cheaper housing costs en-US Live Where It's Cheap <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/live-where-its-cheap" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Kerr Cabin" title="Kerr Cabin" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>More effective than giving up luxuries, using coupons, choosing store brands, or buying in bulk, the most powerful enabler of frugal living is to live where it's cheap. (See also: <a href="">Voluntary Simplicity as Hedonism</a>)</p> <p>For basic stuff like rent and food, it can easily cost two or three times as much to live where it's expensive. For example, compared to where I live now (Champaign, Illinois), my rent in Manhattan would be 326% more while groceries would cost 57% more. (That according to this <a href="">cost of living calculator</a> at CNN Money.)</p> <p>Of course, there are downsides to living where it's cheap. There's probably less to do and less to buy, although the internet eases those burdens immensely. (There's a lot less need to go to the big city to shop, and between on-line entertainment and DVDs, you don't miss out the way you would have just one or two decades ago.)</p> <p>Many will argue that they <em>have</em> to live somewhere expensive. Maybe their family is there. Maybe their job is there. (If you're a ballet dancer, you have to live where there's a ballet company. If you're a TV scriptwriter, you have to live within commuting distance of Hollywood.) Maybe they just really, really want to live there.</p> <p>That may be. I'm not here to second-guess the necessities of your life. Rather, I want to suggest that you think deeply about what you want and about the best way to achieve those wants.</p> <h2>Learn From My Experience</h2> <p>Even if you really want the amenities of an expensive location, think about whether living there is the best way to take advantage of them.</p> <p>I lived in Los Angeles for a while, back in the mid-1980s. That gave me the opportunity to do all sorts of things that aren't possible anywhere else. (For example, I was able to shop at a store dedicated to selling survivalist supplies &mdash; they sold foods preserved for long-term storage, books on building and stocking your survival retreat, water purifying equipment, etc. There aren't many of those around.)</p> <p>But living there was so expensive! Working at a regular job, I only had so much time to take advantage of the unique opportunities of my location.</p> <p>For example, I only managed one visit to the La Brea tar pits and only went to one comedy club. (My life wasn't quite that boring, but my other adventures &mdash; such as camping at Joshua Tree and Sequoia National Forest &mdash; didn't depend on living in Los Angeles. In fact, they'd have been easier if I'd lived in some small town in Nevada &mdash; less traffic to fight through when heading out for some weekend camping.)</p> <p>The money I saved the first year after I moved to Champaign <em>just on rent</em> would have covered the cost of flying to LA, staying in a hotel, hiring a limo, and admission to the La Brea tar pits, with enough left over for cover and drinks at the comedy club.</p> <p>Throw in the savings from everything else being cheaper as well &mdash; food, gasoline, electricity, clothing &mdash; and it probably would have paid for two such trips.</p> <p>What you're <em>actually going to do</em> (as opposed to what you'd theoretically be able to do) makes a big difference. If you're not going to buy something, it doesn't much matter how easy it is to buy.</p> <p>If you're a serious skier, living close enough to the slopes that you can ski any time you get a couple of hours off is a huge boost to your standard of living. If, like me with the comedy club, you only get on the mountain once or twice a year anyway, you might just as well live somewhere cheaper and then take a ski holiday.</p> <h2>Income Also Varies</h2> <p>For some work, the amount of money you can earn may vary depending on where you live. For other work, it doesn't.</p> <p>The amount that writers, artists, or web designers can charge has little to do with where they live. For other jobs, especially for jobs providing personal services to locals (hairdresser, receptionist, clerk, massage therapist), it's possible to earn a lot more per hour if you live somewhere expensive than it is if you live somewhere cheap. That's partly because the people who are hiring you have more money, and partly because your competition can't afford to undercut your price (because they need more money to live there just like you do).</p> <p>On the other hand, where you live will usually have no influence on non-work sources of income &mdash; your stocks and bonds will pay the same dividends and interest no matter where you live.</p> <p>This insight sometimes leads people to figure that they should live where they can earn the maximum amount during their working years, planning to save up money (investing in those stocks and bonds), and then move somewhere cheap where their dividends and interest will go further. That can work, but it often doesn't. The high costs of living somewhere expensive &mdash; especially when you figure in the higher taxes on that higher income &mdash; often leave you with little in the way of actual surplus savings.</p> <p>The details matter. There's no alternative to actually doing the calculations yourself if you want to get the right answer.</p> <h2>Live Where It's Really, Really Cheap</h2> <p>One option worth considering is living where it's really, really cheap. Especially in rural areas, it's often possible to find <a href="">housing that's virtually free</a> (or even actually free, such as in exchange for a few hours of work as a caretaker).</p> <p>Another option for living where it's really, really cheap is to <a href="">live overseas</a> in a country with a lower cost of living. You have to live where people are poor if you want to save money (otherwise you can do just as well living <a href="">someplace cheap in the U.S</a>.), but there are plenty of places where it's <a href="">cheaper to live than it would be anywhere in the U.S</a>.</p> <h2>My Strategy</h2> <p>To my mind, the winning strategy in this, as it is in most financial decisions, is to think carefully about what you really want, check prices, and make a budget that lets you afford the things that are most important to you.</p> <p>My own calculations have led me to live someplace fairly cheap, yet fairly close to some big cities. (St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Chicago are all close enough to make day trips; Chicago <a href="">by train</a>.)</p> <p>The decision was pretty easy for me. I want to be a writer. What I get paid is the same no matter where I live. By living somewhere cheap, I'm able to be a full-time writer. If I lived somewhere expensive, I'd have to get a day job. And then I wouldn't have as much time for writing. I'd be less productive and less happy. I'd also make less money from my writing, putting me even further behind.</p> <p>Many people choose to live where it's expensive, but to do so on the cheap &mdash; a house in the far-out exurbs and a fuel-efficient car for commuting. That may be the best choice for them &mdash; as I say, I don't want to be second-guessing somebody else's life &mdash; but a lot of people make that choice by default, rather than because they <a href="">ran the numbers and figured out</a> that it put them ahead of where they'd be if they lived someplace cheap.</p> <p>If you've been living in a big city, you'll probably be pretty surprised how much cheaper you can live in a small town or a rural area &mdash; and even more surprised how accessible the big-city amenities turn out to be for someone who's not spending every waking hour earning enough money to pay their big-city rent.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Philip Brewer</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Cooking for Beginners: 10 Recipes for Kitchen Newbies</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">20 Awesome Uses for Milk Crates</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">How to Prevent Plant Theft</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">7 Frugal Fall Decoration Tips</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">6 Reasons Cutting Your Landline Is a Bad Deal</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Home Lifestyle cheaper housing costs rural living urban living Tue, 21 Jun 2011 10:24:25 +0000 Philip Brewer 589557 at Plumas County: Hidden (Cheaper) California <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/plumas-county-hidden-cheaper-california" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Move to Plumas County" title="Move to Plumas County" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="250" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I’m going to let you in on my biggest secret to living large on a tiny budget. Five years ago last month my husband and I –lifelong coastal Californians made the big literal move to a part of California we never heard of –the northeastern corner and Plumas County. You know, that place on the map of the state that’s square up in the corner? Nearly three hours north of Lake Tahoe? Way, way, way up there? Yup, that’s still California.</p> <p>We were prompted by many things: the impending birth of our first child, the lack of space in our tiny studio apartment, me wanting to stay home with our kids, and a need for slightly less competition in our fields so we could focus and concentrate on making the family thing work, rather than killing ourselves trying to be corporate. While friends and family members were snagging up half a million dollar fixer uppers without yards in L.A., we found a great house under 200K on an acre of land with a view of a valley spotted with cows and teaming with migratory birds and awe inspiring mountains.</p> <p>While rural living is probably not for everyone, there are certain frugal and lifestyle advantages to it. In 2002, while pregnant with my son I realized that none of the things I moved to San Francisco for I was still doing. I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t going out on the town. I couldn’t afford to do anything but pay rent, basically. My husband was feeling a similar pinch in Los Angeles and though we’d been lobbying for each other to move to the other’s city, my son’s birth was around the corner and we still hadn’t come to a decision on where to live as a family. </p> <p>Enter my mothers. What about trying the mountains? My moms had moved to Plumas the year before and bought a nice house that sat in a quiet, upscale neighborhood with a meadow on one side and national forest on the other for under 150K. A whole house rented for $500 a month, there was (and still is) a shortage of professionals for a variety of necessary jobs, and our kids could start life breathing fresh air. We were broke, had nothing to lose, packed the U-haul and headed north. I mean way north. A brisk 11-hour drive up the I-5 from Los Angeles—and that’s if you are starting from Santa Monica.</p> <p>First the positives in the pocketbook. Plumas County—one of those tiny little northern California counties started in the Gold Rush—needs you. The industries of yester year: mining, logging, milling, are long since gone and there are a number of towns that were built around these industries still standing and looking for revitalization. Most of the areas original inhabitants leave the area upon graduation for Chico, Reno, the military. Rentals are hard to come by these days but they still exist—and where else in the state could you rent a whole house for under $1000 without it being a ghetto crack head neighborhood? This is probably the only place in the state where a mortgage won’t be two-thirds of your budget. Utilities other than oil are about the same as anywhere else in the state and lots of properties are zoned commercial as well as residential so if you are wanting to start that business venture…</p> <p>If you are a recreational shopper and you need your hands spanked, this is also a great place to live. There&#39;s not that many places to shop and unless hardware and general stores are a big turn on for you, you&#39;ll save money just by virtue of there being much less to spend it on (though I&#39;ve dropped plenty at an antique store in Greenville, Bookstore in Chester, the Co-op in Quincy). </p> <p>But the biggest positives are what I call the social and lifestyle improvements. Picture no waiting. For anything. Ever. I still recall with horror not having health insurance and having to go to an ER in Los Angeles and having to wait a month with insurance to get seen in San Francisco. Here it’s ‘can you make it in this afternoon?’ Have you wanted to be actively involved on a committee to oversee something in your town but couldn’t ever find a vacancy on a board? We need you. And not just for volunteer positions. Virtually all federal, state, and county jobs will be opening up in the next five years as most if not all are now held by baby boomers reaching retirement. Ever wonder what it would be like to leave your house and not have to factor in traffic as part of how long it will take to get somewhere or how long it will take to find parking? Ever wonder about not locking your doors?</p> <p>Add in the kid factor and there is a considerable advantage: no traffic for them to accidentally run into, everyone in town will know that your baby belongs to you—parents here still run into the post office while baby is asleep 10 feet away in the car. Sending your kids to a good private school won’t cost an arm and a leg. And the average daycare cost per child is the county is about $3.00 an hour. Add to this being able to raise them around horses, wild turkeys, and having a national forest as their backyard and suddenly being able to walk three blocks to the city park that’s fenced in on all sides like prison and urban childrearing starts to sound silly.</p> <p>But you are a life long urbanite---not unlike my husband and I and this is probably sounding way too cute and quaint. Not so. The biggest seller for me when I moved up here was the chance to live somewhere slightly economically depressed while not having my income tied to such a local economy. Enter the age of the telecommuter. Thanks to a zippy fast DSL connection, I’m doing the same work I was in the city and still getting paid my city wage. And with Internet Radio and iTunes I get to listen to KCRW and NPR in the afternoon (complete with traffic reports about people stuck on the 405) instead of some AM honky tonk station I would have gotten a decade ago out of Reno, NV. My husband, an IT guy without a degree was faced with the dotcom crash on the coast but here he’s never out of work and usually has a backlog. And while it’s true that this corner of California votes like it’s Alabama at times, that’s changing too. Morally bankrupt Rep. Doolittle (®) who never faced serious challenges to his seat is now holding on to it for dear life and is expected to lose the next election. (Yay!)</p> <p>And you won’t be alone in your move here. One out of three families I encounter here aren’t from here. They are usually ex-Bay Area residents with at least one telecommuter in the family with a smattering of southern Californians. My neighbor is from Burbank. Another neighbor is from Tustin.</p> <p>Still, I can hear the skeptic in you—not unlike the skeptic in me—screaming, yes but what about culture?! Team sports? The stuff of Little Leagues and Friday nights of our suburban youth? To this I add we have two thriving art organizations and apparently our girls’ basketball team is kicking ass all over the northern part of the state¬––Go Greenville! There are the same mommy and me-ish things, same crappy California public education, a local community college, etc. But there’s lots of cool hidden stuff too. I work out with a couple of women in a cool private gym I never knew existed. Mountain Maidu culture (the original inhabitants of this area are the Maidu) still prevails and helps distinguish the area and give it its diversity. There’s lots of camping and fishing stuff up here that apparently people come from all over to experience.</p> <p>My dealings with getting the kids some culture was making a commitment to bring them to San Francisco on a quarterly basis and Los Angeles twice a year. We pack in those short weeks with museums, movies, family, and the big one---Asian cuisines. And since we save so much by not eating out (not that many restaurants up here worth eating at), we finally get to splurge on food in the big city—something we couldn’t afford to do anymore when we lived there.</p> <p>Now as we look back and also hear the struggles of other parents of preschoolers in urban areas, we are still happy with our decision. Though there have been some hidden costs we did not anticipate well enough. The biggest one is the horrible combination of the high price of oil combined with a long winter. In 2006—a short winter—we spent $500 for the year on oil to heat the house and water heater. In 2007 winter started sooner, lasted longer and the price went up—we’ll be lucky if we get out of this winter for under $3,000. But this is kind of a freaky year for that sort of thing so we try not to take it personal. I only fill my car up once a month since I telecommute and my husband is in a carpool in a Prius.</p> <p>Still the benefits are overwhelming for the telecommuting worker or family. You get a home office that overlooks snow-capped mountains and air so clean that visitors from the city feel like their lungs are collapsing from the freshness. Your kids get to experience seasons and self-sufficiency of gardening and making things that go with the seasons, and they learn first hand what farm and wild animals look like instead of learning these things from picture books. At Christmas time you get to chop down your own tree with a $10 permit. And my goodness, if you are having children, don’t you want to afford to spend more time and less money being with them?</p> <p>So, show of hands. Who&#39;s up for the move? </p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Maggie Wells</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Live Where It&#039;s Cheap</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">5 American Cities Where You Can Retire On Just Social Security</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">10 Questions to Ask Before Signing a Lease</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">4 Surprising Things Lenders Check Besides Your Credit Score</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">The Simple Way to Decide How Much Rent You Can Really Afford</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Real Estate and Housing cheaper housing costs childcare costs living expenses Plumas county rural living telecommuting Sun, 02 Mar 2008 11:44:51 +0000 Maggie Wells 1873 at