Country or City—Which is the More Frugal Choice?


It costs money to live no matter what, but there are differences in the expenses you will face based on whether you are a country dweller or a city dweller. There are several major needs that will be affected by your choice. Most cost of living indexes claim that the cost of living is higher in urban areas, but this may not be entirely true. These measures always assume that you own a private car that must be parked. But, if you live in a city worthy of the name, you can get around on public transportation or by walking, eliminating the entire automobile expense in the process. You may need to purchase a muni or bus pass to get around, but the cost of a pass pales in comparison to the cost of owning a private car. In the country it is very hard to live without a car, though it can be done.

When it comes to housing, the rural dweller may be ahead of the game. If we leave the higher end of the real estate market out of the mix, and concentrate on share rentals, it is the state and region that influence housing costs the most. That being said, rural areas have a slight edge on really affordable share rentals.

Food is the next great expense. The normal measures of cost of living assume that the urban dweller will avail

Or Country?

themselves of the great variety of restaurants in their city. But, if you are a frugalista most of your meals will be cooked at home from foods obtained at the best price possible. A few years ago, I would have said that even cooking is more expensive in the city, but that has changed in the face of farmer’s markets and community gardens, which are ubiquitous now in big cities. That being said, the country is still the place to cut the expense of food to the bone if you have the skill and the will. Even urban chickens don’t quite even it out.

Clothes don’t actually cost more in the city, but your requirements for more expensive garb will increase in the competitive social and professional atmosphere of the city. Like it or not, humans are visually oriented creatures, and clothing is social shorthand. In the country, after you get some serviceable boots and sunglasses to protect your eyes you are home free.

Those are the three expenses most sensitive to geography. It depends, like most things, on what kind of a life you want to live. If you are willing to endure the inconvenience and loneliness of life on a farm without a car, and you maximize your savings by growing produce and keeping livestock, you can live in the most frugal way possible. But if that is not for you, you can still make it work. Just cultivate friends that belief in voluntary simplicity, keep those urban chickens, and if you must drive get a Zip car, which is a short term rental based on membership.

There is only one bad choice for frugality, and that is the sprawling suburb, the worst of both worlds.

Here are some links to help:

Want Free High-quality Eggs? Raise Your Own Chickens

Backyard Chicken

Eggs are one of the best sources of protein on the planet, but the good ones are expensive and the cheap ones are scary, especially in light of the recent recall. Fortunately there is a solution. Build a chicken coop and get a few laying hens. You will have all the eggs you need and maybe some to sell, trade, or give away. Home grown eggs are a great gift. And once the coop is built they are basically free. OK, you do need to feed them, but the cost is very minimal. They need a bit of chicken feed, but they also it bugs and leftover produce from the garden that is too far gone to be of interest to humans. They repay the garden with excellent fertilizer. The eggs produced at home by your own flock are of amazing quality and freshness. Once you have tasted one you will never want a store bought egg again. And the birds themselves provide great amusement.

You will need to figure out how many hens you need and build accordingly. Chicken housing has two parts, the coop, or shelter where the hens roost at night and lay the eggs (usually) and the run or yard where they forage and get exercise by day. Different breeds have slightly different space requirements. This article at has a useful table. You may also want to try a chicken tractor, or portable pen with no bottom that can be moved around the field. The entire chicken house must be built to keep predators out.

Once you have the chicken yard set up, it is time to decide on what breeds interest you the most. There are literally hundreds of types of chickens. By choosing a less common breed you will be helping to preserve biodiversity. White Leghorn chickens have created a dangerous monoculture. So get a different breed. The eggs that your flock produces may be brown, green, or even blue. To help decide go to and use the breed selection tool.

You must decide if you want a rooster or not. The bad thing about a rooster is the four A.M. wake-up call. They also may peck the hens. The good thing is being able to increase your flock without further expense. Just remember that you should only have one rooster to cover your flock. More than that can cause aggressive behavior, and the dominant rooster might kill the other.

For truly organic eggs you have to use the slightly more expensive organic feed. Here is a link for organic feed, including a recipe to make your own.

Even if live in an urban area you may be able to raise chickens. Many local governments allow small scale farming such as this within their jurisdictions. Here are two sources of further information: and

You will need to learn a little about chicken health, and have a good veterinarian, one that specializes in livestock. Keeping them clean, protected from predation, and well fed is a good start, but they still may need a doctor every so often.

So, whether you live in the city or the country, consider adding a flock of chickens to your household. Every time you eat an egg you will be happy. And you can sell the overflow for about five dollars a dozen.

Here are some books to help you plan your foray into livestock farming:

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