Thursday, January 26, 2012

Living Rurally To Save Money

One benefit of rural living- free firewood for heating!
Mrs Bushman tackles a fallen tree with her chain saw.
I live in a town of approximately 1200 families a 15 minute drive from the entrance to the nearest city. Because of our location, our rent is certainly higher than it would be in a more remote place. A few friends of mine asked me why I didn't move further out, so that I'd be able to pay less of our income on rent, and instead, I explained to her why its actually cheaper for us to live locally, despite paying much higher rent, because being near the city offers us many financial benefits. 
Many people I've spoken to who live further out in an effort to save money typically need much more money to make it through the month than we do, and I'm pretty convinced that if they lived nearer to the city like we do, they'd be better off financially, even after their higher housing costs... 

One blog I came across, Budgeting with the Bushmans, is about a family of four who lives debt-free  and ultra frugally, on one part-time income! The author claims that the reason they're able to live as frugally as they are is because they live rurally, but I had my doubts... After all, my friends who live more rurally end up spending much more than I do precisely because they're more rural... 
But yet, as I read through their blog, I saw that they actually were as frugal as I was, perhaps even more, and this is without having the frugal benefits that come with living near the big city that I do. I wanted to know how this was so. I asked the author of Budgeting with the Bushmans to offer another perspective to you readers and to me, to write a guest post explaining how living very rurally helps them be very frugal in ways not possible when living in the city.

How our family saves money by living rurally.

My family recently paid off $30,000 in credit card and medical debt, sold our mortgaged home in the city and moved to a rural area to buy a house for $13,000 cash.

Here are some of the things we have found to be cheaper living rurally:

Can afford to buy a house with no mortgage. Our house in the city cost $130,000. The payment was $750-950/month. When we sold the house, we still owed $98,000 even though we each worked two jobs and tried to pay it down (along with all our other debt). It was just too big to pay off very quickly, and in our city buying a cheaper house meant moving to an unsafe neighborhood. When we decided to move to our current town with a population of 100, there were only two houses for sale. We picked the cheaper, which was listed at $17,500 and put in a starting bid of $10,000. As I said, we ended up agreeing on a price of $13,000. Since our rural house cost 1/10 the price of our city house, we were able to buy it with cash!

Fewer opportunities to spend money. When my friends got together in the city, it was at a restaurant or a bar. Here, restaurants and bars are hard to come by, so get-togethers almost always happen in people’s homes. This means our rural social events are usually free!

More time to think about purchases. Since most of our rural purchases mean waiting for the weekly trip to town or ordering on-line, we have more time to think about whether we really want the item in question. Sometimes we figure out a way to make do without it in the meantime, thus causing us to decide we don’t really need the thing. Every item we don’t buy saves us money!

Taxes are much lower. Our town doesn’t have a school, a sewer system, paid firefighters, police officers or a city hall. Because of these omissions, our property taxes are only $88/year as opposed to the $1125/year we were paying in the city.

We drive less. Believe it or not, our family drives less since moving rurally. This is because when we lived in the city, it was about 7 miles to travel from our house to the center of town. Once we ran a few errands and then went back home, we’d gone at least 20 miles. And we did that 4-5 times a week. In our rural setting, we make one trip to town a week, which is 30 miles round trip. In the city our car gas budget was $160/month. Now it is $30/month.

Sometimes fewer choices save money. When we lived in the city, there were lots of choices. Once I spent half a day driving around trying to buy the most affordable, healthiest cat food. (I admit this was not my most frugal moment.) In our rural setting, there is one store that sells cat food and they only sell one kind. It is about the same price as the cat food that I invested so much time and gas money into trying to get the best deal in the city. In this way, fewer choices can be liberating because they save you the time of making the best choice and the cost of trying to hunt it down.

Slower paced lifestyle. In our new rural location, our fellow town-folk are not too concerned with appearances, fashion, what’s in style, what they drive or how big their house is. This makes for less pressure to keep up with the Joneses. In fact, a neighbor kid came over to play and he told my son, “Your house is like Heaven because you have fresh baked bread AND your own bedroom.” Low expectations are a good thing.

We know our neighbors. Although we were friendly with neighbors in the city, we really only had one neighbor who we could truly say was a friend. Living rurally, we have gotten to know people better than we did in the city. This has led to much free advice, free helping hands when we complete projects and even free goods. We even had a neighbor give us a free door, another neighbor loan us a heater when ours was out, and two neighbors help us get great deals on our fridge and wood stove. Sometimes it literally pays to know your neighbors!

Cheaper business opportunities. In our new rural location, we bought a vacant business lot for $1,000! We plan to put a storage unit on it. It was easy to see the need for such a business in our community because we talked with our neighbors and they told us they’d needed storage in the area. Living in the city we couldn’t have afforded a business lot. Also, with all the other businesses in the city, it would’ve been hard to figure out whether our business idea would have a customer base before making the purchase.

No building codes and restrictions. In our town of 100, we don’t have to worry about someone saying we can’t have a clothesline, turn our garage into an apartment, grow a front yard garden, have a compost bin or even get some livestock. In the city there were lots of restrictions about grass mowing, trash service, keeping animals and building codes. Of those, especially having restrictions that prevented us from raising our own food, costs us money.

Less advertising to make you want things. Even though we didn’t have TV when we lived in the city, there were advertisements everywhere. Billboards lined the streets, and getting in the car meant radio commercials; they even showed commercials on giant TVs at the ballpark, restaurants and grocery stores. Rurally, there are very few billboards or advertisements of any kind. The result is less people telling me I need a certain thing in order to be happy, thus saving me money.

Fresher and cheaper food. Living near so many farmers means some unbelievable deals on food. For example, we buy farm fresh eggs for $1.89 a carton. Raw, organic milk costs $2.50 a gallon from our local dairy. Buying directly from the farmer saves a lot. Each of these items was at least $5 in the city!

More frugal mentality. In the city, hanging out our clothes and gardening made us unusual. In our rural town, it is the norm. My neighbors are full of tips about how to grow and do things yourself.

Word of mouth travels faster. In our rural town we are the new, young family who will do anything to save some cash. It didn’t take long for us to create this reputation! The other day, a man knocked on our door and asked if we would be willing to cut down a tree in exchange for keeping the free wood. Of course we said yes. Free wood is free heat for our home! It’s hard to imagine being able to build a cheapskate reputation so quickly in a large city.

Save money on security. Although we didn’t have a security system in the city, we probably should’ve. We had our cars broken into twice, as well as some lawn furniture stolen, all of which cost money. However, the biggest savings security-wise in living rurally is that we can sleep with our windows open at night in the summer. This means we can live air-conditioning free, which is a huge summertime savings!

Moving to a rural location can be challenging, but for us it has been a great decision! Because we’ve cut our expenses so dramatically as part of our rural move, we can comfortably live with no debt on one part-time income.

Do you live rurally, or in the city, or in the suburbs? Do you find that where you live ends up being cost effective or not? What are the frugal benefits you have from living where you do? In what ways is your location less frugal?

Linking up to Homestead Barn HopMonday Mania


  1. One problem - how do you find a job in the middle of nowhere?

    If your job is in the city, you'll be doing a lot more driving overall from just the commute alone, and that'll wipe out any cost "savings" you might get.

  2. Yeah I am wondering about the same question. How would you find a good reliable pay job moving to suburb? I wouldn't prefer traveling to town daily to work from suburb only because I can pay my house mortgage.


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