I complain about my city a lot. A lot. But then sometimes I read a collection of trend pieces which focus on how expensive and unsocial life is in “these modern times” and I notice that they don’t describe my life at all. Maybe they describe the lives of people in NYC or San Francisco or D.C., but life here in eastern Washington just isn’t as overwhelming.
And so, in the interest of gratitude, a few things that I love about living in a small (population ~200,000) city that is one of the least expensive in the country.
- Transportation is cheap. My commute takes six minutes. All of my friends live within ten minutes of both my apartment and my job. I’m doing a play right now – the theatre is between my home and my office. All that means I fill up my gas tank about once a month (and that’s just because I’m too lazy to bike up the hill I live on).
- Short distances beget spontaneity. If I had to take an hour-long subway ride each way to go to my friend’s place, there’s no way I’d be popping over at 10 pm on a Tuesday to paint my toenails and catch up for 45 minutes. Turning around to meet your friends for a drink downtown after getting home is an easy decision to make when downtown is five minutes away.
- Rent is cheap. If you’re spending 50 percent of your salary or something crazy like that on rent, you’re living in too fancy of a city. I pay less than $600 and have friends with roommates who pay closer to $300. That’s insane. It opens up a lot of room to both save and do fun things.
- The idea that you might not have a kitchen is bonkers. Cooking for yourself is one of the best ways to both save money and be healthier. Sometimes I look at micro-apartments and tiny homes on real estate websites, because I am a dork, and notice that they don’t even have an oven or a burner. You don’t have to make those kinds of trade-offs in a LCOL city.
- Another side effect of cheap rent – you have enough space to host. I love hosting parties, and finding an apartment where I could do so was high on my priority list. Being able to comfortably fit 15+ people in your living room is pretty fantastic. I also love having a guest bed.
- The ease of socializing puts less pressure on it. This is anecdotal evidence, but I think that the fact that it’s so easy for my friends to get together makes it much more low-key. We don’t need to plan big nights out to entice everyone to put in the effort to get together, because the effort is so minimal. That means you can sit around drinking tea on someone’s couch and no one’s going to feel like it wasn’t worth the time/money they put into getting there. That also makes it way cheaper.
- Literally everything is cheaper. Again, anecdotal, but a beer at a bar here is about $4. In Seattle, it’s more like $6. When I visited New York, it was $9! Yikes.
- It’s super walkable. I often leave my car parked all weekend and just walk everywhere, unless I know I’ll be out late.
Sure, I get annoyed that you can’t get a direct flight anywhere, making new friends is hard, live shows (like for the podcasts I fan girl about) never come here, the swing dancing community is a disappointment, dating is nigh impossible, there isn’t the wide variety of events you’d find in a bigger city, and every time my friend says she wants to go “somewhere loungey” we have to remind her she actually means “the same bar we went to the last three times.” But hey! There are great things too!
What do you love about your city? (Or town, or suburb, or acreage that’s 50 miles from the nearest grocery store and completely off the grid)