Country or City—Which is the More Frugal Choice?

City?

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:

http://www.zipcar.com/

http://urbanchickens.org/

Frugal Housing-How to Cut Your Biggest Single Expense

For most of us, the cost of keeping a roof over our heads eats up a larger portion of our income than any other single item, even food. The cost varies depending on what region you live in and even by neighborhood, but no matter what if your income has gone down recently keeping up can be daunting. The solution depends on a number of variables, including the following: Do you have a family or are you on your own? Do you own or rent? Are you in deep trouble or just feeling a little squeezed? And finally, how far are you willing to go for relief?

Home Sweet Home

The first and easiest solution is to get a housemate. Shared housing used to be just for younger people, mostly in college. But this is no longer the case. If you own your own house or are the master tenant you are in good shape to do this even if you have a family to consider. You will be the one to place an ad in an online bulletin board like craigslist, or a local paper. You will be the one to choose or reject the applicants. You will set the criteria. But be aware that the current economic climate has given you plenty of competition, so be reasonable. Also, be safe. Make a written contract. If you have easy access to a lawyer, ask for help. Or, more frugally, use a Nolo Press guide to housing law, available at a local library or bookstore.

If you are not a home owner, you will be the one answering the ad that someone else published. You will have to convince someone that you will make a good housemate, that you are easy to live with, and that you will pay your share consistently. But don’t give up hope. The people willing to rent a room really do need the money. Having good credit helps, but even if you don’t have it, just be truthful. I know of a case where a recently divorced, recently bankrupt woman found a home by putting her honest story on a local bulletin board, including the fact that she couldn’t afford more than $300 a month in an area where the average room rent was twice that. She had a place within a week. If you have a family it is better to try to rent a whole house and be the one to bring in the housemate, though sometimes a couple can find a room in a house. It is just harder.

There are several other things you can do to cut your housing expense. You could move to a cheaper location. If you live on either coast you are likely paying more than people inland are paying for housing. In California, the Bay Area is a lot more expensive than Fresno for example. There are whole states that have good comparative housing prices. Do the research. Find out what the employment outlook is, as against housing costs. It might seem extreme, but these are extreme times.

If you are a back to the land type and plan on building your own house, consider something small. Smaller houses are more environmentally friendly and cheaper to run. You might even look in to the latest thing-the very small house. There are easy inexpensive kits that you can put together with many fewer resources than convention housing, saving your time, energy and money for other things that matter to you.

Finally you could consider getting involved in an intentional community or co-housing. Intentional communities range from the fairly wild, such as Harbin Hot Springs to the more eco-spiritual, while the co-housing movement picks up where the communes of the sixties left off, but all grown up and without the hassle factor.

The place you choose to call home is a huge factor in the stability and happiness of you and your family’s life. Don’t let the strain of over-spending turn a dream into a nightmare. Take action to get your home life into balance with your wallet as soon as possible. Do this one thing right and many other things will fall into place.

Check out these links for more information:

http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites a complete list, just click on your city

http://www.nolo.com/ legal info including real estate law

http://www.bestplaces.net/col/ in case you are thinking of moving

http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com/ for building small

http://www.amazon.com/Twelve-One-Room-Cabin-Beyond-American/dp/1577318978/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1288741019&sr=8-1 how one person solved the housing conundrum

http://www.ic.org/ intentional communities

http://www.suite101.com/content/co-housing–a-frugal-solution-to-the-housing-dilemma-a300949 one of my articles

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