The True Cost of Where You Choose to Live

It’s not a rule that always true, and there are certainly plenty of exceptions. Even so, broadly speaking, cities with a higher cost of living are generally associated with cities that have better-paying jobs. A big part of the reason why housing in the San Francisco area is so expensive is because so many wealthy engineers and executives from Silicon Valley call the place home. They make a lot of money, compete over the same houses, and thus the prices go up. It’s classic supply and demand.

On the flip side, again while not always true, places that have a lower cost of living may also have fewer career opportunities that offer higher levels of pay. It might be cheap to live in the middle of nowhere, but you’ll probably also have a harder time finding a job there. That makes sense, as it ends up being one big feedback loop. But what about when the location and the job aren’t directly connected to one another, as might the case with professional blogging or Internet marketing?

Low Cost of Living FTW?

The same kinds of questions apply when you start looking at alternative means of making a living, like remote working, online entrepreneurship, and freelancing. If how much you make isn’t tied to where you are physically located, then wouldn’t it make the most sense to live where you can enjoy the lowest cost of living, all else held equal? That’s why I featured several US cities and international destinations with a lower cost of living. Make more money, and get that money to stretch further, right?

That just sounds like the prudent thing to do. While you’re at it, live in the smallest space possible, illuminate your home using only a rechargeable headlamp, and walk everywhere you go. You see, a big part of the problem of looking at these circumstances purely through the lens of keeping your costs as low as possible is that you’re ignoring the bigger picture. It’s not just about how much you make and how much you spend; it’s also about how you make that money and how you choose to spend it.

Cheaper Housing But…

Let’s take a classic example. If you still have a more traditional kind of job where you need to be at a physical office, the office is probably closer to the “middle” of the city. And if you want a good paying job, it’s more likely that you’ll find it in a bigger, more densely populated city, which usually translates to a higher overall cost of living.

You might choose to live closer to the office, but that means that your housing costs will generally be higher too. Alternatively, you can choose to live further away, maybe even in a newer or bigger place, for less money. That sounds like a smart decision, until you factor in the additional money you’ll spend on gas and maintenance on your vehicle (or on public transport). Even if you have an electric vehicle and charge it at the office, you’ll need to deal with a longer commute.

The question that you really need to ask yourself is, “What is your time worth to you?” Are you really willing to extend your 15-minute commute into an hour-long commute? Wouldn’t you rather spend that time doing something else? And that doesn’t even factor in the extra wear and tear you’re putting on your vehicle.

A Matter of Lifestyle

If you’re the kind of person who values your privacy and personal space above all else, then maybe living in the middle of nowhere is for you. For the rest of it, lifestyle and convenience play monumental roles in deciding where we choose to live. Having the convenience of getting to a coffee shop, grocery store, or other basic amenities within a few minutes of your home is highly valuable, compared to having to drive for 30 minutes just to buy some milk.

What about leisure time? Admittedly, I’m very much a city slicker, so I prefer city slicker type activities. I want to be close to a variety of restaurants, I want access to city parks and playgrounds, I want to be able to reach a number of shopping options quickly and easily. For all that, you typically need to be somewhere that will correlate with a higher cost of living too.

The Opportunity to Connect

Now, I’m speaking from the perspective of a local “blogger” or “influencer” or whatever label you’d like to use. Depending on the kind of work that you do, maybe you feel like this is less important to you. For me, even though I work by myself, it has been critically important to my business and my career that I am able to attend local events and network with other professionals.

Here in Vancouver, I get invited to events now and then, like the Stanley Park Ghost Train or the Healthy Family Expo, which fit under my niche as a “dad blogger.” And it’s also because I live in Metro Vancouver that I first connected with John Chow all those years ago at Dot Com Pho. After John left Vancouver, he moved to another higher cost of living area (Bellevue, Washington), before ending up in Orange County (another high cost of living area) where he resides today.

Because of where he lives today, John can attend events like South OC Cars and Coffee. Because of where he lives (and where his daughter goes to school), he can network with other wealthy and highly influential individuals. It costs more to live there, but it also opens up all sorts of opportunities he wouldn’t have if he lived in the middle of Missouri or Saskatchewan.

We talk a lot of about blogging and making a living on the Internet on this blog, but it’s equally important to choose where you want to call your home base. And take the time to recognize what is the true cost — both real and in terms of opportunity cost — of that decision.