Five Ways We Save money by living in a small town and Working for Ourselves
It’s been almost 3 years since we quit our jobs in Seattle, packed up the kids, and moved back to the small town where Garrett and I grew up (Ellensburg WA). ‘Early retirement’, as we call the transition, has been an experiment in ‘working for ourselves’ as full-time landlords and parents and part-time renovators, bloggers, and volunteers. And we’ve loved the change of pace for the most part. But it’s come with significant changes to our finances. And today I wanted to share 5 ways we actually save money by living in a small town and working for ourselves.
One // Our Farmhouse
It probably goes without saying, but our small town has a lower cost of living than Seattle. That played a big part in our decision to retire and move back here. Our Farmhouse is in the country (about 10 miles from town) with 3 acres of land, and that’s about as ‘desirable neighborhood’ as it gets around here. But even so, we only paid $412,000 for this house (and that was in a bidding war…eek!), which is significantly less than what any of our Seattle rentals are worth. Housing has been a significant savings by moving outside the big city.
Two // Food
Probably the most surprising change in our budget has been food. We spend under half of what we used to at the grocery stores in Seattle and a quarter of what we used to at happy hours, breweries, and eating out. How is that possible only 100 miles from Seattle? Well grocery staples cost less in our small town plus we don’t have any of those expensive stores that eat up your pay check (I’m looking at you, Whole Foods and Met Market). We also have more time to meal plan and cook from scratch now that we don’t have 9-5 jobs. And with our garden finally up and running, we now grow some our own food, too.
As for eating out, I’ve been surprised to find that restaurants aren’t really less expensive in our small town, but there are less of them. And as our family has grown, we’ve found ourselves viewing restaurants with less excitement. Eating out is more of a chore these days than the convenience and fun diversion they were in our childless 20’s. I’m sure that will change as the kids get older, but eating at home has become the norm for us. And that works well, because we both like to cook (Garrett is admittedly much better at it) and we have a lot more time to do it. Being home during the day means we can start dinner early (like starting a loaf of sourdough bread in the morning or putting beans on the stove in the afternoon for Mexican that night) and take the time to cook from scratch. Being ‘retired’ has translated into eating healthier than ever before and spending less money doing it. A win-win.
Three // Clothes and personal care
Without a job to go to every day, I no longer feel the need to buy new clothes seasonally. I actually spent almost an entire year without buying a single item of new clothing, and it was surprisingly not that big of a deal. There is zero pressure to wear the latest trends here and I like that. I’m still working on downsizing my closet and still add to my closet occasionally (especially as I’ve dealt with the weight gain and loss of pregnancies) but I spend much less overall, now.
I also spend less on my hair now that I’ve decided to stop dying my hair. All-over dyes were costing me around $100/month (my hair upkeep was actually slightly cheaper in Seattle) and that should add up to a four-figure savings this year. I don’t know this for sure, but I highly doubt I would have made that decision if I still lived in Seattle and worked a 9-5 job.
Four // Child care and activities
Without jobs to go to, childcare is no longer something we pay for. We’re really lucky to have both sets of grandparents nearby and they watch our kids when it works. An amazing luxury, I know! And as a bonus, all of that time with the grandparents means our kids have a super close relationship with them (and visa versa)!
We also spend less money on kids activities now. There are no bouncy houses, science centers, or children’s museums here (we do have a library and pool), but there are plenty of outdoor activities. You can hardly turn around without finding a creek to swim in, a trail to hike on, a camp site to pitch a tent in, a path to bike on, or an expansive backyard to play and explore in. And those outdoor activities are, for the most part, free.
Five // Books
Okay I’ll admit books have never been a huge line item in our budget, but I wanted to include it because it’s indicative of a lot of smaller expenses you can reduce when you aren’t on a 9-5 schedule. Instead of buying books now (excluding gifts), we go to the library. We are free mid-morning to go to story time and then check out an armload of books to take home with us. Our library is also part of the Washington Anytime Library so I can read kindle books and listen to audio books through the Overtime App on my phone (I can’t recommend this enough!!). And the best part is that it’s all free. Well as free as a tax-funded program is 😉
Now that we live in the country and work for ourselves our life isn’t less-busy per se (kids 🤷🏼♀️), but it’s quieter, more meaningful, and feels right for us. One of my favorite parts: we’re in control of our time now. Of course that perk has come with finical tradeoffs (like footing the bill for our own healthcare). But as a whole, our expenses are much less than what they used to be when we lived in the city and clocked in at a job for 40-hours a week.
What about you? Have you ever changed your living situation and cut expenses? I’d love to hear about it!