In my case, prior to my marriage I lived in cities (Washington DC and Denver). During my marriage we lived in “inner suburbs” (for lack of a better term). Generally these were high cost of living areas. Washington DC generally falls in around number five in terms of most expensive metropolitan centerss. After managing to live quite frugally (and on one salary most of our married lives), I think I have a good handle on why I think this kind of area is a great area to live in when you are trying to be frugal.
- Transportation costs can be very low. Because public transportation was cheap and everywhere (and often subsidized by employers), we managed to live on a single (used) car and a good bike until my daughter was of the age to work. If it rained, I simply drove hubby to the train and then came home. We could have had an even less expensive car (read Junker) if we had not also already been into road tripping travel as a family. On the other hand, if you did drive, you paid parking. And if you lived in the city, you may pay to park your car on a daily basis.
- Garage Sales, Consignment Shops, Antique Shops, Second Hand Book stores and the annual Junk Trash day. Need I say more? Obviously if you are a person who would rather buy new at any cost, this won’t seem an advantage. In my case I managed to clothe my family and much of my home with really cheap, good condition used goods. One year I got my then six year old daughter a complete mix and match wardrobe for the summer (filling three bins) for a total of seven dollars. And I did that in walking distance from my home.
- Competition between stores (especially grocers) breeds low prices. When you have a Safeway, a Giant, a Harris Teeter, a Shopper’s Warehouse and a couple others in a mile radius, they have to compete. Yes, overall prices are high, but each week each of those stores has ten or so of those rock bottom choices.
- Lots of really cheap, good entertainment for pennies or nothing. When we lived in Arlington, on any given day there was at least one festival on any warm month-pick a day, you could find a street fair. Most museums and cultural venues have family days, free days and specials. Many cities have outdoor concerts, from large to small, art fairs and the like. A family or a single person can be entertained for a day for the cost of a beverage and snack. (Note: I deliberately left the Smithsonian out of this list, because while other cities may not have that resource, they do have other free and low cost entertainment alternatives.
- Cheap Housing, especially for single people. While this may sound like a contradiction in terms, an urban environement encourages home and apartment sharing, group housing and the like.
- Cheap ethnic foods. Although we could afford to go out rarely, when we did we had a plethora of cheap restaurants (most ethnic, and none fast food) close to home. Especially if we were willing to eat at lunch or early in the evening, we could eat well with our choice of Vietnamese, Korean, Thai and other restaurants.
I do think that there are some frugal things that people do anywhere, and are not dependent on locale or other limitations for the most part. These include watching spending, negotiating, bartering with neighbors, buying used, setting financial goals, cooking from scratch, and having a general use it up or wear it out philosophy.
What about you? Do you take advantage of all the frugal resources around you? Do you think it would be easier for you to be frugal or save more money if you lived elsewhere?