Lowering My Costs of Living

Posted August 24th, 2009 by Betsy McCullen and filed in Issue 12: Small Spaces and Finances
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Looking into the village

One of my favorite apartments was in a little village in Upstate NY quite near the Vermont border. The apartment was part of the house in which my wonderful landlords also lived. MaryAnn used to invite me over for dinner often and I soon felt like part of the family :)


Looking out over my deck

It was located high above the Batten Kill where the waterfalls thundered below. This blocked out the other undesirable noises of various sorts around the area. The deck off the back overlooking the river was like heaven!! There was a hand-built stairway down to the river where I used to go often to de-stress.

My half of the house was 3 stories high. The basement was largely unused, but being on the river meant colder and damper conditions that filtered up thru into the living areas. The drafts were MANY!! As an example of just how cold it can get on that river, the photo you see was taken at roughly 25 below zero!! It takes an awful lot of fuel oil to keep things warm at that temperature!

icy river e

Brutally cold January day on the river below my apartment

My Dad put plastic covering over every draft he could feel while Mom cooked us dinner one cold January day. I was so grateful for both since I had neither the ambition nor the energy from my 2 hour per day commute each week!

So, as noted, my payoff for this wonderful spot (and in my book, the very best apartment available in those parts!) was a very long drive to work everyday. In winter weather conditions it often meant an even longer, more dangerous trip. Then, when I added in all the other expenses that went with that, it became very apparent that I was defeating my purpose of country living:

  • Gas for the car (right when gas was getting totally ridiculous in price!!)
  • Wear and tear on my car
  • Higher car maintenance costs
  • Higher car insurance costs
  • Wear and tear on my body, mind and spirit

Plus, the rent itself wasn’t all I had to pay for. I also had the extra, separate expenses of:

  • Weekly garbage pickup
  • Water
  • Sewer
  • Filling a huge tank of fuel oil for heating

For all the peace that wonderful apartment and that river brought to me back then, I had to be realistic and make a difficult decision to move a lot closer to my job. Physically and mentally I just couldn’t take that long drive anymore and the costs of driving were becoming a financial burden. The job is non-negotiable at this point. I only have a few short years before a nice retirement plan will afford me to live almost anywhere I want to :)

So, my next place was only 3 miles from work. I moved to an apartment complex with lots of bells and whistles. It only took a couple of years there to decide I didn’t use most of the luxuries I was paying for…the dishwasher, the nasty garbage disposal that was stinkier and more trouble than it was worth, the tennis courts, the noisy, kid-filled swimming pool, the community room filled with smokers, a pool table and a fireplace, the basketball courts and the ever-so-crowded exercise room.

The rent was high, but not higher than my former rent with extra costs  & that brutal commute. However, in winter months the costs of heating with electric heat (even though zoned) was phenomenal. Most winter months I fought to keep them under $300/month. The worse part was that I was never really warm! I decided I had had enough and moved to the apartment that I live in now.

Although this move was 5 more miles out, my now 8 mile trip is still very painless! Not only is the rent cheaper, but my heat and hot water are included. I have never been cold on even the most vile, brutal winter days in the last 3 years. The apartment was much smaller, but more elegant. I have lots of light from the windows and a sliding glass door with lots of cross ventilation. I saved enough money to pay off some of my bills that would have otherwise taken a lot longer to pay. I have more peace &  quiet. The brand new workout room is uncrowded and quiet. I have the dumpster right nearby for my uncluttering endeavors. (For all you garbage-conscious folks, I always put my unwanted and/or unneeded stuff next to the dumpster and mostly it never makes it into the dumpster before someone decides to make it their own little treasure).  :)

So, with all this said, I have saved about 40% of my costs of living with these moves. Ironically, I have not been sorry for them. Of course, you tell me which way you would rather live: in surroundings of a beautiful environment complete with neighborly love or the savings & convenience of living near the job?

One Response to “Lowering My Costs of Living”

  1. HeatherNo Gravatar says:

    This is a difficult decision and there are so many variables that this decision would depend on. My husband and I lived 12-15 miles from work, in a very small house we built on a little over an acre in CO and it was worth every mile. Every morning it was silent, deer and turkeys migrated through our property and we woke up to a knock out view of the divide. Wouldn’t trade it for a downtown apartment!

    We have since moved to NC and lived in three apartments. One was very close to our place of work and loud, so loud we couldn’t sleep at night. We decided in 2 weeks it wasn’t worth the 3 minute drive and we now live 20 minutes from our places of work. It’s quiet and we look over woods from our balcony. 100% worth it!

    Thus like I said this decision isn’t something that is easily made. Variables of all sizes come into play and each person has to weigh the pros and cons for themselves.