I live in the ‘burbs. Not the trendy ‘burbs with Chipotles and Jamba Juices, but on the fringe of Atlanta, where the city meets real Georgia in a mess of demographics, politics, and package stores.
My husband and I are both native Californians and under 35; most of our neighbors have lived on our street since the 1960s. One has a six-foot-tall painting of Grant and Lee shaking hands at Appomattox in his garage, and carries a pistol. Another is named Butch.
Though my husband and I stick out, we find plenty to enjoy here. There’s lovely hiking nearby, lightning bugs, and genuine Southern charm. But that’s not why I live here. We live here because it’s cheap.
We have a plan for our lives — a plan to save as much money as possible, so we can become financially independent in the next ten years, and then do whatever we want with the rest of our lives. You could call us Mustachians or Early Retirement Extremists, but really we just like the idea of being able to decide how to spend our time without worrying about a paycheck.
When the opportunity came up three years ago to buy a foreclosure at an amazing price, bringing financial independence closer, we leapt. And we landed here.
Friends question why we live there, rather than somewhere cooler, nicer, more urban, and walkable. We could afford it. And, truthfully, I would love to have all those things.
I’ve sometimes felt that I’m missing out in the name of frugality, that we should go ahead and spend twice or three times as much for an apartment in-town rather than a house out here. Isn’t life for living, after all, not for overly-zealous budgeting? But, then I think about why we live our lives the way we do — so we can travel, spend more time with any future kids, devote ourselves to our passions, volunteer, or do any number of things that don’t involve going to work. And I remember that it’s worth it.
Over the years, I’ve found ways to cope and find some beauty in the un-cool corner of Atlanta, while staying on course for financial independence.
First, we picked somewhere outside the city — it isn’t so far away from work and friends that it’s cost and time-prohibitive to do anything fun. We carpool to work, which keeps costs down and makes commute time more enjoyable.
A yard means we have room for a vegetable garden (and the bouncy castle we rented for our “Hey, we got married!” party).
Guest rooms mean we’ve been able to have friends and family stay with us for extended periods of time.
We’ve also explored a different side of the city than we would’ve otherwise. There’s natural beauty — birds that chirp loudly in our trees as I drink my morning coffee (though I’m less crazy about the fire ants in the yard). We’ve discovered some amazing Southern and Ethiopian restaurants.
Even the neighbors have taught me some things about lawn care, and how people very different than me see the world.
Living here isn’t for everyone, and I’m not sure how long we’ll stay. But I’m glad we jumped into something that was right for us, even when others said it was a mistake.