Moving to a small town to save on rent? Beware of this trap

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This is a downside that you will need to consider carefully.


Key points

  • You might be inclined to leave a big city because of exorbitant rents.
  • Before moving to a small town, consider what other expenses you might incur.
  • Transportation costs, from car loans to gas prices, can add to your monthly bills.

A few years ago, a friend of mine moved out of New York when his monthly rent of $3,200 for a one-bedroom apartment started to rise. He moved to a small town in upstate New York, where for the cost of his rent he was able to cover not only a mortgage payment, but also property taxes and home insurance and he has left still money.

But although my friend is happy to have moved, he hasn’t saved as much as expected for one important reason. And it’s also a pitfall you might encounter if you move from a big city to a smaller one.

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When my friend lived in New York, he spent about $100 a month on transportation. This is because he was able to get by using the subway, which ran all the time, and also walking to different places.

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Within five blocks of my friend’s apartment, he had many restaurants and cafes, several grocery stores, a hardware store, and other stores that made life easier. Now, says my friend, the nearest grocery store is nearly a mile away. And while it can walk to a handful of restaurants, for the most part having a car is unavoidable.

So he has a car, which means he makes a monthly car loan payment and also pays for insurance and maintenance. But all told, he now spends seven times more on transportation than he previously spent in one of the country’s most expensive cities.

Get ready to drive everywhere

Living in a big city often means paying a lot of money for little square footage. But it can also mean spending a minimum on transport. This is a perk you might forgo if you move to a small town to save on rent.

AAA says it costs an average of $894 per month to own a car. And if you live in a place where things are very scattered, you might end up spending even more to keep filling your vehicle’s tank.

There is a lifestyle change that you will also have to adapt to. Some people find that they don’t move their bodies as much once they move to a small town because they are constantly driving. But it could have health consequences.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to living in a cramped, overpriced apartment for the rest of your life to avoid needing a car. But what you need to do is make sure you understand the extra costs you might incur if you leave a big city with public transport and put down your roots in a smaller one.

My friend is glad he left New York because spending so much money on rent just wasn’t viable for him in the long run. But he also received a huge wake-up call when he realized how expensive owning a vehicle is. And that’s something you don’t want to catch off guard.

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