Why You Should Live FAR Away From Your Job

Posted on January 26, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The Price of City Life

Rent?

In the convenient parts of Portland, Oregon — the closest city to where I live — most studios start at $900. I’ve seen some that are just shy of $2,000 a month. For a studio?!
My friend swears that I can get an affordable place in one of the sketchy neighborhoods, in an inconvenient location. Why, though, would I give up the two-bedroom apartment I share for $247, which is literally two blocks from the downtown area of my town?

Transportation?

Most of these opposing blog posts point to the cost of driving—gas, maintenance, insurance — and think they’ve won the argument. I cringe at the thought of putting that many miles on a vehicle, and of spending that much money on transportation. No thanks. I’ll stick to my $92 a month for unlimited rides on public transit, and I’ll walk or bike the shorter distances and save on gym membership.

Groceries?

I live three blocks from the farmer’s market, and know many of the farmers by name. It’s one of the best ways to get quality produce for the cheap while skipping the grocery store markup.
When it’s not farmer’s market season, I’m only 15 minutes from a really affordable grocery store (and that’s going out of my way to avoid some of the less favorable big box stores, like Wal-Mart). I spend about $20-35 a week on food.
If I were to move into the city, I’d be nowhere near a farmer’s market, and I’d be an hour from an affordable grocery store. My grocery bill would be closer to $50 a week (judging by how much I end up spending when I do go to a more expensive store). This could just be a lack of awareness about the options in that neighborhood, but that lack of awareness would cost me until I could absorb the local knowledge.

Utilities?

Electricity is the only utility which is not covered by my rent, and in my small town electricity is publicly owned. In Portland the electricity is managed by a private corporation, and the average cost is $147 a month according to the local newspaper (it’s one of the higher averages in the country). My cost? $30-40 a month, even during the winter. My share is $15-20; the other half is covered by my roommate.

Entertainment?

This is the biggest mark on my small town, according to my friends and acquaintances. There’s a limited music scene. On the flip side, almost every single performance is free.
The only movie theaters are second-run theaters. If I want to watch something newer, it’s only a 15 minute trip to the nearest first-run theater. But if I’m okay with seeing something older, I can catch a double feature for only $3 or $5.
Really, my small town forces frugality when I might otherwise be tempted to spend money frivolously. (I’ll easily throw away twenty, thirty, or forty dollars just “hanging out” with my friends in the city).
In my small town, you spend more time on simple pleasures like reading, spending time in nature, checking things out from the library, or just interacting with people. It isn’t that there aren’t things to do — there just aren’t things to spend money on.

Crime?

On top of my actual savings, the crime rate in my sleepy little town is practically non-existent. That means there’s very little chance of losing property to theft or destruction. In that affordable Portland neighborhood? Six homicides in the past 12 months, and more larceny than you can shake a stick at.
In my town, I can also walk down the middle of Main St. at one in the morning and never see a car. But to each their own.

Time Investment

The other argument that people often make is that the time spent commuting is a waste of money. It’s time that could be better spent on business ventures and earning money. And I couldn’t agree more. If you’re driving that far for work, you’re just wasting time.
When I was still working at the office, my commute was 50 minutes each way. It wasn’t a short trip. The good news is that I wasn’t the one doing the driving. I could take care of business during my commute. Did my coworkers who lived closer use that time to take care of business? Nope. They were still in bed.
What did I get done during my commute?
  • When I was volunteering freelance work to a local non-profit, I used my commute to email my contact within the organization with updates, or to ask for clarification.
  • I caught up on personal email.
  • I read The Scarlet Letter and Dracula in my quest to become more well-read.
  • I practiced Spanish on my smartphone using an SRS flash card system.
  • I wrote a rough draft of my novel during National Novel Writing Month.
  • Networked with interesting people.
  • Caught up on current events.
  • Researched topics of interest.
  • Caught up on sleep. I dare you to try that if you drive.
Of course, none of these are directly related to making money. But the volunteer work could easily have been paid freelancing work. Spanish proficiency makes me more employable. A novel is certainly a possible money making venture. And these are things I would have done anyway,but I would have had to wait until I was done driving.
Instead, I let someone else take the wheel and focused on things I actually wanted to be doing. If you’re sitting on a bus or train, you also don’t have all of the distractions you’d have at home preventing you from writing the next great novel.

Money Better Spent

I’m not saying that a long commute by public transit is always a cakewalk. It is a lifestyle. Especially if you live somewhere with fickle weather. You have to be more prepared than someone who can pack half of their home into their vehicle. And I certainly wouldn’t complain about being closer to my friends who do live in the city.
The savings I make by living further away are worth it though. While my coworkers were living paycheck to paycheck, I was planning for the inevitable. With a well-stocked emergency fund, I didn’t even flinch when we found out that our contract was moving to India. Not only was I able to save more than my coworkers, but I was able to live longer on the amount I had saved up than they were able to.
(Did I mention that I was able to pay off all of my private student loans while building that emergency fund? That means I have one less bill than many of my former coworkers as well.)
But it wasn’t just a matter of saving myself money. I was also able to spend my money on things that I actually valued. My recumbent trike is a blast to take out on the hills or for short commutes, and my Bob Kramer knife makes working in the kitchen a breeze.
By all accounts, these items are too nice and expensive for a kid my age to own — without racking up credit card debt, anyway. But because I didn’t throw my money away on city living, I actually had disposable income to spend on luxuries which increase the quality of my life.
For you, the things you want to spend your money on will surely be different. A good kitchen knife and a ‘bent won’t appeal to everyone. But, if you are willing to give up the so-called convenience of city living, you can have those little luxuries you desire with the money you save. Or, forgo the luxuries and retire early. You always have the choice.
Bonus points if you can find a well-paying job in one of those sleepy little towns. In that case, please live close to your job. And hook me up.

Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: