I just read this posting at Jonathan's My Money Blog. He asks: Would you move to the boonies in exchange for a large increase in income -- he was offered 50% more. Here's the original posting and comments. The comments are well thought through and excellent! Also, checkout My Personal Finance Blog, Personal Finance Blogger just moved from Detroit to Peoria. He's at the beginning of the experience.
My family has made the leap. We moved from a major city to the rural South. We have a Walmart and a pathetic mall as well as a struggling to recover downtown. The nearest big city is about 1 hour away when there is no traffic.
If you're a big city person, it's really a tough bullet to bite.
Social adjustment is a shocker.
We've been fortunate. People in rural NC are very friendly. Although we haven't lived here for 20 years, they are kind and invite us to their homes. The biggest challenge is meeting compatible families and integrating socially.
Small rural communities have many social groups - some formal, most often church, the ruritans, shriners, freemasons, country clubs, etc... and others informal, such as playgroups, neighborhood picnics, golf buddies, hunting buddies, etc....
Having an active social life in the middle of nowhere really requires finding groups, joining and participating actively. Very independent people may find this quite distressing. The fact is the communities are very small. There is not enough population (think revenue volume) to support much commercial entertainment. Consequently, the social bonds are much tighter, but they take longer to sort out and integrate.
Most of the forms of entertainment we were accustomed to were highly commercialized: Chucky Cheeze, cafe's with live music, restaurants, museums, large public events, symphony, etc.... These really aren't conveniently available. Over time, we have found substitute activities, but it takes a long time to discover and adapt to alternatives.
Also, you might as well get used to driving an hour on highways (not much traffic) to get anywhere - things are spread apart. You adapt after a while.
Finding groups can be a big issue. Especially if you're not a member of the dominant religious faith in the area (in NC think Southern Baptist). The real issue is NOT religion. Most people don't really care what religion you are, however, they they will ask you at your first meeting what church do you go to. I found it shocking, but it's more along the lines of "can I invite you to join our social/religious group" or "I haven't met you before, where do you hang out".
It really takes an effort - usually by joining a charity or community organization - to discover and understand the social map.
Another challenge - at least in rural NC - is that few people are highly educated. They may be quite intelligent, but are not necessarily educated. In addition, urban dwellers have had years of enculturation that is very different than rural enculturation. City folk are exposed to a much larger concentration of social trends, ideas and behaviours than rural folk - is just a question of population density. The internet is mitigating this significantly - but it's tangible.
If you are highly educated or have been involved in less common urban culture, you will probably find very few people with the same level of education or similar interests.
This can be a big issue in finding and making friends. Over time, you will find and meet the more educated folk, but it doesn't happen quickly - there are simply too few. If this is a priority, rural life may not be for you.
Prepare to drive an hour to find a multiplex cinema. Expect to attend small town theater and high school performances - these are big events. Opera, symphony and museums are also an hour away. Expect to travel.
You'll learn two things:
1. How to buy alot more than you expected you could on line
2. You'll actually keep a shopping list and bring it on the weekly / bi-weekly / monthly shopping trip to the big city
We usually drive 1 to 1 1/2 hours to the nearest city and spend most of the weekend there enjoying cultural events, restaurants and shopping. Occassionally we do things locally - it usually depends on whether social events are scheduled. Being a member of a local church makes a huge difference here. We are not members and therefore do not enjoy many of the traditionally scheduled social activities on Sundays.
IT'S NOT CHEAPER.
Living in the country is really NOT much cheaper.
You can buy a bigger house and more land, but...
Your other living expenses will be higher!
There is very little competition. Walmart is a blessing!
Groceries are more expensive.
Believe it or not, produce is MUCH more expensive!! Try to buy cheap avocados - you can't!
You spend ALOT more money on gasoline - everything is a 30 - 90 minute drive away.
Mail order may have cheaper prices, but shipping from multiple vendors erodes the advantage.
If one spouse gets a better job, the other spouse may in fact be disadvantaged professionally.
Professional services: lawyers, accountants, electricians, plumbers, etc... are not only rare and hard to schedule, they are often MORE expensive -- not competition.
Shopping - if you can't buy it at Walmart, you're driving back into the big city to buy it at the same prices you did in the past.
Education - many rural areas have very poor public schools - you're more than likely going to consider private schools - some have quite a commute and tuition.
Entertainment - you're travelling further to get it and may infact spend more due to the infrequency.
Vacations - you'll take many more vacations, but instead of going to the beach or country, you'll be vacationing in the big city to see the Christmas exchibits, Broadway Shows andThanksgiving parade. Guess what? City vacations are MUCH more expensive. Due to the lack of stimulation, you'll be a much more aggressive vacationer -- and much more willing to spend.
You may in fact be able to save more than you were in the big city -- at least one of you. My wife saves more of her income, I save less. I had a to make a decision: travel during the week and some weekends to big cities for work or earn less staying local. It was better for our family, though I'm not happy about the impact on my career. I'm now looking for an executive position within a 1 1/4 hour commute that pays well. Frankly, I may not find it.
Here's an interesting consideration. Our country home is worth about $500,000. It will appreciate fairly modestly. Our city home was worth about $900,000. It appreciated greatly even after we sold it - of course in today's slower market it will appreciate more slowly, too. My point is that over 10 - 20 years the city home will appreciate much more quickly and the wealth effect of that appreciation will be significant. Will I be able to sell my rural home and buy a comparable city home in 5 years? I'm really not sure.
This issue of appreciation may diminish the benefit of higher rural pay.
Have a wonderful day,