When is saving money more important than living in a great place?

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By: Aaron PareckiCC BY 2.0

I live in the wonderfully offbeat city of Portland, right in the thick of things. I love where I live, like LOVE LOVE where I live. I can walk anywhere I could possibly need or want, and our apartment is adorably vintage. My husband quite possibly loves it even more than I do.Problem is, I’m about to have to take a major pay-cut to intern for grad school. We’ll be losing a big chunk of income that, up until now, we’ve been putting towards paying off my husband’s student loans. We’ll still make ends meet, we just won’t really be able to save much.

It seems more financially responsible to move, but it’s good for our souls to live here.

All that to say, when is saving more important than living in a great place? -BigCityStudent

This is a struggle with which I am very familiar. I’m a born-and-raised Los Angeleno, and boy do I pay out the nose for it! But since I want to live near all my best friends, that guy I married works in “the industry,” and I’m just generally happy in my hometown, we “get by” instead of “thrive.”

Is it worth it? My answer: sometimes yes, sometimes no.

It’s worth it when I get to go on an evening hike with my best friends on a moment’s notice, and watch the sunset over the twinkling lights of a big city. It’s not worth it when I realize that I’ll never be able to afford a home anywhere in that big twinkling city. It’s worth it when I can take a relaxing beach day in January. It’s not worth it when it takes me almost two hours to drive the 10 miles back home.

I look at expensive city living like a lifestyle tax. As long as I’m not going broke, and it’s not having a negative impact on my family, then continually “getting by” is the price I’m willing to pay… for now.

What about you guys? How do you balance the idea of saving money with the desire to live in an expensive city?

Comments on When is saving money more important than living in a great place?

  1. I agree — having moved from a city I love (Richmond, VA) to a more rural city a few hours away in which my job is great but I am *miserable*, if you think where you are is good for your soul, do your soul a solid and stay. I’ve found I’m a person who gets tied to the concept of place, and belonging, and I really value living in a city where I feel like everybody is *invested* in its awesomeness. I don’t have that anymore, and I feel…bereft.

    The cost of living here is great, but….the unintended consequence of moving here became that my over-educated husband has had a *time* finding even a grocery store job. Where in our old city, having higher degrees didn’t make you unusual and a flight risk because EVERYBODY had them and was taking what they could get, here….it’s a red flag that you won’t fit in, that you’re a flight risk, and you get passed by. So while the cost of living is better….we make less now than we did then, even though the job we moved for (mine) pays more than my old one. Head, meet desk.

    So….if you’re happy, be happy getting by rather than thriving someplace where your soul might suffer.

  2. Okay, so you can afford to keep living where you’re living. You won’t go into debt. You’ll be able to keep paying off debt. You just won’t be able to save.

    Then think about what you want to save FOR. Are you trying to save up for a major trip? Having kids/adopting? Retirement? Financial security?

    Only you can decide if what you’re saving for is worth what you’re giving up, but really focusing on the things you want in the future can help you decide what to do in the present. If your goal of adopting four Haitian orphans is more important to you than where you live, move and save. If you’re just saving because it’s what you should do, then weigh that against your happiness.

    I would always, always encourage people to save, but you have to balance your life. Living for the future isn’t a great way to live all the time. And before you make any major changes, reevaluate your numbers. Is there anything you can do to boost your income or lower your expenses? Do you have a hobby you can sell on etsy for an additional hundred a month? Would walking dogs in the morning before you go to the internship be an option?

    On a personal experience note, I moved from a town I loved for a variety of reasons, including money. I can’t say I regret it completely, because I met my husband after I moved, but I literally tell him everyday that I miss that town. I would move back in a heartbeat.

  3. I’m torn on this. I’ve always been one who thought it was better to live frugally than live in an expensive city/part of town because what’s the point of living in that part of town if you can’t afford to do anything? But, having recently moved to the outskirts of my awesome city (Austin), I’m realizing what a huge benefit it was to live at least near the downtown area. My husband and I never lived downtown, but we always lived within a 10 or 15 minute drive of it, and now it’s 30 minutes minimum to get to the main parts of town (a.k.a. where all my friends live) and during rush hour, it’s an hour and a half, so basically, we can only hang out with people on the weekends. For us, we have a kid, so part of the move was to be in a better school district, but it was also so that we could afford a bigger house. At this point though, I would love to downsize just a bit, get a little closer to town, and pay a little bit more in order to not be so isolated from the people I want to hang out with.
    So basically, my advice is see if there’s a compromise. I know here there are some great little neighborhoods that are close to things, but not quite in the thick of it, but they have their own personalities and tend to be just a bit cheaper.

  4. My knee jerk reaction lately is to lean more on the side of savings, but then again I just got laid off. I suppose it depends on just how much you are missing out on and what the long term cost of moving might be.

    How long is this pay cut going to last? If it’s just a year or so, I might stick it out. You have a great place now, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get back to it or a similar place once your income is back up. At the same time, if the pay cut is going to last longer and you’ll be loosing out on more money it might be wiser to put yourself in a position to save. Also, don’t underestimate your (potential) new surroundings. You can make the most of any area. Even if it isn’t as hip as where you live now, there might be some hidden gems you could find there.

    • This, this, this. If I’m reading this correctly, this specific question is about moving to a different neighborhood in the same city/area. So, if the pay cut is short-term, and you’ll be able to make ends meet, stay. You love your apartment, and moving back might not be simple/possible. There are also costs to moving, even in the same city (actual moving costs, first/last/security deposit to a new apartment?) that might not make it worthwhile if you thought you’d want to move again in another year or two.

      But, if the pay-cut isn’t short-term, or you have concerns about getting the next job, or wouldn’t be able to make ends meet, or have plans for your savings that you value more than where you live, then I would look into moving.

  5. This is a great question. I don’t know that I have a good answer. My husband and I just bought a house in the city we both grew up in/near. We are not by any means miserable, but we feel there are other places we would maybe fit in better, or find more people who we have things in common with.

    HOWEVER–the cost of living here in Southwest MO is excellent…we have both been at our jobs long enough that we make decent money and have plenty of vacation time. That allows us to have extra money and time off to take trips that let us enjoy the things we can’t get here. We have a plan (not on paper) to do some work to our nearly 100-year-old house and save up some money and look at moving in the next 5 or so years. Sometimes we’re like, “it’s not so bad here…” and others we’re like, “Ugh! I need to be somewhere with a music scene/more open minded people/whatever!”

    So, I guess the thing you have to think about…could you sacrifice now to have more later? I don’t know everything about your situation, but maybe the decision could be made by thinking about where you want to be in a few years.

    That being said, there are few things worse than living somewhere you’re miserable.

    BUT–if you need to save for a future goal or something, then maybe that can be the light at the end of the tunnel if you end up having to move to a less-than-desirable place.

  6. Based on my experiences I’d say that even if you think you might be homesick, go.

    When I was 22 I left DC to live in a small town in the Midwest. It kind of blew -everyone’s- mind for some reason. But, I wanted a change, to attend a state university (not art college) with an illustration program, and save money while doing so. In the long run I was miserable and constantly heartsick for DC. However! I met lifelong friends with values and perspectives that even multi-cultural DC rarely demonstrates. Folks who grew up with a slower pace of life and demonstrated more interest in communities than I ever been exposed to. My heartache launched some of the best art of my life. I saved a lot of money and began to understand the differences in economy throughout our nation. Hunting down venues and activities in a small town that was decidely “onbeat” opened my eyes to what I might have missed at home.

    For you it seems there’s several reasons to stay, and several to move. I don’t know if going beyond comfort zones or trying new things is something you’re looking for. If it is, then take this chance! It can be just as fulfilling as your current situation. I left looking for personal growth through change of environment and I reminded myself to learn from every moment I found myself wishing for DC. It also helped me to return to my city with a fresher look and greater appreciation.

  7. This is exactly the question my husband and I are balancing right now, just in the “other Portland!” We’re erring on the side of saving, but being as close to the city as possible. We’ve set up parameters of how far outside of town we’re willing to live, and if we can’t find a place (we’re looking at buying) that we can truly afford, that we love, and is within those parameters, we’re just going to keep renting in or near the city. It’s all about what threshold of risk you are comfortable living with. Our bottom line is that our savings account needs to be fed each month. We’ve had too many layoffs/financial hiccups in the past 5 years to risk living in a place that costs as much as we earn. Good luck! πŸ™‚

    • I’m actually considering moving to Portland and am slightly nervous about the cost of living. Dare I ask, what -is- the “other Portland?” It has a bit of a magical ring to it!

      • The Other Portland is what we Maine-ahs jokingly call Portland, Maine πŸ™‚ Portland, ME is quirky and small, but lively, full of art and theater, tons of great spots to eat, and expensive as hell to live in πŸ™‚

        • Exactly! My new husband was laid off the moment he walked in the door after we returned from our honeymoon, back in October 2013. Save for some freelance gigs here and there and a healthy bout with temp agencies where the jobs are great but only for a limited duration, we are still struggling to find him work in Portland.

          Thank god we found a place to rent with a reasonable budget last year, which is another entire battle in Portland. For renters, the percentage of available housing is incredibly small. The market is very tight.

          I’ll just leave this here in case anyone wants more info: (http://www.portlandoregon.gov/phb/article/467603)
          Our partners at Multifamily Northwest presented the Apartment Report yesterday, a bi-annual publication that includes rent and vacancy data collected from the Portland metro area and throughout the state. Data and market perspectives are garnered from appraisers, lenders, brokers, economists and developers specializing in the multifamily industry.

          According to the survey, apartment vacancy is down in the last six months, from 3.55 percent in April to 3.11 percent today.

          Meanwhile, rents are continuing to climb in this landlord’s market. Market rate rents have increased on an average of 6.8 percent in Portland since April. Rents in older buildings have risen closer to 4 or 5 percent. This presents heightened challenges for those living in poverty who are already struggling to afford a home.

          Although we love it here in Portland, these two issues are challenging barriers for us. I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually try living in a larger city like Seattle.

          • As a native Portlander who moved away (grad school) moved back, had a job and was *still* forced to live in her parents’ house because of housing shortages/rent costs, I can’t second this enough. I’m moving up to Seattle this week with the promises of a short-term union job, and although it may be slightly more $$! I can at least FIND things that look liveable, unlike here.

          • Without going into details, I recommend staying away from any listings with the final four digits of the phone number as 6911. (In seattle that is.)

  8. As someone who’s recently moved nine (9!!!) hours away from city life to a country town in order to save money, “sometimes yes, sometimes no” is EXACTLY the saying. It’s not worth it AT ALL when I’m having a low week and just want to go dancing with my girlfriends and blow off a whole lot of steam. But it’s completely worth it when I take note of how much debt I had when I first moved here, and can see exactly how much I’ve paid off. It also helps me see “you know what. I’ve paid $2,500 off my credit card I wouldn’t have otherwise. Fuck it. I’m spending $500 and driving to see my friends to blow off steam” is actually not a waste of money.

    • I’ve been from a tiny town all my life and I have to admit, I feel like living in a small place makes you keep partying a an arm’s length. You can’t party too often, but when you do, it’s fucking awesome cause you’ve been saving up all your money and stress for it.

  9. As a lifelong PDX resident, I hear ya! Living downtown is incredible. But spendy :S Can you make the commute from Vancouver? Houses and apartments are way cheaper there than downtown, but you can still have a bit of a downtown feel (as opposed to, say, moving out to Gladstone or something)

    Downtown is great but there’s lots to love in the surrounding areas.

    • I lived in Gladstone for five years. Housing was way cheaper than being further in. But the commute sucked and you couldn’t get anywhere without a vehicle. I always wanted to live close in SE.

  10. Stay. Grad school isn’t forever and I have come to believe that when where you are makes you happy, it forms a solid base that supports you and creates a domino effect that helps you succeed outside of “home.” I’ve been considering looking for a new place lately, but I can see that giving up the house that I’m head over heels in love with (for all the reasons you mentioned), would make me sad, and being sad impacts all areas of my life. I’d move if I could no longer make ends meet, but right now, I consider this house integral to my future success. πŸ™‚

  11. One thing to keep in mind is the full cost of living, not just the cost of housing. What would your commute cost now vs. living elsewhere? Can you get by without a car living in the city, but would need one if you moved out? How much further would you have to go to buy groceries / go to cultural events / see friends, and what would the transportation cost of that be? Are you saving money on groceries because there are lots of options of where to buy them when you’re in the city? While other factors may not fully balance out the cost of housing, they’re definitely something to keep in the equation.

    Personally, I would lean towards staying where you’re happy and finding other ways to save money β€” but I’m fairly tied to place, and I really like my car-free lifestyle, which just wouldn’t be sustainable outside of the city. What ways, other than moving out of the city, could you save some money? What ways could you earn some?

    Currently, my husband (grad student) and I (part-time undergrad, starting out as a freelance graphic designer) don’t have a car, eat out only occasionally (the rest of the time we cook from scratch β€” dried beans are cheap, y’all), and live in a house with another couple who are really good friends of ours. These choices allow us to be living in a beautiful house which is ever so much nicer than the apartment we used to have, walking distance from the city core, in a small city we love to live in. My lifestyle (biking everywhere, eating amazing home-cooked food, living in community, living in a beautiful space) is great for my mental and physical health. I couldn’t see moving out of the city and letting that go. Your equation will be different, but having a lifestyle you love can make a big difference to your mental health, and it’s hard to put a price on that.

    • I totally agree with this! Ugh, if I had to move somewhere where I needed a car to get around, it would not be good. I avoid driving when I can due to some issues with eyesight, so I would quickly get pretty isolated and probably depressed. Not to mention the cost of the car, gas, maintenance, and insurance, and having to exercise extra to compensate for not biking/walking everywhere.

      Yesterday I was in a big funk from some stuff at work, which magically lifted when I biked home and it was actually light out! I had forgotten how much I missed it, and I wouldn’t have gotten that mood boost if I were stuck in a car or the weather hadn’t happened to be so lovely (thanks, California…even if it’s impossible to find reasonable rent). I know you wrote all about biking in crazy weather, but I still love the feeling that I’m getting away with something living in a place that doesn’t get “real” winter.

    • It is extremely common where I live for it to be more expensive to commute from the cheaper housing (by car or bus) than by living in a slightly more expensive apartment near things.

      In my own experience, my husband and I have just downsized to one car, since our daily commute to work is only 3 miles from each other. We save money on car insurance, gas and other car maintenance. We also really cherish our commuting time together. It’s so much nicer to drive with someone you love, and see them off to work every day. Being on the same schedule is also pretty awesome for going out and doing stuff together later.

    • I was going to say exactly this. I live in Portland, so this is my experience here specifically. Moving into the suburbs almost always means spending more on gas, and frequently means needing two cars for two people. Grocery stores are further apart and may have fewer healthy options. Combined with less opportunity to walk and bike, that can easily lead to more health care costs. There are fewer free entertainment options, so rather than sitting in a coffeeshop and people watching, or a $5 music show, or the neighborhood park, you could easily end up spending more on movies, dinners out, pizza delivery because there’s no good neighborhood restaurant, etc. Inner Portland has a LOT of financial benefits that simply aren’t available further out.

      tl;dr Really sit down and look at exactly what you’d be spending more on if you moved somewhere with lower rent before you decide it’d be the more fiscally responsible option. πŸ™‚

  12. I live in Maryland. Believe it or not for people not familer with the DC region, alot of people will commute 2 hrs one way to work in DC, even as far away as West Va. and southern PA or the eastern shore of Maryland (and even DE) or rent rooms in people’s basement or when their kids move out and go home on the weekends to work in DC to “save money” over buying a $400,000 house when 2 hrs away you can get a similar size house 2 hrs away for $200,000/$250,000. Granted you are putting more wear on your car and life outside of work doing the commute, but people do it in DC/Baltimore area as well I am sure NYC, Chicago, and other large expensive U.S cities, maybe not the to extreme as the DC area, people it happens. But for some people it is worth upkeeping a car or replacing it every 2/3 years or renting a room during the week and the whole “Sleep, wake up, commute, work, commute, eat, sleep, repeat” 5 days a week for 30 years then buy a $400,000 20 mins from DC and have nothing else to show for it other than a large mortgage if that makes sense.

    • I live in Maryland too, but grew up in Michigan. I moved here for a job with twice the salary I was making in Michigan… but I’m finding that the cost of living is so high that I am still barely making it! My husband and I rent a one bedroom apartment for twice the amount that we used to pay for an entire house/yard/garage in a nice neighborhood back home πŸ™ The commute is killer, we’re so tired from sitting in rush-hour traffic that we never go anywhere and thus haven’t made any friends. We like living near the ocean and the mountains, and we go hiking at the regional parks on some weekends. That’s not enough to keep us here though, I think we’re going to have to move back to the Great Lakes. Enough with suburban life!

  13. This is such a good question. I would say STAY. Since you’ll be able to afford the basics (rent, food, transportation, etc.), even with minimal savings, its worth it. However, I would think about ways you can cut your expenses, to boost your savings. Maybe you can become an extreme couponer to save money on groceries! Or maybe you can save some gas by biking/walking to work. Maybe you already do all these things, but I’m sure there are small ways you can change your lifestyle so you can save a bit more money each month.

    For me and the boyfriend, we’re seriously considering a more expensive place to move to. Its closer to work and school, which means I can bike to work (at least from March to November!). The money I will save in gas is huge! So the money I’ll save in gas almost makes up for the increased rent. AND this new place has a kitchen with more than 2 square feet of counter space (silly, but this is a huge driving point for me).

    Working out your wallet in a new way isn’t always a bad thing πŸ™‚

  14. I have to say, I had the opposite problem. A few years ago I was still living in Chicago, made a better-than-decent living, and had a gorgeous apartment with a fun roommate, but I still never felt “home.” I quit my job and moved back to the amazing little city in Iowa where I went to college — I have never regretted it for a second. I am pretty close to broke, but I think making lifestyle adjustments in order to live where you can be happy and healthy is pretty priceless.

    • Me too. I lived in a big city for about 4 years, and I don’t think I slept well the entire time I was there. After growing up in the country, my baseline for quiet and peacefulness is different than other people’s I think. I loved being close to things like art museums and neat restaurants, but I was tired of being on the verge of broke from the high cost of living.
      I’m in a much smaller city now, sort of in a suburban-like area but still technically in the city proper. I am no longer afraid to ride my bike. The cost of living is much lower, and we’ve been able to build up a significant amount of savings (at least for being in grad school). It’s nice to have the financial safety net for peace of mind. And I can sleep at night and have a dog.

  15. You really need to ask yourself some hard questions, questions other commenters have already touched on. What are you saving FOR? Are you planning on needing money for something big soon, or is it the hypothetical “saving for the future”? You and your husband have to figure that out before you can make any other decision about your living situation.

    I can say that, for 12 years, I lived in the coolest, funnest city in my state. My friends were there, there was a thriving art scene, always something to do, and my apartment was literally a five minute walk from one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the country. But as I got older, it started to not be worth it. I was working two jobs plus picking up gigs on the side just to be able to barely afford living in a space with roommates. The things that I wanted to do (own a business, own a home) I was never going to be able to do there, barring winning the lottery. So I moved, to a MUCH LESS awesome city. I mean, less awesome enough that I actually cried the whole drive here. But I’ve been living here for 10 years now and I OWN a home…as in, that fucker is paid for. I run a business of my own, and I can pay my bills doing that without working for someone else. The trade off (not having something cool to do on Friday nights, an art community that is pretty much stuck with watercolor studies of magnolia blossoms and ‘Murican flag holding eagles) is worth it FOR ME.

    You have to decide if it’s worth it for you. If your apartment and your current living arrangements are good for your soul, IMO that’s worth more than money. For god sakes, don’t plan your life based on the convenience of a creditor. You make less money, you can get a lower loan payment or even a deferment. Unless paying off that student loan is a big component of a five year plan that also involves living the life YOU want, don’t make it a higher priority than your own emotional well being.

  16. I am usually a big opponent of living somewhere if it means being stuck ing a miserable (for me) cycle of never having enough. I have lived in first world poverty for most of my life. It really negatively impacts me. I can’t sleep, I eat poorly, I get sick, I miss work, I get poorer, I can’t sleep…it’s a nasty cycle of being broke. I grew up in a crazy cheap little college town. After bouncing around big cities and being miserable (and too poor to partake in the “culture” I thought I wanted), I moved back to my hometown and I have never been happier. My money goes twice as far, and if there’s some crazy thing I want to partake in, in a big city, I can actually afford to go to there and do the thing.
    HOWEVER-this situation, for me, requires some sucking it up. It is temporary, it has a definitive end date AND you can still make ends meet. I would stay. You’d likely spend a bunch of money on moving that wouldn’t make it quite as cost effective as it seems to move. Especially just to pay off student loans. They’ll always be there….I would stay, but only since it’s temporary.

    • Not to derail the comment thread, but may I request you (or others in similar shoes) write a submission on living in First World Poverty? It seems to be something we, as a culture, tend to forget, ignore, or just plain be oblivious to.

      • Or get told that it’s not that bad because at least we live in America. I’m sure it’s very comforting when one is hungry and cold to think about how great it is that our government pays to pave our streets.

  17. Do you have to live downtown? I’m assuming that’s what you mean by the “thick of things.” My favorite thing about Portland (that’s where I live, too) is that each neighborhood has TONS to offer. We considered moving downtown when we first got here because it seemed like it made sense — we wanted to be able to walk, bike, and take public transit easily and quickly to everything we want to do — but ended up in inner SE and LOVE it. Rent isn’t as expensive as it is in the middle of downtown, and we’re surrounded by amazing places to eat, visit, and hang out. Downtown is a 10-15 minute bus ride (even in heavy traffic it’s still not too long), and the MAX is 10 minute bus ride away. We can bike anywhere we want to go in 10-30 minutes — with our kid in tow. I’m not sure if you’ve considered staying IN Portland proper but not just downtown to save a little cash, but it’s been incredible for us.

    Another thing that’s helped is not having unrealistic goals for how much we save. We’re dedicated renters (we’re not into the idea of owning a home), so we’re not saving for a bigger place. Instead, we just put 10% of what we make, whenever one of us gets paid, into our savings account. Sometimes that’s seriously like.. $30. Sometimes it’s a couple of hundred dollars. It adds up, and it’s there when we need to get a new bike, buy a month’s bus pass, or want to go out of town. Up until January it was also handy if we had a medical emergency, but we have insurance that’s pretty great now so that’s not something we have to always worry about.

    Anyway! I just wanted to toss that out there. I love living in Portland and definitely advocate that you STAY, especially if being able to walk to places is important to you. I can’t imagine leaving my area and moving to one of the suburbs just to save money at this point in my life — we’re having way too much of a great time right where we are. I’m also not a big fan of driving unless it’s a multi-day road trip, so I love that we can just drop what we’re doing, hop on a bus, and be at the Art Museum or somewhere like in a few minutes.

    Like Megan said, I think as long as you’re happy and you love where you are, it’s worth staying. If you’re able to feed yourselves and enjoy your city (and what’s great about Portland is there’s so much to do that’s free or super inexpensive AND amazing), stay.

    Good luck!

    • I agree with Stephanie! We were renting in SE Portland too and wanted to go in on buying a duplex with my sister and her fiance. We looked everywhere and it really seemed like to be able to afford anything that we liked we were going to have to move out of Portland. That thought made me really depressed. My husband and I decided that we wouldn’t comprise the location just to save money because we loved Portland too much to move away. In the end we did some research and found a totally affordable neighborhood in the North (St. Johns) and found an awesome duplex we all loved. We’re close to downtown still and into the city pretty often, but we’re discovered that our little neighborhood is amazing! It’s like a little town within a bigger city. If you think a little outside the box you can still stay close to where you want to be without having to move into the burbs. St. Johns used to have a bad reputation so people are hesitant to move up here, but it’s really improved and is still affordable. We were so focused on staying in the SE that we almost missed this little gem up here!

  18. I spent most of my adult life in places where the cost of living is relatively high. When I first started looking at apartments in my current location, there was a sort of “oh my god, so cheap!” reaction that made it feel fun and exciting to move somewhere where rent is cheaper. But that didn’t last long.

    I moved for a job, which is no longer as lucrative as it was. In any case, my boyfriend is miserable here because it’s so boring, and I’m pretty bored too (I just have less time to be bored with). We take vacations to get away to cities because the restaurants and cultural options where we live are pretty unexciting. So, if you are like us and will dislike living somewhere less vibrant so much that you end up spending money to “escape,” then it might not be worth it to move! But it all depends on your personalities.

    I am also a big fan of the living-just-outside-the-city option. Or living in a slightly less “good” neighborhood. I lived relatively inexpensively in Jersey City for a few years – I had way more room than I ever would have had in Manhattan, at a better price, and I still had quick and easy access to anything I’d want to do in NY (and I avoided the higher NY taxes, so take that Brooklyn πŸ˜‰ )

    • I feel you. My husband has some serious wanderlust. That, combined with the horrible Midwestern Arctic Vortex we’ve been struggling with, and he’s got the mindset of going “anywhere but here” because he feels so stuck and miserable.
      But I’m worried that he’s going to want to make a drastic move, far away from our families or anything we know, and then we’ll be stuck someplace considerably more expensive, and then struggle to make a whole new life. Oy. I foresee some serious negotiations ahead now that he’s looking for permanent work after grad school.

  19. So, some questions.
    How much are you saving? What are you saving for? How important is that goal? Will there be any debt from grad school? Will book and materials be covered? What if your computer goes kaflooey? What if one of you breaks a leg? What if your car decided to fuse its engine block? Will you have enough for emergencies without taking too big of a hit in your servings?

    What are the hidden costs of the move? How will this change commuting with its associated time (not just that it takes longer, but how much do you like/ loathe the time spent driving) and gas money? How deep do your community roots go in the neighborhood you’re in? How much upheaval and stress is a move going to be as your getting ready to start your grad degree? Are there things you will love about your new area? Will it matter that you are in Portland if you are up to your eyeballs in studying? Will you have time to do the things to save money (home cook dinners, commute by bike, clip and organize coupons, etc)?

    Especially look at the (by no means exhaustive) list of non-monetary/ lifestyle questions. Those are some very important but intangible and subjective things that frankly, only you are in a place to answer. But they could vastly shift the equation. Responsibility is not always about dollars, sometimes it’s about sense.

    • Excellent point about non-monetary costs! A lot of money-saving strategies trade time for money, and free time was not something I had in abundance during grad school.

      The tradeoff I ended up making was squeezing into a teeny-tiny apartment with a shitty landlady with my boyfriend and his roommate, biking about 20 minutes to campus (actually fun most of the time) and working my butt off as a TA. It was fine to do for that year, but would not have been tolerable long-term. Although the rent was incredibly cheap!

  20. Suze Orman a few years back had a question like this from a recently-graduated student who was living in a more upscale section of Boston. The student wasn’t really able to save, but she loved her neighborhood, could make ends meet and was near her friends.

    She suggested that she stay in the city because, while everything else was in line, the savings component can be temporarily deferred. She recommended, if possible, to set aside a rainy day fund to get through a couple months (which she suggests to everyone) in case the worst happens, but that, overall, the happiness in her situation was more important — quality over richness (in a sense).

    You’re in a little different of a situation, but I think the advice would still apply. Since you don’t mention what you would be saving *for* in your letter, I can’t say whether or not it could trump the quality of life you have. But, in the evaluation of that, I think taking into consideration what it is you want to save for and if it’d be ok for you to defer that life event until the other side of graduate school will give you more insight, I think.

    Good luck, at any rate. It’s a tough decision.

  21. I live in Portland & moved from 20th & Hawthorne in the SE (the OP will know what I’m talking about) to a quieter, cheaper neighborhood in the NE 60’s when money became an issue.
    When I lived in the SE I walked to all my favorite bars and restaurants, there was a pet store nearby and beautiful areas to walk my dog. I thought I would lose a lot of that convenience when I moved to the NE.
    While the neighborhood looks more residential it still has all the charms of Portland, parks and coffee shops, two grocery stores I can walk to, a dog park, several bars & restaurants in the neighborhood for 2/3 of what I paid before for THREE TIMES THE SPACE. And Portland has amazing public transportation, my old neighborhood is a 20 minute bus ride away, no problems there.
    Give it a shot! You can definitely find happiness in a less trendy neighborhood & extra cash in your pocket.

  22. My husband and I have had this debate before, looking at houses. Like Megan, we’re in Los Angeles… and we can either rent in our awesome neighborhood forever or move to a less awesome place outside the city and buy a house. So far, we can’t justify leaving our awesome neighborhood. I think I would be too bummed out. Of course, LA is way bigger than Portland… so you can probably still be reasonably close to the parts of the city you love even if you move. πŸ™‚

    I tend to lean toward “happy” over “responsible,” as long as the thing that makes you happy isn’t actually HURTING you in the long run. As long as you can afford to stay there, (i.e., you won’t be piling up credit card debt to do it), and it’s not destroying some other long-term dream, then stay. It sounds like the pay cut is only going to be temporary, right? An internship doesn’t last forever. In a year or two, you’ll most likely have a higher salary again and can go back to throwing money at your student loans and saving.

    But definitely investigate your options. Maybe there’s a cheaper area that it will actually turn out you LOVE. You never know! Investigate thoroughly before you make any major decisions, then do the thing that you think will make you happiest in the long run. Moving somewhere you hate to save money probably isn’t worth it, but moving somewhere that’s very slightly less convenient to save money might be.

  23. I have to agree with everyone who has suggested you think about the things that are the most important to you and what you can stand to change or go without when deciding if you should move away. I would love to live in a bigger, more culturally diverse city (the closest one to me is ‘other Portland’!) but between the job market being what it is and the typically expensive rent of bigger cities, I’m sitting tight where I am. But, the thing I’ve decided is most important to me right now money-wise is to be able to pay off things and have a safety net. By living in a cheap apartment in a smaller city and commuting a little longer to work, I have been able to pay off my car, a student loan and all of my credit cards. To not have that debt hanging over my head means I can eventually get out to bigger cities and (hopefully) live in a nicer place. But if grad school is only going to last a couple of years and your current place makes you super happy, I’d say stay put and see where else you can save money or cut costs.

  24. In your case, I wouldn’t move. Moving costs money, and having just lived in Portland for two years, the rent isn’t cheaper enough elsewhere (plus adding extra transportation costs) to bother with it long enough for grad school. Plus, at a stressful time of life like grad school, having things close-by so you can get to them quickly (which means errands take less time away from homework) and living someplace you LOVE (which reduces stress in general) is really pretty important.

    My partner and I just got a place at the top of our housing budget because it’s just what we need right now. Management staff, maintenance staff, a management company which understands how to deal with things like service animals and disability accommodations, package handling, and an assigned parking spot. I walk a little further than I’d like because my parking spot isn’t right outside my door anymore, BUT having checked out the street parking at night it’s a better option. If I want the complex manager to open my door and bring my package to me on the couch, they will do that (they offered!!!). And, it’s a 2 mile walk to my partner’s work which means saving on transportation. There are some other nice amenities too like a hot tub and gym on site that are not really factors I will pay extra for, but all other things being equal are pretty nice to have. Right now, this is just what we need, even if it means postponing our wedding another 6 months.

  25. I have some very strong feelings re: “Location, Location, Location,” so I thought I’d share my experience. I bought a very beautiful, inexpensive house 40 minutes away from all of my friends and family and I’ve never hated anything more.

    Our house had limited-to-no access to freeways and as a result my boyfriend and I were extrememly isolated. We rarely went out to see friends and they rarely came to visit us due to the hour and a half of travel time. My relationships with friends, family, and most of all my boyfriend deteriorated and the both of us struggled through an intense period of depression. Although the house was so much nicer than anything I could have bought in the city we lived in prior to moving it became a physical representation of our unhappiness. Living in the new city made us miserable and as a result we were miserable to each other.

    I sold the house after living there only a year and a half and as a result I am much happier. I’m not sure I can describe the feelings of freedom and elation I had on the day that house passed to the new owner.

    • This is my fear. Those who know of my extreme home-buying lust often suggest buying a place outside of the city. While I would love a place of my own, living that far from LA would mean giving up all my friends. There’s NO WAY anyone would drive to visit us. So… I appreciated hearing this. It makes me feel better about not giving in and moving away.

      • Home owning isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, either. Yes, you get a LOT of say and choice, but there is also a lot of cost implicated in it too. Out of curiosity, I put in the numbers for our house in Portland- my husband bought our home for $81,000 in 1996, and I guessed it’s worth $205,000 now (maybe a bit more). That is the equivalent of a 5.4% average return – which is actually FAR below the % return he has had on his retirement IRAs in the same amount of time, and doesn’t count 1. the interest we’ve paid on the home loan or 2. the additional $$ we’ve spent on repair, maintenance and improvements. If we had each started saving $225 a month and kept renting at the time he bought a house, and each made an average of 8% a year on it (pretty conservative over that time period actually) we would have saved $205,000 and been able to buy the house outright last summer. Kind of crazy how that math works…

        • Totally! And people tell me that all the time. The only problem is that to rent what I want — 2 bedroom, detached home, with a yard, in a decent neighborhood — would be MORE than a mortgage payment if I purchased something like that. And all that money going to some stranger!? Eff that noise. Hence, paying for my own hom is the only way I can stand to pay $2k+ a month on a property. Unless… I move WAY out to the boonies, and then it’s not even worth living in Cali. GrumblegrumbleLosAngelesblahblah. πŸ˜‰

        • Not to mention what happens if you live in a deed-restricted community or a historic home or a place where laws can dictate what you do. People often think that owning means you can do whatever you want, but that’s just not true. Even if you CAN do whatever you want, some places come with a lot of peer pressure from neighbors.

        • The hubs and I just had this realization about home-owning as well. We recently moved from Kentucky (we’ve both lived in either the Midwest or the South our entire lives) to downtown Seattle. Before we left Kentucky, we envisioned moving from our 1,000 sq. ft. townhouse that we were renting to an actual house. Now we live in a 300 sq. ft. studio and I have no idea when we will actually own a house. The thing is, it IS actually affordable to live in a city, downtown, even. You just have to know what to expect, and budget for it. We’re in the same boat with you- we love love LOVE living in the city and we never want to leave. We just rearranged our priorities when we moved here a little bit, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

      • Yup! Fellow LA-er here and this is so true. I don’t want to own a house badly enough that I would move away from my friends and all the things we love to do in the city. We still wander around the totally fabulous neighborhood where we rent and wish we could win the Lotto so that we could afford one of the $1 million + houses around us, but ultimately I’d rather keep renting and be in a place I love than buy a house and feel isolated and miserable.

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