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gypsymama

Anyone else live in a low cost of living area?

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Curious if I'm the only one on the boards living on little to no money LOL. This is sort of a spin off but it's come up in a few threads now. It seems that many people here live in high cost of living areas compared to mine. The grocery thread is discussing grocery budgets in $1000-1500 range and the childcare thread is talking $15-20/hr for childcare, etc.

 

$1500 on groceries would be 50% of our income.

$15-20/hr for childcare is more than my husband makes and he has a skilled job.

 

Just curious to see if anyone else lives in a low COL area. I was raised in a low income family and I don't prioritize materialism so maybe I'm jaded?

My area was low COL when I was growing up. It got posh. I can't leave the trees. :(

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Materialism is probably the wrong word choice. I'm not thinking of a better word for it at the moment other than 'materialism' in the sense of prioritizing the quality of things. What I mean are lifestyle choices. We chose to buy a smaller, decent home that needed minor repairs and possibly updating instead of getting a larger, newer/nicer suburban home. We keep a decent, older car and maintain it compared to the newer, more expensive cars some people like, etc. I know we live in a low COL area given that there ARE lower cost choices but I'm just wondering if some of it is more based on the fact that I'm cheap :lol:

 

 

You're right it's MORE than 50% of his income. Right now he actually is making a lot of overtime with it being summer. Even with the OT it's roughly 60% of his income. Honestly in winter when he's getting regular 40 hr weeks only it'd probably be nearly ALL of his bring home pay.

Here cheap means over a quarter of a million dollars. I have an old car. Our house is half the size of one poster, who said her house was cramped.

 

Food and babysitting are expensive because food and rent. People don't have cable, they don't have college funds, they don't have parties because of cost.

 

High COL =/= high living.

 

It just means you pay more for the same stuff.

Edited by Tsuga
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That's the kind of info I was wondering about :) I am uber cheap so I think my perception may be skewed so I wanted to see if anyone else was in a lower col area similar to what I am experiencing (or at least from what I was seeing). We also got a great deal on our house and moved into this area with resources to make things easier. We prepared in advance researching to make this happen and intentionally took a major pay cut that dropped us in SES in order to have more time together as a family. Add in some odd values and being insanely frugal and we're able to live on little. I guess I'd started to doubt I was seeing my area objectively LOL :)

The other thing to consider is that not all jobs are available everywhere. My husband works in a hospital that is a top multi-state regional draw (in a modest paying job). When he graduates he will wa t to stay at the same hospital in a different department. Not only is the pay for his intended field drastically higher here, there's just more work available in an area with 3 other similar regional medical centers that pull in patients from many states and where there are at least 6 other large hospitals in commuting distance. Eventually, he may move into consulting and again, you want to live where there are way more possible clients.

 

In my husband's hometown, he'd have 3 much smaller hospitals to seek employment at and while basic houses are less, they aren't 50% less. In his field the expected salary there could easily be less than 1/2 of what it is here. Factor in wanting access to the most options and best HCPs for two sons with autism and packing up for a lower cost place seems that much less doable.

Edited by LucyStoner
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Underscoring that living in a HCOL area does not equate to materialism.

 

Tsuga lives down the byway from me and I can attest to the fact that most of my friends making $75-150k a year as a household are renting or living in small houses (which cost $300-450k and likely need some work), driving old cars, are addicted to Buy Nothing and/or thrift stores and are not able to live high on the hog so to speak even if they wanted too. If they have kids and those kids need childcare or like to do stuff outside the house, they may even be barely making the ends meet every month.

 

Most of the people I know without retirement savings are those who have suffered multiple layoffs. We are fortunate that even on a lower income, we are able to have retirement savings because my husband has a very stable employer who chips in a fair bit and matches most of what we put in. Since he's only had two employers since he was 19 and we both saved from the start, we got compounding interest started early so that's a saving grace.

Edited by LucyStoner
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We live south of DFW, but still considered part of the Metroplex. Our rent seems high to me...$950 for a 4 bedroom house in a decent neighborhood, but its actually on the low end---I haven't found anything cheaper thats not a total dump. Its the highest rent we have ever paid. On the other hand, we are within walking distance to everything, and withing driving distance to Aldi--next town over.

 

The USDA thrifty plan has us at approx. $645 per month. That is totally out of the budget. I have $350 tops to spend on groceries and we eat well. In the winter, we have less grocery money since we have to pay for heating. We eat mostly whole foods, very little processed food, almost 100% homemade.

 

I am content with what we have--and so thankful that we have Aldi for all the basics, Winco for bulk foods, and a salvage grocery close to Winco. We moved here in November from West Texas and my grocery bill dropped from $500ish to $350 or under. Its just cheaper when you have Aldi available. If I need to, we can eat on $50 a week. Its not full of variety, but bellies are full. We are not GF, or lactose free, or have any special diet restrictions. Kids are thin and strong and eat like teenagers already. 10 year old can already eat a full Little Ceasar's pizza by himself, so we always make it homemade.

 

I can only think of a few things that we would buy extra--certainly I would not need an extra $300 a month to eat well, unless I was to go all organic and buy expensive cuts of meat. Granted, we have made lifestyle choices that are not the norm--we don't buy any disposable products except toilet paper, we rarely eat out, I make all of our bread products, zero food waste,etc. This not only saves $$ but also produces less trash, and helps us to focus more mindfully on what we bring into the house. And no, I am not leaving any expenditures out---I scan everything for the National Consumer Panel and I have to have all receipts.

 

There is just so much we don't need. Moving towards a minimalist, zero-waste lifestyle has been really good for us. Its good not to mindlessly consume. Its good not to buy things, just to throw it away, or let it spoil in the fridge, or sit in the closet for a year unworn, to turn around and take it to Goodwill. But, if someone wishes to trade all that for more convenience, its not my place to police them. I rejoice with them that they have the extra money to spend on groceries, clothes, etc.

 

I could never afford to pay $15/hour per kid for babysitting. But if that's the going rate, I am going to start and make more than my husband does working as a manager. I could more than double our income with just 2 kids full-time. ;-)

$350 a month for groceries in DFW? How many people are you feeding?

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I was thinking about the materialism thing... We choose to live where we do, in a very high COL area, so that we can use public transit, walk to things, be in a diverse community... In order to live here, we sacrificed the ability to have a bigger home, more land, manicured lawns and so forth. I always feel like there's a certain materialism to insisting that one needs a large, newish house in a "safe" community with lots of land around it and then spending a ton of money and time on a long commute. I mean, sure, if we wanted to live out there, it would mean a cheaper home, lower taxes, less expensive big box retail more closely at hand, and likely the ability to get housework done for a fraction of what we end up paying here (I often feel like that's the biggest hit that living in a high COL area gives you - groceries may be a little more but home repairs are astronomically higher). But we'd be sacrificing family time and environmental benefits to the commute.

 

Which is not to say that you can't do that... I mean, it doesn't reflect my values, so we don't, and I know I sound judgey above, but I'm really just trying to give a different perspective. We live in a smaller, older home on purpose in order to be in our high COL area. I don't get how that's more materialistic.

For me materialism would be about having consistently expensive tastes for non-necessities. And it's not at all tied to COL level. For me, I think it is definitely easier for us to get by on a limited income in a HCOL area because having old stuff, buying used stuff and getting handmedowns from gifting communities doesn't bother us or cause stress. If I felt my sons needed all new clothes or that a Craigslist couch wasn't good enough or that my hair and nails needed to be down regularly at an expensive place, we would perceive our financial reality much differently. It would be more stressful. When we gave up most of my income, we downsized our living situation (from 1400sf townhouse to 1000 SF apartment), cancelled the cleaning service, watched the food and entertainment budget more, dropped down to one longer camping trip per year but really had few other areas to trim because we've basically always lived like this when it comes to the material stuff we choose to buy.

 

Also, I don't judge people for choosing more expensive material goods. We all have our priorities and different budget considerations. We also have some expensive preferences...shoes, original art etc. Finding the balance that works for one's family is very personal.

 

Also, we picked our area because it is walkable and bike commute friendly. It sounds like we share some values around preferring population centers over someplace with a longer commute.

Edited by LucyStoner
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Here cheap means over a quarter of a million dollars. I have an old car. Our house is half the size of one poster, who said her house was cramped.

 

Food and babysitting are expensive because food and rent. People don't have cable, they don't have college funds, they don't have parties because of cost.

 

High COL =/= high living.

 

It just means you pay more for the same stuff.

 

 

Underscoring that living in a HCOL area does not equate to materialism.

 

Tsuga lives down the byway from me and I can attest to the fact that most of my friends making $75-150k a year as a household are renting or living in small houses (which cost $300-450k and likely need some work), driving old cars, are addicted to Buy Nothing and/or thrift stores and are not able to live high on the hog so to speak even if they wanted too. If they have kids and those kids need childcare or like to do stuff outside the house, they may even be barely making the ends meet every month.

 

Most of the people I know without retirement savings are those who have suffered multiple layoffs. We are fortunate that even on a lower income, we are able to have retirement savings because my husband has a very stable employer who chips in a fair bit and matches most of what we put in. Since he's only had two employers since he was 19 and we both saved from the start, we got compounding interest started early so that's a saving grace.

 

I realize that higher COL means everything costs more in general and I didn't say a HCOL area = materialism. My questions are for people in lcol areas not high ones. Things are obviously going to cost more in a hcol compared to a lcol regardless of lifestyle choices. What I'm looking at is within the lcol areas. We spend so little and are committed to those choices I'm wondering if this a drastic difference from the numbers other people experience because of the lcol or more because of lifestyle choices as well. I mean I am notoriously cheap anyways so it's quite possible it's either one.  :lol:

 

 

ETA: crazy weird double posting 

 

 

Edited by gypsymama

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I realize that higher COL means everything costs more in general and I didn't say a HCOL area = materialism. My questions are for people in lcol areas not high ones. Things are obviously going to cost more in a hcol compared to a lcol regardless of lifestyle choices. What I'm looking at is within the lcol areas. We spend so little and are committed to those choices I'm wondering if this a drastic difference from the numbers other people experience because of the lcol or more because of lifestyle choices as well. I mean I am notoriously cheap anyways so it's quite possible it's either one. :lol:

 

 

ETA: crazy weird double posting

I'm not sure why you seem to be linking being cheap with being commited to choosing a LCOL area. There are tightwads and spendthrifts everywhere. Also, sometimes cheap is expensive. I could buy a cheap house far outside a LCOL city but again, where are the technical non-government jobs and how much gas money will I need to get my kids health and educational needs met? How much gas money would my husband need to get to a lower paying job? For us, it would be a penny wise and pound foolish decision.

 

Your question is essentially "is there anyone here like you"? Which isn't that much of a conversation starter and would naturally lead to a bit of thread drift. There are definitely people here at all points of the income and wealth spectrum in all kinds of places.

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This.

 

A super nice HOUSE to live for $650!? We pay 3X that much for only a somewhat decent apartment. Not crappy, but not luxurious, either.

 

Hmmm.... three bedrooms, quite ugly but clean, USD1,200

 

http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-to-rent/property-54405859.html

Edited by Laura Corin

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Re: low COL areas - aren't the jobs in those area fairly limited, and perhaps lower paying? Does the COL even out taking into account salary differences?

 

I live in a low COL area with a lot of high tech jobs - north Alabama, Huntsville area. Huntsville is called the "Rocket City", and there is always the joke of, "It doesn't take a rocket scientist, but if it does, we have several to choose from here!" :) Tons and tons of engineers and computer scientists that are well paid. Housing is fairly cheap. You can get a nice 3 bedroom home built in the 80's in a safe neighborhood for around $120-150k. A family just moved in down the road from me to a house that's a small fixer upper (100 years old and hasn't been lived in the last couple years) for just under $30k, and it had an entire acre of land with it. The road is quite safe, though somewhat rural. So there is a wide range of housing options. The really large 4-5 bedroom houses can run $250-300k, but it's easy to find something under $200k. It's often cheaper to buy a house here than to rent an apartment.

 

Now the jobs here will be lower paying than other parts of the country. When my husband graduated college almost 20 years ago, he was offered a job here for one amount and a job up in Boston for over twice that amount. He took the job here. Why? Because in Boston he would have been able to afford a shoebox apartment, no car. Down here he could afford to buy a 3 bedroom house in a safe neighborhood (not a big fancy house, but a good house for starting a family) and a new car. His salary was less than half here, but his standard of living here would be higher. So yes, salary differences are there, but with the cost of living factored in, you can have a higher standard of living here without going into debt.

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To me materialism is more about an attitude than what one actually owns.

 

we bought this house because it was one we could get for cash. I personally didn't want to live 45 or an hour from dhs work but he was fine with the commute so we bought the house. We were committed to having no mortgage and I am still glad about that. We are 15 min out in the country....so at this point since we are settled in this small town and love our congregation here I would move into town but have no desire to move to the city.

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These kind of threads, just like the food budget threads always devolve into moralizing the amount spent and earned.     

 

Sometimes it's hard to judge exactly what are convenience of lifestyle choices.   Living in a highly urbanized metropolis is going to present different challenges and needs than living in a rather isolated rural community.
 

Edited by Snickerdoodle
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We live in a low COL and dh is a high wage earner so it has been financially very good for us because we can really sock away income to retirement. But we are the exception. This county is poor, very low median income, and jobs are jot plentiful and for most of the ones outside of medical, the pay is quite low. So it equate to the majority of the population just scraping by. Houses, nice ones, can be bought for $45,000 but no one can sell them because the market is saturated, incomes are too low to qualify for mortgages since the banks greatly increased their thresholds due to the loss of good manufacturing jobs here which caused a massive repossession wave.

 

So low COL, but also very poor wages means many people barely squeaking out a no frills.living. As a result of sinking property values and income, tax revenues are at an all time low which is resulting in sinking schools, sinking services, sinking opportunities for families,....a veritable Titanic. We thought we would be staying, but now it looks like there will be another move in the next three years. I will gladly pay more to live in a non dying out county. As we age, it is important to be in an area with reasonable healthcare options and that will not be the case here.

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Underscoring that living in a HCOL area does not equate to materialism.

 

Tsuga lives down the byway from me and I can attest to the fact that most of my friends making $75-150k a year as a household are renting or living in small houses (which cost $300-450k and likely need some work), driving old cars, are addicted to Buy Nothing and/or thrift stores and are not able to live high on the hog so to speak even if they wanted too. If they have kids and those kids need childcare or like to do stuff outside the house, they may even be barely making the ends meet every month.

 

Most of the people I know without retirement savings are those who have suffered multiple layoffs. We are fortunate that even on a lower income, we are able to have retirement savings because my husband has a very stable employer who chips in a fair bit and matches most of what we put in. Since he's only had two employers since he was 19 and we both saved from the start, we got compounding interest started early so that's a saving grace.

You are singing the song of my people. In tech where workers are young--many families have one or no cars. Rent houses or apts for $2-$3 k.

 

Our retirement savings covered unemployment.

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I think COL indices are not very accurate. I just looked up CO's and it does not reflect the fact that rents have almost tripled in Denver in the two years and rents here have doubled (they were already high). Ours is based on simple economics. Only 15% of the land in our county is private (not FS or BLM), and of that 15%, almost 40% is now in conservation easement. 60% of the houses in the valley are second homes. So, ka-ching! High rental costs! There is supposed to be a strike on July 4th weekend, from the service workers, demanding cheap rents. It's a complete mess though, as the folks that run small businesses are not in the business of being landlords. We just raised one of our rentals $300 and the others are going up too. Our land taxes almost doubled. Food here is very expensive. Lots of folks drive 130 miles to the grocery store. 

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I realize that higher COL means everything costs more in general and I didn't say a HCOL area = materialism. My questions are for people in lcol areas not high ones. Things are obviously going to cost more in a hcol compared to a lcol regardless of lifestyle choices. What I'm looking at is within the lcol areas. We spend so little and are committed to those choices I'm wondering if this a drastic difference from the numbers other people experience because of the lcol or more because of lifestyle choices as well. I mean I am notoriously cheap anyways so it's quite possible it's either one.  :lol:

 

 

ETA: crazy weird double posting 

 

I live in a generally LCoL region of the country - happenstance, just where I was born. As you get further out of the city, costs go down. I'm at the outer edge of commuting distance to the large city and it worked when I was married. Ex commuted (not quite to the "big city") and our lifestyle was minimal. We moved here for affordability but there is literally next to nothing for kids (either through school or church and we did neither). Our "lifestyle choice" at the time was we needed a house and this was our budget. Even renting would have cost way more closer to where we really wanted to be. 

 

I will be glad to not commute 40 miles to school everyday this fall (we're moving). It's a pain (I nearly had panic attacks a couple of times this winter - way too many icy hills)  and there is little to no payoff except financial. We have a very cute house on a city lot, but we don't socialize here except for chatting with the random neighbor because it's been a very hard place to make friends. No one from school wants to drive 40 miles to just hang out either and I don't blame them. I adore my house, just not its location. 

 

Even once we move we'll be outside of the "big city" and still lower COL, but there's way more to do and, hey, we can start to entertain. I'll probably stay there, ds won't long term. There isn't enough to keep him here, he's making a different lifestyle choice - one I fully support. 

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Materialism is probably the wrong word choice. I'm not thinking of a better word for it at the moment other than 'materialism' in the sense of prioritizing the quality of things. What I mean are lifestyle choices. We chose to buy a smaller, decent home that needed minor repairs and possibly updating instead of getting a larger, newer/nicer suburban home. We keep a decent, older car and maintain it compared to the newer, more expensive cars some people like, etc. I know we live in a low COL area given that there ARE lower cost choices but I'm just wondering if some of it is more based on the fact that I'm cheap  :lol:

 

 

So did we. The difference is that the small, low-ceilinged houses in my neighborhood would be worth well under $100,000 in many parts of the country. Just because people live in a high COL area doesn't mean they're living in luxury. In fact, quite often it's the opposite!

 

Sometimes I browse real-estate listings in cheaper areas of the country and fantasize about the mansion we could live in if we sold our house here and moved there! I don't really have any desire to live in a giant house, but it's fun to dream!

Edited by Sun
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My friend joked that San Francisco is the only place you can make 6 figures and not afford to buy your kids shoes. I laugh through my tears.

 

You can't buy a 2 bedroom condo in my county for less than 500k. We live here because this is where God put us (Dh is a pastor). All of the young families move away, which is a bummer, but I totally get it. It makes me sad that my rent is literally twice what my mortgage was in Florida.

 

Oh well.

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Curious if I'm the only one on the boards living on little to no money LOL. This is sort of a spin off but it's come up in a few threads now. It seems that many people here live in high cost of living areas compared to mine. The grocery thread is discussing grocery budgets in $1000-1500 range and the childcare thread is talking $15-20/hr for childcare, etc.

 

$1500 on groceries would be 50% of our income.

$15-20/hr for childcare is more than my husband makes and he has a skilled job.

 

Just curious to see if anyone else lives in a low COL area. I was raised in a low income family and I don't prioritize materialism so maybe I'm jaded?  

 

I retired a few years ago and I am also divorced, so I live on a fixed income.

 

But I don't feel the pinch as much because my family (parents, siblings) pretty much pools our resources. I've never had to pay for childcare and we're always showing up at each other's homes to eat so even our grocery budget is loose. Some months my groceries are cheap. Other months, like soccer and baseball season when my nephews are over here daily, my grocery budget could feed my entire childhood village for the year. LOL

 

I live in a higher COL pocket area within a lower COL state. It's weird.

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We used to live in a HCOL area (Los Angeles) and moved to a middle of the road COL area in NC.  It seemed like a LCOL area when we first moved just because LA had been so expensive (housing mostly) but now it doesn't seem quite so "cheap."   :lol:

 

 

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Well, within the last year, the Wall Street Journal had an article naming my area as the most affordable place in the USA to raise a family. Guessing that means our cost of living is pretty much as low as it can get! That said, when the kids were in high school, our grocery bill was around $2000 a month. Of course, that was for 4 teen athletes, one carnivore male, and an additional adult female. Plus, we weren't actively watching to keep it low. Food and cooking is dh's passion. If he loves it, he feeds it.

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I just checked and housing is 378% higher in Seattle than my town.

 

Even Tulsa is 358% less expensive than Seattle. 

Edited by Scarlett

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I realize that higher COL means everything costs more in general and I didn't say a HCOL area = materialism. My questions are for people in lcol areas not high ones. Things are obviously going to cost more in a hcol compared to a lcol regardless of lifestyle choices. What I'm looking at is within the lcol areas. We spend so little and are committed to those choices I'm wondering if this a drastic difference from the numbers other people experience because of the lcol or more because of lifestyle choices as well. I mean I am notoriously cheap anyways so it's quite possible it's either one. :lol:

 

 

ETA: crazy weird double posting

I think you are confusing a frugal lifestyle with living in a low COL area.

 

You could make the exact same lifestyle choices living in a high COL area and they will just cost more.

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I live in a  low COL area. I am not quite sure I understand what exactly the OP is asking. When it comes to materialism, one thing I notice compared to living in other areas of the country that, despite COL being low, people spend little money on conspicuous consumption even though they should have a larger portion of disposable income due to low COL. You don't see fancy clothes or luxury cars. Now, of course the fact that it is 100 miles to the mall has something to do with it. But it is noticeable that people are very casual, not wearing designer wear (it would be ridiculous to wear designer shoes in this town because nobody would notice), no truly "fancy" homes... small town in rural Midwest.

When I am in cities with HCOL, I see a lot more expensive cars and people are a lot better dressed. Which seems counter-intuitive, since their necessary expenses are so much higher.

OP: is this the kind of thing you mean?

Edited by regentrude

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Even Tulsa is 358% less expensive than Seattle. 

 

Can you parse this statement for me? I do not understand what it means to be 358% less expensive

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I think you are confusing a frugal lifestyle with living in a low COL area.

 

You could make the exact same lifestyle choices living in a high COL area and they will just cost more.

Yeah I've failed to follow the OP logic.

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1. Homeschooling families are never unique or "the only ones here" when they decide live frugally and emphasize spending on values (usually the needs of people) rather than the conspicuous acquisition and consumption of stuff. Not when there's almost necessarily a decision to live on less, so that parents can be available to teach. I mean, when someone says, "I'd rather take a pay cut, or drop out of the workforce for awhile, so I can homeschool these children for this season," the anti-materialistic value system is inherent in the decision, right? So I don't see how this is even a question for a hs'ing forum, honestly.

 

2. I have the same values whatever region of the country I live in, as do most people...COL isn't about lifestyle but rather about the cost of living there. So that's not a real question, either...I can prefer farm produce and meat, spending on books rather than on jewelry, saving for college rather than taking expensive vacations, etc. no matter how cheap or expensive my house is (or how much a gallon of milk costs at the store). I can have a profession that necessitates a nicer home and wardrobe, or I can prefer a job/career that allows for extreme tightwaddery and thrift at home, or anything on that spectrum.

 

So to answer the question if I can understand the question, OP, there are plenty of frugal AND cheap people here on the WTM forums. There are also frugal people here -- that is, people who are good financial managers, spending (or not) according to the values that they deem wise and appropriate for their families -- from all over the country and even around the world.

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Can you parse this statement for me? I do not understand what it means to be 358% less expensive

 

 

How about Seattle is 358% more expensive than Tulsa.

 

Correction:  That is just the housing.

Edited by Scarlett

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How about Seattle is 358% more expensive than Tulsa.

 

That makes sense, thanks :)

 

ETA: Actually, another question about language use: when you say something like this, do you mean it is 3.58 times as expensive, or 3.58 times more expensive, in other words 4.58 times as expensive?

Edited by regentrude

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I would have said we live in a very low COL area but no way could you rent a nice house in the nice part of town for $650.

 

That said, we lived in PNW and the house we rented with a little over an acre of land is worth $400,000+.  We have almost the same amount of land here in the Midwest and a lot more square footage for just over $200k.

 

So I think we're pretty good here.  

 

ETA

If you google your city name and City Data then you'll get your cost of living index calculator.  With perfect 100 being average, we scored an 88.

Edited by BlsdMama

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I live in a low COL area. I am not quite sure I understand what exactly the OP is asking. When it comes to materialism, one thing I notice compared to living in other areas of the country that, despite COL being low, people spend little money on conspicuous consumption even though they should have a larger portion of disposable income due to low COL. You don't see fancy clothes or luxury cars. Now, of course the fact that it is 100 miles to the mall has something to do with it. But it is noticeable that people are very casual, not wearing designer wear (it would be ridiculous to wear designer shoes in this town because nobody would notice), no truly "fancy" homes... small town in rural Midwest.

When I am in cities with HCOL, I see a lot more expensive cars and people are a lot better dressed. Which seems counter-intuitive, since their necessary expenses are so much higher.

OP: is this the kind of thing you mean?

Aha.

 

Well yeah, the 1% so to speak is concentrated in urban areas. But the vast majority of people are just dealing with prices targeted at the 1%ers. You see the Maserati. You don't see the crappy little cars.

 

Part of that is yellow cab syndrome too.

 

And people have to dress up but my clearance suit is not more expensive than my jeans and fleece and hiking boots. The boots cost as much as the suit (in theory: in reality boots I won in a contest, suit on clearance, for work).

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Aha.

 

Well yeah, the 1% so to speak is concentrated in urban areas. But the vast majority of people are just dealing with prices targeted at the 1%ers. You see the Maserati. You don't see the crappy little cars.

 

Part of that is yellow cab syndrome too.

 

And people have to dress up but my clearance suit is not more expensive than my jeans and fleece and hiking boots. The boots cost as much as the suit (in theory: in reality boots I won in a contest, suit on clearance, for work).

 

I'm not talking about the 1%. I am not talking about 100k+ Maseratis - but maybe 40k cars. We definitely noticed it when we were in Dallas recently, many people driving newer, more expensive , nicer cars than we typically see in our town. Even people here who could easily afford nicer cars, especially since COL is so low and so much of their income left over, tend to drive older vehicles. I think maybe this is what OP meant?

If there is no conspicuous consumption around, it seems to set the tone for the entire community.

 

I don't know what Yellow Cab Syndrome is.

 

My hiking boots are my most expensive item of apparel, too. But almost nobody even wears a clearance suit here. People don't dress up. I have some nice dresses from "before" and have a hard time finding an occasion to wear them (we are not talking evening gowns; I have never had occasion to attend a formal wear event in my life)

Edited by regentrude
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What I know of Dallas is that there are a lot of transplants. I have a brother living in Dallas proper, and when people move in from CA, IL, and other high COL-areas they have more disposable income to put towards more upscale products (cars, clothes) even if it's considered a mid- or low- COL area.

 

He's a perfect example. He moved from San Francisco where he owned a modest home in the East Bay (sold for ~ $800K) and two older cars (a '60s Mustang and a late-90s 300ZX).  He transferred to Dallas and bought a nicer, bigger home for $400K (which is on the high end for a single guy but he wanted a prime location) and still had plenty left over to upgrade his car. He gave the 300ZX to our nephew and bought a new 8-series. He still 'makes' more per month living in Dallas than he did in SF even though his pay technically took a hit.

 

This is common for his circle of friends and professional peers, especially those in their 20s and early 30s who are still unmarried or are married without children. I don't know if it's them becoming more materialistic, per se, or if it's that now their budget affords luxury items that they are now available to afford. I equate materialism with being driven to buy things with the sole intent of keeping up with (or impressing) the Joneses - I guess I subscribe an intent to it that is different from an intent to just enjoy higher quality things when one's budget allows.

 

I don't know what yellow cab syndrome is either. I googled and learned it can also be applied towards Asian women's sexual availability towards foreigners, but I don't know what it means in the context of this conversation. I'm assuming that's not it! LOL

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I would have said we live in a very low COL area but no way could you rent a nice house in the nice part of town for $650.

 

That said, we lived in PNW and the house we rented with a little over an acre of land is worth $400,000+. We have almost the same amount of land here in the Midwest and a lot more square footage for just over $200k.

 

So I think we're pretty good here.

 

ETA

If you google your city name and City Data then you'll get your cost of living index calculator. With perfect 100 being average, we scored an 88.

Our town's is 81... Median house value 73k. But we still met more frugal people in New Hampshire...

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Yellow cab syndrome is when somebody mentions a,yellow cab you start seeing them. They were always there but you just didn't notice them before.

 

Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk

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I live in a low COL area. I am not quite sure I understand what exactly the OP is asking. When it comes to materialism, one thing I notice compared to living in other areas of the country that, despite COL being low, people spend little money on conspicuous consumption even though they should have a larger portion of disposable income due to low COL. You don't see fancy clothes or luxury cars. Now, of course the fact that it is 100 miles to the mall has something to do with it. But it is noticeable that people are very casual, not wearing designer wear (it would be ridiculous to wear designer shoes in this town because nobody would notice), no truly "fancy" homes... small town in rural Midwest.

When I am in cities with HCOL, I see a lot more expensive cars and people are a lot better dressed. Which seems counter-intuitive, since their necessary expenses are so much higher.

OP: is this the kind of thing you mean?

I think it varies a lot relative to the local culture.

 

In Seattle, you will see pricey recreation gear but many professionals don't need a professional wardrobe and the area is well known for the predominance of older cars. People who are quite well off are often driving 12 year old Toyotas and Subarus. People, even affluent people, in Seattle tend to not be especially "well dressed". There are exceptions of course but it's not the visible norm. Visiting Chicago and some smaller LCOL Midwestern cities for conferences and other things I realized the bank tellers and secretaries and middle managers were almost to a one dressed better than the lawyers, bankers and business executives here, lol. My accounting clients have no issue with me showing up in a sundress or jeans and Chaco sandals.

Edited by LucyStoner
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We live in a suburb of St. Paul, Mn.  We recently moved from a much more rural area where we were paying a lot less for housing then we're paying currently.  So, to me, the cost of living here is high.  We went from a 1700 sq. ft house with 5 bed/2 baths on acreage, to a 1300 sq. ft. house with 3 bed/2 baths in a suburb and we almost doubled our rent payment.  Granted, there is MUCH more to get out and do/see here, so I'm not complaining.

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I'm not talking about the 1%. I am not talking about 100k+ Maseratis - but maybe 40k cars. We definitely noticed it when we were in Dallas recently, many people driving newer, more expensive , nicer cars than we typically see in our town. Even people here who could easily afford nicer cars, especially since COL is so low and so much of their income left over, tend to drive older vehicles. I think maybe this is what OP meant?

If there is no conspicuous consumption around, it seems to set the tone for the entire community.

 

I don't know what Yellow Cab Syndrome is.

 

My hiking boots are my most expensive item of apparel, too. But almost nobody even wears a clearance suit here. People don't dress up. I have some nice dresses from "before" and have a hard time finding an occasion to wear them (we are not talking evening gowns; I have never had occasion to attend a formal wear event in my life)

 

Dallas is a low COL area!

 

Median home prices:

Dallas

$137,000

 

 

The median home value in Seattle is $564,300.

 

Median household income in Dallas:

 

 

Dallas

$59,530

 

 

 

Median household income in Seattle:

The Census ACS 1-year survey reports that the median household income for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Washington metro area was $71,273 in 2014.

 

And houses in Dallas are on average larger, it seems, though I couldn't find stats. It just looks like that browsing through Zillow and Redfin. Of course that's not analysis. It's speculation. Still!

 

As for suits, not many people in Seattle dress up but we do have a miniature finance industry and they wear suits. However, my point was to say that formal clothing is not more expensive (in my experience, in my size range) than quality casual clothing, provided you know where to buy. You cannot judge people's wealth or spending on clothing by their dress. Seattle women unbelievably spend more on clothes than women in other cities.

 

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2012/11/01/this-i-did-not-know-women-in-seattle-spend-hella-scrilla-on-threads

 

(I linked to the Stranger, beware the ads, sorry.)

 

Unbelievably, I say, unless you have ever shopped for a biking rain jacket, in which case you know that you basically have to camp out at Big 5 before a sale.

 

Dallas. My goodness. Dallas to me seems like the ultimate low COL area, with low prices on food, housing, and taxes.

 

Edited to add:

 

I should get off this thread because this really was a JAWM. So, sorry.

 

I do want to say, however, that I don't view spending less time in my car and more time with my kids as a flashy spend. It is a luxury, to be sure, but it's the kind of simple living many people value. We spend on housing so we can be home with the kids more. We spend on housing not for a fancy house--our neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks, we don't have a garage--but to live in a community where we can send kids to the public schools and see our neighbors at the grocery store. I know that is spending a lot and I take responsibility for that. But it's not flashy living.

 

We couldn't do both of those in a small town and still make ends meet with our salaries. Houses in my mom's small town cost as much as they cost in Dallas, and the median income is way, way lower. We'd never be able to save.

 

So while I admit we are making trade-offs, I seriously do not think they are the kind of trade-offs you were thinking of, OP. On the contrary. We trade video games and subscriptions for the right to walk to grandma's or ride a bike to school.

Edited by Tsuga
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I live in a relatively low COL area.  As far as materialism, I like my space, which would cost millions in some HCOL areas, so you could say I was materialistic.  But then materialistic folks in HCOL areas tend to have expensive but smaller toys.  I had a boss who lived in DC, in a tiny row house with his wife and daughters.  It was 1br and they used the living room for the girls' bedroom at night.  But they had an extremely expensive car, fancy suits, expensive private schools, ate out (and drank) expensively, etc.  He kept wanting me to move to DC or other HCOL "hub" city, and I kept saying no, because I like my space.  :)

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I just checked and housing is 378% higher in Seattle than my town.

 

Even Tulsa is 358% less expensive than Seattle. 

 

 

What calculator are you using for this?

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Another factor at play here:  COL is not necessarily static.

 

When we bought our house in a coastal area, real estate here was undervalued. The place was "discovered" and a boom began. Our home is valued at more than twice what we paid for it two decades ago.  At the height of the real estate insanity, it was valued at more than thrice but I had no interest in selling.  I know people who did, folks who moved to lower cost areas farther from the water, and boy do they regret it. 

 

Now if our OP wanted to move to my area, she would pay rent that would be much higher than my mortgage ever was.

 

The gal who cuts my area is a single mom who rents.  When her daughters lived at home and her mom was alive and living with them, they lived in town so that the teen/pre-teen girls could walk to friends' houses, walk to jobs.  When her Mom died (and she lost that share of the rent) she had to move.  She told me that where the rents were lower (and honestly more reasonable for her income), there was going to be another cost:  another vehicle. The two older girls would have to share the car for extracurriculars and jobs.  So the cheap rent was not as cheap as it appeared at first glance.

 

I do know that we pay more for groceries than some especially during tourist season.  But I can also drive to farms where I pay far less than many for amazing organic produce.  Those grocery basket comparisons don't really work for me because I don't buy much at the traditional grocery. Although I don't live in an urban area, this is often how folks in urban areas shop too.  They might have a coop for pantry basics, a fishmonger, a butcher.  The latter might offer less popular cuts (or fish species) that traditional groceries don't sell.

 

In my perfect universe, I would be able to bike just about everywhere.  Cost of Living calculators can never reflect Quality of Living. 

 

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Dallas is a low COL area!

Median home prices:

Dallas

$137,000

 

Median household income in Dallas:

Dallas

$59,530

 

LOL - compared to my small rural town with a median household income of 32k this is still much higher COL.

Edited by regentrude
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Another factor at play here:  COL is not necessarily static.

 

When we bought our house in a coastal area, real estate here was undervalued. The place was "discovered" and a boom began. Our home is valued at more than twice what we paid for it two decades ago.  At the height of the real estate insanity, it was valued at more than thrice but I had no interest in selling.  I know people who did, folks who moved to lower cost areas farther from the water, and boy do they regret it. 

 

Now if our OP wanted to move to my area, she would pay rent that would be much higher than my mortgage ever was.

 

The gal who cuts my area is a single mom who rents.  When her daughters lived at home and her mom was alive and living with them, they lived in town so that the teen/pre-teen girls could walk to friends' houses, walk to jobs.  When her Mom died (and she lost that share of the rent) she had to move.  She told me that where the rents were lower (and honestly more reasonable for her income), there was going to be another cost:  another vehicle. The two older girls would have to share the car for extracurriculars and jobs.  So the cheap rent was not as cheap as it appeared at first glance.

 

I do know that we pay more for groceries than some especially during tourist season.  But I can also drive to farms where I pay far less than many for amazing organic produce.  Those grocery basket comparisons don't really work for me because I don't buy much at the traditional grocery. Although I don't live in an urban area, this is often how folks in urban areas shop too.  They might have a coop for pantry basics, a fishmonger, a butcher.  The latter might offer less popular cuts (or fish species) that traditional groceries don't sell.

 

In my perfect universe, I would be able to bike just about everywhere.  Cost of Living calculators can never reflect Quality of Living. 

 

 

Very true.   The houses in SoCal that sold for $200K back before 2000, are now worth over $500K.  I am talking a house around 1500 sq. ft. max.  

 

I had friends who were waiting to buy until they could save more $$.  They still rent or they have moved away because they couldn't afford to buy then, and certainly can't now.

 

Even here, in NC, houses that went for $250K ten years ago go for almost $100K more in certain areas.

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Very true.   The houses in SoCal that sold for $200K back before 2000, are now worth over $500K.  I am talking a house around 1500 sq. ft. max.  

 

I had friends who were waiting to buy until they could save more $$.  They still rent or they have moved away because they couldn't afford to buy then, and certainly can't now.

 

Even here, in NC, houses that went for $250K ten years ago go for almost $100K more in certain areas.

 

I see that on TV (HGTV shows).  I always think man I can't believe a tiny shack costs half a mill. 

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Average (not sure which average - mean maybe?) household income in my county in 2012 (last figures I could find)  was £449 per week, so about USD 34,000 per year.  The average house price is £150,000 now, so about USD218,000

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My father told me never to make a big decision based only on money. There are other factors that drive our decision where to live. For DH and I, we can't put a price tag on living near our parents - we live less than two miles from each. I am happy to spend more for that privilege, especially as they age.

 

I don't need world class arts, but I did want to live in a city where my sons could study music with first rate instructors and play in a good youth orchestra. I like taking my mother to the opera. I like good restaurants.

 

I have lived in two towns that were low COL but ugly. I hated that. I don't need paradise, but I care about my surroundings. I am fond of lushness.

 

I like living near an airport and close enough to the beach and mountains to easily go for a weekend.

 

We live in an expensive part of our city. At times I regret that. We are paying too much mortgage and could have a better house if we lived outside the city. But we highly prioritized proximity. For years my husband had a five minute drive to work. He could come home for lunch with the kids. We spent a lot for that location, but those things matter to us MORE than material things.

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We live below our means and only spend what is necessary. We spend $200 a month on groceries for 4 people mainly because my grandparents, his grandparents, and we, ourselves, have gardens. We all can our harvest, and give each other any excess.

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I thought I lived in a low cost of living area. I just looked it up and we are in a high cost of living area. I guess growing up near DC skewed what I thought it should cost to live. We live here because we went to grad school here, DH finished before I did and got a job locally 20+ years ago. His company has been bought out three times, but they let us stay here, which makes us lucky, I suppose.

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I thought I lived in a low cost of living area. I just looked it up and we are in a high cost of living area. I guess growing up near DC skewed what I thought it should cost to live. We live here because we went to grad school here, DH finished before I did and got a job locally 20+ years ago. His company has been bought out three times, but they let us stay here, which makes us lucky, I suppose.

 

That does skew perspective...... we grew up in the same high col area and ironically moved to the same metro area in a different state. It felt lower there because of where we came from but when I moved to yet another state, I realized how much higher the col really was there.

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