Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Urban Frugality or Rural Frugality-(Or Somewhere In Between?)

One of the blogs I occasionally visit is The Simple Dollar. This week Trent has an article about why he prefers living in the country (both for frugal and non frugal reasons). My perspective is different. I suspect that for me, it would be much less effortless to be frugal in the city or an inner suburb. Truthfully, I expect that one can be frugal anywhere. The methods change as do the frugal opportunities. We all have to take advantage of where we live.

 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.
As with any area, there are also disadvantages to living in this environment. The obvious big differences are the inability to have a large garden, and the lack of large storage space (barns, root cellars and the like). Land is also generally more expensive in urban areas. I think that people in a country environment probably have more options to control utilities. It would be difficult for me to have solar panels, a wood cook stove, a well, or other such things.

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?


  1. I've been thinking along similar lines - kept reading stuff about living in the country and thinking how much I could save if I could grow my own veggies then thought - how many veggies would I actually eat compared to other stuff? I think to live in the country or small town you have to be pretty much into being self sufficient and like being alone. I for one am not about to raise my own beef and um prepare it for eating. And you're right about the prices.

    my main gripe where I live now are the taxes - I don't think my townhome is worth having $2500 in taxes each year and the HOA dues each month for water, etc will never go away either. I think my brother and dad have it better where they live(2 different cities) hospital access and enough stores for competition yet my brother's taxes for a house and yard are about half what I pay.

    but one advantage where I am now is access to good hospitals and my dad stays with me when he does his treatments at MD Anderson plus other job possibilities here. I'd love to retire somewhere else though.


  2. Barb
    I just started a new website just on this topic of being frugal green and surviving retirement. It's called I realize there is a lot of baby boomers who have not properly saved for retirement and I believe I have the answer. I can across your link on satisfying retirement. Bob Lowry and I go to the same church in Phoenix.

  3. I agree with you totally. Not to mention the cost of lonliness out in the boonies. I was never so depressed in my life as when I lived in the country. Especially when the gardening season was over. Then what? Nosy neighbors with binoculars. Bah.

  4. Roberta, I was looking for a place sorta in the country once because it was so peaceful and quiet and a friend told me just imagine being out there alone at night...and sure enough I'd most likely be scared!


  5. Not only that suzy, but Im a widowed gal...still young at my late fifties, but If someone were to happen, I'd like to know that I have neighbors truly nearby and that they would have me-I am fortunate that my taxes are lower that yours. I think I could live really cheaply here if I didnt have a mortgage----

  6. Barb I have a law firm protest my taxes each year and they've gotten them lower but they need to chop them even more - there is no way this townhome is valued where they have it - I mean there are 6 foreclosures and probably 40% or more rental - when I bought here it was 20% rental and prices went up for about 6 yrs - now the economy is down and people are walking away from their homes and they're being snatched up by rental people.

    I also like knowing I have neighbors nearby - I'm 44 - I like my privacy but just thinking about having to drive that far. a friend's dad has a 'farm' outside Houston and it seems waayy out there but it's really about 20 min I guess total but you can find a house within a few min and even see a couple from the edge of the property - that's about as 'out there' as I'd want to get and make sure I knew my neighbors!



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