a few years ago, we decided to move from a very large and very expensive city to a much smaller place where we could also afford to buy a house. but here’s the thing: the place where we moved is still expensive by any measure, even if it’s cheaper than the place we left. and all of the things that make it expensive are the things we love about it: amazing recreational opportunities, beauty everywhere you look, great cultural activities for a small town, proximity to agriculture and great food, and proximity to big cities.
housing aside, since we’ll have the house paid off before we quit our jobs, our cost of living here is definitely higher than it would be if we moved to any number of low cost-of-living places around the u.s. we frequently see articles about great places to retire based on cost of living, and we think to ourselves, “wow, if we sold our house and moved to one of those places, we could possibly even retire now.” we have a good chunk of home equity, especially since the housing market has rebounded, and we in fact could retire today if we moved somewhere where a home would run $150,000 or less.
we think about it. we discuss it. we think some more, and discuss some more. but ultimately, we decide again and again to stay put. where we live, and the quality of life there, is super important to us. perhaps more important than anything else. we think about what we value — good weather, mountains, socially aware people, availability of fresh and healthy food, a sane pace of life — and we think it’s hard to match that in most places. add to that a few things we are not fans of — humidity, mosquitoes, narrowmindedness, isolation from big cities — and our options get fewer still. not to say that we’ll never move, but if we do, it will almost certainly be somewhere else in the west. and we don’t plan for it to be anytime soon, if ever.
of course, knowing that we’re choosing to live in a high cost of living area puts more pressure on us financially. but in most respects, it’s the same as anything else we’d plan for. we track our grocery spending (groceries are especially expensive here), and we know that we’ll likely spend $600-800 on groceries each month when we retire. we know that number is probably downright scandalous to lots of finance bloggers, but you might say that’s the cost of doing business here. and organic is important to us. so we’ve baked those numbers into our planning budget, and we’ll save up accordingly. likewise, utilities are a rip-off here. we do a lot to conserve both energy and money, but we just know that gas and water will always be pricey here because it’s a rural area (and because water should be expensive in the west — it’s an increasingly rare commodity, and we all need to pay something closer to its real value if we’re going to stop wasting it). so we plan for those too.
let’s just pretend for a moment that we were willing to move somewhere cheaper to save money. what would we spend then? we actually think we’d spend more, because we’d constantly be traveling to our beloved mountains, like we used to before we moved closer to them. better, we think, to cut out all that unnecessary travel, and put ourselves in a position to enjoy the mountains every day for free.
you could call living where we do a splurge (lord knows we’re guilty of spending on splurges), but we don’t even see it that way. we see it as a choice, like any other, about how we want to live now and in retirement, and prioritizing what’s important to us. aligning our spending with our values. choosing experiences (in this case, the ones that came with this particular place) over stuff (in this case being able to have a bigger house somewhere else or being able to take money out by moving somewhere cheaper).
what’s more important to you — retiring somewhere affordable or somewhere you think is worth the extra money? what do you plan to splurge on when you reach financial independence?