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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There are 115 comments to "The economics of country mouse vs. city mouse".

  1. SB @ One Cent At A Time says 07 November 2011 at 05:44

    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.

  2. Elizabeth says 07 November 2011 at 05:49

    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 says 07 November 2011 at 06:34

      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.

  3. TC says 07 November 2011 at 06:11

    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 that would be far too large for my needs.

  4. Kris says 07 November 2011 at 06:17

    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 says 09 November 2011 at 08:06

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

  5. Heather says 07 November 2011 at 06:44

    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 says 07 November 2011 at 11:34

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

  6. Dogs or Dollars says 07 November 2011 at 06:47

    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 communities.

  7. Peggy says 07 November 2011 at 06:52

    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.

  8. Adam P says 07 November 2011 at 06:53

    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 to the route it took to pick up unfortunates like me who lived out of the way, ugh.

    The contrast when visiting NYC on trips was staggering for my little brain…I think I asked “WHY do we live in the boondocks when we could live here??” about 100 times each time I got off the train into Grand Central Station (with it’s amazing celestial themed cavernous ceiling).

    Looking back, I am glad I had a chance to grow up rural as a child, as I now live at the Times-Square-Equivalent of Toronto at Dundas Square, big time concrete jungle.

    Bringing this back to finances, I’d never move to the country for a 3-8% decrease in cost of living like the original post says.
    Also, I would need to drive a car regulary and far distances, my car now just collects dust (fully paid for, cheap insurance). That would up my expenses.

    • Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops} says 07 November 2011 at 07:02

      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 says 07 November 2011 at 07:34

        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. says 09 November 2011 at 13:23

          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 did get a Walmart though, after I left home, and we had a couple of big grocery stores, a flea market nearby, a mall about half an hour away….

  9. Coley says 07 November 2011 at 07:01

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

    • Karen says 07 November 2011 at 12:06

      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.

  10. Holly says 07 November 2011 at 07:05

    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 says 07 November 2011 at 12:31

      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 says 08 November 2011 at 00:15

        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.

  11. Annemarie says 07 November 2011 at 07:07

    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 to say it, but if you have kids, assess your priorities and look hard at the schools. Once, the one-on-one attention you get in a tiny school would have been a huge plus, but now parents expect a lot more, like AP classes in high school, gifted education, and a full music program. If that’s important to you, then the ‘burbs might be a better choice. (Though the schools in rural NY are very good, they’re expensive and with the few, poorly paid jobs available, it’s hard on people who live there.)

    • slccom says 07 November 2011 at 09:42

      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.

  12. Becky, in GA says 07 November 2011 at 07:15

    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…

  13. KSK says 07 November 2011 at 07:31

    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 an avid hiker and backpacker, and am outdoors almost every weekend. But, I love city life and find there are many financial benefits.

  14. Ris says 07 November 2011 at 07:33

    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 all that well. It really depends on where you are in your life and what you need out of your environment.

    • Adam P says 07 November 2011 at 07:37

      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.

  15. El Nerdo says 07 November 2011 at 07:49

    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.

  16. javier says 07 November 2011 at 07:53

    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 says 07 November 2011 at 10:47

      Who did the study? It sounds interesting.

      • javier says 08 November 2011 at 01:01

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

  17. Leslie says 07 November 2011 at 07:56

    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. I have a 30 minute commute to work which does increase fuel expenses. Ironically, the increased fuel economy by driving 20 highway miles compensates more for this than I initially planned. By tempering my driving speeds to a consistent 55 mph, I absolutely can make an impact on my expenses.

    Homeowners insurance was THE big shock and the one for which I was the least prepared. I live ten miles from the nearest volunteer fire department. My insurance increased from the $350 a year I was paying in town to $1500 for living in the country away from a water source. However, I’m in the process of working through quotes with another agent and should be able to knock this down considerably by being classified as a farm property. Once I can get recognized as a farm, my property taxes should go down as well.

    I’ve also learned that I can reduce my homeowners insurance policy by installing a large pool over 25,000 gallons (in this case the reduced fire liability would offset the increased accident liability). The creek along the back of the property does not consistently contain enough water to be counted as a water source. Bummer.

    In the country, I also belong to an electricity co-op so my electric rates are cheaper than Com-Ed. This is good because my whole house is electric. This is bad when summer and winter storms come and knock out the power. However, the crews are lightening fast and I usually get my power back long before it is restored in town.

    The local schools are also excellent. I needn’t have worried at all. I’ve learned not to get too hung up on labels. My nephew used to live with me when I first moved out here. The care that he received was phenomenal. He blossomed under the expert care of the special needs teachers in ways that the previous “money” district could not begin to compete. It’s too easy to write off country schools as inferior and the locals as ignorant simply because they live far from the nearest big city museum. I’ve had to come to grips with my own prejudices in this regard. There is a wisdom out here that deserves to be regarded on its own terms and not held against the standards of larger communities.

    None of this is to say that I don’t appreciate the city. I do. I love visiting downtown districts of big cities! There is a palpable energy felt that is so much easier to grasp. Little towns have their own unique character too, it’s just a bit more subtle and can take time and effort to appreciate.

    As far as the friendly wave that I get from neighbors (whom I’ve never actually met)as I pass them on my way home from work…well, I just can’t put a price on that!

    • Amber says 07 November 2011 at 14:34

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

  18. Pamela says 07 November 2011 at 08:04

    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:

    Having room for your kids to roam around and explore is great–until hunting season. And how about when they prefer to spend time with their friends? Can they walk or do mom or dad get a second job as a chauffeur?

    And when you’re fantasizing about urban life, the restaurants and cultural events are fabulous. But how much time and money do you have to spend on them in the middle of your busy life?

    Before you plunk down money on real estate, it’s a good idea to look at how you actually do spend your money and time and not just on how you think you’d spend it if only…

    Great post to get people thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of different lives before making a very expensive choice.

    • jim says 07 November 2011 at 13:11

      “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 says 07 November 2011 at 13:40

        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 says 07 November 2011 at 14:40

          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 says 07 November 2011 at 14:41

        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.

  19. KM says 07 November 2011 at 08:25

    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 or for you when your car is in the shop
    – having to drive 45 min to go grocery shopping
    – unknown people dumping stuff like old washing machines and trash on your property that you have to get rid of

    • El Nerdo says 07 November 2011 at 11:42

      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 freezing from October to May. Solar electricity is awesome but it’s only affordable to light a few lighbulbs– once you want a vacuum cleaner or a 24-hour fridge or a computer workstation it’s a different story. Satellite internet was uber-expensive and slow, and before that we had to drive to town and sit all day in a coffee shop for our internet. Water was trucked in to a tank, and we drank bottled water. As initially stated, our Walden experiment was over in a year. Thoreau lied, and I have proof.

      We still keep a cabin in the sticks for recreational purposes, but nothing beats living in a city if you want to work in things other than keeping yourself alive in winter.

    • Meika says 07 November 2011 at 13:00

      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 ours does, but not as frequently as I would expect – they keep a generator just in case. They don’t have access to natural gas, though, and are dependent on heating oil, which is insanely expensive. They do have septic and well water as well, but these don’t seem to create any issues for them (and their water, anyway, tastes fine).

      Snowplowing is an issue – they need to have at least one 4WD vehicle, and it’s been somewhat more difficult for us to visit them in the winter since we got rid of my husband’s truck. It’s not only snowplowing that’s a problem, either – their roads are in terrible repair, and an increasing number of small bridges in their area are failing and simply being closed. The area’s population (read: tax base) just isn’t sufficient to keep up the infrastructure (another topic altogether).

      It’s not just kids and young teens that are an issue when it comes to the lack of public transit, either (though this is why I won’t live in the country – I hated this in high school and want something different for my kids). My mother-in-law has a degenerative eye problem and is very near to not being able to drive. We constantly worry about if something were to happen to my father-in-law – she would be completely isolated and unable to get out at all (and he’s scheduled for knee surgery in the spring…). Something to consider if you’re planning to age in place, as well. And when she had a dangerous allergic reaction to some medicine, not only did it take quite a long time for the ambulance to both arrive and transport her, it took us a ridiculous amount of time to figure out where they brought her – they’re so far from anywhere that we were calling hospitals in three counties.

      Sorry for the excessively long comment – obviously something I’ve thought about a lot, and find very interesting!

    • PawPrint says 07 November 2011 at 13:49

      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 says 07 November 2011 at 14:57

      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 says 08 November 2011 at 09:25

        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 says 07 November 2011 at 17:36

      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 transportation for your teenagers and their friends. The buses only go to places where they can get in trouble…
      – having to drive 45 min to see stars
      – next door neighbors dumping stuff like old washing machines and trash in their backyard that you have to look at because you live on 0.08 acres of land.

      • DirtRoadProud says 09 November 2011 at 20:54

        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 don’t know who wouldn’t want that every day.

  20. cc says 07 November 2011 at 08:26

    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 my time here plotting to get to nyc.
    now i’m in nyc and i wish i was back in the burbs! haha. i love nyc though, it’s all of the traffic and urban blight but the plentiful culture and job situation makes up for it. i do miss walking around in the woods poking at things with sticks, but we can’t have it all.
    (poking at things with sticks seems more dangerous in new york anyway).
    i def think there will always be an element of the grass-is-always-greener, but i try and enjoy the benefits of wherever i’m living, since i know it won’t be forever.

  21. Cgirl says 07 November 2011 at 08:32

    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 when the snow fell (in MN that happened a LOT) my dad spent an hour clearing our driveway. And that’s with the tractor. By the time he was done, the roads may or may not have been cleared.

    I currently live in a “city” (pop 230,000) I have a higher cost of living, but am much less affected by rising gas prices. It seems to me that I have higher fixed costs (mortgage, utilities, taxes) but have lower variable costs (gas, trips to town) I also have a higher wage.

  22. soledad says 07 November 2011 at 08:47

    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 says 07 November 2011 at 13:55

      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 says 07 November 2011 at 16:14

        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 says 08 November 2011 at 07:37

          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 says 07 November 2011 at 17:52

        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.

  23. Lara says 07 November 2011 at 08:52

    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 armageddon.
    I just feel like I’m always driving, killing time in town between appointments, or missing out on some activity because I don’t feel like driving into town again.
    I also feel like the kids are bored and watch too much TV. There are no kids their ages around. The county roads are too dangerous to bike. There are no sidewalks to roller-skate. They’d love to do soccer, ballet, and library hour activities, but I just can’t stomach that much extra driving.

  24. Denisse says 07 November 2011 at 09:07

    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%.

  25. Vanessa says 07 November 2011 at 09:55

    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 had to take on a bit of debt to make it happen but I was able to find 2 jobs within just a few months. That is nearly impossible to do in a small town. After a few years I had paid off all my debt plus I had significant savings.

  26. Carla says 07 November 2011 at 10:08

    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 actives, gym, etc are in the city, which doesn’t require that many miles on my car.

    I’ve always been a “city girl” so making that dramatic of a change would require a lot, including moving out of the state (maybe back to California) and having more financial security.

    I’m better off where I am now. If I want to visit a rual/country area, I’m better off making a weekend or mini vacation out of it.

  27. Norman says 07 November 2011 at 10:10

    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 says 07 November 2011 at 15:13

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

      • Deb says 07 November 2011 at 19:09

        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

  28. Bella says 07 November 2011 at 10:14

    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 city too. Most of my ‘city mouse’ relatives who want to be near culture – only go when I’m visiting cause I force them.
    I do think though that where you chose to live is so much more than how much it costs – the intagibles of being where you belong are so much more important than the mere dollars and cents. Besides as shown by the many GRS readers – get creative – there are ways to live almost anywhere on almost any budget (beachhouses in Malibu are still pretty spendy)

  29. Stephanie says 07 November 2011 at 10:18

    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 your student is motivated and gifted enough, they are sure to find a teacher who will prepare them for an AP test in their spare time (this happened to me when I was in high school). Also, for those worried about proximity to fire departments or hospitals, volunteer firemen and ambulance squads are plentiful. And, because they usually know the house on fire or the people in the wreck they hustle to get there to try to save property and people! Furthermore, helicopter rescue services exist as a service to rural communities where in serious accidents they will helicopter injured individuals to more advanced trauma centers in the city and usually at a rapid pace. Is the commute long? Certainly. There is no way when I move back into the country that my commute will be under an hour round trip each day. To me, this time is not wasted, but actually a great time to do some serious thinking. The decrease in property tax is substantial. The house I own in Rochester, NY is valued the same as my parent’s in the country, but we pay 200% more in taxes than they do. Plus we have no room to have a garden (decrease our food expense). Yes it takes longer to drive to the grocery store, but that is usually a good thing since impulse food purchases go down and you actually have to plan your meals out for the week. I will admit the major downside is not being able to live near where you work. There are simply few jobs I could take in the country that would allow me to live the lifestyle I want. All in all, I long to be a “Country Mouse” again!

  30. Leslie says 07 November 2011 at 10:19

    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.

  31. PB says 07 November 2011 at 10:42

    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 you can manage your health through lifestyle choices, that is the way to go.

  32. Linda says 07 November 2011 at 11:11

    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 have an HOA so I can hang laundry if I want; and getting to a coffehouse involves a a mile walk (about 8 blocks). The closest “restaurants” are a Subway, Dunkin Donuts, and a couple small tacquerias. The congestion of the city is often annoying to me, and I wish my neighborhood had more quality cafe and dining choices, but it’s pretty dang nice to have all these “country” amenities and fairly good public transit, too. I never drive to work since I can get there in 40 minutes door to door via a train, and often walk or ride my bike to the library, hardware store, and the farmers market or grocery store. Lovely.

    • DirtRoadProud says 10 November 2011 at 18:59

      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.

  33. Rick Falls says 07 November 2011 at 11:11

    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, the opportunities to earn are no longer exclusive to larger higher population cities.

    Personally, I prefer the country as well, with access to larger cities within a few hours away.

    It’s a cost of living and a quality of life thing for us.

    • Meika says 07 November 2011 at 13:13

      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 says 10 November 2011 at 19:01

        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?

  34. Kevin says 07 November 2011 at 11:17

    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.

  35. Anonymous says 07 November 2011 at 11:34

    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 walk to many activities that you need to drive to when you live out in the country.
    This is important when you consider that getting older may mean (eventually) not being able to drive and losing some of your physical strength.I love my country garden, but I can see a day when the physical work will be too much – it’s becoming a chore rather than a pleasure and I want to use the time for other things. Moving snow in the winter is also becoming an issue
    Our calculations show that from a financial POV moving from country to the city (for us) will probably even out. A smaller condo in the city will cost about the same as a larger house in the country. Transportation will be less and food probably more. But it is all about convenience and the lifestyle that we want to create for the next phase of our lives.
    I agree with the commenter who said that people have an idealistic notion of what living in a different environment (town or country) is like. For this reason, before we make a permanent move, we plan to rent for at least 6 months in the area that we are thinking of moving to. Who knows what new things we will learn?
    One thing that I am certain of is that Land = Work. Whether you do it yourself or pay others the more acreage you own the more time and money you will put in. Gardening, mowing, moving downed trees, snow removal, driveway and path maintenance… it goes on and on… That’s fine if it brings you joy, but for those considering retiring to the country and surveying your acreage from the front porch, I hope you are planning to have the strength and/or the financial wherewithal to maintain your retirement haven.

    • Bella says 07 November 2011 at 11:56

      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 says 07 November 2011 at 12:43

        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 says 07 November 2011 at 13:20

      “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…

  36. Rhonda says 07 November 2011 at 11:58

    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 says 10 November 2011 at 19:06

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

  37. Tricia Kolsto says 07 November 2011 at 12:01

    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 to get to our house.

  38. chacha1 says 07 November 2011 at 12:04

    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 cup of tea.

    So life outside town, but close enough to it to get what we want/need, is my current ideal. But definitely subject to change! What looks good when there are two of us might look quite different for one.

    • El Nerdo says 07 November 2011 at 12:14

      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 order to see people, do business, run errands, go to parties…. driving was a chore they don’t need in their old age and gas was expensive.

      So they ended up selling the damn “country estate” and moving to a city apartment near firends and family, and across the street from all kinds of shopping. My mom misses her mango tree, but other than that they are super-happy.

      • Meika says 07 November 2011 at 13:23

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

        • El Nerdo says 09 November 2011 at 01:50

          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 says 08 November 2011 at 10:43

        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 place considerations – expenses to operate an efficient home are going to be less than one-quarter what we currently pay in rent.

        And I DON’T want to have some halfwit HOA tell me I have to have a lawn, or that my windows have to be dressed with vertical blinds. So, it’s outside city limits for me. 🙂

        • El Nerdo says 09 November 2011 at 01:47

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

    • JCC says 07 November 2011 at 19:07

      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, not stand out. Like a private school, small towns can be very insular, gossipy, and closed to outsiders.
      That being said, I still fantasize about living in a nice small town…

  39. retirebyforty says 07 November 2011 at 12:27

    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 says 07 November 2011 at 12:46

      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:

      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:

    • Meika says 07 November 2011 at 13:26

      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!

  40. Brad says 07 November 2011 at 12:55

    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 says 10 November 2011 at 19:15

      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.

  41. mk_writer says 07 November 2011 at 12:59

    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 – tells you what’s going on that’s cheap or free in the city every day (no, I don’t work for them!).

  42. Björn says 07 November 2011 at 13:54

    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. 🙂

  43. Amber says 07 November 2011 at 14:54

    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.

  44. Kolton says 07 November 2011 at 15:34

    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.

  45. Mikey's mom says 07 November 2011 at 15:38

    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.

  46. bobj says 07 November 2011 at 15:57

    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.

  47. Pete says 07 November 2011 at 16:02

    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.

  48. Linda says 07 November 2011 at 16:23

    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?

  49. sarahk says 07 November 2011 at 16:51

    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.

  50. The+Other+Brian says 07 November 2011 at 17:10

    “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)…

  51. Ann says 07 November 2011 at 17:11

    I grew up in the country, but now live in a small town–18,000 people. We live within walking distance of my work, the bank, the library, my daughter’s piano lessons, CVS, Walgreens, an excellent Mexican restaurant, and a good pizza place. The schools are excellent, and my kids ride their bikes to school. Daycare is also crazy cheap–$90/week for a full time 3 yr old, including preschool. The cost of living is low (add me to the list of people who have a paid off house that cost $75K 10 yrs ago).

    So maybe the happy medium is a small town?

    • JCC says 08 November 2011 at 14:38

      I like having a wider choice of dining and entertainment options than you describe, but for a $75K house, I think I could stand almost anything! I’d save up for bigger trips.

  52. Anne Cross says 07 November 2011 at 17:34

    If I were to drop dead in my house here in the city, somebody would notice in a few days. But if I were out in the boonies, no one would ever know and wild cats would eat my eyeballs and spleen.

  53. krantcents says 07 November 2011 at 17:40

    I think it depends on your age! When I was young, I wanted to be in the city. As I get older, I lived away from the city, it was better for raising kids, etc. As I near retirement I want the conveniences of the city.

  54. Amanda B. says 07 November 2011 at 18:25

    In the city, I feel like I have more available cheap entertainment. Parking is a non-issue if you ride your bike or take public transportation, which is something you can’t do in the country.

    Other than that, I agree with all the points you brought up and they’re similar to my thoughts as well, having grown up in the country and moved to the city.

    I think there are plenty of non-financial reasons to live either in the country or the city as well, and those need to be weighed in.

    I miss the quietness of country life, being able to go home and not worry about someone else’s noise.

    But I love how much time I save living in the city, where it doesn’t take me 20 minutes to go to the store. And I feel like I can be spontaneous here.

    I don’t think there’s one “correct” choice for everyone, because it depends so much on your priorities and your situation.

  55. Deb says 07 November 2011 at 19:56

    At the age of 45, we moved from the inner burbs of a medium sized city (Portland, OR) to a town of 50k just an hour north in Wash State. Our small home sits on 4 acres. We’re 10 minutes by car from the center of town. We have neighbors but the properties here are a minimum of 2 acres so we’re not crowded.

    Financially, there’s no question, living here in the country is less expensive for us. There aren’t any Joneses to keep up with. We’re less likely to shop, we eat out less, and the property tax on our 4 acres is $700 less annually than our standard size city lot. Wash State has no state income tax, so that was an immediate $400 a month raise for my husband.

    This town of 50k has a good library, a bus system, a great YMCA that is nearly half the cost of the one in the city, and good healthcare – there are many retirees here and the medical community has responded to this market demand. There are lots of local produce stands and area farmers from which to purchase eggs and family farm raised meat. So far, we haven’t been overly impressed with the restaurants, so we save our money for trips to the city where there are lots of delicious options.

    There are drawbacks. No Trader Joes, no health food stores, and less options in that area altogether. Lack of diversity and culture, and definitely less people with a higher education. People head off to college and most don’t return for whatever reason. There are less opportunities here than in the city. One often sees adults working jobs that would normally be done by teenagers if we were in the city. There is definitely a lower degree of professionalism, possibly due to lack of competition?

    Smaller towns can have their cliques as well – many townsfolk grew up here and never left. It can take a long time to make friends. Having come from progressive, liberal Portland, I’ve had to acclimate to a town that is definitely more conservative.

    We’re fortunate in that we don’t have commuting expenses. I telecommute, and my husband drives a company vehicle. If we had long commutes on our own dime and time, we would not have relocated here. The downfall is that because I telecommute, I don’t meet people like I would if I worked outside of my home. It can feel isolating at times.

    The country may be less expensive monetarily, but there is a price to pay. Before making the leap, do your homework!

    We kept the city home as a rental just in case. I told my husband that if I ever decide I can’t do this full time, I will get a roommate and live in the city house part time. I’m also not sure I can retire in such a rural area!

  56. Robin says 07 November 2011 at 20:00

    I guess I am a suburban mouse who wants a vacation home in the country. We live 45 minutes from San Fran but in an unincorporated area where we can do what we like, raise chickens, veg, etc yet a we have a hospital 10 minutes away, farms/ranches 5 minutes and we also have horses (and their riders) going up our street. I’m not complaining but then I am a sahm and don’t have to deal with the commute traffic :/.

  57. micki says 07 November 2011 at 20:21

    I would love to be a country mouse. Right now, I rent part of a house that is more rural than much of the Balt-Wash area, but still not rural enough for me (I cannot see enough stars here!!) I have wanted to be a homesteader for years now but I think I might never get to do that. Good article though, and the remarks that follow definitely show that country vs. city is a very personal choice and lots of different factors involved in each one’s decision. 🙂 Thank you!

  58. Heather says 08 November 2011 at 02:51

    I grew up in a small town next to a small city. My parents live across the street from a corn farm, a 10 minute walk to the nearest bus stop, and 12 minutes’ drive to the hospital in the middle of that city where my mother works. You CAN have it both ways if you look hard enough.

    I moved across the country to live IN the city, and that’s not something on which I am willing to compromise right now. However, I enjoy living in a suburb inside the city limits, rather than a downtown loft. I’m willing to move to an area that was once part of the city but is now a small town next door, if it means a little more room to homestead, seeing as it’s only another mile north of downtown. My partner and I have both agreed however that if we move up there, it has to be within easy walking distance of the main thoroughfare that still includes the public bussing system. So we really wouldn’t be missing out on much besides a mailing address.

  59. Matt says 08 November 2011 at 09:05

    We’ve moved to the country in the past year and have focused on becoming much more self-sufficient since the move. We raise our own chickens for eggs and meat, we raise cows which we’ll butcher at some point, we’ve begun preparing the land for a huge garden, and we’ll be planting an orchard this next month. Not much savings at this point as we ramp things up, but we anticipate much cheaper and simpler living in the years ahead.

  60. Bill says 08 November 2011 at 13:37

    I recently retired from work in Washington DC, so I have some personal knowledge of commuting which makes Cville seem pretty tame. I recently moved to small city X. Just about everything I need it within walking distance, and it was a very deliberate choice. Being afoot does have it’s share of challenges, for sure, but don’t forget to add the cost of your car, gasoline, maintenance and insurance to your suburban lifestyle cost.

  61. Christine says 08 November 2011 at 15:30

    Seguin is my hometown. While I liked growing up there, I love suburban life. I lived a very sheltered life in Seguin. Where going out to eat meant visiting one of the 4 Dairy Queens, and we waited 3 months for a new release to hit the theatres.

  62. [email protected] says 08 November 2011 at 15:51

    What an interesting article. I use to live in the country for 20 years and then I moved into the city. I live near the downtown of a major metropolitan area. I must say my cost of living near downtown is half what it was when I lived in the country.
    I no longer own a car but instead use public transportation and often because of where I live I can walk everywhere. My health has dramatically improved since living in the city. I walk everywhere. When I lived in the country I drove everywhere.
    I now have ready access to public libraries, musuems, all kinds of cultural events and I never pay for parking which is what I did when I lived in the country. I would drive to the city for an event and have to pay for parking.
    When I travel beyond the city I rent a car or often I can travel by train.
    My electricity is half what it was in the country and my heating bill is much less because my home which is about the same size, doesn’t get the cold winter winds since I am surrounded by other buildings.
    My home insurance is less as there is a fire station available whereas when I lived in the city it was volunteer firemen, I have no car insurance and no car (yeah!), any recreation is a quarter what I used to pay, things like movies, museums and cultural events, musicians because I don’t pay for parking, gasm, and no wait times in traffic. My food is a lot cheaper and I have a lot of choice whereas in the country I only had 2 food stores which I had to drive to.
    I have great neighbors and lots of friends within walking distance and never have had my home broken into. I had a burglar alarm in my country home and it was broken into 3 times over a 20 year period even with the alarm.
    Perhaps its where I live but the city I live in is 4 million people and I love it and the money I save every day.
    Teddi Knight

  63. Gerard says 17 November 2011 at 15:52

    It’s hard to compare like with like for a lot of this stuff. Country food costs can be lower (with excellent quality), if you grow some of your own; city food costs, at least in Canada, can be MUCH lower if you shop in supermarkets aimed at immigrants. Houses are cheaper in the country, but if all you want/need is a decent one-bedroom apartment, good luck.
    For me, the make/break is transportation. By living in a city, I don’t need a car. The savings in cost, health, and worry are stunning.

  64. Tom Napiontek says 04 April 2012 at 13:03

    Very interesting article with good points on both sides. As a real estate and financial advisor, I would like to also point out the very realistic option of real estate investing as a means to build a portfolio and very practically save for the future. It’s a solution that could, with some clever arranging, provide you a way to have a home in the city and the country, even if you rent one of the two out for extended periods of time. It is also a very realistic way to save for retirement. Things to think about…

  65. Clint says 05 September 2012 at 10:24

    Country life is an extra; never a substitute.

    You asked.

  66. Ben says 14 March 2013 at 21:57

    As a young person, living in the country drastically reduced my alcohol intake and spending. Especially when my girlfriend and I went out with friends one of us always had to be sober to drive home, effectively cutting our booze bill in half. I moved into town now and have noticed that major difference.

  67. Ivin Boren says 17 May 2016 at 16:16

    Here county property taxes per year are about half of city, (600 vs 1200).If I drive like 10 to 30 mi. one way every 3 days to city then costs of gas and vehicle maintenance is spending my tax savings. To me its living daily home time away from people vs near neighbors.

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