Does Where You Live Matter?
You’ll probably all make fun of me for this, but that’s okay. I live exactly 3 blocks from the house I grew up in.
Hmm… no Momma’s boy jokes yet? I’m sure there will be some by the end of the post. Or, at least in the comment section.
Anyway, you can probably imagine the reasons why I live so close to my parents. My family is important to me, so I wanted to be close to them. I think the neighbourhood I live in is wonderful – there are all sorts of mature trees, it’s quiet, it’s flanked by all sorts of nature and the yards are ample, which isn’t a priority for developers these days. We live in a small town, which means housing costs are reasonable. And although now place will ever be entirely crime free, it sure does seem like my small town is.
Meanwhile, I can see the appeal of a larger centre. Opportunities are definitely more plentiful, especially if you’re in a more specialized field. There’s always something to do in the evenings, and seemingly countless single members of the opposite sex – assuming you’re looking. Everything from medical facilities to libraries are generally better in larger centres than smaller ones. There are all sorts of advantages to living in a big city.
But, is it all worth it? Does it matter where you live? In many instances, I’d argue you’re better off living in a small town. Here’s why:
Cost of Living
The 2 large centres closest to me are Calgary and Edmonton. The house I live in, would be worth approximately $150-200k more than the house I live in here.
Assuming I take out a 25 year mortgage at 4%, I’m looking at $800-$1000 more each month just in the costs of my mortgage alone. Add to that higher property taxes (since the property is worth more) and we’re looking at some serious extra cash going out the door each month from the increased cost of living.
Yes, there are admittedly jobs that you can only find in big cities. If your job is the starting goaltender for the Calgary Flames, I’m pretty sure you’re stuck in Calgary. (You’re probably not too worried about the cost of living though) But what about if you’re a nurse, or a teacher, or any other job that pays pretty much the same across your province? Is the increased housing costs really worth the extra benefits of living in the city?
Here’s something you probably don’t know about small towns: they attract all sorts of people on fixed budgets. Why exactly?
Well, it’s simple. One, you have lower housing costs, and lots of smaller, older houses that rent cheaply. Two, small towns tend to not be so spread out, meaning you can easily find a place to live that’s central enough you don’t need a car. When you’re on a limited budget, those two things are very appealing. Sure, there’s little in public transportation, but the occasional cab trip solves that.
Even if you’re one of those people who likes bicycling everywhere, small towns have less traffic to deal with, making your commute both faster and safer.
Most of us in small towns do own cars. Imagine how nice it is to be able to get anywhere in town in less than 5 minutes. We barely know what rush hour is. Whenever I’m late for something, I always joke it’s because of traffic. You see? If you live in a small town, traffic jams are just a punchline.
In many of the professional fields in my town, there’s very little competition. There’s a shortage of doctors, mostly because doctors aren’t usually too interested in going to small towns. It’s the same thing with lawyers, accountants, dentists, and probably another half dozen professions I can’t think of.
Even if you’re just some guy who works in the oil field, less competition means more opportunity for you. If many of your co-workers are just itching to leave for a more exciting place, that increases your chances of succeeding in the place you already are.
One Horse Towns
One caveat about living in a small town. You have to make sure they town is big and diversified enough to not be dependent on one industry or one company.
My Dad grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan. In the mid 1980s, the lumber mill which employed a quarter of the town closed down. Not surprisingly, real estate values sunk close to 50% over the next few years. Unemployment was everywhere, and you had a workforce that was good at working at a lumber mill. Over the past few years, the town has finally begun to boom again, thanks to the natural resource boom. In the meantime, it was a bad time to live in that town.
Be careful when picking a small town to settle down in. If you find a good one though, there’s all sorts of advantages over a big city. Hey, you can even move into my neighbourhood. Just be quiet after dark.