plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

August 6, 2008

more on moving for a lower cost of living

Filed under: house — Tags: , , — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

I posted the other day on whether you would consider moving for a lower cost of living, and in response to me and a commentator names Jerry, guinness416 wrote the following comment:

Yeah, I agree people move for opportunities Jerry but that’s the point – you have to have something to move TO rather than just moving FROM your current high rent or whatever. Not just consider dollars and cents. It’s a package.

I could move to a significantly cheaper area. But for us personally what we would be giving up in terms of diversity (we’re both immigrants), leisure activities that are important to us, public transit, major airport, commute time, friends, job opportunities aren’t worth a few thousand a month. If it would even be that by the time we’ve taken jobs elsewhere. Others would disagree, I guess.

I see blog commenters all the time saying things like “why doesn’t he just move from LA/New York/London/expensiveplace!” as though it were the easiest thing in the world, and a person’s lifestyle and support network isn’t intricately tied to where they live.

Some frugal choices that people suggest require a massive change in lifestyle. And, just because one person can do it and be happy with it, doesn’t mean everyone else can. That is, it doesn’t mean that everyone else can be happy with it.


People that advocate moving to a cheaper place to live assume one of three things:

  1. the desire to downshift and move to the country/small town
  2. the attraction of moving closer to family, who live in a cheaper place
  3. a lifestyle that can be easily replicated in another, cheaper town or city

Now, even within the UK (or Ireland), which doesn’t have the geographic variety of many of the other English speaking countries any of those might be possible.

There are more rural areas, like North Wales, that are cheaper than the cities and would suit someone trying to downshift.

Having grown up in and around London, there are oodles of people living there who have family in other, cheaper parts of the country – I believe the same is true of Edinburgh and Dublin, other notoriously pricey cities.

Cambridge (expensive) is not that different to Durham (cheaper). Villages in Hertfordshire aren’t really any nicer than villages in Yorkshire, but Hertfordshire is very expensive, and Yorkshire is cheaper. Market towns in the South East are no nicer than ones in the Midlands, but they are more expensive.

but they don’t work for everyone

But, not nearly everyone is in that position. I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to downshift. Maybe I will in 20 or 30 years time, but like guinness416 I get an awful lot out of living in the hubbub. As it goes, my family live in a more expensive place than I do, I’d never save money moving closer to them – I don’t think that Dublin is cheaper than Toronto either.

A big city (or mid-sized in my case) lifestyle can’t easily be replicated elsewhere cheaper. Cities with similar characteristics tend to have similar prices, whereas smaller locales are more affected by regional prices. In the UK there’s little to choose between Manchester and Leeds, and there’s very little difference between the cost of living there either.

it’s never just about the money

Not all ideas that people put forward for saving money are good ones for you. Of course that doesn’t mean that they won’t work for some people. Any major lifestyle change, really needs to be done for its own sake than because it will save you money. Even if it really would be cheaper not to live in New York.

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