Every time we go to spend time in the city, it makes me wonder if living in a small town is better financially and otherwise. While it’s always fun to visit other places, would living somewhere else actually improve our quality of life?
Why We Live in a Small Town
When I say small town, I mean small. The town where we live has a population of about 10,000 people. We are not close to an interstate highway, major airport, or even a Target. What we do have is diversity in landscapes. From my house, you can drive an hour north and be in the mountains, or an hour south and be in the desert. Growing up in the southern US, we had lots of humidity and bugs. My parents philosophy was why go outside when you have a perfectly good air conditioned house to sit around in? I never really fit into the south because I always wanted to go somewhere or find another adventure that didn’t involve a mall or increasing the volume of my hair.
My husband grew up in metropolitan Denver. He is an outdoor sports nut, and was tired of lift lines and too many people on the trail. He felt like a number in his huge high school. Nobody usually noticed when he cut classes. We also hate traffic and driving 30 minutes to get anywhere. In our town, getting behind a tractor or having a herd of elk cross the road is your worst chance of being slowed down.
I think small towns are great for raising kids. If our daughter wants to participate in an activity or sport, she will get to play. She goes to a small school, where her graduating class will be around 50 kids. While there is crime, I don’t feel scared to drive around any part of our area, even after dark.
While I hated growing up in a small town as a kid, I can appreciate the benefits as a parent. I think a big part of my problem was that I was never encouraged to dream bigger than my small town. I want to live in a small place, but show our daughter that there is a bigger world. Go explore, and then decide where you want to live. Otherwise, the grass will always seem greener somewhere else.
It’s Cheap to Live in a Small Town
It may not be cheap if you are in Aspen or Carmel, CA, but our small town has a very low cost of living. You can buy a good house for $150,000. You don’t have to take on a roommate to pay rent. Our property taxes are $1600 a year on a house that appraises at $375K. Full time day care costs $500-$600/month. Having few stores or cultural opportunities means that there just aren’t that many things to spend money on.
Why I Hate Living in a Small Town
Some of the reasons listed above are also reasons why I sometimes hate living in a small town. On occasion, it just feels like there is nothing to do. Sure, we can go on a hike, but sometimes you just want to go see a show or watch a movie. We have a tiny, two screen movie theater, but if it isn’t a cartoon or something that blows up, they don’t play it. No Lincoln or Argo here. Concerts consist of local musicians. Sometimes, we get a quality act at the reservation casino, like Ratt or a Journey tribute band. Sporting events are my daughter’s soccer games. Our one bowling alley sucks.
We have Wal Mart, grocery stores, or dollar stores for shopping. If you need something right away, there is little comparison to be had. We also have little choice in services like electricians or roofers. It is often very hard to find someone to do work on your house. Websites like Yelp or Angie’s List are virtually non existent here.
Unfortunately small towns often possess small dreams. While there is nothing wrong with living in a small place, I think you need to know why you want to live there. If it’s just because you’re parents told you to, that isn’t a great reason. There is lots of, It’s always been done this way and that’s the way it is. I am not a subscriber to that philosophy, and I will work really hard to make sure my daughter knows there are other things besides what we see every day.
Why We’ll Stay in a Small Town
With all the good and bad, we will likely stay put at least until our daughter finishes school. Twelve years seems like a long time, but I bet it will be here before we know it. While our small town gets old sometimes, we have several awesome cities within a day’s drive like Phoenix. Denver, Las Vegas, San Diego, or Salt Lake City.
We can become financially independent here quicker as well. With low housing costs and taxes, we can be out of debt, own rental properties, and save like mad over the next 10-12 years. As a teacher, my husband will be eligible for his state pension by then also. It just makes financial sense to stay here, even if I may have to wait for all the good movies to come out on video.
No place is perfect. By taking advantage of what we have and finding ways to make up for what we don’t, I think it is possible to love life in a small town.
Why do you live where you do? Do you ever dream of moving somewhere else?