As I see house prices continue to soar across Canada (despite dire predictions of eventual bubble popping that will leave many young people “underwater” on their mortgages) I always think about how my personal finance situation has been made easier by the single choice of living rurally. Here are five reasons why other young professionals might reconsider their initial aversion to small-town life.
1) My mortgage payment is half the price of your rent.
I don’t know what you pay every month for a roof over your head, but I’d be willing to bet that you pay more in rent than I do on my mortgage payment. I personally live in a very small rural community so my cost of living is extreme even within the context of smaller towns and cities, but the principle is really the same everywhere. If you live in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, or Montreal, you might not believe this, but in many places around Canada you can still get a pretty nice house for $200,000. A 25-year mortgage payment on a $160,000 mortgage (a 20% down payment) at 3% interest is around $760 per month. I have several friends that pay more than that for one-room apartments in Winnipeg, MB (which isn’t exactly the Big Apple).
2) Commute time? What’s that?
It takes me exactly four minutes to get from my house to work. Door to door. There are no stop lights to worry about or lane changes to make. According to the 2011 National Household Survey the average commute time across Canada is 25 minutes each way. This means that the average urban commute time would be slightly higher since smaller towns and cities would slightly offset the gridlock of major metropolitan centres. If we assume the average urban Canadian spends 60 minutes a day in round-trip commuting time, then I save roughly 230 hours on each 250-work day year. That’s two hundred and thirty more hours I can work a side gig or catch up on the latest offering from HBO. I also don’t have nearly as much wear and tear on my vehicle. I’m reminded of the other obvious advantage every time I pull up to put gas in my car. Personally this is one of my favorite perks about rural life.
3) Who doesn’t want to feel needed and loved?
In major urban centres you are “just another lawyer” or one of ten thousand teachers. In a smaller community you could be one of five general practitioners, or automatically become the top accountant in town by virtue of simply moving there. In case you didn’t know, Canada’s rural settings struggle to get top-notch professionals of all kinds. Stepping into the void often means a pay premium and clientele that are just happy to have someone local to go to.
4) Cash Money From .gov
In many cases the government is so desperate to appease us country folks that they are willing to offer all kinds of incentives if you happen to fall into a high-need category such as nursing. There are also numerous federal and provincial grants and tax breaks available if you are willing to start a business in a rural area or small town. What entrepreneur doesn’t want some bonus start-up cash from all three levels of government, plus cheap upfront capital costs relative to urban centres?
5) Coffee is $1.00 for a bottomless cup, and recreational activities are cheaper than that.
Want to see places where lifestyle inflation ceases to exist? Try farm-flavored towns. The complete lack of pretense and distaste for vain displays of luxury will quickly cure you of any of that pesky “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that might torpedo your long-term chances of financial successes. Forget overpriced coffee houses and $200 per month hot yoga passes. Instead, enjoy the beauty of a summer run as the sun sets over a picturesque country landscape or the crisp brilliance of a winter cross-country ski jaunt. Then stop in for a decent meal or beverage at a small-town price (as a bonus you don’t need a Latin translator to understand how to order a freakin coffee).
A Fly In the Ointment?
Granted, the picture isn’t all rosy. It is nearly impossible to do without a personal vehicle in more rural areas, which is one way some young people are able to shave costs in urban centres. Also, while I tend to think many of the entertainment options are overrated in cities anyway – there is certainly a lack of big-time options available. All the same though, many people in small communities make the trek into a larger center a few times a month if entertainment options are what they’re after. There is no doubt that one major drawback is that smaller communities are not overflowing with young people, but expanding social circles to include people from all ages and backgrounds will undoubtedly leave you with a very diverse group of friends. Likely much more diverse than if you had chosen to stay in a comfortable niche within an urban centre where most people to choose to surround themselves with only individuals that are very similar to themselves.
So whaddya say? Give rural charm a chance? Whether it’s small cities like Lethbridge, AB or even smaller towns that dot each of Canada’s regions, I can guarantee there is a place that is need of a professional or two right now and that is just waiting for your resume to show up. See you soon!