“Hey, Sal, look at those two over there. They look like us, kinda. Same weather gear, boots. Driving an ‘island’ boat. I’ll bet they live on our island. I’m gonna introduce ourselves.”
It was about eight years ago. We were unloading at the neighbouring island’s local dock readying our little inflatable for another death-defying ride up channel. Even though we had owned our property for decades, we hadn’t really gotten to know any potential neighbours and this seemed like as good a place as any to start. Anyway, I had a few questions rolling around in my head.
After approaching them and introducing ourselves, I said, “Well, enough with the pleasantries. Tell me – how much does it cost to live there? You know, monthly – like?”
R turned to R and they conferred for a bit and then he turned to me and said, “About $1,000 a month.” Just then, she nudged him and they whispered again. “Sorry, I was wrong. It’s more like a $1050. Forgot taxes.”
“Yikes! You guys live for a $1000 a month and think in terms of $50 dollar-bills! OMYGAWD! Sal, we can afford this!”
I continued that ad hoc, unscientific poll of people who lived out our way and, of course the numbers have changed even in the past eight years. The poorest I interviewed lived on $8,000 a year but she was subsidized by wealthy parents every now and then (boat motors, etc.) and the richest (at that time) was living off $22,500 a year, the bulk of which was made in December when the wife went to Vancouver and worked retail for 12 hours a day for three weeks in a row.
Since then I have met the couple who runs and owns part of a global gold mine and is worth billions and I have local friends and neighbours who I know live on less than $6,000 a year. At least two of them live on less than $4000 a year. The first couple who were content at $1050 would likely say $1500-1800 today. The increased cost of fuel has hit rural people harder percentage wise.
But the point is not that the cost of living is rising. It is not even that it is rising faster for rural people. The point is that rural people ‘burn’ through money at a considerably lesser rate. We just don’t have the umbilical costs of cable, phones, TV packages, domestic help and ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’. (Well, we do a bit but our Jones family is poor as dirt so it is still easier). We don’t do restaurants. We don’t get pizza delivered. We don’t do Starbucks. And we don’t have to park our car downtown (when I worked in the city, I often averaged around $20.00 a day in parking. On our last trip there, that wouldn’t cover four hours!).
On a straight ‘compare-my-day-to-yours’ basis, I go two weeks sometimes without spending a dime. I never carry a wallet – what’s the point? No place to spend anything.
Of course, it is not as simple as that. Our last trip to Costco was $1200. When the barge fills our propane tank it is $1200. When we do anything, it seems it is $1200. So we do pay. But, regardless of that, there is no question: we spend less overall.
Offhand, I would say that a couple living rurally with a car and a boat and the house paid off can easily live as well as they ever did in the city for less than $3000 a month. But by ‘well’ I mean ‘different but still really good’.
“Why tell me this, Dave? I don’t believe you, anyway. Costs my wife and me almost $10000 gross a month. There is no way we could live like that on a third of that!”
Well, that is why I am telling you this. Rural living is less expensive. OK, you give up Starbucks and golf and parking downtown. You give up cable, restaurants and delivered pizza. Maybe your car gets older and less shiny. Couple of dents. Bit of rust. But you get better health, more free time and the odd pod of Orcas going by. The raven becomes a friend. The seafood is fresher, the stress levels are reduced and you can read more books. It’s a good trade-off.
Put another way: those financial consultants that tell you you can’t really aford to retire yet are wrong.
Something to consider.