Social Question

Haleth's avatar

Where should I live?

Asked by Haleth (19513points) June 26th, 2014

I’ve been thinking about moving to a new city in a year or two. By then, I’ll have some pretty solid savings, and a good amount of experience from my current job.

Where I live now (DC area) is one of the most expensive parts of the country. A salary like mine is enough to rent a room with roommates here. The cost for that starts at about $600 in the outer suburbs (as opposed to the convenient suburbs that are close to the city and have ample public transportation.) I’m talking like, the deep suburbs. There are Wal-Marts out here where the parking lot is bigger than a football field, no sidewalks anywhere, and there’s a herd of tame deer who trample through my back yard. That’s how far away from the city it is. A studio apartment out here runs around $1000— 1200.

It seems like everyone I know here is just scraping by. We’re either living like nuns to save for our future (me) or one mishap away from financial disaster.

I’m living with relatives and saving the extra money to get my own place. But it just doesn’t seem like I can afford the market here. I could go live with roommates, but then I’d be spending more money to do basically the same thing I’m doing now.

Maybe I’d be happier in another part of the country, with a more relaxed pace and a lower cost of living. I mean, $30k is a reasonable income, right? I’ll be in a good position to move and change jobs in a year or two, and it would be a fun adventure to get a new job and a new home at the same time.

I’ve also been thinking of moving to a smaller city outside DC, like Frederick or Annapolis. Both of those have a lot of character, and I could keep my current job and still see friends and family. But my commute would be more than an hour each way, and they are still somewhat outside my price range.

I want to live somewhere with a creative easygoing feel to it, that isn’t too expensive. So clearly, NOT DC. Thoughts? Thanks a lot!

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38 Answers

rojo's avatar

It is a big, wide world out there @Haleth. What is it that keeps you considering the DC outskirts? Try Colorado, or Wyoming or London even.

Haleth's avatar

@rojo Both of the places I mentioned above are actually the sort of thing I’m looking for- small to medium sized, more affordable, and with history and personality. I have a really interesting job and all my friends and family are here, so there’s a lot on that side of the balance sheet. I could see myself living somewhere like that and being happy.

What I really wanted to know, I guess, is what’s it like to live in other parts of the country? Especially on a more moderate income. Or, like, does anyone know any cool places that they’d recommend?

GloPro's avatar

Great question. If you are genuinely open to anything, I suggest you fill out a profile on

It seems pretty accurate as it pertains to my life. Maybe it will open some new doors for you, too.

Magical_Muggle's avatar

PERTH (in Australia, small with lots of history)
HOBART (in Australia, small with lots of history, and slightly cold)

funkdaddy's avatar

Creative and easygoing made me think of Wimberley Texas, which is completely different than the towns you’re considering. It may be way smaller than you like, but is pretty close to both Austin and San Antonio, so there’s plenty of city goodies when needed. Most people live in the area rather than “in town” and there’s at least 25 similar small towns in the hill country. Wimberley is my personal favorite I guess.

They’ve developed a really impressive community of artists and other creative folks. They have a couple of galleries (another) and one of the nicest glass places I’ve ever been to. It’s far enough out that people are fine with moving slow and don’t ask questions if you just want to sit on your porch all day. Honestly I it’s spread out enough that I don’t think anyone would ever notice.

Not necessarily a fit, but maybe a place to visit if you ever get close.

@IheartMypuppy – Isn’t it pretty tough to legally move to Australia?

One last thing, I don’t know if this will be douchey, or not, but as someone who tried to find a good balance at around 30k income, I just don’t think it’s enough to have options long term. It just always seems like there’s something that keeps you from really being prepared for that $2500 car repair, or worried about the rumors at work that they’re cutting back. I don’t mean that you can never live off it, but I think life gets easier without necessarily adding too much stress if you start looking for something a little higher paying as you get experience. For me, I realized some day my parents may need help as they get older, or someone may get sick that I care about, and I wasn’t in a position to help no matter how well things were going for me personally. Your mileage may vary, I just wish someone would have given me a heads up that 30k is fine to live on, but really tough to build anything on.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Branson Missouri (jobs everywhere including restaurant work, hotel/motel work and music show jobs)
Hot Springs Arkansas
Athens Ohio

jerv's avatar

Seattle is definitely creative and (for a city) easygoing. Costs are comparable, but wages are generally higher. But if all you know is East Coast living, it’ll take some adjustment. However, going through Ballard, Fremont, or Capital Hill will be eye-opening if you’re looking for “chill”.

Street markets, art, technology, annual parades of naked people, Hemp Fest where the police are passing out bags of Doritos to pot-smokers… it’s a different world from East Coast.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@funkdaddy if you are young and skilled you could possibly score enough points to move to Australia. Otherwise it is very difficult.

JLeslie's avatar

From what I understand Frederick is supposed to be very nice. More built up than when I lived in Montgomery Village years ago. You certainly won’t be very far from civilization living there if it is still a small town. I remember Annapolis being nice also, but it has been years since I was there.

Remind me, are you the one who works in the wine biz? You could consider upstate NY or western NY where there are wineries, and plenty of people interested in that business in one dense area. I suggest NY rather than California just for proximity to DC. Many of the towns in the Catskill mountains are very into the whole “green” scene and people who love the arts.

I live in FL as you know, and I love living on vacation all year long, so I always tell people to move here, so I will tell you too. Some areas are expensive, but you can still find reasonable places, especially coming from DC, which is so extremely expensive. There are tons of flights from FL to DC so the fares are usually very reasonable. You can take the Amtrak also. Florida has some great small towns if that is what you like. Lakeland, FL has a college that Frank Lloyd Wright did the architecture, and the downtown area just a few miles from the college is very nice. Several square blocks of restaurants and stores. Lakeland is about an hour from Orlando airport, an hour and a half from beaches. The Amtrak stops right in downtown Lakeland, so you can take it to West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, and all points more north like Charleston, DC, but I recommend flying if you are travelling far, if you have a car you would just drive to the closer cities. Winter Park is another small town that is beautiful, but just 30 minutes from Orlando Airport and less than an hour from the beach. It might be expensive right in Winter Park proper, but go a little further out and prices should drop. The main street has what seems like a mile to me in my memory of restaurants and stores and a wonderful museum at the north end. The community is very into the arts. The Amtrak lets off right there off of Main street. There is a fairly decent sized farmers market there as well.

Several of my MD friends moved to North Carolina. I actually lived outside of Raleigh for a while, and I didn’t love it, but most of my friends do. Actually, Charlotte is the place that seems to be more hip, and full of people from many parts of the country. If you have ties to DC suburbs the drive is very reasonable from NC. Also, Ashville is becoming very popular. It might be expensive because of tourism, I don’t know, but not too far outside of the area the prices probably drop.

hearkat's avatar

Consider that salaries are also usually lower in places where the cost-of-living isn’t so steep. The $30K you make in D.C. might only be $20K in another part if the country.

dxs's avatar

How about New England? Portsmouth is on the water and has a very historic and quaint downtown. There are many businesses there, too.
Newburyport, Mass is similar in style and it has a T stop so you could even commute to Boston (about 1h 15m commute during rush hour). There are many other towns on that line like Salem. For something a bigger, there’s Providence.

marinelife's avatar

I too live in the DC area (we should meet for coffee) and am constantly appalled by the crowding and the prices. We definitely do not plan to retire here.

Check out this article’s suggestions. Some I have selected that look good to me and that I know are lively cities are:

Columbus, Ohio (where Lefty lives)
Raleigh, NC
Cincinnati, Ohio
Austin, TX

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Raleigh, NC
-Varied housing opportunities
-Low unemployment
-Things to do

rojo's avatar

@funkdaddy not sure when was the last time you were in Wimberley but that small, eclectic artist village is growing by leaps and bounds. It has been “discovered” and people are flocking there for the more casual lifestyle they think they are seaching for. Unfortunately, when the get there the first thing they do is try to make it like the larger city or town they came from bringing with all the inherent problems they were trying to get away from with their modernization, standardization and civilization. I give it another seven years, ten at the outside, then you will not be able to tell it from any other mid-sized town with their cookie cutter housing, big box stores and fast food franchises. Sorry @Haleth, Sorry Wimberley

gailcalled's avatar

I have a good friend who just moved to Portland, ME. and is thrilled, so far. But she is retired and does have her son, d—i-l and baby granddaughter near by so she has some connections. She just bought a condo for c. $325K, which worked out to what she got for her house here.

Since it is on the east coast and has cold winters (heating bills and winter clothes and cars equipped to drive on snow and ice) it is not cheap. 30K won’t go too far.

When you say ‘change jobs,” do you mean something specifically related to your present job or are you open to other things?

Some charming places at random are Linsborgh,KS; Sedona, AZ.; Golden, Colorado Springs and Estes Park, CO; and Eufala, AL.

janbb's avatar

Austin, TX or Asheville, NC might fit the bill for you. By the way, $30K is not a lot of money to live on, nearly anywhere.

Aethelwine's avatar

You can rent a three bedroom home for $450—$600 a month here in western Illinois, but I have a feeling it might be too rural of an area for you.

@GloPro Thanks for the reminder about Find Your Spot. I found that site about 5 years ago and it is very accurate. Most of the towns it listed for me are in my favorite area of the US. Northern Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan. I would move there in a heartbeat if I could.

JLeslie's avatar

There are calculators online that tell you what your salary is worth in various cities. They are not the end all be all for calculating such things though, some of it depends on what you spend your money on. NC, which a lot of us have mentioned, has state income tax and property tax on your car like VA (I don’t know if you currently live in MD or VA) which matters a lot for my husband and I since we have a lot of cars. FL has no income tax, no property tax on cars (although registering your car is a little pricey) and neither does some other states. I don’t know how much that matters at $30k a year. Also, quite a few states tax groceries, which when you are tight on a budget adds up. MD has caps on what can be charged on medical services (the only state that I know of).

Warm climates often require less expensive clothing, often the clothing doesn’t need dry cleaning, and less expensive energy bills.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Where is your family, and would it bother you to move away from them, and from familiar surroundings? If not, then the world is your oyster.

I have traveled a lot, and I have come to the following conclusions:

Southeast – Hot, humid, buggy, low cost of living and no winters
East Coast – Expensive, crowded, crummy weather, stuffy people
Great Lakes – Yuck! Blizzards, wind, not fun
Mid-west – tornados, flat and uninteresting, nice farm land, nice people
Northwest – freeze your butt off
West – Dry, nice weather, still has some bad winters but they are short
West Coast – Really nice weather, crowded, cost of living through the roof

So, what is important to you?

Aethelwine's avatar

There are many interesting things about the Midwest. It’s not all flat and boring. Come visit me @skaggfacemutt and I’ll prove you wrong. :)

funkdaddy's avatar

@rojo – I have a friend who’s family lives out there, so go out at least a couple times a year. They basically built a compound on some land and do a little of whatever they want with it, no one really messes with them. Everything is close enough that they don’t have to stock up on toilet paper just in case. From what I’ve seen it’s basically the Marfa or Rockport of the hill country, and those places have gotten bigger too.

I understand it’s different now than it was, but from talking to people from Smithville, Gonzales, Bastrop, Dripping Springs, Fredricksburg, here in Austin, and just about everywhere else, people pretty consistently insist the golden age of their town was 10 to 20 years ago, before all these big city/Californians/urban-core/non-natives moved in. It’s extra funny when you ask when they moved there and it’s usually about 5 years before the trouble started. Everyone wants the same town they fell in love with and decided to move to.

@Skaggfacemutt – why do you travel since it obviously brings such joy? ;)

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Ha-ha! I love the stereotype map – hilarious. @funkdaddy I love to travel. Just saying that every place has its ups and downs. No place is perfect. I once asked myself the same question that @Haleth is asking. I was in a place in my life where I literally could have chosen any place to live. I hate winter, but found that places that don’t have winter, have crazy-hot summers (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico). California would have been my choice, weather-wise, but only southern California, and it is too crowded and crazy expensive. I love the western states, and started out in Colorado. Great, except the winters can be harsh. Then life took me a little ways downstream and I wound up in Utah. I was raised in the Great Lakes area, so I know all about their weather. I think I could dig living in an agricultural area, like southern Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska. There are the tornado’s, though.

I can think of a lot of places that I would be happy, but each has their drawbacks, too. So that is why you have to decide what is most important to you.

hearkat's avatar

[Mod Says] This post is in the General section and the conversation has started to wander a bit, so we’ve contacted the OP to suggest a move to Social. We’ll wait for their reply for about a day (whichever comes first) before we start pulling the off-topic comments. In the meantime, please keep the conversation in reference to the OP. Thanks!

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I would say Grand Junction, Colorado. It is an artsy place, laid back, relatively inexpensive.

jerv's avatar

With reference to cost of living, you may find the living wage calculator handy. It will show you that, with the exception of Southern California, the West Coast is generally cheaper than East Coast (lower heating bills, mostly).

As for the Midwest being full of nice people, that’s not quite so true if you’re either non-Christian or politically left-of-center. While not usually oppressive, I’d rather live some place where I don’t have to conceal myself. Even without getting into discussions on those sensitive issues, my New England accent marks me as the sort of person who isn’t entirely welcome in a God-loving red state, Besides, compared to the East Coast, everybody is nicer.

It’s nice to fit in wherever you live, so things like that and levels of tolerance are important.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv The Midwest that is not part of the bible belt is overall very friendly in my experience no matter what religion you are. Those states are usually dominated by Catholics. Even the bible belt states generally are nice people with some pockets of crazy like any state. We can disagree, I am just stating my experience.

Aethelwine's avatar

I’ve lived in the MIdwest for almost 25 years now and I can say for certain that non-Christian and politically left-of-center are not treated as poorly as jerv thinks. The states are split pretty evenly. There are 12 states that are considered Midwest. Only 3 lean right. Take at look at this map.

I’ve traveled all over the U.S., with the exception of the deep south and New England, and I’ve found that the friendliest people are those who live in the Midwest. There is no stranger I won’t say hello to or smile at or offer a helping hand.

also just stating my (25 year) experience

hearkat's avatar

[Mod Says] Moved to Social with OP’s permission. Carry on!

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie My experience has been split between those pockets of crazy, and people from there who wish they didn’t have to live there but are tied there by stuff like joint custody or children, or taking care of elderly parents.

@jonsblond As someone who has lived in all four corners of the 48, and spent time at many points in between, I have to say that the Midwest is where I felt the least welcome, and the people I have had the worst problems with often turned out to be transplants from the Midwest. I think you can understand how, after 30–40 years of the bad outweighing the good, that might lead to a little bit of a prejudice.

Such is how a multitude of bad experiences can permanently color one’s perceptions and alter their opinions, but that doesn’t invalidate my point that, when choosing a place to move to, it’s important that you be able to get along with your new neighbors. When I was looking at moving again, I had already been too enough places that I knew that I personally would have a hard time more than 100 miles from either coast for pretty much that reason.

Aethelwine's avatar

I hope I haven’t been off topic. @Haleth wanted to know what it’s like to live in different parts of the country and I’d like to dispel some myths about the Midwest. I am a registered Democrat and agnostic who moved to a red county 4 years ago. Many of the people I have to deal with daily support Republicans and go to church weekly, but they all made us feel very welcomed. I’m sure if someone visited the Midwest with an attitude they’ll get one in return, but most people don’t discuss politics and religion when they travel and meet people for the first time. You get what you give.

jerv's avatar

@jonsblond The Midwesterners I have gotten along with keep their politics and religion to themselves, just as New Englanders, Californians, and Seattlites do. Maybe most Midwesterners are like you say, but those aren’t the ones I seem to run into. I’ve met more that are very vocal about their love for Jesus and hatred of Democrats, and often start a conversation with one of those two things. Maybe it’s just bad luck, but again, I can only go with my own experience. If I run into more “normal” people from that region, I will likely change my views, but it’d take at least 100 to shift the weight of evidence enough to counter what I’ve dealt with. Until then…

But enough about that; lets get back to finding OP a new home.

trailsillustrated's avatar

haha after reading all this soooo glad not to have this problem good luck OP

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Personally, I have never met a farm wife that didn’t stick a slice of homemade cake in my hand and send me home with a quart of pickles and a dozen eggs.

The Midwest is a big place. I am talking rural farm land when I talk of the Midwest. What do you consider the Midwest?

JLeslie's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt Who are you asking?

Edit: map and additional info for you.

Aethelwine's avatar

I’m glad I looked at your link @JLeslie or I would not have known this fact- The region has a higher employment-to-population ratio (the percentage of employed people at least 16 years old) than the Northeast, the West, the South, or the Sun Belt states as of 2011.[10]

JLeslie's avatar

Interesting. I didn’t read it at all, just linked it.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I just wondered about all the comments above about the Midwest. I was born and raised there, and I don’t recall the people being particularly republican or democrat, or being particularly religious or not.

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