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more on moving for a lower cost of living

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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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15 comments for “more on moving for a lower cost of living”

  1. Moving to cheaper areas does have its downsides. I’m trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I now live about an hour from the nearest movie theater.

    Posted by E.C. | August 6, 2008, 4:37 pm
  2. What do you think it means to make a major life-style change “for its own sake?” I’ve been trying to think about it and the ones that I do come up with fall into one of three categories - financial, philosophical, or circumstantial.

    The financial are obviously ones you hear about like “it’s cheaper,” “housing is more affordable,” or “there are better job opportunities.” The philosophical might be more subtle, like only buying locally grown fruits and vegetables to reduce carbon emissions because you want to reduce your carbon footprint. The circumstantial might be a move required by work, eminent domain kicking you out of your house, or forced relocation due to war, drought, famine, or natural disaster.

    If you look at people in the less developed world they are always moving to regions where the cost of living is higher (from rural settings to urban settings) to increase their income potential. Most times they then funnel this money back to family in their home town. At times they give up everything - family, friends, life-style - for financial reasons. Granted, these financial reasons are very much tied into the life-style (and often survival) of family and friends - and maybe that was the point you were trying to make.

    This is certainly a complex issue and I am curious to see what you think.

    Posted by Steward | August 6, 2008, 5:30 pm
  3. @Steward:
    I think that major life-style changes should be made because you want to live the new life more than you want to live the old life. I think that most people who leave rural areas in developing countries aren’t just looking for more money, they’re also seeking greater opportunities and a more interesting/fulfilling life. You need something to move to, as much as you may have reasons to move away.

    If you are in a drought-ridden part of the world, then you may well be moving away from there, but the place that you move to won’t be chosen at random. It will probably be somewhere where there are people that you know, or opportunities that you think you can take advantage of.

    The advantage of living in the more developed world is that you have more acceptable choices, rarely do people need to move solely based on finances. Moving somewhere cheaper that you hate will probably not work out well in the long run. If you try that, you’d better start finding things you love about it, or look to move on again.

    Posted by plonkee | August 6, 2008, 9:04 pm
  4. I think that you took this idea and articulated it perfectly. I agree with you completely.

    Posted by Maggie | August 6, 2008, 9:32 pm
  5. @ Plonkee - Thanks for the reply. I think I agree with you in that chances are the rural poor leave rural areas for more than just a higher wage, but I can’t get past the idea that these “greater opportunities and a more interesting/fulfilling life” have at least something, if not everything, to do with money/wealth.

    Posted by Steward | August 6, 2008, 10:10 pm
  6. Hi plonkee, thanks for highlighting my comment, I’m not worthy.

    Posted by guinness416 | August 6, 2008, 11:26 pm
  7. I have lived in three very different areas in my life so far (Sydney, followed by Yorkshire followed by London), and have found that no matter how cheap or expensive it is to live somewhere, everything balances out because your earning power also changes from place to place. I wasn’t even earning a quarter of what I now make when I lived in Yorkshire, but you could have a night out for £15, and rent was unbelievably low. Sometimes I get frustrated with how expensive London is, but it’s the only place in the UK where you can earn good money in my industry. Sometimes I get frustrated with London being so expensive, but it has so much to offer to every single area of my life, which is definitely something I have found lacking in the cheaper places I have lived.

    Posted by Claire | August 7, 2008, 9:29 am
  8. @ steward - i agree. people in LICs move to urban areas for jobs. i don’t think “more fulfulling lives” is a consideration, not when you’re still trying to get 3 squares and shelter for you and your kin. i think it is entirely financial. rural areas have a ceiling for income potential, mainly because the labor market is limited. in the cities, people can find industrial jobs (esp at foreign companies) that pay regular wages. most of which does indeed get funneled back to the folks at home.
    that being said, once one is in that urban environment one realizes that many more non-financial opportunities exist.

    Posted by deepali | August 7, 2008, 2:08 pm
  9. oh and i absolutely agree that you need somewhere to move TO. you can’t just pack up and drive until the gas runs out. well, i suppose you can but i wouldn’t recommend it (no matter how well it works in those beach reading novels).

    but i disagree that my self-identity (or even support network) is necessarily tied up in my location. i live here because my job is here, but if my job were elsewhere, i’d live elsewhere. there are other things i like about this city too, but as long as those characteristics could be found elsewhere, i’m happy to move. i am just very mobile!
    my ideal situation would be living in multiple places. the apt in the city. the cabin in the woods. the yurt on the steppes. the ashram in the mountains. :)

    Posted by deepali | August 7, 2008, 2:14 pm
  10. as long as those characteristics could be found elsewhere

    I think that’s the key. I’d move to lots of places that are similar to where I live now. But, they’d have to have certain characteristics, and those characteristics don’t make them that cheap.

    Posted by plonkee | August 7, 2008, 3:45 pm
  11. Thanks for this thoughtful post: it makes me feel less like I must be nuts.

    Semi-Demi-Exboyfriend (SDXB) moved, largely for financial reasons (also out of fear of the Other), to Sun City, a large retirement community in our area. He keeps telling me I’m crazy to stay in the old, centrally located neighborhood, with its relatively high crime rate and its fast-growing costs. His property taxes are a third of mine and his homeowner’s and auto insurance are half of what I pay. Though Sun City’s not crime-free, when you call 911 a sheriff’s officer shows up right NOW, not 45 minutes or an hour later.

    On the other hand, he lives in a ghetto for the (about 99% white) elderly. I happen to like living in a diverse neighborhood, and weirdly enough I enjoy the sound of kids playing outdoors. Public transportation is improving (sort of), property values in my part of town are stable or actually increasing, and the commute to my office is half what it would be if I moved out there.

    When I retire, I probably will move: partly to get into a house that costs less to maintain and partly to relocate to a more solidly middle-class area with less crime, better emergency services, safer shopping centers, and access to better doctors and hospitals. To the extent that those are financial issues, I guess my motivation will be money. But lots more is going on!

    Posted by Funny about Money | August 10, 2008, 3:27 pm
  12. Interesting topic. I talked about this on my blog yesterday and linked to your post. Can’t seem to get the pingback thingo to work though!

    Posted by FruGal | August 12, 2008, 10:50 am

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