5 Reasons Small Cities and Towns Beat Metropolises for Young Professionals

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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).

Related: Why I Went With My Manitoba Credit Union for My Mortgage

2) Commute time?  What’s that?

5 Reasons Small Cities and Towns Beat Metropolises for Young ProfessionalsIt 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).

Related: What’s the Difference Between Being Frugal and Being Cheap?

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!

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Kyle is a high school humanities teacher by day, and freelance personal finance author by night. He has been published in academic journals, and has also co-authored the book "More Money for Beer and Textbooks". In his free time Kyle likes to limp up and down a basketball court and pretend to be a tough guy in a boxing ring.

6 Comments

  1. Jordann on February 3, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Small towns are definitely a great way to save money. Heck, I never would’ve been able to pay off my $38,000 in student and car loans if it hadn’t been for the dirt cheap rent I was paying in my small town (population: 1200).

    In addition, there is only one job in my field in this whole town, but the benefit is that the company benefits immensely from my contributions, because they would have a hard time attracting talent from major cities.

    The downside of course is the lack of diversity for entertainment options, social circles, and recreation. I don’t think I’ll live in this small town forever for that very reason, but right now it’s definitely helping my finances.



  2. Phil on February 4, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Our rural lifestyle is probably one of the main reasons I was able to quit working at 40. If we lived in a urban area our house would have cost us 2x more… But, this rural lifestyle is not for all as you have pointed out. We were never much for public entertainment – movies, bars, clubs or fancy dinners but rather we are quite comfortable lighting a campfire out back and opening a case of beer as our friend and neighbours were frequently invited to stop by. Maybe there’s a follow-up book for you in this – “The Rural Lifestyle – More Money for Beer and Relationships” – Cheers, wait… ah… beer in hand now – Cheers.



  3. Kyle on February 5, 2014 at 8:14 am

    That’s not a bad idea Phil! There might be something there. Then again, I don’t want to ruin a good thing by making this too popular 😉



  4. Marvin on February 9, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    I am longing to live in a town where the vain display of “perceived wealth” is the accepted norm. Unfortunately my work doesn’t allow us to live close to a farm town but I will definitely have to consider it if the opportunity ever presents itself.



  5. John on June 14, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    You can get a job in a small town alright…but the reality for most people is that that job will pay significantly less and have fewer opportunities(unless) you work a government job (i.e. teacher, firefighter, doctor, bureaucrat etc.) In which case it’s a good deal, because public sector salaries are often similar to what they are in urban environments without the headaches of commuting, high real estate costs, taxes, etc.

    On the other hand, you’re not going to become to the next CEO of a major conglomerate by working in Bumpkinville. Small towns, small companies.



  6. Kyle on June 15, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    You certainly raise a good point about public vs private. Here is my Devil’s advocate argument John. You can’t become the CEO in Bumpkinville, but you can begin climbing the ladder. Who gets to the CEO spot faster, the person who waits around to get an entry-level gig in a major centre, or the person who begins gaining experience right away in a small town and then moves to take advantage of new opportunities?



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