Get Rich With: Moving to a Better Place

If you’re like me, you currently live somewhere. But can you explain exactly WHY you live there?

For most people throughout the history of our species, the reason they have lived somewhere is because they were born nearby. And the reason they were born there is because their parents were born nearby.

Very rarely, a brave and enterprising person will make a big move to a whole new place in search of wealth or happiness. Some of your ancestors did that, forming an interesting chapter in your family history. And maybe even YOU have done that in your own lifetime, and you’re currently living far from where you were born, probably because of a bold personal choice you made. And if so, good for you!

I’m bringing up this topic because I am often amazed at the sheer disparities in niceness between different regions here in the US, despite the fact that it’s all one country which makes it very easy to move around. There are some areas which have drastically better weather, or landscape, or outdoor recreation, tax rates, job possibilities, mountains, ocean, lakes, beaches – you name it. And yet, as I study the areas with the best attributes, the cost of living in these areas is often completely uncorrelated with how nice they are.

I like to make fun of the New York/New Jersey region, because it is just amazingly expensive and crowded, and yet it is completely unremarkable compared to the rest of the United States – humid summers, rainy and cold winters, limited access to wide-open natural areas. All wrapped in a package of heavy regulations on small business owners like myself and shocking property taxes (annual tax on a house like mine would be over $12,000 there vs. $2300 that I pay now, even while the house itself would probably be a one-bedroom shack in my price range).

It is true that some people make ridiculous salaries in New York City, and for those people it may be logical to live there for a short time to quickly sock away a freedom fund before escaping. Others actually like it there, and of course many are tied by strong family bonds, which are very important too. But after we set aside those groups, there are still millions of people who are just there because they are there, living a crowded and expensive life just because they haven’t realized how liberating and energizing it can be to MOVE.

Meanwhile, I’ve seen a lot of other parts of the US on my many road trips in the years I’ve lived here. When visiting Tucson, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico, I was astounded by the gorgeous scenery, never-ending clear blue skies, and the extremely low cost at which you can pick up a stylish stucco house on a palm-treed lot in nice parts of town near the university. Although my own region near Boulder/Denver Colorado has grown quite popular (meaning expensive), the whole Mountain West still has plenty of affordable towns and presents a nice balance of culture, recreation, and reasonable outdoorsy year-round climate.

Update: this article was first written in 2011, and the US has been on a non-stop house appreciation binge since then. So, although many cities in my country remain very affordable, other prices are pretty out of date.

But recently (2016), an MMM reader developed a global search tool to help seek out cool, inexpensive places to live around the world. It’s really well done and still expanding: check him out at The Earth Awaits – https://www.theearthawaits.com/


In Las Vegas, you can often get much more for your money than other major cities – especially during recessions as the prices tend to fluctuate like a gambler’s fortunes. A stylish condo near the strip which you can rent out to tourists for massive profits as a vacation rental, or a spacious modern house with a pool out near the foothills where you can swim and hike out of your back yard, and never see winter again.

You won’t care about the housing market or even the job market, because your cost of living will be so low that you may be able to retire a decade earlier than normal! The same story of palm trees and never-ending warmth combined with reasonable living cost persists throughout the desert Southwestern towns of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and even the less famous parts of California.

In the Pacific Northwest you can live affordably in the land of Beer and Beards in hip towns like Corvalis, Oregon or Bellingham, Washington. You can even live on a rainforesty island in the nearby San Juan Islands, and spend many of your days exploring coastlines by kayak.

In the 200-mile-stretch of beach cities around Miami, you can sometimes pick up a luxury house, or a snappy condo complex with a sweet pool and spa, or a skyscraper overlooking the beaches and turquoise waters, for less than you’d think thanks to bank foreclosures during each housing downturn, making a waterfront tropical beach compound less costly than a vinyl-clad shack in a Toronto suburb.

Ahh, Toronto, the Big City near my birthplace. It’s the Canadian version of NYC. People pay fantastic amounts for modest houses that are buried in stale brown snow for several months each year, and commute 40 minutes each way through a 16-lane traffic jam to get to their jobs. Or Fort McMurray, Alberta, where people pay Toronto prices to live in a Mosquito Tundra near the arctic circle, just to plug themselves into an above-market income stream from the Saudi-Arabia-sized Oil Sands project that is cranking out fossil fuels there …. for now. What kind of life is this!?!?

Canada has the fantastic Oceanside Cliffs of the Maritimes, where everyone is friendly, houses near the sea are nearly free, and the parties are legendary. It has the Sunny Granola/Marijuana hippy belt in Interior BC and the Okanagan valley. There’s the Hong Kong Cosmopolitan buzz of Vancouver, with its non-snowy winters, or the Indie Rock/University Town/Island vibe of Victoria.

I also love Australia and New Zealand, where pleasantly different and fun-loving cultures combine with much more ocean and noticeably cheaper food and beer – all in a gorgeous climate that rivals the best parts of North America.

With the increasing number of careers and entrepreneurial businesses that can be done from ANYWHERE thanks to remote working, and the fact that an ambitious person can carve out a job for themselves in almost any city, I think that moving is often a fantastic idea, and it is mainly fear of the unknown and fear of change that is holding people back.

When I graduated from Engineering school, I moved 300 miles away from my hometown, because that was the location of the best jobs that I knew about at the time. It was also where my wonderful sisters and my girlfriend lived. But as my career progressed, I learned about the work opportunities South of the border. They captured my imagination, as did the increased choice of geographic settings versus those available in my native Ontario (“Smoggy metropolis”, “Mosquito Forest”, or “Mosquito Swamp”).

I did the research, got the interviews, fought for the work permits, and BOOM, here I was in a fantastic new land of untold adventure. I can’t even express the joy this decision has brought to my life since then.

This seems like a strange contradiction to the principle of Hedonic Adaptation, because I cannot deny that regardless of where you move, you are still the same person. So some would suggest that you should be equally happy regardless of your surroundings. But it doesn’t seem to work that way for me. I think that for some people, there really is A BETTER PLACE.

For me, it was the vast increase in Nature and Sunshine, with just enough city thrown in to make life convenient. And the odd combination of culture in the Boulder, Colorado area that starts with an entrepreneurial and educated base, but throws the whole Workaholic thing out the window and seeks quality of life instead.

And Let’s Not Forget the Money

For me, the irresistible combination of higher income, lower taxes, and a lower cost of living was the thing that allowed me to retire so early. If I had not moved here at age 24, I’d probably still be working an increasingly monotonous tech worker cubicle job to this very day back in Canada.  Mr. Money Mustache might not even exist yet!

What would your own financial picture look like if you could cut your living costs by, say, $4000 per month while keeping (or possibly increasing) your salary?

What About Family? 

I do miss my family, especially when I read the emails about casual get-togethers that I missed out on because of living 1700 miles away. But we were always a far-flung family who got together only a couple times a year anyway.

Even more important is what most people overlook: when you lower your cost of living, you don’t have to work as much, and you get to retire earlier. And when you live in a nicer place, you will generally be in better spirits. This means that you can make longer visits with more relaxed schedules. Since retiring in 2005, we’ve been able to spend entire summers with the family back in Canada, rather than having to pack the visiting into occasional weekends and holidays as non-retired people have to do.

Moving is especially easy when you’re young, fresh out of college, and with no kids. Considering new cities is like reviewing a broad and exciting variety of new dishes and deciding which one to eat, so I highly recommend doing this type of dreaming and strategizing before deciding where to settle down. Binge on those “Best Places to Live” lists, tour the country and the world in person, and fly around virtually to check out the terrain and the bike paths using Google Earth (and the house prices and ‘hoods using real estate sites like Zillow and Realtor.com).

The Ultimate Human-friendly city in my own view is one with a population between 50,000 and 200,000, in a compact and bikeable footprint, separated from neighboring cities by Actual Cows And Fields, as opposed to the suburbs-that-are-named-as-if-they-are-actual-cities that exist by the dozen on the sides of giant metro areas.

This “Distinct City” status ensures that you’ll have everything you need right in your own town, and yet you’ll be able to hit the streets and very quickly end up in the country soaking up open vistas and black starry skies, without even having to resort to car transportation. Your phone will still have proper reception, and Amazon will still deliver your packages efficiently. But yet you’ll never find yourself paying to drive into a parking garage or waiting in an endless line for a restaurant. There is space for everyone in these person-friendly cities.

For slightly older and more settled folks like me, moving is temporarily off of the menu – we decided to give our son a stable upbringing in a stable place where the faces and friends stay the same from birth until high school graduation, and even the trees and hills and seasons become familiar through the span of his childhood.

But I’ve already got some more adventure moves planned for the many decades to follow in the future. Tropical winters and phases of van life and “Carpentourism” trips in various exotic locations, and eventually some sort of intentional community where lots of friends all get to live together in beautiful surroundings.

You should live in whatever place works best for you. But you should be able to prove to yourself that it really is the right place – instead of just being the place you happened to be born.

  • LH September 28, 2011, 6:27 am

    I grew up in Toronto too! That was before embarking on Wall St and the fancypants salary (mid 6’s now, 5 years into the job). With my MMM spending habits working has already become optional. Don’t mind actually returning to Toronto, the weather sucks but the place has a lot going for it now.

  • Frugal Vegan Mom September 28, 2011, 7:09 am

    Although Plymouth, MN (suburb of Minneapolis where I was born and raised) was ranked #1 place to live by Money magazine a few years back, I was intent on moving.

    I’d obsessively research cities from my cubicle, desperate to escape our frigid winters.

    I’d spend family dinners giving passionate alcohol fueled speeches about how we could all move together and buy an old duplex, live cheap and retire in the sun! (Still not a bad idea, but the family isn’t so motivated…)

    But both of our entire families are here, and especially now that we’ve had the baby we couldn’t imagine leaving.

    But, my outlook might be different if you ask again in January…

    • MMM September 28, 2011, 9:08 am

      My family sometimes talks about sharing some sort of compound together too! We like the idea of a bunch of adjacent houses where the kids can run out the back doors to play together. However, we can’t agree on a city for the destination.

      I’ve seen one family actually do a move this successfully as a group and the result seemed enviably fun. That’s part of the motivation for this article – to encourage people to be more adventurous about moving!

    • Jeff September 12, 2013, 11:34 am

      Take your family to south Florida in the winter for two weeks. Pick a small town friendly to bikes. Have them wear flip-flops and go to the coffee shop. Get sand in their shoes. Let them feel the trades blow through the house in January. Then put them back on the plane to Minnesota. They will have an awakening, I PROMISE you. People live in Minnesota for three reasons: Family, a job that cannot relocate, or lack of knowing any better. The ultimate solution is mine….Florida in winter, Chicago in summer.

      • Amy May 1, 2016, 10:03 am

        Jeff, where in Florida would you recommend? I’m interested in relocating – looking for a more active, bikeable town with lots of water. My idea of a perfect places looks a lot like MMM, but with an ocean :)

  • Teek September 28, 2011, 7:32 am

    I’m sure you expected it when you were typing up the blog post, but picking on a specific region — especially New York — is exceptionally narrow-minded.

    Is it more expensive? Yes, inordinately so. I make no bones about that. But to reduce it to humid summers, brutal winters, no access to wide open, space, so on and so forth…is just silly. Because you come off exactly like someone who hasn’t experienced it.

    In my life I’ve probably spent three times as much money living in the various five boroughs than I could have in Connecticut. But I would absolutely say that I have gotten ten times the value for my dollar than I would anywhere else. There’s a reason that so many people live here, and plenty more reason people call it the greatest city in the world.

    I think one of the things you forget is that numbers aren’t black and white, and that they have different meanings for different people. For a young 20-something with a good job and the means of living comfortably in New York? Absolutely. Go for it. The experiences he’ll have could be worth far more than living elsewhere.

    But if you’ve got a wife and two kids, and that apartment seems to look smaller by the day, then you have a different argument here.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong in your posts intentions. But you blanketed an entire region and populace, and a pretty weak reason too.


    • MMM September 28, 2011, 1:20 pm

      Haha.. sounds like you fall into the category of “people who actually like it there”, as mentioned in the article. I already said you’re allowed to stay. That’s not narrow-minded.

      Mr. Money Mustache just happens to dislike the whole Boston-through-DC metroplex, so he gets to make fun of it, because it’s his blog, sukka!

      • JKL March 27, 2014, 5:15 pm

        As you have mentioned,for those of us with strong family ties to NYC and even worse, Europe, there are not a ton of great options. I live in the West, but it’s really hard only seeing my family a few days (or weeks) a year, and as you have pointed out, the whole NYC area is pricey.

        Open to suggestions…so far I have made the choice to live in the west, but having all my family between two and seven time zones away is very difficult, and will only be worse as the folks age.

        • tcmJOE November 18, 2014, 5:19 am

          I understand Pittsburgh is finally getting nice again, and is fairly cheap still. Similar with Baltimore (just avoid the really dicey areas). Perhaps upstate New York might also be an option?

          I guess it all really depends on what you’re looking for in an area.

          • tcmJOE November 18, 2014, 5:35 am


            A friend of mine just moved to Pittsburgh and has been loving it there. I love LA, but my girlfriend has been working on convincing me to look for jobs in Sacremento, and I have to admit I’m pretty tempted. As long as I can bike/metro to work.

            • BubbaJank December 17, 2014, 11:05 pm

              I live in Sacramento County (Elk Grove) and love it here. I live in a suburban bedroom community, though, but we are looking into living in the central city or very close, just enough to bike to work.

      • Leyla November 19, 2014, 6:14 am

        As a Brooklynite, born and raised, and now raising my own family, I often dream of moving out of NYC. What do you suggest to families (of younger children) who are thinking of making a big move? What makes it even harder for my husband and I is that we are both self employed and would have to start our businesses from scratch.

    • LI Girl October 28, 2014, 5:12 am

      Thank you Teek. I am one of those people who love NYC. I left at age 20 for college and never returned because of work. Now I am married and my husband hates NY, so I will probably never return. It is my one regret in life. I miss it every day. I have traveled all over the world and been to all the major cities in the US, but none compare to NYC!

      • G. Oz February 18, 2016, 7:25 am

        Sorry, but MMM hit the nail on the head and as always makes a great point in the process. I’ve been living in NYC for 2 years now, and anyone who truly find this area so exceptional should try living (not VISITING) a few other places before settling on such an absurd (read: typically american) title as “greatest city on earth.”

        The weather is unexceptional (when it doesn’t suck), people are belligerent and it’s infectious, the roads SUCK, traffic sucks worse, public transportation is mediocre compared to comparable cities world-wide, and it requires inordinate amounts of time/money/both to do almost anything even while all of the above degrades the fun stuff that’s free.

        What exactly is “experiencing” NYC? Eating out all the time with the seemingly unlimited options of cuisines? Happy/cocktail hours clinking $15 martinis 3 times a week? Paying 100% on top of your mortgage to a 100%- loss, no-equity-building maintenance fee (without even mentioning taxes)?

        I apologize for coming off confrontational, but I fail to understand the mystique this city holds other than the classic “bolstered sense of self worth by association.” I truly wish to understand, because I’m basically stuck here (wife is a marketing executive, not many options for that elsewhere). At the moment I am just planning our exit strategy: save save save while finding a sensible place to buy so when the time comes we can transfer the wealth built to a more reasonable CoL area with family around… which in my case is D.C. lol

  • JT September 28, 2011, 8:02 am

    What a timely post! I’ve been attempting to convince my boyfriend that we should leave the congested and expensive DC area for a college town two hours south of here (where I also happened to attend college). The thought of spending $3000/month on a mortgage/taxes with a hour an a half daily commute is insane and will become even more so when we start a family. He grew up in the area though and doesn’t want to leave friends and family. I’m still working on him. Maybe showing him this post will help.

    San Diego is amazing but inexpensive is one thing it is not. I lived there a few years and loved it.

    • MMM September 28, 2011, 9:10 am

      3 hours!? Pfeh, that hardly even counts as moving! Do it. You’d be doing that much driving every TWO DAYS with the insane commute you described. You must move to the new town, and live within biking or walking distance of work, since deliberately designing a Car Commute into a lifestyle is for fools!!

      San Diego still has expensive parts, but thanks to the housing crash, many areas outside the core are quite nicely ON SALE. Plus, if you ever want to live somewhere with more expensive housing, you can just rent a place – rents are almost always a better deal than buying in a high-priced city, when you work it out on a return-on-invested-capital basis.

      • Matt G November 22, 2011, 8:16 am

        We rented in San Diego for six years during the housing bubble. Moved there straight from Toronto, for an absolutely incredible change in weather (and wealth). It was so nice in SD that it made the beautiful Colorado weather we now enjoy seem crappy at first.

        If MMM ever moves to SD, I predict a sharp spike in the number of posts detailing ridiculous spending in the community. When we first moved there I asked a young coworker how he could afford his very expensive home in Eastlake — a very popular suburban area during the bubble. The answer: one mortgage for the first ~$400k, a second mortgage for the remaining ~$300k and a walletful of credit cards for the down payment! How can anyone think this is a good plan? And yet so many did.

        I still hear from some of these people. They tell me I was foolish for renting. The most recent argument: I should have bought a house in SD in 2004 …for the tax break on mortgage interest. Ummm, what? Someone correct this ignorant Canadian, but I don’t see how a tax break could amount to more than the meager income taxes I paid each year in California. Not nearly enough to cover the enormous loss in wealth I would’ve experienced through buying a house in SD in 2004.

      • JB August 7, 2017, 9:49 am

        Do you think it’s bad idea to move our family from NJ to CO? We don’t feel we can afford it anymore and the lifestyle in CO is one we would enjoy much more than here. All of our family is here and that has been what is keeping us. But our mortgage is half our income now with student loans on top of that😩 We have 3 kids (7,5,3) so we’ve been nervous about moving them but feel like it may be worth it if it means a better quality of life for them.

    • Emmers April 26, 2012, 1:56 pm

      If the college town is Charlottesville, DO IT! Best town ever. DC’s all right, but I like the Maryland suburbs way better than the Virginia suburbs.

      • lars April 17, 2015, 2:13 am

        I encourage anyone that has never moved to do it…I grew up in CA and took a job that offered me the chance to stay right where I was or move cross country to Philly, then CT. I leaped at the chance to try something new and it was the best move of my life. I met so many amazing people experienced things I never imagined. I saw fireflies for the first time, had 4 seasons, and thick summer humidity I had never lived through and found that it was not for me. I longed for the clean air and breezy evenings of the west and to see the stars again but I had several other places on my list to still try. After a marriage and a child, I had established that curiosity of place and we wondered what was out there to see. We set out with our jobs to experience as much as we could that took us through Downtown Chicago – in the loop, magical…then on to Tucson AZ – cheap, amazing blue skies, the food, no crowds, nice people, and now the Pac NW which is where we will stay. BUT, we would never have known what delights us – rain all the time in this rich, green, emerald city from CA, who knew…but we love it and have never looked back in our decisions other than to savor all the experiences we had and the friends we made the knowing that we sampled enough to make the right choices. For our children, we will encourage them to experience as many places as they can before they settle down :).

        • Andy April 17, 2015, 10:37 am

          I have lived in Michigan my entire life (38 next month), and am considering moving out to Washington state. One of the few things I feel that keeps me here (well, besides the enormous cost of living change, lol) is all of my family. I’m really starting to feel like you explain, whether it works long term or it doesn’t, wouldn’t it be fun to give it a shot? Just curious how you deal with the family aspect of it? Thanks!

    • Lauren June 4, 2012, 1:08 pm

      JT–Are you talking about Charlottesville, VA? My husband and I are considering this area. We live in metro DC and it is sooo expensive, especially since I don’t want to work right away when we start our family. However, there are so many nice things about living near a city……

      • EMily September 4, 2012, 4:16 am

        I just moved from Fairfax to Charlottesville! Commute went from 30 minutes to 3! I love it here.

      • Ashley June 9, 2017, 11:17 am

        I also went to UVA/lived in Charlottesville even though I grew up in the DC area…I miss it so much! I travel for work and don’t really have a home at the moment, but once I put down roots I am highly considering Charlottesville, or even Harrisonburg where I also lived for about a year. Those are GREAT college towns! Right on the blue ridge parkway, winerys and brewerys galore, hiking, biking, river sports, and the best bagels :) I think in any state, a small to mid size college town is some of the best bang for your buck!

  • Katie September 28, 2011, 8:40 am

    The best place in the country to live (and it fits your criteria, too!) is Madison, WI. Low income and sales taxes, and lots of free entertainment (bike trails, concerts, ice skating, movies – all can be found for very cheap if not free). I’ve lived there, and wish I could forever (alas, no job for me or we might).

    Eventually, we will land somewhere near SE PA (where my in-laws live) and NJ (where my parents and extended family and oldest friends live). The one thing I have learned as I’ve moved all over the country for the last decade is that the price of not living near family for me is quite a bit higher than the cost of living/taxes/etc.

    • MMM September 28, 2011, 9:13 am

      I love Madison, WI in the summer! I’d probably combine it with at least 3 months of snowbird travel to skip the winters, since I have become extremely anti-snow in my old age :-)

      • Katie September 28, 2011, 9:20 am

        Winter is the best time! Cheap, nearby skiing, free ice skating, and snow! I miss Madison winters. Sure does beat cold and rainy that I have here and the last couple of places I’ve lived!

      • Travis September 29, 2011, 11:40 am

        I live near Madison. The weather here is very nice June though August. Other than that, I’m looking forward to moving south!

        If you don’t like the snow, your snowbird perdiod out of WI would be 4-5 months. The winters here are horrible. Long. Cold. Dreary. And VERY grey. I’ve gone weeks at a time without ever being in direct sunlight. That kind of thing drains me.

      • Danielle May 23, 2012, 8:42 pm

        I grew up in Chicago suburbs, and now Madison is my “better place.” Bike friendly, fun, hippy vibe, and the people-watching on State Street is unforgettable. I only get tired of the snow in February, when I usually head South for a week. MMM, if you’re ever in the area, I’d be honored to show you around!

    • Jim December 3, 2018, 6:36 pm

      Yes, low income and sales taxes, but sky high property taxes. If they jacked up the income and sales taxes, and lowered the property taxes, you would be a lot further ahead of the game.

  • Saskaussie Fraussie September 28, 2011, 8:47 am

    Mate…..what location in Australia has cheaper food and beer? I’ve just returned to Oz after 6 years overseas (Canada and France) and the cost of living here has been a real wake up call. The climate does however make up for other shortcomings, particularly after several Saskatchewan winters….

    Couldn’t agree more with you on taking the plunge when young and without significant ties. It’s truly amazing the experience that awaits when you step outside your comfort zone. I quite enjoyed the challenge of adapting to a new place, if only to help you (and other family members) define what is really important. But like you, with two now elementary/primary school aged kids, it was time to settle for a bit. Family are still a 4 hour flight away, but it’s amazing the psychological boost that being in the same country brings them. Cheers!

    • MMM September 28, 2011, 9:47 am

      I’ll admit my Australian knowledge may be a little out of date – I was last there in 2003. At the time, however, I remember Sydney being very expensive, but beautiful beaches up the East Coast being very empty and affordable. And I remember these two pitchers of beer costing me about 3 US dollars each somewhere near Cairns :-) Australia Beer

      • Mrs. Money Mustache September 28, 2011, 12:14 pm

        Bwahahaha! Nice Jugs, MMM.

        I don’t believe I’ve ever seen this picture. The things I learn on this blog!

        I see you were having a flurry of fun traveling up the Australian coast back in 2003, before meeting up with me in Alice Springs. Luckily, I was having plenty of fun myself. ;)

        Mrs. MM

        • Amber March 3, 2014, 7:31 am

          I love you guys!!!! It’s so nice to actually see another couple in love, having fun with each other, and not getting bat shit crazy about silly things! Keepin’ the priorities straight :)

  • GP September 28, 2011, 8:59 am

    MMM – If you’re one of us lovely Canuck’s – how do you manage to live and work in CO full-time ? I’d love to move to the US but the visa situation doesn’t make it possible.

    • MMM September 28, 2011, 9:16 am

      NAFTA! The North American Free Trade Agreement allows people in certain professions to cross the border and work under a 1-year TN work visa that is very easy to obtain. From there, people who want to stay get it upgraded to an HN visa, then a green card, then full citizenship. It’s definitely a hassle, but definitely worth it.

      Much easier would be moving across on a TN work permit, but being extremely sociable and finding yourself a mate here, then getting married :-)

  • Claire September 28, 2011, 9:10 am

    I concur!
    Although I’ve yet to find or carve out for myself a job where I feel my time is adequately compensated, moving to a smaller town has allowed me to exit college and the living-in-the-basement phase of life very well.
    An acquaintance and I share a duplex in a small city of 30,000 people. I pay 220 a month + MMM-style utility bills to live there. We’ve got a backyard and off street parking and are 5 blocks from a beautiful park and lake, and swimming in the Mississippi is a short bike ride away.
    Making money is still an issue, but luckily with my low cost of living, it’s something I don’t have to freak about like many of my friends.

    • MMM September 28, 2011, 9:19 am

      Nice story! There are definitely some skills that integrate nicely into a small town, like Accountant, Lawyer, Carpenter, Plumber, Painter, Doctor, Dentist, etc. Or you could get innovative and start your own Beer Brewery! There’s a product that is popular everywhere, and you get to combine marketing and interpersonal skills to build your brewery and possible eventual restaurant as well.

  • Jenny September 28, 2011, 9:20 am

    Even though we live in one of those “suburbs” of Denver, I find I rarely need to leave it – and my parents and sister who we rely on heavily, live within 2 miles (8 miles for my sister). However, we are kind of stuck in Colorado until our disabled child is an adult and can access Medicaid services without us wading through intense red-tape to access Medicaid for her while still providing for the rest of us (which means we work, for now). Leaving the state means we lose that – and start the process in a different state. And, we should be close to the many great doctors that are in our area for her. Actually, our close proximity to a Level I trauma center and Children’s Hospital probably saved her life. I think we’d love to live overseas, but we’re not willing to risk it now – resources for families like ours tend to be concentrated in large cities – and we live far enough out of it that it works for us!

  • Shawn September 28, 2011, 10:38 am

    MMM, Im a fan. This post pushed me over the edge to comment. When you wrote about cycling to the big box home improvement store, I searched for sfr’s in Longmont. It sounds like a great place. I agree with many of your other choices as well harsh climates excluded. Sailing around the San Juan Islands is definitely on the list when retirement gets here. (three years or so at age 41) We are in the “moving is temporarily off of the menu – we want the lad to grow up in a stable place where the faces and friends stay the same from birth until high school graduation” mode so its great to make those retirement plans and dream of the not so distant future. Your style and your writing is great. Keep it up!

  • Brave New Life September 28, 2011, 10:41 am

    I didn’t realize you were in Boulder. I’m a new CO Springs resident, having moved for the very reason you described – because Colorado fit mine and my family’s desires of cool weather, friendly people, miles and miles of mountain biking, and for 2 more years… a high paying job.

    My wife and I are seriously considering a move to Boulder when I retire, but we’ll see. We really like it here too. The only drawback of CO Springs is the military presence – but seeing people parachuting out of planes over the front range everyday is kind of fun. If we move up there, we’ll have to go get some beers. :)

    • MMM September 28, 2011, 11:10 am

      Nice! .. where did you move from?
      And, perhaps I’ll stop by your place on a pass through Colorado springs sooner than that – like on our upcoming December roadtrip!

      • Brave New Life September 28, 2011, 12:16 pm

        I moved from Texas. After a decade there and only 4months here, I find myself wondering how (and why!) I stayed there so long.

        Let me know when you’re coming through. I’ll buy you a beer.

    • Kim October 14, 2011, 9:31 am

      I just found this blog last night, and I think I’ve read almost everything…

      I’m extremely impressed with this blog, and very pleased to find someone further along the “no spending, DIY” route.

      My husband and I recently moved to Boulder from Washington, D.C., and it’s made an amazing improvement in our health and finances. D.C. was killing us in both areas, and Boulder (though expensive for the state) has been great in helping live better and get rid of debt.

      Maybe we should organize a MMM local meetup, we can have a convention of frugal people on the lawn. :-)

  • Samantha September 28, 2011, 11:23 am

    Just wanted to jump in and defend Fort McMurray, AB. This is actually a super beautiful city with lots of community events and natural beauty. I don’t think I’ve gone a day since living here without commenting on an aspect of it’s prettiness. Winters are cold, and the days are short at that time, but we have barbecues with amazing friends in the summers where we don’t lose the sun until close to 10! (Not many issues with mosquitos). We do have a hugely expensive house, but we have a legal basement suite we rent out, and rent out two of our spare rooms to our best friends (Earning us $1400/month after our mortgage payment). We originally moved here so my husband could finish his schooling, and I thought it would be easier to find a job here than back home (pretty much right where you’re from originally!). Anyways, we thought we were going to hate it, but we L-O-V-E it. Great friends, great job, great house. We are so used to everyone bashing this city, so I would say we’re a little more sensitive to it. But we’re going to be FI in less than 5 years and this city/economy helped us get to this point (we’re both 24). So… just my two cents on Fort McMoney, er, I mean Fort McMurray.

    • MMM September 28, 2011, 11:32 am

      Excellent defense! I am embarrassed to admit that I bashed the city without even having visited it. I am glad you’re enjoying it there, and that it was your own choice. However, if you have KIDS there, and they don’t enjoy the high housing prices and cold winters, or if YOU want a place to retire that is more laid-back, then moving will again become a good thing to consider.

      As Canadians, I find most of us assume that winter is a fact of life and we just have to adapt to it and look forward to summer. This is a healthy adaptation, but I found that when I moved somewhere with what I consider to be virtually NO winter, it felt like my life had doubled – the biking season never ends and I can do everything I want outdoors, every day. It’s a bigger deal in quality of life than I had predicted.

  • Bakari Kafele September 28, 2011, 11:52 am

    I drove my RV halfway across the country, toured with a traveling carnival in the mid-west all summer, drove through Canada to visit family in Boston and Buffalo, settled in a small town in NJ for a year, working both in NYC and at a local NJ factory, before finally deciding that where I had started was really where I wanted to be.

    So, now I am where I started (San Francisco Bay Area of CA), but not just by default. I took a lot of time, effort, and cost to get back from NYC, and it took living other places to confirm that home happened to be the best place to be all along!

  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple September 28, 2011, 11:56 am

    I really liked this post. I definitely moved far from home. I grew up in a tiny town with not a lot of jobs in Western PA. In order to pay for college, I joined ROTC, so off to the Navy I went.

    Though from cheap-ness, I went from pot to frying pan to fire. First, Washington DC, which was a GREAT place to live as a young 20-something (read: single and not looking to own a home and perfectly fine with shared housing).

    But then I followed my hubby out to grad school and coastal southern Cal. Which is even more expensive. So we bought an overpriced house at the wrong time, and it’s tiny (and people make fun of us for our tiny house when you can get a 5000sf mansion on an acre for 1/3 the price in Ohio). But whatever. I can bike to work nearly year round (we do have a usually short rainy season).

    We also miss our families, as you mentioned. We see them once every year or two. Since having the kiddo, we’ve stopped flying out to see both families every year, and instead, go every two years and hit both (they are 8 hrs drive apart). If we see them on off years, it’s because the moms come to visit us. But our siblings? None of my 8 sibs have ever been out to visit, and spouse’s sister only comes every 4-5 years. They’d rather go to Europe or Myrtle Beach or the Caribbean. (Which is fine, but don’t complain that you don’t get to see us often!)

    The disadvantage to being away from our families is just having support – many of my friends with kids don’t realize how easy they have it with grandparents to help out when you or the kids are sick, or the spouse is traveling, or you want a date night. Much tougher when your family is just the 3 of you. The advantage is that you don’t get pulled into family squabbles.

    I think I am spoiled now by location…I don’t think I’d ever really like to live in Vegas, Arizona, Albuquerque, or Eastern LA – I’ve been all those places, especially in the summer, and it’s too damn hot and you can’t GROW much of anything. Though if push came to shove and we lost our jobs, we’d move. I always told my husband that if something ever happened to him, I’d move to his home town in upstate NY in a heartbeat. I am NOT meant to be a single parent.

    • Ash October 18, 2013, 12:50 am

      I loved living in DC in my twenties as well. It is plenty small enough to not need a car, has rent a car by the hour services and arguably the safest and most efficient Metro in the US. I left because I just could not get used to the lackof open space. Walking my dog in Meridian Hill Park was ok until I stumbled across people playing craps there, and dangerous looking fellows thy were that didnt make. Girl feel safe, dog at my side or not! I also got tired of losing friends o the peace corp, grauate school, or new jobs, and just the transient nature of it all. Getting a taxi that will take your dog to the vet? Tough. Getting one o take your og to the vet in pouring rain, prepare to beg, bribe and put p w constant omplaining from the asshole cabby. I do miss the hip music scene, mom and pop boutiques on 14th street, cafes on Connecticut, h street bars, and of ourse Artomatic! As well as loads of cool graffiti, dewey rainy days, the lovely georgetown campus, turkish food and hookahs in adams morgan, and i even stumbled upon a drum circle once, which reminded me of ….dunh dunh dunh….Boulder Colorado where i used to live! Now im in sc due to work an fixin to leave. I miss the West. It is my heart and oul. I have a two year exit plan in my current job that will give me the cashlow to move and the ability to transfer to pretty much any city in the US. I am thinking heavily of Salt Lake City. Can I get your toughts on that city please MMM and other? Thanks! Ps sorry for the typos my computer broke so i have to use my ipad and im not adept at it yet.

  • Soso September 28, 2011, 12:10 pm

    I started following your blog and a few personal finance blogs recently. Glad I did as frugality has been a foreign concept to me. What helps is my immeasurable hatred for debt. Thanks for the blog.
    Anyways, I get shocked just reading about lives of people in other countries (cities). The cost of living is quite scary. I am a South African temporarily living in Mozambique. A poor country with an unbelievably high cost of living. This post is helping me consider a move away from a congested city to a smaller town. I may even have my own river and mountain…. Lovely post indeed.

  • Ana September 28, 2011, 1:10 pm

    I just have to point out the one interesting conundrum about your desire to have your kids grow up in one place from cradle to high school – that is by far the biggest reason people stay in one place, it seems to me. What they grow up with is their comfortable place, and they know people. Obviously, there are plenty of people (me, for example) which sort of felt smothered and had to leave, and there are benefits to being raised in one place, but I don’t think it’s necessarily best plan. For us, our two boys, 7 and 4, have already lived in two countries, and will hopefully live in one more by the time they are 18. It does suck having to say good bye to friends, but I love how much they are learning about the world, and how amazing it really can be when you get to know a place. I hope that does them good when they are ready to get out on their own and makes them more willing to consider leaving their comfort zone for something else.

    It is very true, too, that what one person is looking for in a place is so not what someone else wants. We spent six years in the Pacific Northwest and I pray we never have to go back. It wasn’t expensive to live there, and so many people around us loved it, but the constant gloominess was really tough for us to take. I’d rather have a nice winter and sun in the summer any day! And moving is what taught us that, so bravo for moving!

  • MIke September 28, 2011, 2:16 pm

    I am one of those who live in Manhattan…I am very ready to move.
    I have been here for about 30 years. There is a lot that is great about the city
    but I am ready for a new adventure.
    My monthly bills are around $8,000.00. That is after a few years of trying to cut costs!

  • Peter September 28, 2011, 3:19 pm


    I grew up in Toronto, lived in Kingston and then London, Ontario before moving to the Wairarapa Valley, New Zealand, last year. There were no jobs back at home, especially for my wife, who is a teacher. Plus I got sick of the snow.

    It’s wine country, there’s vineyards and mountains everywhere. The ocean is a thirty minute drive away.

    I go cycling through the mountains every morning. The scenery is unbeatable.

    Wellington is two hours away by train (cheap tickets) and we aren’t lacking anything.

    Rent/food/elec/internet/phone is $1800/month and water is free. The houses are uninsulated and can get cold and damp in the winter, but you get used to it. Electricity is kinda pricey since all the heaters are electric – $160 on average throughout the year.

    I wouldn’t say food is cheap, it can get crazy expensive in the winter (one green pepper or cucumber – $6) but if you keep with in season vegetables and shop around it’s about the same as Canada.

    Everything else is pretty much the same, except the weather is milder, the small towns are nicer, with more amenities, the people are less stressed out and far more willing to help each other out and life is generally more fun (although we don’t make much money).

  • Phil Lavoie September 28, 2011, 3:27 pm

    I moved to Indianapolis after reading an article in Forbes stating it was the most affordable city in the country.

    Thankfully, I love it here! Likely one of the most underrated cities we have.

    I am nervous that when we host the Super Bowl this year, that the secret may get out.

    By the way, I contribute Indianapolis as a major factor in my early retirement this past July at age 36!

    • Stashette September 29, 2011, 7:27 am

      I love Indy as well, but I think the February weather will scare most people away. If the Super Bowl were held in October I would be more concerned.

  • Gerard September 28, 2011, 4:04 pm

    What I’m taking away from this discussion (which is maybe not exactly what Mr. MM intended) is that there aren’t nice places and not-nice places, there are just places that are nice *for you* (or not). The advantage that Mustachians have is that they/we can exploit the price/nice mismatch by not over-valuing the things that are nice or necessary for other people. Things like a job. Or a high-paying job. Or a garage. Or a status-symbol neighbourhood. Or living with people who look just like you (God help them, in my case). Or the pile of things you thought you needed, but that you just had because you thought it was the only way to make your job life bearable.

    • Sarah September 16, 2015, 5:28 pm

      Even though it’s been four years, I want to agree wholeheartedly with you! I’ve been able to live in LA (a place I love) for 1/2 employment over the last 9.5 years due to these factors. The biggest, sadly, being that I enjoy living surrounded by people who don’t look like me, which has kept costs way down. Also a good way to cull friends, if they don’t like my neighborhood for that reason, they don’t need to be in my life.

      • Gerard November 16, 2015, 6:36 pm

        And I want to wholeheartedly agree with you right back, especially about the neighbourhood diversity thing and culling.

  • Jasmine September 28, 2011, 4:04 pm

    My fiance and I are on our third move since meeting each other. We started out in Albuquerque NM ( I am desert born, he is cali born), then moved to Lincoln NE, and have found ourselves in Greeley CO. Each time he has applied for a new position within his company. I think it is much easier to transfer within your company to move since you know that you will have work waiting for you when you get there.One of only drawbacks is that you have to move where the opportunities are. Another one is that I have a resume full of businesses where I worked maybe a year. But it is a trade off. When we find something that he wants to settle into for a few years then I am planning on going and finishing my CS degree.

    The thing to remember is that life is an adventure. If you are happy where you are, more power to you. But I am enjoying my adventure and the new places and people I find.

    • Dancedancekj September 28, 2011, 5:58 pm

      Haha. I’m in Nebraska right now. I am happy where I am now, despite people telling me that Nebraska and the Midwest is a miserable place to be. I really like the low cost of living, less competition and congestion, and the Midwest niceness. Not to mention Warren Buffet :) My adventures for me are vacationing elsewhere, but I get to return home to my quiet, Mustachian life in the Midwest.

      • Jasmine September 29, 2011, 11:38 am

        too much corn :). I left some very good friends there and intend to take various trips back to see them. But Nebraska has killer taxes. Or at least Lincoln does. There is the 23% luxury tax that includes cell service, the wheel tax for the pot holes they don’t fix, the additional arena tax on all goods and services, and you have to pay sales tax on Kelly blue book value of your vehicle every year you register. Oh and our insurance dropped about 500 bucks when we got Colorado licenses for the same coverage. I still enjoyed living there… but it was expensive.

        • DTOM October 31, 2011, 2:58 pm

          Another (former) Nebraskan here. I was always under the impression that CO was more expensive tax-wise.

          There are pro’s and con’s for both states. CO has more outdoorsy type stuff to do, but the people there are more “city-ish” to me. Cross the border to Nebraska and it’s more farming communities with Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, and Kearney as you head East. For some, the political differences should be considered too. CO is definitely more on the blue side while NE is a strong red state.

          I can’t wait to move back to NE and tell these people on the East Coast good bye and good riddance. The niceness in the Midwest doesn’t existence anywhere else.

        • Ash October 18, 2013, 12:56 am

          Driving through Kansas, omg. The rain? If youre not prepared for it? Can be super scary!

      • DTOM October 31, 2011, 3:05 pm

        ” I am happy where I am now, despite people telling me that Nebraska and the Midwest is a miserable place to be. I really like the low cost of living, less competition and congestion, and the Midwest niceness.”

        Nebraska is severely under-appreciated nationwide. Whenever someone talks down on the state, my first question is if they’ve ever been there. Then you get 2 responses: A) No or B) Yes, we drove through it overnight when we were going to Colorado or Chicago or something.

        I usually start by pointing them to one of the many sites like Forbes and Parenting magazine that rate Omaha in the top cities to live year after year. after I tell them about the cost of living, niceness of the people, wide open spaces, low crime, job opportunities, and how easy it is to take weekend trips to a lot of places. After they simply blow it off, I discontinue trying to convince them how great it is because hey, I don’t want a bunch of people moving here and spoiling it. ;)

        • MMM November 1, 2011, 9:57 am

          I’m with you on respecting the Midwest. I’ve had a great night out in downtown Omaha, and many stopovers in other smaller midwestern places and I always loved the calm friendly vibe. I remember touring some of the neighborhoods of Des Moines and visiting a few local grocery stores as part of roadtrips in the past. I always thought, “I could definitely enjoy living here”. I think that the feeling of having plenty of land to go around feeds back into the culture and allows everyone to be more open and relaxed. The older I get, the more I appreciate the places that younger people consider somewhat slow and boring.

          • OWHL July 22, 2012, 9:11 am

            You need an article on how to efficiently execute such a move. For example, find a job in that area before moving versus moving then looking for the job? Or saving up emergency cash then moving versus vice versa? Do you rent/own before the move or just go and worry later? Would you ship your belongings or just take what you can and sell/leave/donate the rest?

            I think more people would benefit on a moving series!

            • Eldred December 11, 2013, 10:47 am

              I would *definitely* enjoy reading such a series. I’ve considered leaving Michigan for several years(can’t STAND the winters). But one, I’m stuck here for my dad, who’s 90 and has Alzheimer’s. And two, I don’t have a CLUE about finding a job in a totally new area. Hell, I had a hard ENOUGH time finding one in MY area…

        • Ash October 18, 2013, 12:59 am

          Best food I ever ate was in Omaha. Steak of course :D Iowa City was a close second though ( we were on a rd trip, yes) – we had ome kind of ouscous/zucchini wrap that was pure heaven!

  • Chris September 28, 2011, 8:40 pm


    It takes an adventurous spirit to “break away” from the place where you grew up. I knew in High School I had to get away. I grew up in a small country town outside of Oklahoma City, OK and joined the military out of college, partly to pay for school and partly for the adventure. I’ve gotten plenty of that. I’ve since lived in Del Rio, TX, Grand Forks, ND, Anchorage, AK, and Sacramento, CA, all while circling the globe with my job. Traveling and more specifically living in new places/regions gives you a broader appreciation for the differences in people/places and allows you to “in effect,” conquer the world! I feel like I could comfortably go just about anywhere on the planet now with a Credit Card and 50 dollars and be able to integrate just fine (well, okay, most places). Moving is fun, challenging and hard all at the same time.

    The wife and I are now trying to decide which locale in the Anchorage, AK area we want to settle in when we retire. I wish there were more compact communities up there, but there aren’t many (Homer and Talkeetna maybe). Most places you have to drive to get anywhere. But, where there’s a will, there a way and we’ll find a way to make it all work out in a frugal way. The crazy raw beauty up there is worth it and the crazy weather weeds out the rift-raft!

  • Geek September 28, 2011, 10:38 pm

    Moved from Corning, NY to Seattle (Redmond really). I really love my family a lot more at a distance. :)

    Following the dream – software jobs PAY out here!

  • elorrie September 29, 2011, 7:02 am

    I’m also one of those adventurous people who relocated halfway across the country. Came from Iowa and decided to go to college in Boston (I think going to school someplace far away makes the move even easier, you have a ready-made community waiting for you). Though its much more expensive I love Boston and despite what most of the people here think they have it easy weather-wise compared to the midwest. It makes much more sense for me to live out here anyway since I work in Biotech and there’s a whole lot more job opportunities out here in that field. Also if you’re willing to live outside of the city you can find decently-priced housing that’s still near public transpiration (T or Commuter Rail). I work and live in the suburbs North of Boston now and we found a great deal on an apartment (retired landlord who prefers have good tenants that pay on time and take care of the place to turning max profit). The great thing too it that we live within a couple hours (or less) driving of great outdoor activities as well (we have the beach and mountains!).

  • Ealasaid Haas September 29, 2011, 12:10 pm

    My boyfriend and I are toying with moving to Portland — the biggest thing holding us back is the horrifyingly high unemployment rate (25% last I looked, one of the highest in the entire US). Seriously, I have heard horror stories from my friends who live there about folks who moved up there from the tech industry here in Silicon Valley and found themselves vying for jobs behind a counter at 7-Eleven. Yikes. So, we’re focusing on paying off our debts and saving up a bit before we take the plunge. I’m hoping to have enough saved and invested that I won’t really need a job beyond being the Book Roadie.

    • Claire October 1, 2011, 12:43 pm

      I would caution against a move to Portland without any job prospects. I too had friends who took the plunge but were unable to support themselves and ended up moving back. It’s an awesome city, but unless you’re already in the retired category, I think it’s tough to build a stash there.
      Good luck getting there eventually, though! :D

  • poorplayer September 29, 2011, 9:28 pm

    Well, I have traveled coast-to-coast, but have only lived in 2 states – NE and NY. Born and raised in the NYC metro region, but left at 27 for open spaces. Mostly followed jobs. Been in my neck of the woods in western NY state for 24 years. Love it. I actually like NY state because it has a little of everything – dairy farm country, Adirondack Mountains, ocean on Long Island, Finger Lakes region, Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario) coast line beaches, Allegany Mountains, Catskills, Hardest thing for me remains winter. I suffer from SAD so I do blue light therapy in the winter months and try to get out snowmobiling or snowshoeing (hundreds of miles of trails). 50 minutes to Buffalo, 2 hours to Cleveland, 3 hours to either Toronto or Pittsburgh, and a 50-minute plane trip to JFK when needed. Cost? $3K/year for city, town and county property taxes. Housing bubble never happened here, so neither did the bust. Along with the house I have 20 acres of land at about $350/year in taxes (undeveloped agricultural). I don’t see myself moving in retirement, but I do see myself becoming nomadic for some years before returning here (RV for snowbirding purposes). This area helped me raise three kids in one place, live on one salary while DW stayed at home with the kids homeschooling, and own a house and pay all bills. Can’t complain. Yes, I could retire tomorrow, but I very much like what I do, and as a college professor, work only a little over half the year, so why bother?

  • Dana September 30, 2011, 11:27 am

    I just wanted to say that this blog post lit a fire in me like no other. My husband and I have talked several times about fleeing the Northern Virginia/DC Metro Region (because you’re right…it does suck), but haven’t really thought where to go, until I read this.

    I’ve now set my sites on Roanoke, VA. I went to college down near there, and that town has a nice vibrant culture, much like a big city, but still somehow has a small town feel…plus it’s nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Housing and cost of living down there are much more reasonable compared to the DC region, not to mention I’d think the general attitude of the people isn’t so retail-centric.

    Because of your post, I’m forming an exit strategy. Given that our current mortgage is under-water right now, we’ll work on paying it down so that we can sell it and be able to make a nice down-payment on a more reasonably priced home down in Roanoke. It will take time, which is probably a good thing: time to unload household crap, carefully consider and research the destination, what we want, etc. It’s another nice little goal that I can set for myself, also with the hopes that we can eventually enjoy a slower pace of life and hopefully be surrounded by like-minded people who know what’s important and what isn’t. Thanks for the inspirational post!

    • poorplayer October 1, 2011, 4:46 pm

      I’ve been to Charlottesville and liked that town a lot, but I did not get too much chance to investigate actual costs. Perhaps that’s another option for you.

      • JT October 3, 2011, 6:57 pm

        Charlottesville is the college town I’m considering (talked about it in a comment above). I loved my four years there as an undergrad. Housing costs are WAY lower than in DC, two hours north but there is still lots of culture and things to do.

  • Christine Wilson October 2, 2011, 8:52 am

    Interesting post. I wouldn’t mind moving to another place. I don’t care for the weather and living in Toronto in general. I’ve always thought about moving to California in the back of my mind – Mountain View, Palo Alto, etc – as it’s where everything in my industry is happening. Prices there aren’t very low but they do not seem to be anymore expensive than Toronto surprisingly. Even a place like Colorado would be quite nice, a little more for inexpensive living, outdoor recreation and year round nice weather.

    So if I were to move to US I would need to interview with US companies and get the job and get them to get me a visa? Then I’d have to sell or rent my house in Canada, move down to [insert state here] and rent a place. Move my furniture down to the States – how much will this cost? Now I’m already married… so that won’t be how I get my green card! Do I get my company to renew my visa every year and after a certain amount of years I can apply for a green card? Can I purchase a house without being a citizen yet?

    It’s an interesting thought but I have so many questions! Do you have any of these answers or know of an article or website that may address these questions?

    I love creating websites and it would be awesome to live in the hub of it all. I feel that it could be worthwhile too as I would be able to make connections with other people passionate about their work.

    Anyways thanks for the post! I agree that people get used to “how it is” and not “what it could be”. I think the perception of loss makes people stay where they are. I’ve heard that people react badly to losing money even if it gains them more in the long run. Perhaps the pain of paying all this money to move, having to meet new friends, etc invokes a lot of fear in people. And yes people in Canada seem to think waiting for warm weather is “normal”. No it’s not! I’m cold half the year and I hardly go outside during this time. Warm weather would be awesome!

    • Moxie October 2, 2011, 10:07 am

      – So if I were to move to US I would need to interview with US companies and get the job and get them to get me a visa?
      — Or, get your own visa, move down, and interview. But it depends on the field of work you’re in and what types of visas you may or may not qualify for.

      – Then I’d have to sell or rent my house in Canada, move down to [insert state here] and rent a place. Move my furniture down to the States – how much will this cost?
      — Moving furniture will cost a lot. Not to mention potential customs/immigrations issues (which I have no idea about). My friends moved a small apartment worth of furniture & household items from Chicago to Texas for several thousand dollars. The cheapest way was to rent a truck and drive it themselves. But one-way rentals are much more expensive than Round-Trip rentals, so you could build in extra time and plan to drive the truck back to the starting point… you’d also have double the gasoline costs.

      – Now I’m already married… so that won’t be how I get my green card! Do I get my company to renew my visa every year and after a certain amount of years I can apply for a green card?
      — If the company is sponsoring your visa, you should find out up front if they are willing to sponsor for a green card or not. Some visas are only intended to be temporary, but others (like H1B others have mentioned) can be seen as a gateway to residency. You can also apply for a green card on your own, which will likely be more costly and cumbersome.

      – Can I purchase a house without being a citizen yet?
      — Yes. Almost the only thing you won’t be able to do is vote!

      It’s an interesting thought but I have so many questions! Do you have any of these answers or know of an article or website that may address these questions?

      • Christine Wilson October 3, 2011, 11:47 am

        Thanks for answering all my questions! Gives me a good starting off point to plan if I want to do this. Um anyone happen to know what happens to your bought house if your visa runs out and you have to move back to Canada? Is it simple? You need to sell it.. that’s it? Just try to sell it before the visa runs out?

        • MMM October 3, 2011, 12:34 pm

          It’s even easier than that – a Canadian doesn’t have to do anything in particular with a house they bought in the US. You could keep it as a rental, or you could sell it.. some Canadians keep second homes in warm places just for occasional visits.

          The only trick I found when buying my first house here was that some lenders are wary of 1-year visa holders. I had to show the paperwork for my 3-year H-1 visa before the bank would relax and lend to me. As with everything in life, much of the hassle disappears if you can simply afford to buy a starter home with no loan. But there are still many thousands of homeowners here from Canada, India, China, and other places who are keeping the lights on in many of the high-tech companies, who qualified for mortgages with TN or H1 visas.

  • MeanyGoat October 2, 2011, 12:05 pm

    Great post, really interesting. Have a look at http://www.meanygoat.com for similar ideas. I live in France and very similar points come up….either the place is nice and the people of pretty horrible or vice versa. In the end you are where you are but you can make a plan to get to where you want to be. Frugal ideas help here because they can help you accumulate the cash needed for your next adventure!!!

  • Acorn October 12, 2011, 8:59 am

    Hmm, NYC is my early retirement location of choice. I just like the cultural diversity, public transportation, and yes, even the weather. Something like this would be nice –

  • Pretirement Shannon October 13, 2011, 6:51 pm

    Hi MMM –

    Loving the blog and wanted to share my story of maximizing lifestyle and income by moving. My husband and I are originally from Vancouver and were fed up at paying the ridiculous rents there. We are entrepreneurs who can work from anywhere so a couple of years ago we decided to move to Costa Rica for two months to avoid the rainy, depressing depths of winter in Vancouver. It was awesome! The next winter we did the same thing (but for three months this time). During that trip, I woke up one day next to a beach in CR and thought, we don’t have to go back to Vancouver! We could go anywhere! So, I started to do some research into cost of living in Whistler. Turns out, during the off-season (May-Dec) people rent out their beautiful ski chalets by the month for a fraction of the winter cost. We hooked up with a great couple from Palo Alto on Craigslist who own a chalet and ended up renting their place *furnished* for 1/2 what it would have cost us to rent an *unfurnished* place in Vancouver. We are finishing up this leg of our journey in Whistler in mid-December and then back to Costa Rica for a few months. We plan on moving back to Whistler again next year. I love that our housing costs are less than half of any of our friends and we get to live in the places they can only visit for a week holiday or a weekend. Keep up the great writing!!

    • Christine Wilson October 14, 2011, 6:17 am

      Hi Shannon… I just have to say that’s really cool!

      For anyone trying to do cost of living comparisons I found this nice website that gives you a general breakdown:

      • FiveSigmas October 28, 2012, 8:26 pm

        I’m a little late to the party, but that’s a neat site. Thanks for the link!

    • Christine Wilson October 14, 2011, 6:19 am

      Oh and can I ask what you and your husband do?

      • Pretirement Shannon October 14, 2011, 10:30 am

        Hi Christine – We both are entrepreneurs. My husband works in technology and I own an advertising consulting firm.

  • Bart B. November 24, 2011, 4:26 pm

    I’m about to make the move from Vancouver, BC (avg house price: $767,000) to Fredericton, NB ($162,000).

    The combination of high house prices and modest incomes make Vancouver the world’s least affordable housing market, right after Hong Kong and Sydney. Is Vancouver a nice city? I’m not sure: I’m stuck in the suburbs. It’s not nice enough to slave my entire life away paying for a scrap of land.

    I was fortunate enough to find a job in Fredericton matching my current salary. I feel like I’ve discovered a cheat code to the financial system.

    • MMM November 24, 2011, 9:42 pm

      Great choice! I agree that Vancouver prices are irrational.

      For the price of one Vancouver house, you could buy a house across the border in equally-nice Bellingham, Washington, AND have well over $500,000 US left over which you could use to buy a nearby small business to qualify for an EB-5 “Green Card Through Investment”. Then you could live off of the cashflow of your new business and occasionally stop in to thank your 10 employees for paying for your groceries :-)

  • Uncephalized June 11, 2012, 10:24 am

    Don’t move to Phoenix! Sorry, MMM, but unless you’ve lived here you wouldn’t know what a shithole it is. “Never-ending warmth” is not how I would describe the climate here–try “brutal heat that could literally kill you if you are stranded outdoors for a few hours and makes you unwilling to leave your house for the middle part of every day between June and September”. Throw in the dust storms, crappy traffic, extreme lack of walkability, and general neo-con, truck-loving, gun-toting cowboy culture for good measure. I will grant you that the climate is nice in the winter, so if you can snowbird it might not be so bad.

    Your Tucson recommendation is a good one, though. I’ve lived both places and Tucson is pretty nice, cooler than Phoenix year round (though it still gets blazing hot in summer!), smaller and more intimate with lots of great restaurants and local businesses. It gets more rain, and the natural Sonoran environment is much more accessible because it’s a smaller city. You often see javelina or coyotes trotting down city streets in the mornings and evenings. There was a coyote pack that lived right across the road from out old apartment that we heard yapping every night when we went outside.

  • Aviva June 12, 2012, 9:15 am

    Hi MMM!
    I just found your blog and love it. Particularly love this post (and the one that just stopped me from forking out for the iPad3!!)
    It made me think about my own moving experiences. I’m Australian, 27 years old and have lived and worked/studied in 8 places- 5 Australian (Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Darwin,Perth) and 3 on the South American continent (Buenos Aires, Santiago, Cuenca). I think I’ve given other places to live a fairly good go.
    Interesting thing is- this year I chose to come back to my hometown, which I never thought I’d do, isn’t that funny?
    As a base I’ve realized it’s perfect for me (my criteria for great living are pretty much identical to yours. I particularly hate commuting so walking/bike tracks and public transport are key things for me). I tried the sexy big cities, tried the smaller more outdoor cities like Darwin. Thanks to moving I’ve now realized I need something in between, the beautiful outdoors with interesting job prospects and a good salsa scene on weekends!
    Having my family nearby as well is a huge bonus- we’re pretty close and I’ve missed being near them. That adds majorly to my happiness.
    A lot of my school friends have never lived anywhere else. I like that I can honestly say I chose to end up here- I know it’s perfect for me right now because I’ve tried other places.
    The other bonus with having moved is all the ex housemates and friends I now have around the globe to visit on my holidays- I’ve travelled so much on my own, now I love just traveling to see loved ones and enjoy their hometowns/countries. Plus it makes for much cheaper holidays!!

  • zencracker July 2, 2012, 5:21 pm

    Please keep quiet about Vancouver Island. It will help keep housing prices affordable for us youngin’s who already live here! Thanks and love your blog.

  • Justin Robert Forbes October 4, 2012, 10:36 pm

    This is a great story. Im up in Halifax, nova scotia and this story is still relavent to me.

  • Chelsea November 2, 2012, 5:25 am

    Interesting article, even if half the places listed sound incredibly boring to live in(capping ideal city size at 200,000 people? Bleh. The smallest city I’d consider moving to is Madison, WI, and that has 236,901 people in it!). Though maybe that’s biased by my young age and desire to live in a vibrant city with good public transit(sorry, but America’s pretty terrible at providing that in medium cities, let alone small ones) and a wide variety of things to do. I’ve recently had to move to Generic Suburban City #1406 for my first Real Job, and I’m already getting depressed by the fact that there’s nowhere to walk except a couple of small parks with one-mile trails(which I have to drive to!) & a bunch of roads that aren’t really laid out to be walkable.

    Although I’ve read a lot on urban design, and there’s a lot to be said about how the typical suburban town design is more expensive, less healthy, and less satisfying for everyone involved. You can’t walk anywhere, there’s not enough density for public transport, teens who aren’t old enough to drive are bored out of their minds, old people who can’t safely drive either drive anyway or are stuck at home all the time, 99% of the stores you find are cookie-cutter chain stores, people are encouraged to buy big, expensive houses that use a ton of space with giant lawns that need lots of watering…bleh to it all.

    • Gerard November 11, 2012, 5:58 am

      Sounds like you’d be better off in a real small city, or college town, rather than a big suburb. Most of the problems you mention (and I agree with you that they definitely affect quality of life) are not an issue in places like St. John’s, NL, or Bloomington, IN.

  • Fawn November 14, 2012, 4:59 pm

    I grew up in Philadelphia- blah weather and crime ridden to boot. My husband is an active duty military member, so we didn’t stay in Philly, but we don’t get to choose where we live either, and we move every three years to a new state- like clockwork. This has wreaked havoc in some areas of our lives (my career) but has been extremely enriching in other areas. Obviously not everyone can or would live like this, but when my hubby retires from the service we will have seen and experienced every region of the country first hand and will choose where we retire carefully and with first hand knowledge.

  • Jenny December 29, 2012, 2:00 am

    Would you happen to have specific names for the communities/neighborhoods in the areas you describe as “desert suburbs near the foothills just East of Los Angeles”? I would love to do some research on the feasibility of my moving to one of those areas. I live in Los Angeles and want to stay here because my grandmother is here, in-state tuition for my soon to be going to college son, and the weather. But I need to find somewhere cheaper to live and moving to the desert would do wonders for me health wise. I was trying to figure it out on my own….are you talking about the San Gabriel Valley? East of the San Gabriel Valley? (And if so how far east?) Further North like the Antelope Valley? Am I on the right track? Thank you for any additional information you can pass along my way. I am new to your blog and am really enjoying looking around. And while I have also lived according to your “MMM” principles, some of them are not realistic for me. I am in a long drawn out divorce, disabled and simply do not have the skills to do many of the cool MMM things you do. All my savings (which I had been acquiring since I was a teenager) have been eaten up in my divorce. But I’m trying to hold out hope that I can still make it somehow; and your blog is giving me a little of that. Thanks again.

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 29, 2012, 9:48 am

      Hey Jenny – good luck! When I wrote this post, I was browsing through realtor.com and looking at houses around LA that were heavily discounted due to the housing crash. The fire sale conditions may still exist in places, but you’d have to browse around a bit yourself. Choosing a region and then sorting by price: low-to-high, is usually a good start.

      • Jenny December 29, 2012, 5:36 pm

        Thank you; I will do that!

    • shavenllama January 14, 2013, 2:53 pm

      Hi, JennY!

      I happened to be putzing around with the Random Article generator, and I happened across this one.


      How long have you lived in the LA area? Have you looked into areas like Saugus/ Canyon Country just north of LA metro? Bakersfield/ Taft further up? Riverside/ Corona to the east? Menifee, Yucaipa, and Fallbrook (southern Riverside county/ Northern east San Diego county) might also be up your alley as they are close enough to shopping and roads but took a big hit with the housing meltdown.

      Good luck!

  • Segmond January 20, 2013, 1:12 pm

    I live in Michigan, in a very quite suburb, 3 car garage, half an acre of backyard, nice walking and biking trails, 25 minutes to Detroit downtown. Michigan felt the worst of the recession, housing is sooooo cheap. But the great thing, I took the opportunity and I’m now mortgage free! I employeed and make about the same as the average professional, being mortgage free means I can put away so much more each month. I’m giving up some sun shine, but it’s working for me. Michigan is a great place for those who can work remotely or find a somewhat stable job that can last for a good 5 yrs.

    What you pay in rent in most places for 2 years, will buy a house cash in some nice neighbourhoods, if you are willing to downsize to a modest 3 bedroom 1100sq ft house with garage and possibly basement and $2000 property tax.

    My friends that are out of state can never wrap their head around why I’m still here, but that’s why. Lots of things to do! Chicago is 4hrs drive, Toronto 4 hrs drive, Cleveland and Columbus 3hrs drive. Tigers, Red Wings, Lions, Pistons, Michigan and MSU football and basketball, tons of things to do.

    • CH May 2, 2013, 5:49 pm

      Hi Segmond,

      Been thinking about Michigan as one of my future locations. I hope this doesn’t come out stalker-like :-D, but could you please say what suburb you’re in?

      Been in DC 6 years – hoping to get out in the next year or two. My major requirements are nice places to run, coolish weather (okay, stop laughing!), a good job (prerequisite for moving), reasonable cost of living, lots of elbow room, a friendly live-and-let-live attitude, and trees.


    • Ash October 18, 2013, 1:19 am

      Ok but how often do you actually go to Chicago? The reaon I ask is because i live in a city only 4 hrs from the beach, and I really never go. So for me, the amenities would need to be within an hours drive to ‘count’.

  • Alain February 22, 2013, 7:22 pm

    Having lived in two countries, I settled in Toronto 8 years ago. I must say I find it awfully expensive, plus I disagree with many of the things that make it a supposedly great place. I really would love to move to the States but that’s too much of a hassle right now that I’m married and a new father. Oh, and my wife hates the winter, so she’s definitely sign up to move to a warmer place.

    That said, if we were to stay in Ontario, can anyone recommended a medium sized city that’s reasonably priced and had somewhat better weather than Toronto? Thanks!

    • Barbara July 30, 2014, 9:25 pm

      Windsor, Ontario. Reasonable housing prices and great riverfront. Warm in summer and less snow than Toronto in winter. Lots of nice parks and walking trails.

      • Michelle February 28, 2015, 8:02 pm

        I grew up in Windsor, Ontario. The population is around 200,000. Housing prices are very affordable. It has a nice cultural vibe to it now that it’s starting to bounce back after the fall of the auto industry there. The Walkerville neighborhood is a nice historic area with a lot of personality. It’s very multicultural which is fun too!

  • Cyrus April 28, 2013, 12:50 am

    “The Ultimate Human-friendly city in my own view is one with a population between 50,000 and 200,000, in a compact and bikeable footprint, separated from neighboring cities by Actual Cows And Fields, as opposed to the fake cities that exist by the dozen on the sides of giant cities.”

    Welcome to lovely Missoula, Montana.

  • irisheyes May 2, 2013, 12:13 am

    You are so on the money. (baDUM!) I am almost desperate to leave Los Angeles and stop giving money to our whack slumlord (we have had three now, in 1200-1500 one bedrooms) and enduring the crime, smog, traffic (bike? I wish! whats a bike?) and general smashed together existence. I really miss regarding my neighbors as great friends rather than fighting them for parking and resenting their dogs and kids. Unfortunately, its all about the job in this decade. I graduated right in to the lap of the crash in ’08 and carried on working as a dance instructor just like college never happened. Im pretty weary of making it in a smaller place with my particular skills. My guy is terrified of leaving his job too. I fantasize about taking my savings and running away to the mayan riviera. I could live for years off money that wont put a dent in a mortgage here.

    • Bohemiana June 1, 2018, 7:34 pm

      It’s now long after you posted about LA rents and they are even higher now however I would give a vote to Long Beach (south of LA) as a great place for a young professional to start. Both my husband and I moved to Long Beach and each got simple basic studio apartments. A few years later we met each other, got married and bought a tiny house in a so-so neighborhood but the 15 year fixed mortgage was cheaper than both our rents together. The market has been up and down since then but when it’s down, which will happen again, that’s the time to buy. Once you get your foothold in the market, you can build tremendous equity. We bought that first house 22 years ago and it’s tripled, plus we bought and sold a few in between near the bottom of the market that we rent out now. Overall, as long as we don’t have an earthquake our investments will bring us $3k+ per month until we decide to sell them. Next year we turn 57 years old and we will sell our current house, retire and use the equity to pay cash in Phoenix and live in Spain June-Sept.

      I see a lot of young people in the LA area spending tons of money on fancy cars, going out to eat all the time, and renting in LA. We have a rental 2 blocks from the beach that we rent out for $1300 in 2018! Live in Long Beach Baby!

      • Nice joy June 2, 2018, 8:59 am

        If all your houses worth a million then you can invest that in the stock market and withdraw 40000 [4%] per year without worrying about maintaining all your houses. Wellcome to Phoenix this is a great place to live.

  • Campinas May 7, 2013, 4:32 pm

    I too a fellow Canadian in a new country! I am on my third year living in Brazil (brazilian husband now) and I have a million worries under the sun about our retirement. We are both 30, late earners (grad schools and traveling the world took all our time and cash), but we are saving around 50% of what we earn monthly. Everyone talks about the opportunities here in Brazil, that its booming etc but we just dont see it! High inflation rates, high cost of living (look up Sao Paulo) and zero customer service makes us very scepticale to investing any of our savings here. Getting our money back to Canada is too costly and we are just so confused on what to do with our savings while we are here. We just moved from Sao Paulo which is all the negative you mentioned in this article times 100 to a quite city of about 1/10th the size and price. DEEP EXHALE…. With a better living situation we hope we can change our investing situation too. Any suggestions on out of canada/US investing? International investing? Am I embarrasing myself? We are good savers but then what? Investing is scary, but even scarier in a foreign country! We are adventurers so we will take this on!

    • Souza July 31, 2013, 11:32 am

      Hello Campinas, I´m a local Brazilian and it seems you lived in one of the worst cities in Brazil, S. Paulo. I´d say the places of opportunities are in specific locations all over the country. I myself have been living in R. de Janeiro, another of the worst places in the country, expecting to retire within 7 years, before I am 47, and expecting to move elsewhere in the country afterwards. I´m happy to find someone in Brazil interested in Mustachian subjects. Regards.

      • Aja November 8, 2013, 9:14 pm

        I agree with Souza about São Paulo, though I finally visited Rio recently and loved it. Not the cost of living, though. I’m an American who’s been in Brazil for a little over 4 years now. I lived in Curitiba and a smaller town in Paraná before settling in Bonito, MS. Thanks to tourism, we have a fabulous balance of work opportunities (for bilingual folks and entrepreneurs) and small-town benefits… Bike culture, friendly people, safe plus beautiful weather and, with a few good friends, free or discounted entrance to the ecotourism sites. Not great if you’re into consumerism, but the main thing I miss being able to buy is imported food, so I just stock up on exotic ingredients when I visit the big cities and have fun cooking at home. I too am starting to think about investing here. Perhaps we should start a group and share what we figure out?

        • Souza November 9, 2013, 9:13 am

          Hello Aja, I´ve been learning about this and putting money into Brazilian investments for 8 years now, since I began saving 50% of my earnings. I´d be glad to share information about this subject. Perhaps we could open a topic in the forum.

  • Johnny Credit May 13, 2013, 8:30 pm

    I have to defend NYC here.
    First of all great blog, I’ve been obsessively reading since the Washington Post article linked to you.

    1.) Crowding; You have to love people to live here, look at the way we live, stacked in boxes on top of each other.

    But if you think of people as resources, (I have many very wonderful neighbors, in close walking distance), then rather than try to live as far separated as you can from them, and abhorring others, you can find great enjoyment from people here.

    We share services, which means, in my 2 family home in Brooklyn, I pay less than $1300 a year in property taxes. Sure you can pay between $5,000 and $30,000 a year in NJ or Long Island, if you want, but why?
    You can build equity faster with less taxes in your mortgage. And with tenants helping, (the vacancy rate is extremely low here), you can knock it down in no time.

    2.) Cars; Lose the car, we have perhaps the finest public transportation system in the world. Hate public transportation? Get on a bike, you are not a freak here, there are bike lanes everywhere.

    3.) Rent; It’s high in some places, but if you own a home that you bought at fire sale market crash prices, high rent is your friend. If not, factor in higher wages, and the fact that you don’t need to own a car.

    4.) Wide open spaces; it’s not the West, but you have the Catskill Mountains, the Adirondack mountains, you can ski in the winter, you can bike, or take the subway to a variety of beaches (Coney Island, Rockaway etc) in the summer.

    There is a 3 acre Park, a couple of blocks away, that I walk to every day, with my dogs, and some much larger ones, walking or biking distance away.

    Sure mid winter can be snowy and cold, mid summer is hot/humid. Spring and Fall can be gorgeous, my favorite is Spring.

    But if you’re smart, you can live a very Mustachian lifestyle here.

  • Sérgio May 28, 2013, 6:24 am

    Why don’t you try Coimbra? In Portugal Or even Alentejo.With you stash and your current level of spending you cold live here like kings

  • James July 15, 2013, 2:00 pm

    I live in NJ, and still dream about Portsmouth, NH….

  • michelle August 5, 2013, 12:58 pm

    When we bought our house 3.5 years ago, we knew we wanted to live in town vs. a suburb. It caused quite a ruckus with friends and family. (my parents left their almost paid off house in town to over buy in the suburbs) One of the craziest arguments we got was, “Why would you want to live in a used house?!”. Seriously….a used house. People here upgrade their houses as much as they do their cars. Most buy a POS “new” slapped together house in the suburbs where they have to drive at least 10 miles for anything(even a convenience store). We live in the middle of town, within 3 miles of EVERYTHING. If we choose not to bike, we can catch a bus 100 feet from our front door.

    Yes, our house was built in 1942 but with REAL lumber! Our doors and beams are solid old growth wood, not hollow foam core and composite wood. The landscaping is mature and we didn’t have to build a fence or put in a sprinkler system. Right now, it’s perfect sized for our family of 4 (1800 sqft and feels HUGE). When the kids leave, we will definitely downsize our square footage. Yes, there is only 1 bathroom but guess what, I only have to clean one bathroom! We have never had any issues sharing a bathroom with 4 people (or more when we have house guests).

    Love our house in town (:

  • Ash October 18, 2013, 1:25 am

    Would love to hear thoughts on moving as a non Mormon to Salt Lake City. Thanks!

  • Greg November 14, 2013, 7:49 pm

    After a layoff from the 2008 housing crash, I up and moved to Australia then soon to Singapore. Singapore gets a bad rep sometimes but that’s fine cause that’ll keep people out when it’s great here actually. You can make a very high salary and if you choose to live like a local you can easily hit 60-70% savings targets quickly. Always warm with no crime and last year I had a total tax rate of around 4%.


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