The economics of country mouse vs. city mouse

I've lived in a small town for most of my life. The drive home includes steep hills with panoramic views and winding country roads that ramble past ranches and wide-open fields.

But I didn't always have positive feelings about the country life. In high school, I hated it. All of the action was in the city, where coffee shops, museums, restaurants, and concerts happened. When I moved to the city my freshman year of college, I thought that would be the end of country living — I was finally a city mouse.

As it turned out, after seven years in the city, I did move back. It began as a purely financial decision, and one that, at the time, made me feel a twinge of anxiety. I remember that as my husband and I were packing up our apartment in town to get ready for the move, I had a mini meltdown, asking him, “Are you sure you want to do this? Are you really sure you want to do this?” (He probably thought I was nuts since the whole thing was my idea, but he's a wise man and kept that to himself, simply saying that yes, he was sure.)

The Move Becomes Permanent

We planned to save money for a down payment on a home, but none of the houses that we viewed were just right. Then one day we happened upon a beautiful lot that was for sale, and we started thinking about the possibilities of building a home. More excited about the prospect of building than we were about any of the homes we had toured, we bought the 4.5-acre lot and have now started the slow process of paying-with-cash home construction.

This bit of background is just to let you know that I don't view country life as better than city life, or vice versa. Having lived in both places, I see advantages and disadvantages to each, especially when it comes to finances. (There are exceptions to every rule, but for the purposes of this article I'll make a general comparison between living in a rural town of large ranches and 2-plus acre lots with living in a mid-sized city.)

Advantages of Being a Country Mouse

One of the biggest financial advantages of living in a small town is a lower cost of living. Housing is cheaper, and where I live, the closest parking meter is 40 minutes away. Using CNNMoney's Cost of Living Calculator, I compared the cost of living in Austin, Texas, population 790,390, with Seguin, Texas, population 25,175. The results were as follows:

  • Groceries will cost 2% more in Seguin
  • Housing will cost 8% less
  • Utilities will cost 6% less
  • Healthcare will cost 3% less

Another benefit I've noticed with living in the country is that one is less prone to lifestyle inflation. No one who lives down a gravel road wants to own a BMW. As long as I've lived here, I've never met “the Joneses,” so there's zero compulsion to try to keep up with them.

I've also found that entertainment and recreation costs are lower — I can't go to a shopping center, coffeehouse, restaurant, or the movies without a some significant drive time. If I lived around the block from a coffeehouse, I'd probably never make coffee at home. I also really get my money's worth from my Netflix Watch Instant account.

Country life gives kids plenty of free entertainment, too. As a child, I didn't have cable TV. I thought it was a drag — my friends would talk about shows on Nickelodeon and I was left out. When I'd launch a campaign to get cable, my dad would tell me to play outside or read a book. I spent hours playing with my best friend next door, hanging out in trees, and shaking hands/paws with the sweetest golden retriever that ever did live — shaking hands was her favorite trick. When I wasn't doing those things, I was reading a book. (Dad might have refused to pay for 100 TV channels, but he never refused me a book.)

There's also a certain independence that comes with country living. Homesteading is more likely to be an option, and you're less likely to run into restrictions. I've heard of homeowner's associations that don't allow energy-saving tactics like hanging clothes on a clothesline to dry. In the country, you're free to hang your shorts wherever you please.

Advantages of Being a City Mouse

Living in the country is great for tree-climbing and composting, however, there are some drawbacks. Cities come with more employment opportunities, for example. Many professionals would have to commute to a city to find work. A neurosurgeon won't find work in a town of 2,400, and it's just not a possibility for someone who has to commute to the city and be on call.

City life also gives you more options to lower your transportation expenses. Most cities have decent public transportation, and some have excellent public transportation that's a much better option than driving your own vehicle. Car sharing, biking, and walking are all possibilities, which reduces costs like fuel and wear-and-tear on your vehicle (if you own one).

Finally, if you're a city mouse, you'll find it more convenient to network because you live where the action is, meaning you'll probably do more networking and socializing. Done correctly, networking is a powerful tool that will improve your job prospects. With a wider network of people who live nearby, you'll also find that it's easier to have someone pet-sit while you're in Europe (something very difficult for me to arrange where I live — I pay extra to compensate for the long drive) or give you a ride to work when your car is in the shop. Another example: Even though I know a couple of neighbors very well, it would be a big hassle to ask them for a lift to the airport because that would mean almost a 2-hour round-trip.

For my husband and me, the best living situation is having a home in the country that's 30 minutes from city life. Sure, the drive can be a pain sometimes, but I feel like we get the small town life with many of the city benefits. Despite the drawbacks, the benefits to being a country mouse sway me more — plus, I really love that I can stand on my porch at night and look up at the Milky Way.

Readers, what have I left out? What are other ways that country life saves money? What about city life?

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SB @ One Cent At A Time
SB @ One Cent At A Time

I love to go back to country but, 2 hrs of daily commute is too much for that. Outskirts of the city is a better option.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

An interesting comparison! I’m glad you were able to do what was best for you 🙂

I don’t think this has to be an either/or situation though. I grew up in a city of about 150,000 people, so the lifestyle was different than both the country and a major city. I live in a larger area now, but I like the balance of living in a not-too-big city — transportation options are reasonable, there are a variety of things to do and the cost of living is a lot less than a major city like Calgary or Toronto.

Miser+Mom
Miser+Mom

Agreed on the notion that this doesn’t have to be either/or. I live in on the outskirts of a small city right now. I can walk 2 miles to the farmers market, coffee shops, and theaters down town, but I also get to do a bunch of the things April loves to do (garden, sit on a porch).

I like April’s post. It’s nice to remember to take advantage of the opportunities we have wherever we live.

TC
TC

Some things I like about city life – I don’t need a plow or snowblower to clear out my driveway, the city handles those things on my behalf, which I suspect is cheaper (not to mention the time savings on my part). Along with that, there is no need for me to own a truck or other 4WD vehicle, I can get by on my far more fuel-efficient subcompact in the city. As a single person, I can get a 1 BR apartment in the city, but homes in the country tend to start off at a certain minimum size… Read more »

Kris
Kris

I often dream of moving out to the country. We did have a cottage growing up and one expense was the septic/well, which you most likely would not have in the city. Obviously you will spend more on gas, but I wonder if your car insurance would go down?

I don’t think I could put a price on sitting on a giant porch looking out over acres of land. That would be a wonderful thing for me!

Emily
Emily

Well/septic is generally much cheaper than paying for water and sewer, unless you have to replace systems.

Heather
Heather

With two small energetic boys, I SO WISH we could live in the country. I feel horrible that they are cooped up in a small apartment all the time. Alas, my husband works right in the middle of a big city, and we wouldn’t save enough on rent to make up for the huge increase in gas and a second car. Right now he bikes/rides the bus. Until his career advances a bit, we do have friends we can visit to get our country fix.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

Are there no parks or playgrounds or bike trails or after-school programs?

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars

I grew up in a *very* small town (population of about 1,000) in an isolated valley. Its beautiful. Land is cheap, and the community is experiencing something of a renaissance that occasionally makes me itch for home. Until I remember that you have to drive 45 minutes to find much in the way of civilization. That the valley gets all but isolated in a snow storm or flood, and that many of my former friends and neighbors suffer under the rising gas prices a whole lot more than I do. I worry for the future of many of these small… Read more »

Peggy
Peggy

City driving has been very hard on our cars, and driving times are often not any shorter within town–because there are so many more buildings, cars, and cross streets between us and our destination.

Adam P
Adam P

From ages 10 to 16 I lived in Westchester County, NY..about an hour by train north of Manhattan. We had a 9 acre front yard and miles and miles of woods to play in behind us that was seemingly un-owned. Aside from the deer ticks and Lime’s disease, those were good times. But I *hated* being a long drive from the mall and all my friends houses and school. There was no public transportation where I lived (several miles to the nearest bus stop). It took about an hour to get to school each morning on our “short bus” due… Read more »

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}

So funny, my mom grew up in that area and LOVED it. She and her siblings ran amok in the trees, swam in the lake (and skated during the winter) etc. They also didn’t have a whole lot of money, so they weren’t going to the mall either way.

Adam P
Adam P

The Jefferson Valley mall was a treat for me! And…on rare occasions like Christmas..the Danbury Fair Mall in Connecticut. Oh such bliss for a future spendaholic like myself.

We kids weren’t paid very well for mowing the 9 acre front yard or shovelling the 500 feet of driveway….

Becky+P.
Becky+P.

I was 14 when we moved to more or less rural FL from Tacoma, WA. My parents had 10 acres. We weren’t paid anything (not just “not very well”) to mow the grass. But I loved mowing–using a Gravely lawn mower, that is. I loved the smell and how everything looked when done. I was also able to get a job about 2 miles from home when I was 16–in a small newspaper. Small town America does have some pluses. My parents moved to just outside the town limits of a small town (5000 people, I think it is). We… Read more »

Coley
Coley

I think the variation in property taxes, and urban are usually higher, will eclipse many of these considerations.

Karen
Karen

Not always. I live in a fairly expensive city (Cambridge, MA) but taxes are actually much lower than many areas of the state because they are heavily subsidized by local industry and higher education institutions. My tax bill is about 1/3 of what a comparable suburban property would be.

Holly
Holly

One thing we would have lost out on in moving to the country was giving our family exposure to people of other backgrounds and cultures.

As a multiracial couple, my husband and I didn’t want our kids to be the only ones in town with a brown-skinned parent who speaks with an accent. We also wanted to have access to the multicultural professional network, and to the food products of my husband’s native culture. Those are things we would have difficutly accessing if we’d moved to the more rural parts of our part of the country.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman

A woman I know moved to Utah for her husband’s job. She told me that her son’s second-grade class had 28 other kids — and every single one of them was blond.
That’s when she started insisting on at least one vacation per year back to the East Coast, so the kids could see that people come in different hues and that some of them dress and speak differently, too.

BD
BD

As someone totally stuck in Utah for the time being, I can attest: This is SO true! Everyone around here looks identical – blonde hair and blue eyes. It’s very creepy…like everyone is cloned.

Annemarie
Annemarie

I live in a small town, population 600 in the off-season. Everyone knows us, we know them, and I still hear stories about my grandfather’s misdeeds. As April said, the living is cheap and the Joneses don’t come near the place. However, we’re planning a move to somewhere more urban. Not because we enjoy it — we don’t, we’re country all the way through — but because of the medical care. There aren’t many doctors here — how do you pay off your student loans with a rural practice? — and we’ll be needing access to specialists. And I hate… Read more »

slccom
slccom

Don’t look for full music programs for much longer. Schools are phasing them out, along with art.

Online schools can make up a lot of the gap for rural schools.

Becky, in GA
Becky, in GA

I grew up in the city but love the country. My husband and I lived in the suburbs of Atlanta before we decided to homeschool. The change required us to downsize as we moved from a two income home to one income. It was the greatest change we could make. We now have five acres, a comfortable sized house and cost of living is lower. Twenty minutes to a small community with coffee shops, tons of restaurants and a mall. An hour away from the Atlanta suburbs. Its a great mix. Nice article helps me to reflect…

KSK
KSK

Count me in as a city mouse. Yes, cost-of living is more expensive, but there are many financial benefits. I love my small rowhouse, with no yardwork, the ability to walk or take public transportation anywhere I need to go. I don’t need a car. When I need one, I rent a Zipcar for $9 per hour, including gas/insurance. Many of the things I love to do can be had for free–free visits to museums and free concerts. Plus, living/working/networking in a creative community is also a benefit to my career. Don’t get me wrong–I do love the outdoors. I’m… Read more »

Ris
Ris

I grew up in San Marcos, 30 minutes from Austin and still enough in the country that housing was cheap and crime was minimal. Now that my sister and I are grown my parents are considering a move to Austin for all the things that a small town can’t offer them: smaller townhome (with no yard) in a walkable part of town, closer access to better hospitals, larger arts community, the lake and the greenbelt for exercising, closer to the university, etc. Small town living was ideal when they had young kids but now it doesn’t fit with their needs… Read more »

Adam P
Adam P

The San Marcos outlet mall is one of my favourite places to shop on earth!! I do binge shopping there, saving up like a camel all year long to feast on the savings. Relative to Canadian full retail prices, it’s so cheap! And they have every store imaginable.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

I live around the corner from at least 5 good coffee houses and I always make coffee at home.

Still I love that when I need to meet with a client or hang out with someone I don’t know well enough to invite to my home I can meet them for coffee somewhere– walking distance from my apartment.

Shopping centers give me hives though.

javier
javier

I lived ten years in a small town (circa 14.000 people), not anymore. I understand a small place is fine for some people, but ddefinitely not for me.

There’s a study that shows that people which has spent some time in a city make more money, indenpendently if they reside in a city or in a town.

Vanessa
Vanessa

Who did the study? It sounds interesting.

javier
javier

I don’t rememeber, sorry. I think I read about it in The Undercover Economist or the Logic of Life (by Tim Harford).

Leslie
Leslie

I grew up in a medium sized town but I always dreamed of the country. Six years ago, the years of dreaming and saving paid off and I bought my country house on seven acres. Five years and ten months ago, the dream was nearly shattered by a layoff of my job of fifteen years. I only say that to say this; I’ve been forced to be VERY aware of my expenses after taking a 65% paycut with the new job (the only job I’ve been able to find) Most of my expenses are lower with a few notable exceptions.… Read more »

Amber
Amber

Great job focusing on the Big Things (reclassifying your property) and not getting stuck on the small.

Pamela
Pamela

When I talk to first home buyers about their plans, I find their ideals about where to live are based more on fantasy then reality. Yes, it’s great to have a big yard for gardening. But do you really have the time to do all the growing, harvesting, and canning you look forward to? And you can also do a lot with a small yard if you’re into urban homesteading. If you don’t believe me, see what this family did on their urban lot: http://urbanhomestead.org/. Having room for your kids to roam around and explore is great–until hunting season. And… Read more »

jim
jim

“Having room for your kids to roam around and explore is great—until hunting season.”

What is the implication that your kids are going to be accidentally shot in your backyard by a deer hunter or something?

Hunting related fatalities do happen but they are pretty rare and most of the victims are hunters. There are more gang related homicides in the city of LA alone annually then all the hunting related fatalities nation wide.

Pamela
Pamela

When I was a child in the country, we didn’t limit our roaming to our own backyard. What’s the fun in that?

We were out in the surrounding woods and fields. And yes, hunters are a serious concern. That’s why they (and others who enjoy the outdoors) wear orange when out in the woods during hunting season.

Random+Anonymous
Random+Anonymous

There is a set time of year when children need to wear orange in the woods to reduce the minimal chance they would be shot in a hunting accident.

Unfortunately in many urban centers, there is no “season” when they need to be aware of armed assailants who may do them harm. That is possible year round.

Amber
Amber

There is a sweet Kitchen Sisters/NPR radio story (also on the web) about girls who love to go out hunting with their Dad or Mom. Everyone in the family hunts, and this provides enough meat for the year that they don’t buy any other red meat.

KM
KM

Things I would worry about living in the country: – poor public schools (if you have kids), and your kids can’t save money and live at home while attending the local university. – septic system – possibly other minimal/suboptimal utilities: no high speed internet, no natural gas, drinking water from a well, electricity may go out frequently and take longer to get repaired, infrequent or inadequate snowplowing (only a problem if you live where it snows a lot, obviously). – police/fire/ambulance will take 30 min to get to your house in an emergency – no public transportation for your teenagers… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

Yes yes yes. My wife and I lived at the end of a 7-mile washboard road for a year, and it was hell. The mud on the roads in winter made it look like a Russian novel, and even with a 4×4 truck with mud tires driving in and out was a perilous enterprise. And yes, people would dump trash in the ditches by the road– mattresses, appliances, broken TVs, you name it. As for utilities: wooden stoves quickly lose their charm once you have to split wood for them– not for a day of rustic entertainment but to avoid… Read more »

Meika
Meika

This describes my in-laws’ house perfectly – thirty minutes from the nearest small town, over an hour to get to a proper grocery store (one not in a gas station). Milk is at least $4 a gallon at that gas station. Truly in the middle of nowhere. However, my husband did commute to the “local” community college from there, as did many of his friends. There is an excellent private university around thirty minutes away and a public university around an hour away, so living in the boonies doesn’t necessarily rule that out. Their electricity certainly goes out more than… Read more »

PawPrint
PawPrint

In addition to trash, people dump unfixed or pregnant cats that end up having litters of kittens. When I ran a low-cost spay/neuter program, we’d get plenty of country people who came back year after year because they kept getting cats dumped in their areas, and they wanted to be responsible.

Des
Des

Well and septic are downsides? I love not having a water or sewer bill! I guess if water is bad in your area, but even paying for a filter is cheaper than paying for the city water. Paying to have the septic tank pumped costs about 1/5 what I would pay for city sewer service on the same time frame. Being on well/septic was one of the reasons we bought our current house (on the edge of a mid-sized city).

maureen
maureen

Yes I agree, well water is much better than city water!!! After 5 years in the country I moved back to the Atlanta suburbs, and wow could not believe how bad city water tasted.

The+Other+Brian
The+Other+Brian

Things I would worry about living in the city: – poor public schools (if you have kids), and your surrounded by punk kids who are attending the local university. – Paying every month for my sewer – possibly other minimal/suboptimal utilities: street lights blocking out the stars, no LP gas, drinking water drawn from a river or lake, electricity may go out frequently and take longer to get repaired, infrequent or inadequate snowplowing (seriously, visit the city of Minneapolis sometime). – police/fire/ambulance screaming by my house every 30 min to get to another emergency – too much access to public… Read more »

DirtRoadProud
DirtRoadProud

I created an account just to tell you that I agree with everything you’ve posted here. I can’t believe the number of ignorant pro-city, neg-country comments on this post. God forbid they don’t get their Starbucks for a day. I don’t know how they’d ever survive without their Prius, Starbucks, and high-speed internet. It’s a wonder anybody ever survived without electricity. I can’t wait to raise my kids with a respect for rural living, common sense, kindness, and appreciation of hard work. Front porch swings, big skies, beautiful sunsets, bon fires, and a night sky full of bright stars. I… Read more »

cc
cc

i grew up in the suburbs, we had a big yard but weren’t isolated by any means, i had some buddies in the neighborhood, we could walk to school and the local store and through the woods and poke at things with a stick. good times, albeit boring- i enjoy the woods but was ready to go to a big city asap. i wanted to go to nyc for college, but my parents nixed it as too large, so i went to a mid-sized city. UGH. all the traffic and urban blight with none of the cultural redemption. i spent… Read more »

Cgirl
Cgirl

So much of this depends on your definitions of “city” “small town” and “rural” I grew up *very* rural: a half mile long driveway in a county that didn’t have road names or numbers a half hour from the nearest McDonalds. My mom used to have to drive 25 miles each way to work, my school was 12 miles in the other direction. Gas took up a *lot* more of their budget than it does mine. Additionally, there’s a time cost involved. Driving into town for groceries, a library run, meetings and classes took a half hour each way. And… Read more »

soledad
soledad

I grew up a country mouse but am now a suburban mouse. When I retire I’ll likely go back to the country. But for now I feel I need to live within 30 minutes or so of my job and the fact that I can walk to the pharmacy, grocery, and pizza joint is really cool.

PawPrint
PawPrint

You know the thing about moving back to the country when you retire is mobility and healthcare. More than likely, you’ll have to quit driving at some point, and you’ll need access to healthcare. I’ve known several people who retired to the country, then ended up with some kind of debilitating illness that required long trips to get to doctors. Not trying to be a downer, but it’s definitely something to consider before you make that move.

Laura
Laura

This is one of the reasons that we opted for buying a house 1/2 block from a bus line and 1 block from a major grocery store (in a big city). I want to still be able to get around when I can’t see well enough to drive anymore. Being able to commute to jobs that pay well and not having to chauffeur DS around are other reasons. This is of course what works for us, not everybody, as the variety of these posts show.

Holly
Holly

Excellent plan! My 93 yo grandfather lives on a tiny street, with a grocery store at one end and his job (yes, my 93 yo grandfather works, by choice) at the other end. All the local family drive by his street so he gets plenty of visitors. It is really and ideal situation.

Kelly
Kelly

Retiring in the country can be very isolating. My grandfather moved from the city to the country when he retired. He loved it . . . until his health declined. He stopped hearing well, which made phone calls tricky. He stopped seeing well, so he didn’t drive when it was dark. When he finally died of natural causes, he’d been dead for a few days before my dad found him.

Lara
Lara

I don’t know about a big city, but I’d love to move from our rural location to a small town. My country mouse husband has an allergic reaction every time I mention it, though. Taxes are quite a bit less and it’s easier to grow a big garden, but those are the only rural monetary advantages I can think of. You may spend less, just because there is less stuff available to buy. We pay a horrendous amount for snow removal. The well and septic system are probably cheaper. If the well ever goes dry, though, it will be financial… Read more »

Denisse
Denisse

I decided to leave a smaller city of about 50k folks, and move to the burbs and saved quite a bit on my local income tax, it went from 3.25% to 1.00%.

Vanessa
Vanessa

I grew up in small towns all my life and hated it. If you love the outdoors you’ll find plenty to do, but I don’t so I was always bored. All the stores are closed by 9 or 10 p.m. so you have to get your shopping done early. If you’re not a professional, the only jobs you’ll find only pay slightly more than minimum wage. I just could not get ahead so I had to leave. I moved from a town around 10K in population to one around 180,000 and it was the best decision of my life. I… Read more »

Carla
Carla

For me there are social advantages to living in a city. Being that I am of a (very obvious) minority group, I’m more comfortable and safe when I am not the “only” in my town – especially in Oregon for obvious reasons. I know its sad when we have to think about these things in 2011, but that’s reality. In terms of financial reasons, I need easy access to my medical providers and hospitals and having to drive an ungodly amount of miles to the city for that doesn’t make sense for me. My social/support groups, free or very inexpensive… Read more »

Norman
Norman

Am I the only one that started singing the Green Acres song in my head after reading this article? Remember that show where she loved the city and he loved the country? Green Acres is the place to be…

Lara
Lara

“I love you darling, but give me fourth avenue”.

Deb
Deb

New York is where I’d rather stay
I get allergic smelling hay
I just adore a penthouse view
Darling I love you but give me Park Avenue

Bella
Bella

Great article April! I grew up in a ‘city’ – with few exceptions pretty much everywhere in Jersey is a city. My sister lives in the ‘inner city’ and she and her husband sure do snub their noses at our ‘lack of culture’ living in the suburbs. but I know my neighbors, and they know my kids. We live 2mi from some great mountain open space provided by our small city, and our cost of living is significantly cheaper. We get cultural exposure. It’s true that in general we need to seek it out – but that’s true in the… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie

I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to be both a “City Mouse” and “Country Mouse” throughout my life. I grew up in a TINY rural upstate NY town. Growing up, I wasn’t a huge fan of our tiny town. However, after living in both NYC and Rochester, NY for many years, I long to move back there. The beauty of the lakes and the forests are immense. School districts are usually high performing, and the teachers actually get to know students by name and understand how they learn. They might lack the fancy music and AP classes, but if… Read more »

Leslie
Leslie

I too was a country mouse growing up, then city mouse until last year when my husband and I sold our town house to buy a ranch style home in the country (30 min. out of town). We bought an older home, so right now we are in reno mode so not exactly a cost savings at the moment, but definitely an investment. We love it there. Like you said, it is not for everyone and the drive in the winter can be a pain. But the quietness, beauty and relaxing life far out weighs the other inconveniences.

PB
PB

We moved from Philadelphia to the middle of ND almost 30 years ago because we had finally gotten around to having kids and did not want to raise them in a city. About 10 years later we revisited this decision, spent an extended visit in a city, as opposed to our usual short trips, and the oldest two kids turned blue and stopped breathing — asthma. We had the choice to make of living in a city and constantly medicating our children or living in the country and getting by on rescue enhalers as needed — really, a no-brainer. If… Read more »

Linda
Linda

Ha, ha, ha! I guess it must be a Texas thing to be able to live 30 minutes from the city and be in the country. In the Chicago area I think that would only be possible between the hours of 11 PM to 3 AM. And you’d have to be driving way over the speed limit, too. Based on some of your comparison data, I live in the country, even though I live within Chicago city limits. I live in a single family home; have a yard where I “homestead” (grow lots of food and raise chickens); do not… Read more »

DirtRoadProud
DirtRoadProud

I wouldn’t say any place can be defined as country if your yard and your neighbor’s yard are on the same property line.

Rick Falls
Rick Falls

It seems to me that generally people who live in cities expect and depend upon more government services than country folks do, and they tend to want access to a wider variety of cultural activities. The points you make reminded me of the brilliance our our “founding fathers” and the use of the electoral college to decide upon our elected leaders without being skewed towards larger populations desire for larger government and the unfortunate but naturally higher taxes needed to pay for those desired services. Work has changed pretty dramatically as well, and with the expanded access to the internet,… Read more »

Meika
Meika

Those in cities do have more things taken care of by the government, I suppose (I’m thinking trash and yard waste removal, that sort of thing), but unfortunately, those who live in the country – or even the suburbs, often – are not paying enough in taxes to actually keep up the infrastructure of their area, which skews the numbers a bit. My road is a quarter mile long and there are 20 houses on it; in a rural area, there might be one house in a five-mile stretch. Property taxes don’t typically reflect that difference, for some reason.

DirtRoadProud
DirtRoadProud

Property taxes in rural areas don’t cover the costs of the public infrastructure? Who do you think is paying for all of that farm land out there and the taxes on it?

Kevin
Kevin

Hey, I live in Seguin, and was stunned to see my town mentioned in GRS. The single biggest savings I am struck by time and time again when I go into Austin or San Antonio is time. I never, ever lose 1/2 hour (or 1 or 2 hours) to commuter traffic.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I grew up in a small town, went to school in a city and then raised my kids in a small town. I have appreciated the fact that they could play outside in our yard and walk to school – and be part of a community where everyone looked out for everyone else’s kids. Now that the kids are grown our ties to the community are fewer. Several friends have already moved away and we are planning to as well. Boston is the nearest big city and it offers public transportation, access to great medical care, and the ability to… Read more »

Bella
Bella

where was this advice for my in-laws, when they bought their ‘forever’ home on the river 30min from anything, and full of maintenance?

partgypsy
partgypsy

My parents-in law were very rational in the house they moved to when in retirement: smaller, all one story, and while the plot is probably close to a half acre with garden areas, most of it is wooded and low maintenance.

Meika
Meika

“Land = work”… yes! I’m more than ready to sell our suburban home, with its never-ending to-do list and two-car requirement, and trade it for a little apartment in-town… alas, my husband finds this thought horrifying. Someday we’ll find our perfect compromise…

Rhonda
Rhonda

I grew up in the Midwest in a town of about 30,000 and always dreamed of moving to the Big City, where I could be independent. Having lived in (almost) downtown Seattle now for almost 12 years, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m visually impaired, and can’t drive. While I’m totally jealous of the prices my friends in Iowa pay for housing, my memories are of standing in freezing slush waiting for the infrequent bus, and that wouldn’t be any different today if I lived in Iowa.

DirtRoadProud
DirtRoadProud

There are cities in Iowa that have public transportation, FYI.

Tricia Kolsto
Tricia Kolsto

I moved from a big suburban city (135,000) to a country life (closest big town is 20 KM away, nearest city 1.5 hours) and I one thing I love about our acreage is that we can buy “organic” meat ie. from the farmer down the “street”. I am learning to can and we cook way more meals. I love no neighbors and the only barking dogs are our own. One disadvantage though is even though our kids are old enough to stay alone, our nearest neighbor is over a mile away AND it would take me or an ambulance 15mins… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1

I grew up as a country mouse and am now a city mouse. In the city, I can make good money which will pay for a reasonably-sized, not-too-far-from-the-city home for retirement. Both environments have their virtues, but I have a strong and growing interest in self-sufficiency. City life makes many self-sufficiency efforts impossible, or ridiculously inefficient. The big city is also dirty, noisy, and the wrong place to be in a true disaster. Most medium-sized cities don’t have benefits that make up for the limitations they place on what residents can do. And small towns are not really my cultural… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

I don’t know… I think self-sufficiency is ridiculously inefficient in itself, not (just) in the city. I say this having lived it. I just posted above, somewhere, about my experience with rural “utilities” (or lack of them). It was hell! I hope you get to test out your scenario before making a big commitment. Also, I should have mentioned this elsewhere, my parents retired to a house 45 minutes outside the city where they aways lived– the climate was gorgeous, the yard vast, there was even a pool… but their social life was elsewhere, and they had to commute in… Read more »

Meika
Meika

Mmmm, mango tree… yum! This Michigander can only dream…

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

honestly, it’s just a dream. why get a mangy mango tree when you can pick the cream of the crop at your local supermarkets.

in michigan, people have wild berries– that’s exotic. like a bergman movie.

chacha1
chacha1

Oh, I agree! I’ve read enough of those urbanite-farm-fantasy stories to get reality-checked. And I don’t want the life my parents have: huge, high-maintenance house on a big lot in Florida where they are constantly beating back the jungle. I don’t want to run a dairy farm or a vineyard. If I make my own cheese, it’s gonna be with bottled milk. 🙂 But I do want to live somewhere I can have a proper garden, a clothesline, and whatever “green” energy modifications I can afford. In the area where I want to live – chosen specifically for aging in… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

i am almost sure you can have a clothesline and all manner of eccentricity in silverlake. am i wrong?

JCC
JCC

I have always lived in a city, but via my family having a summer cabin in a small town, have a bit of small-town experience. My parents were welcomed by some neighbors, members of a prominent local family whom everybody knew, so they always had great experiences when they visited. One neighbor even left my dad a *boat* in his will (my dad insisted the family keep it). However, not every newcomer is welcomed into small towns. I’ve heard lots of stories of downright mean and nasty behavior towards new people in small towns, even those trying hard to assimilate,… Read more »

retirebyforty
retirebyforty

We live in the city and we love it. There are so many more things to do than in the suburb. I’m pretty sure, the kids will have plenty of things to do with various free museum days and other activities around town.
I think the big advantage of country living is less pollution.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

Pollution: often a myth that cities are dirtier.

At least city pollution is a known quantity and somewhat regulated. The countryside can have horrible pollution and there is little you can do about it. Mines, refineries, pesticides, smokestacks, good luck complaining about them if they are not near a population center.

Just take a look at West Virginia:

http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/polluters/west-virginia
http://www.wvpubcast.org/newsarticle.aspx?id=18620

Cities will also require emission testing on vehicles while rural areas won’t. Big difference when you are sitting on a traffic light next to other cars.

In the UK, it appears, air pollution is worst in the country:

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/country-air-is-more-polluted-than-in-cities-690147.html

Meika
Meika

It depends on what kind of pollution you’re looking at. If you’re in the country, you’ll have heavy exposure to agricultural chemicals both in your well water and in the air when they’re spraying, and maybe some kind of exposure from the industrial pig farm on the other side of your mile, as well (also – the odor). In the city, it’s more particulate pollution from all the vehicles. Pick your poison!

Brad
Brad

Benefit of country living :

Well/Septic – no water fees, no sewer fees.

Negative of country living :

Well/Septic – It’s a bit scary at first if your not used to the whole concept, and replacing a septic tank can be extremely expensive.

DirtRoadProud
DirtRoadProud

I get the feeling that there are a lot of misconceptions about septic tanks. I grew up in a rural area and never heard of anybody having any problems with them even 25-50 years down the road.

mk_writer
mk_writer

I grew up a suburban mouse and became a city mouse. While I still enjoy visiting my parents in the ‘burbs, I like the fact I don’t need a car to get around in the city and that there’s so much free stuff to do, which (sort of) offsets the higher cost of living. If you’re in NYC, regularly check out theskint.com – tells you what’s going on that’s cheap or free in the city every day (no, I don’t work for them!).

Björn
Björn

I live in a city w population of just over 100.000 or so in Sweden. Not a big city, not country life. What I really do like about this city as compared to a big city is that I never have to take the bus or subway – everywhere is walkable downtown. But the same argument applies for liking this better than living completely out in the rural areas – then i’d have to drive everywhere. 🙂

Amber
Amber

Me: Country mouse living in the city (for now).

For everyone worrying about emergency response, most of the country depts. are staffed by volunteers. It is a social club for the guys (and some gals) but they take it very, very seriously. I had 4 firetrucks and 2 ambulances appear the night I wrecked on black ice on back country roads. A passer-by called them in. You can also have emergency call button installed in the home of aging relatives that connects to the local ambulance company.

Kolton
Kolton

I find it interesting that you and your husbands preference is to live only 30 min from a city. To me, being that close to the city would only be more tempting to drive there and ultimately in the end wasting more on gas. My preference would be to live further out in the country, just like how you grew up. Simply for fact that I believe this world will not always be dependent on fancy electronics and things of the sort.

Mikey\'s mom
Mikey\'s mom

Public transportation – +1 for city/suburbs. Eventually, we all need it, unless you plan on driving well past the age at which you shouldn’t. We all will get to that age, god willing, and it is best to plan for it.

bobj
bobj

My wife’s family lives in the country… any thought of me moving there vanished when we saw a gator sitting on my sister-in-law’s front porch.
I like my gators (and snakes) in the zoo.

However, point taken on saving money.

Pete
Pete

A college town could be a good middle path. I’m moving back to my home town next week – from a city of 250,000 to one of 120,000. It may not sound like a huge difference, but the smaller city is far cheaper to live in and as it’s a university town, carries with it some vibrancy (although it gets quiet in the summer) and inexpensive entertainment options.

Linda
Linda

Really do think about your children. Notice how many look back with fondness but were miserable at the time. Are you ready to put up with the whining and unhappiness of your kids?

sarahk
sarahk

There is so much more of a gradient than just country vs. city. I’ve spent the past 8 years living in cities of 5-8 million and even the 6 different apartments/neighborhoods I’ve lived in have been vastly different as far as green space, public transportation, traffic, amenities, cost of living, etc.

I like the idea of living in the country, but I think I would get lonely. I grew up in the suburbs of Austin and the one place I would never live for a million dollars is the suburbs.

The+Other+Brian
The+Other+Brian

“No one who lives down a gravel road wants to own a BMW”

I guess you haven’t spent a lot of time in the rural areas just WEST of Austin (Dripping Springs, Driftwood, Fredricksburg)…

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