A big part of the money equation is how much you spend on the roof over your head. Not only that, but in what part of the country you reside. This has been another factor in my financial success. For the past 15 years I have lived in places with relatively low costs of living. The flip side to that is that they were small places with limited opportunities to find friends, mates, and had I known at the time, furs. They were pretty much boring places to most, but since I was more of an outdoors bear, I liked them.
As I mentioned yesterday I lived in a trailer as a grad student. It met my needs and was cheap. Over 2 Summers I was blessed by being able to live rent free with a woman who I call my second mom. She rented me a room in exchange for dog sitting and yard work. I was able to save a ton of money that way even though I was still paying rent on the trailer. The next Summer I lived in a government trailer. The rent was cheap even though I had to share the place with 2 others. I finally got a real job in Yakima WA. At first I rented an apartment but then started renting a house. That was really nice! The rent was very reasonable and I was very happy. Yakima was a nice small town. I complained that it lacked a lot of amenities, but Seattle was only 2 hours away. I interviewed for a few jobs in Seattle but realized that the cut in pay plus the increased cost of living would kill me. The housing market was already going nuts in the early 90's. People were even commuting across the Cascades every day because the housing was more affordable over the pass.
I then moved to Yuma AZ for the sole purpose of getting a permanent job. Everything up to that point had been temporary. Yuma was a shithole. It was 20 miles from the Mexican border and had the feel of a border town. I loved exploring the desert, however. The only saving grace if I still lived there now would be that I would only be 3 hours away from furs in San Diego and 5 hours from my dear LA friends.
I lived in an apartment for the 1st 6 months and then realized that I could afford a house for the same money I was paying in rent. In 1993 I took the plunge and bought my first house. I couldn't afford much, but it was perfect for me. It was about 1200 sq-ft in a marginal neighborhood. There were very nice homes a couple of blocks away, but I was on the fringe of the barrio. I was able to sell it in 1999 for a nice profit, but with the massive remodel I did, I probably broke even. I have now heard that the housing market is starting to go nuts there. My house probably has nearly doubled in price.
And now I have the bear den in Albuquerque. This is a very livable city. Homes are selling in the low $100,000 range. There is a lot of room for expansion which will keep prices fairly low. I have a feeling we are on the cusp of busting out into a major Western city. Hopefully prices don't go nuts like they did in Denver and Phoenix. Well, I hope they go nuts after Kitty and I have settled in a new den somewhere.
I don't know how some of the furs survive in places like NYC. Granted they have a great public transportation system that makes a car unnecessary. I figured that what I would save in a year with no gas, insurance, maintenance, etc would give me enough money to afford an apartment. So there is the tradeoff.
I have been fortunate enough that I never needed a roommate to get by. Had I lived in a bigger city, that probably wouldn't have been the case.
Is it worth it to buy a house? For me, yes. The big savings comes at tax time when I can deduct mortgage and property taxes. That doubles my deductions. When buying a house, don't forget the 3 rules! Location, location, location! make sure you want to come home to that place every evening. I absolutely love coming home in the Summer and being able to sit on my patio sipping a drink watching the sunset in the quiet of the neighborhood. I really have to salute my real estate agent for finding this place for me. I had told him that open space where I could walk Anubis was the most important factor. Nailed!
I also learned to buy the most house I could afford. I skimped a little with the Yuma house. I probably could have afforded more, but I wanted more disposable income. The trade off was that I built up a nice bank account, but lived in an area where I felt trapped. There was shit all around me. Taking Anubis for a walk could turn into an adventure if we ran into gangbangers.
The one negative side to the state is that wages are low compared to other places. Being a government worker, that's not a very big issue. Wages are pretty standard across the country. It's the private sector that doesn't pay as well as elsewhere. So even though houses are relatively cheap compared to other parts of the country, they still might be out of reach for the average joe.
Am I trying to get all of you to move to New Mexico? Of course! This is a state of contrasts. It has some of the worst poverty in the US. We're always just a little better than Mississippi. On the other paw it has Los Alamos and Sandia labs where really smart people work, like nuclear scientist smart. There is also one of the largest computer chip plants in the world just north of town. There is Santa Fe and Taos which are Meccas for art. The weather is awesome. Like I wrote last week, 5 inches of snow one day, gone the next. The only bad season is Wind, I mean Spring. For the next month it will be windy as heck. It blows the dust around like a Sahara windstorm. If you ever saw the t.v. movie about Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs, you saw the scene where Bill Gates was going to set up shop in Albuquerque. It was a brown cloud of blowing dust and sand. Yup. They got that right.