarter of 2020.
The benefits — and drawbacks — of microstudio living
One of the biggest savings of living in a studio has nothing to do with rent, Stanly said: It's her electricity bill. Living in such a small space means it's easy to keep costs low. She said she paid about $50 a month for water and electricity.
"That's been great," she said.
While she has to pay an annual cost for her apartment's contract, and had to pay about a $550 commission to her real-estate agent when she got the place, she said it was not too hard to find a good location. Glossy residential towers are sprouting up across Dubai to cater to renters and buyers, but, like other cities around the globe, CNBC reported, voracious demand has led to skyrocketing rents.
The downsides of such a small spot are socializing and creating a work-from-home space, Stanly said. She has to be "very selective" about how many people she has over and similarly selective about what she can and can't have in her home, she said.
"It's one of my dreams to have a really good desk. But, of course, I cannot have that because of the limited space," she said.
As a hybrid worker, she loves working from home — but having such a small space to get work done from can be restrictive.
At the end of the day, she said she wished people understood that not everyone living in Dubai was very rich or living in luxury.
"I live in a very small space, and I work at a publishing company," she said, adding: "It's not what you see online only. There are multiple different people that come here. And there are, of course, different standards of living as well. It's possible to live a slightly cheaper lifestyle."
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