Home: What’s Money Got To Do With It?
Like you’ve never thought about how much your dream life would cost.
I’m at the weird stage now where I’m starting to get a tiiiiiiny measure of success in my career. Enough to handle bills, and savings, and maybe even private health insurance. Yay adulthood!
But that means it’s time to own up to a fact that I’ve been ignoring for the longest time: I really don’t like where I live.
Portland’s a great city for a lot of people. But unfortunately, I’m not the most outdoorsy person. I’m a foodie but not a diehard foodie. I’m also not a soccer/basketball fan. Having legal cannabis is nice. But in 2017, Oregon’s far from unique in their pro-legalization stance.
So I have to ask myself: Where do I really want to live?
This isn’t as easy a question as it seems. I moved so frequently as a young kid that I couldn’t really get attached to any one place. The town where I lived for ten years might technically be my hometown, but I hated it. There’s no way I’d consider returning. My immediate family is now spread out across two (soon to be three) states, so the idea of “staying close to family” doesn’t apply.
After a lot of discussion with my boyfriend, it’s come down to two different paths: living somewhere Cheap But Not That Cool (CBNTC) or somewhere Expensive But Awesome (EBA). Both are great. That’s the problem.
So I started asking other people what they thought about the places they lived and the money they paid to live there. Here are some of the responses:
“I would love to live in numerous places but at the end of the day if I was stressing about making rent, I wouldn’t be at ease enough to enjoy the place.”
“I hate where I live, LOL. Always have…. They drain us so bad that is hard to save to get out!”
“I like big cities where you don’t need a car and there’s lots of culture and other creative people around. The downside is, you’re always dreaming (literally) of an extra bedroom or some private outdoor space.”
“I can’t imagine finding a more ideal location and personally I’m in love with the inside of my place, but the immediate area itself is just gross. If only I could move it a few miles south and to a second floor but the difference in that would be $500+.”
The Case for a Cheap But Not That Cool City
First of all, it’s 2017. You’re not at all doomed to be boring just because you don’t live in one of four or five coastal cities. Times have changed; you might not be able to build your dream career from anywhere, but you can build it from a lot of different places—and with a lot more space. As one interviewee explained:
“[After I moved to a CBNTC city] I have three times the space for the same price. Instead of living in a converted home I’m in a luxury building with all the extras. In my 20s this didn’t mean shit, but now as I begin to gracefully age, the amenities are LIFE.”
A city that you can actually afford to live in—which is probably a CNBTC city—enables you to live out other financial fantasies. If I moved to one, I’d be able to kill off my debt much sooner and save money for travel, instead of getting my travel fix through work trips.
The Case for a Expensive But Awesome City
The biggest case cited for living somewhere EBA? Work. It’s so convenient to live close to where you work, or close enough to make real growth happen. It’s also amazing to be in the middle of something new, whether you’re looking at business or cultural changes. As one of my interview sources put it:
“The high cost of living forces me to think bigger for my business, there’s a ton to see, do, eat, and drink, phenomenal arts scene and almost every live band I wanna see comes through.”
Still, the overwhelming majority of the people who answered my call for discussion lived in CBNTCs. This suggests that maybe the people living in smaller cities or towns by choice are thinking more conscientiously about where their money is going and what purpose it’ll serve them in the long game.
But the EBAers were incredibly passionate about their cities. More than most of the CBNTCers. Maybe they weren’t thinking about money in the long term (or at least not talking about it). But they were happy with where they were in the moment. That’s enviable.
All I want is to love where I live as much as Leslie Knope loves Pawnee. Is that too much to ask?
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