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‘Stashtown, USA

bikenightA big part of the recipe for a good life is to love the place you live. Although you can compensate for almost any living conditions with a strong Stoic attitude and some training, it sure is nice to be surrounded by an environment that truly agrees with your constitution. After all, all five of your senses are fueled by nothing more than the physical environment right around you, and every atom in your body is replaced every few years by atoms that happen to be nearby.

After fifteen years of living next to the Rocky Mountains, I am definitely still in love with my own patch of the world. Colorado in general, and old-town Longmont in specific, agree very well with me. The fine balance between warmth and cold, freedom and social order, affordability and fanciness, and even perfection and ugly flaws, seems just about right to keep life vigorous and interesting. After all, the happiest life is not attained by soaking yourself in the deepest possible tub of comfort. Instead, you win the game by extracting the most personal growth from yourself. This means doing hard stuff. Experiencing voluntary discomfort. Getting off your ass once in a while. Colorado seems to have been geologically formed with exactly this ethos in mind.

Finding a Great Place to Live (and Retire)

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A marmot chills on South Arapahoe Peak during one of my hikes

The goal of this article not to share just one example of a location that provides a good life, but learn about more great ones from you. I’ll describe the typical factors that make it possible for me by describing my own town. But this is only one place. There are thousands of other great towns and cities around the world that offer amazing advantages. The idea is to draw some of them out here. You may be inspired to check out one of these destinations, or to find new life in your own home city. Sometimes a move across town can be just as life-changing as a move to a new continent.

Why I live in Colorado

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View from Rabbit Mountain at the edge of Longmont

Back in 1999, I toured some of the country by attending job interviews in Massachusetts, Georgia, North Carolina, California and here in Colorado, and found the lifestyle of my potential coworkers to be the most enviable here. People keep active duty mountain bikes with dried red mud on their treads leaned casually inside their engineering cubicles, and CEOs wear sandals. This is a place where Life comes first, and Work is allowed to coexist as long as it does not show up wielding its characteristic Clipboard of Bullshit. Obviously there will be exceptions, but it is amazing how strong the regional cultural differences are even within the borders of a single country.

Why Longmont?

I stumbled across this place while living 13 miles down the road in its much more glamorous neighbor, Boulder. My coworkers and I used to take group motorcycle rides out here to visit the legendary Mexican restaurants, but I also noticed the big trees lining the creeks, beautiful public parks, and the historic downtown. With house prices at least 50% lower than Boulder, I noticed I could afford to have my pick of neighborhoods and live within walking distance of downtown. But unfortunately, this would mean voluntarily signing myself up for a car clown commute to the job in Boulder, so I dismissed the idea.

Until retirement in 2005, when suddenly we could live anywhere with no commute at all. So Longmont it was.

The City at a Glance

The shady sidewalks of Old-Town

The shady sidewalks of Old-Town

Longmont is a compact, historic city that fits within a roughly 5×5 mile footprint. Its population of 92,000 means it is big enough to have all your retail and restaurant needs covered, great Internet access and mobile phone service, and an urban feel in places. But small enough that you can fit the whole thing in your head – knowing all the streets and neighborhoods, and mayor and the owner of your favorite brew pub (who are coincidentally the same guy). Most importantly, it is small enough that you can bike from anywhere to anywhere in the city within minutes. My own rule is that Intra-Longmont car trips are only permissible if you are carrying more than 100 pounds of stuff – otherwise, use the bike and a bike trailer. But you’re still only 20 minutes from Boulder, 50 from downtown Denver and the same distance from Denver Airport, one of the largest and most well-connected in the world. The continent’s largest mountain chain begins about 10 miles to the West, which means you can be in a canyon within the confines of a lunchtime bike ride.

Employment

This is the bike path running through the high tech employment zone.

This is the bike path running through the high tech employment zone.

Here we benefit from our location next to the venture-capital-happy money fountain of Boulder. Small and large tech companies have offices nearby including Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Amgen, Seagate, and trendier ones I don’t keep track of due to the fact that I haven’t worked in tech in almost nine years. The area is also a minor hub for solar and wind power companies, and creative industries as well. But more interesting than the physical office situation is the number of people who live here but work remotely for companies in New York, Boston, LA, and Silicon Valley. It’s not a bedroom community since you don’t have to commute out of it to work. More of a Patio community.

Climate

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Autumn in Thompson Park, across the street from our elementary school

In a word: Invigorating. Right now it is spring, which means a stream of warm sunny days (60-80F) with very occasional rain and clouds. Summer is a series of very dry hot sunny days (80-95F), with even less rain. Fall is back to the warm sunny days with occasional rain and surprising dumps of snow towards the end of it. Winter is mild sunny days (44F) with cold nights (15F) and occasional vigorous snowstorms and colder days. Annual precipitation is only about 15″, about the same as Los Angeles and a rather extreme difference from NYC’s 45″. On average, there are only a few days each year where weather makes it impractical to ride your bike, which is the most important measurement for me. But it’s not a great climate if you are a palm tree or a year-round outdoor vegetable garden.

Housing

The New Urban development known as Prospect, where I built some houses.

The New Urban development known as Prospect, where I built some houses.

Single family houses in this city start in the upper $100s. In the low $300s, you can find a quaint 2-3 bedroom house in the downtown region or a solid 3/3 modern house in a close-in suburb. The low $400s gets you one of the very nice houses* in the better neighborhoods and you can pretty much have your pick of the town if you show up with $500k or more. Full houses rent for $1500-$2500 per month, and apartments are less.

Taxes

Property taxes are fairly cheap at about 0.8% of a property’s appraised value per year, so you’ll be paying $1600-$3000 rather than $5,000-$15,000 as they do on the East Coast. The region has an 8% sales tax, 4.6% state income tax, and no local income taxes. Colorado is very friendly to small business, with easy online LLC registration that costs me about $10 per year to maintain. And, not that you care, but gasoline is consistently some of the nation’s cheapest – about $3.30 per gallon at the time of writing.

Culture

This guy (the elementary school art teacher) is one of my favorite people ever.

This guy (the elementary school art teacher) is one of my favorite people ever.

Saving the best for last, this town has a real culture of caring for other people. It is expected that if you pass a stranger on any street, you will both exchange at least a greeting. You generally become friends with the people who work at your favorite stores, and your own neighborhood can be the source of your social circle. My own area has a rotating “porch club” which is an open invitation to gather at a designated front porch bearing food and drink, spouses and kids, and just shoot the breeze as the sun goes down on a summer night. We also have a good bike culture beginning: parents bike their kids to school, and the weekly Bike Night event draws over 200 people in the peak of summer. (I’ll be there on May 14th, by the way).

 

 

Flaws

Keep in mind when reading all of this that I am an incurable optimist. There are plenty of things in Longmont that still suck. People drive their cars way too much, and far too few of them ride bikes. Some neighborhoods are run down, and plenty of the commercial buildings in the fringe areas are vacant too. It’s not a cultural hub and there are decidedly fewer beautiful people in restaurants than you will see in Boulder. Because of the family demographic, it would be a boring place to be a 20-something single looking for night life. And in the dead of winter when this place is brown or snowy, I have been known to long for San Diego or Hawaii.

Your Turn!

Do you live in a city that provides a nice base for the Good Life? Affordable living, good jobs and culture, and an outdoorsy and health-oriented vibe? Share it in the comments below and we can all learn from each other. Try to address the general areas above and link to a demographics page like these two for Longmont.

Looking to move HERE?

I’ll admit it right now: I’d actually like to help create a Badass Utopia right here in my own town. Several people I know have already moved here after reading about it on the blog, and I’d be happy to facilitate the trend, because Mustachians are good people. We will share fermented ciders on our respective porches and lend each other power tools and project advice. Get in touch via the contact form if you are one of these people and I can help you learn about the area, find a good place to live, etc.

* Speaking of nicer houses…

Revised: Here I had mentioned two houses that happened to be coming to market at the time of writing. One was my own house and another was the place next door, newly renovated by a builder acquaintance. They are of course both sold now.

Like many cities, house prices in this area have risen (some would say “recovered”) quickly in these last two years, but it is still one of the better deals on a price-to-awesomeness ratio, when compared to other areas with strong tech employment.

 

 

 

 

  • Bob Werner May 12, 2014, 9:16 am

    Did you have a foot of snow yesterday? Gotta love the late spring snows of Colorado. I have been stranded in early April blizzards on several occasions. Although, I visit Colorado often and have been to Boulder and Fort Collins, I can’t say I have taken the Longmont exit. I will next time I’m there.

    Meanwhile, to plug my environs, I make my main camp in the beautiful, multi season, Lake of the Ozarks. In a state rated number one in both camping and hiking, where water literally flows right out of the ground and multiple rivers can be canoed for over 100 miles and often end in beautiful lakes.

    Sure, my 3000 sq foot beautiful home on 3 park like acres, that we have less that 125K into, might have something to do with it? Sure, the lowest energy cost in the US might? And some of the lowest tax rates might be a factor. Sure, the feeling of living in a 1950/60 time warps helps. Sure, I don’t even own a key to my front door and my key always stays in the car?

    Cons – Bike riding is very limited in my particular area due to steep hills and dangerous roads.

    I’ll visit Colorado and you are very welcome to visit the Ozarks of Missouri and Arkansas. You, your wife and son might love a week at Table Rock Lake while visiting Branson and Silver Dollar City. Don’t sweat over the cost as food, beer and just about everything is less expensive here. You can even rent a nice cabin on the lake for 100 per night or you can just pitch a tent for free or close to free on most rivers and lakes. Sure you might get tired of hiking the Ozark Trail for over a hundred miles so grab a canoe and do a 5 day float on the crystal clear Current River. Or if biking is your thing (which somehow I think it might be) you should check out the Katy Trail one of the longest rail to trails systems in the world on the awesome and historic Missouri River.

    So yeah, I like visiting Colorado but I stay pretty busy in the Ozarks. And on Mother’s Day, instead of snow, we spent the day under a shade tree while our children played in a 2 foot deep clear mountain stream in a picture perfect setting.

    Reply
  • MonicaOnMoney May 12, 2014, 9:27 am

    I’d love to live somewhere that I could walk or drive to work. And my preference is somewhere with warm weather (I’m in Florida now!)

    But other than that, I’d live bascially anywhere!

    Reply
  • Lee May 12, 2014, 9:33 am

    The timing of this article is a remarkable coincidence. I was in Denver during the past week for a work conference and as a new reader to this blog, on Saturday I just had to drive out to Boulder and Longmont to check out the area. I had no idea that you had posted this until today (Monday).

    You have accurately described your town — it’s big enough to have amenities, bills itself as “bike friendly” (big sign as you drive into town from Boulder), inexpensive housing, safe community, varied food options, and more. Looks like a great place to raise a family in a suburban setting if that’s your thing, which it obviously is. Congratulations on syncing your values with your lifestyle! I enjoyed walking around downtown on a beautiful sunny Saturday which included a visit to the very non-mustachian Cheese Importers where I sampled different cheeses (free) and then splurged on a very delicious over-priced blueberry lemon tart (worth it as a one-time indulgence since I will never be there again).

    Surprisingly, I did not care for Boulder. Anytime, that many beautiful people move into a place, too many regulations get enacted. I went hiking up Mt. Sanitas (also free) and was struck by all of the dog owners trying to hike up this trail with their dogs on a leash. C’mon, open space should be for off-leash dog trails. Apparently you are only allowed to have your dog off-leash if they pass a “voice command/sight” test and get a special tag (which I’m sure costs a fee.)

    I was also struck by the large numbers of homeless people in Boulder, especially around the park next to the library.

    So, even though Boulder is in a beautiful location with fabulous recreational trails, which are well-utilized by the obviously physically fit community, has a university, and lovely, well-cared for homes, I would pass on Boulder. It would cost too much to live there . For far less money, you can live in a somewhat less beautiful place but without sacrificing on key elements for a quality life.

    My recommendation for a safe small city with good employment opportunities, great trails (open to multiple use: for mountain biking,, running, hiking, and off-leash dogs), inexpensive housing (both old Victorians and new construction) which is close to work, decent library, two microbreweries, and good supermarkets is Helena, Montana. It is a good place to get a stable state government job and raise a family. It also has an active retiree community and a local arts scene. It has a small private college. Although there are a lot of single people here who have come here because they got a state job, it is not a great place for singles. There is not much nightlife and there’s not much temptation to venture out to any of the local restaurants. Personally, I would rather live in Bozeman, and many people would recommend Missloula, because these are very vibrant communities with more culture, great restaurants, fun music scene, and more incredible recreation opportunities. However, jobs in these communities are hard to come by. If you’ve already achieved FI, or are a tech entrepreneur, and value an active, outdoor lifestyle, check them out. You MUST have a winter sport that you enjoy such as skiing (downhill or x-country), ice hockey (Bozeman and Missoula have great adult and kids programs), ice fishing, etc. Summers can be very hot, but Montana explodes with things to do (fly fishing, kayaking, horse-back riding, boating, hiking, rock climbing, music festivals). There is no sales tax in Montana and property taxes are low.

    Reply
    • Meghan May 12, 2014, 9:15 pm

      I must admit that I’m one of those people who have had my dog on a leash on Mt. Sanitas. She needs the exercise, as do I, but we had one bad experience where she followed a dog down the hill, crossed the road, jumped all over my car, and then jumped in some random person’s Jetta. I was still running down the hill, calling her, when I got a call from someone who had my dog in their car. She had that stupid little tag, too. She hadn’t done it before, nor has she done it since, but I can’t risk it on busy days.

      I’ve lived in Boulder and there are possibilities for homeownership (condos), but the rental market is tricky. If you volunteer to sign a year lease or more, you’ll have luck there. I was a property manager in town 10 years ago, and students think they should only sign 9 month leases (smart on their part but landlords don’t want leases expiring in May, June, or mid-July). I wouldn’t likely move to Montana because I want to be close to family, but it is definitely a great place. If you don’t have family ties that keep you elsewhere, I’d definitely recommend Montana. I had a 6 state region that I traveled to for work (the Dakotas, Utah, Wyoming, CO, Montana) and I’d recommend Western ND or SD (watch for oil fields), Montana, Utah, or CO. I’m not a big fan of Wyoming but my work never took me to the northern part, so I’m not a true expert. It’s just so desolate and windy!

      Reply
  • MarciaB May 12, 2014, 9:35 am

    I remember reading a long article about quality of life (don’t remember where or when, sorry!) and the take-away for me was that small cities with populations of between 75,000 and 125,000 seem to be the sweet spot. Small enough for neighbors to know each other and for residents to know the whole place, but large enough for a good mix of folks, culture and amenities. Longmont fits into that niche for instance.

    Reply
  • Chad May 12, 2014, 10:34 am

    I have to add Denver proper to the list of places that are great to live. I agree with other posters that often one’s mindset can overcome very negative aspects of your own locality (i.e. negative 40 degree temperatures or crazy single family home cost – not in Denver BTW). However, living in a place that makes you happy on an almost daily basis can probably tip you over to being more happy if you are somewhere on the fence between happiness and being destitute. With that prolog, I will put in a few words about Denver.

    The weather in Denver is very appealing for most people. There is sunshine almost every day of the year. The winters are extremely mild, which for some reason people on the coasts do not understand. When I was moving here from Philadelphia people would comment: How are you going to survive the snow and cold? Well, in fact, Denver on average gets less snow than Philly and has much less abrasive winters. This is not to say that it cannot get cold in Denver, but below zero Farenheit is very uncommon and ussually limited to the hours between 2-6 am. Most extrodinary is that when we do have a cold January spell, we can generally anticipate a 60 degree day within the next week or two. Also, the humidity is low yearround making extremes in temperature more tolerable, which leads me to my second point – this is a very good biking city.

    I ride my bicycle to work yearround and I live about 14 miles away from work. The cool summer mornings are perfect for riding and the winter mornings are never too much for me. Some people might disagree but I rarely have weather related commuting issues. There are many great biking trails and parks (which are unfortunately underutilized by the rest of the population). I ride on the High Line Canal Trail for part of my commute and I regularly see deer and coyotes as well as the other more common fauna (squirrels and bunnies).

    Other nice things about Denver are a relatively good restaurant scene, comparable to much larger East Coast cities. It is no NYC but at least as good as Philly (and Boston from what I understand). The people are generally friendly and extremely open minded. There are all of the cultural opportunities of any major city (theatre – not Broadway mind you-, sports, museums). The economy is good; we are experiencing a boom that I think has been understated related to the legalization of marijuana. There are also many good jobs. I am currently in medical training so the salary is more or less fixed but my wife makes a great income as well (probably above average for her field).

    Regarding real estate, I have the most knowlege about South Denver but also some limited knowlege of other areas regarding real estate values. Our neighborhood is very expensive. The house we live in is valued in the high $300s and is on the modest side with most of the houses around us valued at >$600. There are close by neighborhoods that are more affordable but I think that finding a house without doing a ton of fix up work would be difficult to find in most of Denver without spending in the high $200s. On the other hand, it is a diverse city and with good planning it is possible to find a place for your ideal situation.

    Downers: Everyone thinks they need an SUV and commutes in it every day despite that I have proven that our mild snow storms can easily be overcome on a rear-one-wheel-drive bicycle. I also feel like drivers in Denver are on the careless side. I see people running red lights by >5 seconds on a daily basis and we have recently had a dramatic increase in hit-and-runs.

    It doesn’t affect me one way or another but I get a whiff of marijuana smoke basically every day.

    The public transport system is below average for a major city but improving with an ever expanding light rail system. I have some specific criticisms about the public transit system but I won’t go into that here.

    The airport is great and can get you anywhere in the world but is a long, long way from city center. This creates great economic opportunities for shuttle services but is annoying for your average traveler. The light rail will be expanded to go to the airport soon.

    That’s Denver in a nutshell from my humble opinion. I curious to see how many people agree or disagree with my assessment.

    Reply
  • Josh Keller May 12, 2014, 10:48 am

    I feel that I have to put a plug in for the west side of Michigan, specifically the wonderful city of Glen Miller fame…Kalamazoo. Population 75,000, Kalamazoo is home to a large state university, small liberal arts school, and a community college. It’s the medical hub for southwest Michgan with two large hospitals, a new medical school, and several medical related companies (Stryker and Pfizer). As MMM said of Longmont, Kalamzoo feels big enough to have everything we need yet small enough that I feel like I always know what’s going on. I can ride my bike downtown in five minutes or across town in 20. If I’m downtown on a Friday night (maybe at the monthly Art Hop, a community art exhibit where businesses become galleries) I am sure to see many people I know. Yet I could meet 10 new people every day and still never run out. I have never met so many people who love where they live as I have here.

    Wages I’m sure are lower than much of the rest of the country and jobs in many fields are not exactly plentiful. But the median home price is in the low $100k’s and there are many, many move-in ready homes close to downtown for much less than that. My wife and I are currently looking for a fixer-upper in the $40-50k range and these are actually plentiful.

    Taxes are on the higher side in the city (around 2.5% of market value) and lower in some of the surrounding townships. If you have kids, the Kalamazoo Promise, more than makes up for the higher taxes, in my opinion. The Promise was established about 10 years ago and in means that any child who goes to Kalamazoo Public Schools from K-12 will receive 100% tuition at any state school in Michigan. It’s prorated if you come into the system later (I think 9-12 is 65$ or so). With schools like U of M and Michigan State this could be an incredibly quality education for no tuition. Other than the promise, there is a TON of philanthropy in Kalamazoo. Many of old money names are all over the city funding some really great projects and institutions including a ton of art, theatre and music.

    There is a great music scene in Kalamazoo (and Michigan in general). A study a few years ago that looked at musicians and music-related businesses per capita put Kalamazoo as number 8 in the nation!!! The old Gibson Guitar factory was here and many of the luthiers who worked there for many years were also fine musicians are still in town. Plus, I think there is just a culture of music in this city. Free concerts all the time, and covers on a Friday or Saturday for great shows are usually in the $5 – 15 range unless there is a real big name. Several large venues host national acts (recently Bob Dylan, Bela Fleck, Ani Difranco, and others.) If your favorite band isn’t coming to Kalamazoo chances are they are coming to Chicago or the Detroit area – about 2 to 3 hours by car or train in either direction.

    We’re 45 minutes from Lake Michigan (or about 3-5 hours by bike on the Kal-Haven Trail) and there are tons of hiking trails and outdoor areas even within the city limits. Go a few hours north and you’ll find one of the most beautiful places on earth – the northwest coast of Michigan – including world class fishing, camping, and backpacking. The one thing I do miss after growing up on the east coast is access to mountains; there really aren’t any in Michigan, at least in the Lower Peninsula.

    Oh, and the beer and food. Besides Bell’s Brewery (which is right downtown) there are tons of other microbreweries in Kalamazoo…I lost count at 10. We take our beer seriously. There is also a flourishing local foods movement with several non-profit organizations dedicated to the cause of expanding access to locally grown and produced food. We have a great food co-op with a community feel and awesome farmer’s markets several days out of the week.

    Now, the bad…

    Of course, it can be brutally cold and snowy. There were three full months this winter where I did not see the ground or even much open pavement.This was one of the worst winters anyone can remember but even during the milder ones biking is difficult during at least three months of the year.

    The public transportation isn’t great and there are a lot of cars, though there is definitely a great bike subculture and growing infrastructure. Also, oddly, the mayor once told me that Kalamazoo is the most segregated county in Michigan, and I would believe it. There are definitely pretty distinct socio-economic and racial divides between neighborhoods. The good news is that there are many social justice organizations working on these issues, but they are pretty entrenched.

    There is not the best access to any large airport. The Grand Rapids airport is awesome, but fairly small. It’s about 45 minutes north and I’m lucky because there are direct flights to DC where I’m from. Otherwise you’re stuck going to Detroit or Chicago, or connecting through one of those. So if you have to travel much by plane it could get expensive.

    As I said before, jobs do not abound, but if you are in the right field (especially medical or something related to the university) you can find one. It’s not a place I would move to and then start looking for a job, but if you get a job in Kalamazoo and you don’t mind the cold, I can 110% recommend it.

    And the best part is that anyone you meet from outside of Michigan will look at you and say, “Kalamazoo? I didn’t think that was a real place. I thought it was only in the song.” Well, yes, there really is a Kalamazoo (we have t-shirts that say that) and it’s awesome!

    Reply
  • Aaron May 12, 2014, 10:59 am

    I’ll put in a shout out for Waco, TX. In between Austin and Dallas, cost of living is extremely inexpensive (about $100/sq ft or less). Property taxes are cheap, no state income tax. Mild winters, fantastic spring and fall. You’d better have a neighbor with a swimming pool for the summer however.

    Downtown has been revitalized and there’s new apartments/lofts, restaurants and bars going up every year. Cameron Park is 400 acres of walking and bike trails on the Brazos River in downtown Waco. Waco is investing bigtime into the downtown/river area. This fall Baylor’s new stadium is opening up on the river next to downtown and the campus and it’s gonna be awesome.

    Reply
  • dude May 12, 2014, 11:37 am

    Shout out for Boston — okay, Somerville, Massachusetts, actually. Fast-growing “suburb” of Boston, between Tufts University and Harvard University. Everything you could want within walking distance, and excellent public transportation (T, bus, taxi) within walking distance gives you access to the entire Greater Boston metro area. Jobs aplenty, especially in tech, with a “Silicon Alley” second only to Silicon Valley (or at least right there with Austin) owing to the proximity to MIT/Harvard and other higher ed institutions. Huge health care industry, with the best hospitals and health care facilities in the world. Dozens of colleges and universities provide ample academia jobs (and continuing ed opportunities). Gorgeous beaches on the North Shore within a 35-45 minute drive, as well as easy access to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cape Cod. Two-hour drive to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, which rival anywhere in the U.S. for hiking, skiing, rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering activity. Beautiful, historic downtown Boston with all its cultural amenities, which are pretty much unrivalled anywhere in the U.S. World-class professional sports franchises. VERY bikeable city, with designated bike lanes aplenty. Somerville in particular, named one of America’s “Best Cities” has a visionary mayor, Joe Curtatone, who has done a magnificent job of blending new development, which proceeds apace (real estate prices here hardly budged during the downturn), with resident-friendly restrictions. Somerville is about as hot a place right now as anywhere in the U.S. Property taxes are low for residents after the first year of occupancy. For retirees, Mass. taxes neither pension income nor Social Security.

    Downsides? Real estate is pricey, though having moved here from NYC, seemed eminently affordable to me. Winters can be a bit cold and snowy here for those who don’t like that (i.e., shoveling, walking and driving in snow). Single family houses are hard to come by and very expensive. Most Somerville housing is condominiums — though not the huge, multi-story kind; more along the lines of 1-3 units per building, in neighborhoods with closely spaced houses. But there are still deals to be had, and especially in areas that will see a boom a few years hence with the extension of the Green Line T (subway).

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    • Kim May 16, 2014, 5:50 am

      I just wanted to say I really appreciated your post. I’m a programmer considering moving to the Boston area for jobs when I graduate, so this was a really useful review.

      Reply
  • Brandon May 12, 2014, 11:57 am

    Carson City, NV here. We visited many cities in the western US before deciding on Carson City. Nothing ranked as high in as many factors as this place did. It’s laid out on about a 5×5 mile pattern, so you can easily bike anywhere within the city quickly. Weather is great most of the year with very low humidity, however we still get an annual 20″ of snow, so you can still enjoy white Christmases, however it usually melts within a few days. You are just a few miles east of the unbelievably beautiful Lake Tahoe which has more hiking, biking, kiyacking and other recreational opportunities than just about anywhere. And you are just 20 miles south of Reno, which has about 450K people, and all the larger amenities you would expect from a large city within easy access. Population here is about 45K people, so it’s big enough to have a Costco, Best Buy, two home depots, two Walmarts, etc, but small enough so that you will get to know the Sheriff and the Mayor, etc. One very important factor to me is that there is no state income tax whatsoever, so if you are in your stash accumulation phase, this can help quite a bit. If you are already in early retirement, you can enjoy your dividend or other income free of any state taxes. Property taxes are relatively low here, usually about 1% of home value, although the way property is taxed makes older homes considerably less. My mom just moved here and bought a small-ish but nice 4 bedroom house built in the early 60’s and her taxes are $600/year (although this is definitely on the low end of the range.) Being libertarian, I love that prostitution and gambling are legal (although I personally don’t take advantage of either) and you can openly carry a gun on your hip with no permit of any kind. So, if you are checking places out, don’t forget to come by our little town. We can use more mustachians here!

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  • Joe Brewer May 12, 2014, 12:11 pm

    Mount Rainier, Md.
    I live in the closest neighboring city to the Washington D.C. line. My small little city has comparatively affordable housing (esp. next to DC!) and is a five minute drive to the heart of DC (or in the MMM way…15 minutes of biking). Being right in the middle of the east coast, we enjoy all four seasons and local shopping is biking distance away. We have a LOT of drivers but more bikers are appearing lately. The community and the neighboring cities have established what is called the “Arts District” and it is becoming a haven for artists of all types. My house is actually a part of the Gateway Open Studios (gatewayopenstudios.org) where artists open their commercial studios or in my case, my home for the public to view their work once a year and purchase works if they like. I am the quirky one of the artists…I collect and restore vintage arcade and pinball machines and have my own private arcade. Video Games are “art” in their own right and the public LOVES when I open my arcade for the studio tour.

    I work for municipal gov’t in the neighboring city and bike to work which is 1.3 miles each way…EASY.

    MMM, i’D LOVE to see you write an article on the efficiency of using a moped to commute for those who may be just a tad to far to bike comfortably. I purchased my moped for $400 used on craigslist 4 years ago and it has been a great alternative to biking on occasion. It’s a 50cc Kymco Agility and it gets about 100 miles per gallon and only cost about $4 to fill up! My workplace even pays employees $20 a month if they choose alternate transportation! (bus, moped, bike, walk etc.). Between using my bicycle and my moped, I’ve saved a TON of wear and tear on my car.

    Reply
  • bogart May 12, 2014, 12:30 pm

    For those asking questions about e.g. racial diversity of various US locations, http://www.city-data.com/ is a useful site that’s aggregated assorted Census, etc. data — racial breakdown, incomes, rents, reported crime rates, population age, education, etc.

    Reply
  • Crass Cash May 12, 2014, 12:44 pm

    I’ve found that downtown Orlando is a great and frugal place to live as well. In the SoDo (south downtown) you’re within a half a mile bike ride from just about anything you’d need. Housing is quite affordable with many going for less than $200k and downtown is only 2 miles (15 minute bike ride north). Sales tax is only 6% and there’s no state income tax. Property tax is higher at 1.92%, but if it’s your primary home you can reduce the value by $25k and they can’t raise it more than 3% a year.

    Two highly rated public school are right around the corner and if you insulate your house right (like new construction), the summer utilities aren’t too bad. Winters? There aren’t any! There are farmer’s markets, fresh food markets, and two new organic coops if you want to join.

    Downtown is also building a huge new performing arts center, which should be done is a year. There’s also a good night life in downtown due the arena, bars, comedy club, and restaurants. The large condo complexes have all helped attribute to this.

    Reply
  • Thrifty Drew May 12, 2014, 1:01 pm

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    Mustachian Pros
    -Robust county park system and lots of green space and bike paths. Every corner of the city (which takes up most of the physical geography of Milwaukee County) has access to beautiful parks.
    -Beautiful lakefront (Lake Michigan) with beaches, bike paths, boat marinas, parks, and our famous Calatrava Art Museum.
    -Countless cheap or free summer festivals. Milwaukee is quietly known as the “City of Festivals” and has annual festivals that celebrate the heritage and ethnicity of the people who live here: Germanfest, Irish Fest, Festa Italiana, Polish Fest, African World Festival, Indian Summer, etc. There are countless church festivals and of course Summerfest, which is the country’s largest outdoor music festival.
    -Lively downtown that has a lot to offer without seeming too big and overwhelming. I would call it a small “big city” downtown. Downtown is easily walkable as it is not nearly as big and busy and crowded as a Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, etc. A healthy, able bodied person can walk across downtown within a half-hour time. Milwaukee is rich with history and a lot of the early 20th century buildings remain intact and maintained. Each October there is a free event called “Doors Open Milwaukee” where many of city’s historic buildings open their doors to the public to walk around and learn more about them.

    Anti-Mustachian Cons
    -Total automobile commuter town. Most suburbanites here are adamantly anti-mass transit. Bus and transit funding has been stripped bare. This leads to frustrating rush hours and sometimes inexplicable clogged roads and highways.
    – Similar to many big cities in the US, Milwaukee is very polarized politically. The suburbs are very conservative while the city itself is very liberal. This leads to a strong lack of empathy from both sides, constant bickering, and an “us vs. them” mentality that impedes constructive debate and progress.
    -Cold, long winters. This winter was especially unbearable but it’s almost guaranteed that there will be constant frigid cold weather or snow and very little clear/sunny days from December through mid-March.
    -Very segregated. Milwaukee is infamously ranked as the 2nd most segregated city in the US behind Detroit.

    Of course there is much that could be added to both lists above. I love Milwaukee and all it has to offer but would also adapt and be happy in any new city.

    Reply
  • CJ May 12, 2014, 2:50 pm

    I have been living in NE park hill in Denver, CO for almost a year now. Researching online a lot of people were afraid to move to the neighborhood because of the perceived crime that occurs there. There is a large African American population in the neighborhood which probably contributes to some people not wanting to live there. We love it in this area though, and it was the best option being close to downtown and not paying a lot of money for a house and a yard. The neighbors also seem to be fixing up their houses more and more which adds to the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

    Thanks to this site, I talked my wife into moving from a too big house for us and our daughter with a ridiculous commute everyday to living 4.5 miles from my job downtown and riding my bike almost everyday. (It is pretty funny seeing people’s reactions when you ride your bike through the winter). Slowly becoming more mustachian as time goes on.

    Reply
  • Ben May 12, 2014, 2:52 pm

    Now for a bit of a different perspective. :-)

    I moved from Los Angeles to Reykjavik, Iceland. Salary went down, taxes went up, but my quality of life went way up after the move. I’ll make a short list:
    Perfect gay rights. As a gay man this was one of my top things. Zero hate crimes, first openly gay head of state, and a completely open society at all levels and no matter how small the town or distance from the capital. National marriage rights back to 1996 meant I was able to marry and live here long before the reverse was possible for my foreign spouse.
    Healthcare independent of employment! Those high taxes, in addition to world class schools, and public infrastructure, grants full healthcare, whether employed or not, at any age. This takes a huge burden off of financial planning. I had a surgery while unemployed that would have run me 10k or more stateside in the same situation.
    Affordable housing. I got a 3 story duplex with garden, guesthouse (hello passive income!) a driveway, a fireplace, and a glass greenhouse in the capital, walking distance to everything I need, for 250k USD.
    Small size of the city means nearly everything is bikeable, and much more bike paths than I experienced in LA, Richmond, DC, or Dallas (my previous cities of residence).
    Functional safety nets. When I was briefly unemployed, I got 80% of my previous salary for 3 months, and then it falls back to a livable amount. This makes for very low risk living, and means negotiating power at the workplace is higher because my choices are not starve in a gutter or take what they offer. (let’s face it, we are not all irreplaceable ubermensch, some of us are *just* good employees)

    But the number one reason, is my husband is Icelandic, and we live close to his family who I am very close to. We are both frugal minded, have historically had above average paying jobs, met with savings, and have similar life goals. The rest of the stuff is just really great icing on the cake.

    Reply
  • Joanna May 12, 2014, 3:07 pm

    We live in Chattanooga, TN and I love it. The area is beautiful and we have the third highest divesfication of plant life in the world…..the colors in fall are spectacular. Houses are very reasonable. Esp if you are willing to put in some elbow grease. Property taxes fairly low. Really low outside city limits. No income tax (9.25% sales tax-food tax a little lower). LOTS of outdoor activities…….rock climbing, hang glidding, water sports of all kinds–flat and rapids, hiking, many miles of great mountain biking trails, free concerts outdoors all summer, great farmers markets…to name a few. We have many talented artists who have been helping to revitalize parts of the city. Weather is great…..four seasons but not a really harsh winter. Summer can be a bit hot…but the lake/river is always there. Only down side is that the biking not agood option…except maybe right downtown. It is not a bike friendly town. We do have bus service and a free trolly downtown. We are called the GIG City because EPB Fiber supplies a gig of data on their fiber network for everyone (For only 69.99/month) which is great for attacting more businesses to the area.
    If you can’t live here it is definately worth a visit!

    Reply
    • Jeff March 20, 2018, 12:02 am

      I stayed a month in Chattanooga at Everlee farm (with what appeared to be very Mustachian owners) while looking for a house there. The low housing prices and low tax rates were what drew us to that location, with a quick trip across the GA border if you want low sales tax. The greenery, friendly people, and lack of traffic congestion were other big draws. The Lookout Mountain neighborhood was amazing, but the bike trip up and down the mountain for amenities would have been too much. :) We ultimately decided not to buy in Chattanooga because of what seemed to be an overly depressed economy, but it still is in the back of my mind, and I even check it from time to time on the real estate sites.

      Reply
  • Kate in NY May 12, 2014, 4:41 pm

    I love this topic – I am obsessed with it, actually. I spend far too much time on trulia.com, drooling over the affordable housing in other lovely parts of the country (I live in a northern suburb of NYC, about a mile away from Martha Stewart. Nuff said). As soon as our youngest graduates from HS, I decide, we are outta here. Portland, OR. Seattle Area. Maine. Colorado. Vermont. Etc. Etc. Or maybe Europe (my husband is an EEC Citizen). Or Costa Rica – I hear the cost of living is amazing down there. But then reality sets in. My parents and only sibling live in Manhattan. My great grandparents came to America and lived in Brooklyn. My parents met in Brooklyn. I grew up in Brooklyn, then moved to the NY suburbs, then lived in Brooklyn with my husband, then back to the NY burbs when we had kids. I feel so rooted here – I am a New Yorker. I love the architecture. I get the humor. My dearest friends are all here. I am involved in my community. Just up and leave? Maybe an hour away – but across the country? Where I don’t know anyone? Where no one knows – Oh, you grew up in Larchmont – did you know the so and so’s? And usually, I do! I envy all you folks who can do it – just start new in some fabulous place that makes sense financially. And maybe if my kids end up in far flung corners of the earth, it will make sense for us to do that. But for now, I am probably going to have to accept the reality that an awesome 400,000 house in Longmont, CO is just not happening anytime soon for us. Mustachianism in place. That’s my motto.

    Reply
  • Sue May 12, 2014, 4:46 pm

    I moved to Little Rock, AR about a year ago with my partner when he got a job offer here. I was in the DFW area for about 2 1/2 years with my job and it was incredibly car-centric and major urban sprawl. As a Sustainability Consultant, it really conflicted with my personal priorities. Little Rock though is a surprisingly pleasant place to live! It has a nice urban core with several trendy neighborhoods. The downtown area is booming, so real estate is still low, but will be on the rise. The best part though is that it is one of the most bike friendly communities in the country. I sold my car when I moved here and I can walk, bike or take the bus just about everywhere in town. It has a lot of culture, environmentally minded folks and great outdoor activities. The only downside is that it is HOT and HUMID in the summer. Although, I lived in Colorado, Phoenix, New Orleans and Chicago, and my personal preference is heat over cold and snow any day!

    Reply
  • Heather May 12, 2014, 5:04 pm

    The Spokane, Washington area was mentioned once, but no one commented on the city of Spokane itself, which I think can be very Mustachian if you put your mind to it.

    Pros:

    * Amazingly cheap housing. You can find a house below $100K depending on where you look, or you can get a beautiful historic home in a beautiful neighborhood in the $300Ks. Rentals are also very reasonable, from $500 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1200 for a similarly beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood.

    * True four-season weather, if you like seasons. Winter can be snowy, but spring, summer, and fall are almost always gorgeous and almost never too hot.

    * Outdoor recreation. Hiking, mountain biking, skiing, lakes, and rivers are all very close, abundant, and never crowded. Big events like Bloomsday (12K), HoopFest (3-on-3 basketball tournament), and SpokeFest (bike “fun run”) happen throughout the summer. In the city, there are some wonderful parks, including Riverfront Park (which is currently slated for an amazing update), and the Centennial Trail runs all along the river for biking or walking.

    * Culture: Spokane has its own great symphony, a variety of local theater companies, outdoor concerts, opera and ballet, with Broadway shows coming through all the time. I can think of at least a few local breweries off the top of my head. Interesting local restaurants are popping up all the time, and there are a few farmers’ markets in the summer months. Like any city, different neighborhoods have different flavor, and there are more and more neighborhoods striving to create walkable, sociable cultures.

    * Schools are highly ranked, and I am often impressed with the variety of public school options: Montessori, project-based, gifted education, support for homeschoolers (including free classes such as foreign languages and sciences), and there is supposed to be an arts-based curriculum in the works. Washington has recently passed a law requiring schools to move toward smaller class sizes, so there are space issues right now, but the effort is good.

    * Biking and walking infrastructure issues are constantly coming up in front of the City Council, and making Spokane more walkable/bikeable seems to be a priority for a majority of the leadership. We have managed to live here for almost a year with no car and two young children. It takes effort, but it is definitely possible. In the city, bus service is fairly regular and very reliable, and bike lanes are abundant. There is a small but committed core of all-season bicyclists.

    Cons:

    * The car culture is still amazingly, infuriatingly present. For the most part, everyone here owns a car and uses it for most trips, year-round (even in the aforementioned beautiful summers). If you do not own a car, people assume you are among the downtrodden of the earth, for there is no other valid reason for not owning one. The downtown was designed around streetcars, so it has very small blocks and is quite walkable, but you have to pick your neighborhood carefully to enjoy sidewalks and crosswalks. The Perry District, the South Hill, Browne’s Addition, and the newly-built Kendall Yards are good bets, but housing in these areas is more expensive than you can find in non-walkable neighborhoods (still dirt cheap, though).

    * There is a bit of the anti-Mustachian to be found in local politics, especially in the larger county. You have your swollen suburbs full of crap, your giant SUVs and pristine pickup trucks, and your fear-mongering about anything that might infringe on your right to use those things as you please. Again, you can find many people who are not like that, and if you are civic-minded, you can be on four committees within the week. The city is small enough that if you have a problem, you have access to anyone at any level of power.

    * The city has poverty, and drugs, and some ugly places, and some of your mid-sized city problems, maybe more than its fair share. Because downtown has not been fully developed as a place to live (you have low-income housing and high-priced condos, but nothing in between), you will often see non-charming people, and unlike a larger city, you won’t always have enough charming people to compensate, especially in certain areas. Again, I think this is changing.

    Spokane has many things going for it for those who look. I don’t know if we will stay here long-term, mainly because of the car culture, but things seem to be moving in the right direction.

    Reply
  • Mortgage Free Mike May 12, 2014, 5:33 pm

    I live in Atlanta, Georgia. Originally from DC, when I moved here I felt like I was at a 50% off sale at a department store. Everything is affordable.
    It’s also beautiful with a lot of green spaces— and very pet-friendly.

    Reply
  • Michael Moramarco May 12, 2014, 5:42 pm

    I read the post when there were still only about 30 comments. “Surely someone will write up a great post about Phoenix that is much better than anything I could write”. Well, I am surprised, and slightly saddened, that the only mention of Phoenix (Mesa – not exactly Phoenix) was about someone wanting to leave it. I fear that this may stem from this MMM post: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/12/28/prospering-in-an-anti-mustachian-city/.

    I am here now to tell the MMM world that Phoenix can be a phenomenal place to be for mustachians. So, I’ll go through the same exact steps MMM did.

    Why Arizona/Phoenix? This is because I moved out here for a graduate program in anthropology in 2009. It was the best program, so I didn’t have much choice. And, honestly, at the time, the desert didn’t seem very appealing to me either. My wife and I planned to get the hell out of here as soon as I finished my program. That was in 2011. We’re still here, and now we’re even home owners. We’ll be around for a while.

    The city at a glance? It’s the 6th largest city in the country. It’s huge. It has everything, and mountains. Employment? Anything you could think of. It’s here. Tech, Education, Health (including a Mayo Clinic), Food, Retail, etc. I work for Arizona State University. My wife and I get free tuition, and great benefits, which include both a 403(b) and a 457 simultaneously. Job growth has been up and down, but if you’re in the city (and you should be if you’re a mustachian), it’s been steadily climbing as downtown is revitalized.

    My wife and I both work downtown, and we live 4 miles away. We bike to work off and on, weather depending. I’d feel worse about not doing it every day, but we’re a little lazy, don’t need the extra exercise (as we’re rather active otherwise), and we only have one car and carpool (getting the extra half hour of sleep is worth it usually).

    Climate? Yes, it gets up to 123 degrees in August, but you don’t ever see highs below 60 either (as in, we never turn the heat on in the house). If you ask me, we get 7 months of beautiful weather for only 5 of not so nice weather, and truly on 2 months where it’s unbearable/unsafe for extended-period outdoor activities. However, there are plenty of mountains and cooler climates very close by, because Arizona is an awesome state with multiple types of climates. Just 2 weeks ago I was up in Flagstaff for a nice weekend hiking trip, and we got snowed on. It’s only 2 hours from downtown Phoenix. You can’t find that just anywhere in the US. The combination of high desert and mountainous regions is truly unique.

    Housing? We bought a house a year ago. 4B 2B, 1,550 sqft. $157K. We couldn’t be happier with it. I’ve built a patio, and a raised vegetable garden. And yes, it is very possible to grow an extremely successful garden in the desert – contrary to popular belief. Property taxes? Preposterously low. It has some of the lowest in the US, especially in Phoenix proper and Mesa.

    Culture? Where we live (near 32nd Street and McDowell if you’re curious), we are within biking distance of multiple grocery stores, restaurants, and parks. As well, we are within 5 miles of 2 mountains, and within 10-25 miles of three other mountain ranges. That’s crazy!!!! The desert botanical garden is also within 5 miles, and is a great place to remind yourself that, despite a lot of beige, Phoenix and it’s flora are quite colorful.

    Also, I know it’s not the most mustachian thing, but if you like food, Phoenix is a fantastic place to be. So many aspiring chefs choose to come here because LA is now a really shitty place to try and start any kind of restaurant or food truck. Meanwhile, Phoenix is now a bustling culinary metropolis, and hosts a world-class culinary festival, Devoured Phoenix, each year to prove it. The Roosevelt Row area of downtown is a fantastic place for artists. They host bi-weekly open showings at a long strip of galleries on Roosevelt, and generally have free wine and cheese. As well, the Phoenix center for the Arts is right downtown, and you can take one of their over 150 classes in metalworking, glass, painting, pottery, dance, voice, theatre, etc. This is what kept us in Phoenix, honestly. We were blown away by the fantastic arts and outdoors community here.

    It’s a special place, and a welcoming place, despite the recent bad press. Which leads me to the flaws… Yes, there are some nonsensical politics. However in Phoenix, there is also a very active and vocal movement for change – as seen by the well-publicized overturning of various laws and regulations recently. Also, there is no way around the weather issue. It does get awfully hot here. We deal with it though. Yes, your electric bill will be high, but we keep the thermostat at 85, and our bill has never been more than $180. Also, despite some 100 degree days so far this year, we have yet to turn on the AC, and again, we never turned on the heat in the winter. But, that’s when you go up to Flagstaff more often. Phoenix really is a great, and potentially mustachian, place to live. Just give it a shot.

    Reply
    • LC May 16, 2014, 1:09 pm

      I have to agree about downtown Phoenix. It really is a great place to live and is very affordable.

      Contrary to popular belief, Phoenix can be a walkable/bikeable city. I live in the Garfiled neighborhood in downtown Phoenix and walk 3/4 of a mile to work each way. There are some nice parks and a really great library all within walking (biking in the summer) distance. Biking is becoming more common in my neighborhood, but as for the city as whole, we do have a long ways to go. The lightrail is less than a mile from my house, which connects to neighboring cities (e.g. Tempe). Personally, I am happiest when my car has spider webs on it:)

      Downtown Phoenix culture has really taken off over the last 5 years. There is a burgeoning arts community and there are some great restaurants and food trucks all within the confines of the downtown. There is diversity in the downtown area neighborhoods (race/ethnicity/sexual orientation/SES), which runs counter to what most people read in the news. There is also a farmer’s market held twice a week. Lastly, all three state universities have a presence in the downtown and are continuing to increase their footprint every year.

      On the financial side, housing is still very reasonable in the downtown area. We bought our house a couple of years ago for under $100K. Prices have risen quite a bit since then, but there are still neighborhoods with reasonable prices. Our property taxes are ridiculously low. I currently pay $600 a YEAR for a 1500 sq ft house, and I am applying for a historic house tax reduction which should lower them to to around $400-500 a year. Electricity is high here though, and I am exploring the possibility of installing solar panels.

      I will also say that I truly enjoy the desert, but I can understand why it is not for everyone. The weather in Phoenix is great for 7-8 months out of the year. Also, on the warm days (May and early June and late September), the evenings are beautiful and you can sit around in shorts and a t-shirt. There are great hiking trails in most of the mountains that surround the valley (I personally like South Mountain). The summers are obviously pretty brutal, but it definitely makes you appreciate the nice weather the rest of the year. Also, the monsoons and haboobs are during the hottest time of the year, and they can be pretty awesome to watch.

      I can understand why Phoenix has a bad rap, as I disliked it when I lived in the suburbs and commuted in my clown car 40 minutes each way to work. Also, the politics in the state are from another era. However, downtown Phoenix is something entirely different, and you can create quite a Mustachian way of life here.

      Reply
  • Genevieve Hawkins May 13, 2014, 5:29 am

    Phuket, Thailand
    The island at a glance:
    Called “The Pearl of the Adaman,” Phuket has been a popular vacation spot (mostly with Europeans and Australians) in Thailand for decades. The blue green beaches, year round warm climate, and vibrant culture draw people in from all over the world. But only a small (but growing) percentage of outsiders stay.
    Why Phuket?
    I did not think I would be part of that small percentage. I had an ex boyfriend in California that was all about Thailand 12 years ago. I don’t think I even knew what continent it was on back then. But my father always told me “You’ll always regret the trip you don’t take.” Dad probably regrets giving me that advice now. My ex found a job in timeshare on Koh Samui and my three week adventure tour turned into a lifelong commitment, eventually leading to me going native with my Thai husband and dual US/Thai daughter. There’s something for everyone here, but high on my list is the fresh food, the always warm weather, and the friendly people.
    Employment:
    Thailand is not a good place for a westerner to be looking for employment. It is difficult to secure a work permit here except as an English teacher, which is a very low paying job. Phuket has some word of mouth under the table jobs in tourism for westerners—tour guides, boat crew, dive instructors, real estate sales, et cetera, but I would not advise it. It also is a poor small business climate—a lot of Westerners (myself included) had the idea to invest in a beachfront bar. Don’t expect to keep your money as your rent/police payouts/mafia payouts/electric bill/etc will rise in line with any increase in income. I think this explains why Asians are known as good businessmen in the US, actually. They probably can’t believe that they are allowed to build a stash!
    If you’re retired already or working a full internet only telecommute (like I am), then you get the best of both worlds: a very high income relative to a low cost of living. The IRS doesn’t tax the first $97,000 earned overseas, so your US taxes aren’t as complicated as you might think. They’re building retirement communities complete with full golf courses, beachfront condos, and every amenity an American might want to feel rich. Medical tourism is also on the rise and if you have a surgery with high out of pocket expenses this is a very good place to check costs. Some procedure will be less paying direct here than they are in the US with insurance. And the doctors and nurses treat you like a movie star.
    Climate:
    It’s warm here year round—for better and worse. The location close to the equator stabilizes the temperature and the daylight hours—80 F for a low temp, 90 F for a high, 6:30 AM sunrise, 6:30 PM sunset, year round. Sometimes the high is 94, and on a rainy day the high might only be 88, but there’s Groundhog Day esque consistency to the weather. There is a dry and rainy season (dry season from December-April) but it rarely is a monsoon all day rain. It rains in the morning and the sun is out a few hours later.
    Culture:
    Phuket has the crazy vibrant bar girl/ladyboy all night parties in Patong, the primary tourist center. There’s more family oriented offerings in Kamala and Karon and resorts all over the island. The true Thai experience is in Phuket Town. We live in Thalang, by the airport, in an almost 100% Thai area. I could have written about Thalang but I figured I’d give an overview. Being an island, there’s tropical beaches everywhere, though the tourist beaches are all on the west side of the island. The eastern beaches are muddy water. But I’ve been asked to go out and gather clams with my mother in law there. A very laid back and accepting culture.
    Housing:
    There is a two tiered pricing structure, with Westerners paying 2 to 10 times as much as Thais would pay. Home ownership is also complicated because westerners can’t own property outright (I’ve heard Americans can own a small amount, but I don’t know how that works) so instead there’s legal firms offering 30 and 60 year leasehold arrangements. That said the costs are still very low. At the highest end are $1 million dollar resort type houses complete with a full Thai staff to serve your every need. $200,000 will buy you a very nice modern home, 3 bedroom 2 bath, maybe with a beach view. $100,000 for a very nice modern home with a garden view. Thais usually pay between $30,000-$100,000 for a house in Phuket. Or if you have a Thai husband who likes to build things hanging around, you could source local materials and build a bungalow for $700. Rents also vary widely: Thai price for a simple 1 room with bathroom start at $60 a month (or free for the tin shack squatters) up to maybe $200-300 per month. Western price starts at $200 per month for say, 2 bedroom one bath (I wouldn’t advise living in a tin shack—you’ll stand out too much), up to maybe $1000 per month for beachfront with swimming pool. Or more if they think you’ll pay it.
    Flaws:
    Moving out of the USA has been a hot topic lately, and a lot of my American friends have been asking me about Thailand. Phuket does rock—good weather, great beaches, nice people, healthy organic food. But I’d say only about 1 in 100 Americans could really go native and integrate fully in place where the language, the religion, and the culture is so different from the US. A larger percentage can pay their way in, and there are now full fledged western communities where you don’t need to ever interact with Thai people to live a good life. But is that really a good thing? You can get that experience in Central and South America too closer to the US. Biking is becoming more common here…but I’d stay off the main roads. Thailand has the third highest number of traffic fatalities in the world!
    That was longer than I meant for it to be….any other Thailand Mustachians?

    Reply
    • Greg November 19, 2016, 9:42 am

      Genevieve, that was super informative, thanks! This is years later, so I don’t expect to hear back from you…My wife and I aren’t going ER since we are both 55, but we are just getting are act together and kids are just about to head off into life. Therefore we are determined to go hard on FI-ish. Downsizing and re-locating (we are in an expensive town in Connecticut) are absolutely part of the plan. Low COL areas in the US have been on the table mostly with some fantasies about becoming expats (I’m a graphic designer and all my work is remote anyway). This was a fascinating read and the first time I have heard that about no US taxes on the first 97k. That makes a HUGE difference. 😄

      Reply
  • Lou May 13, 2014, 6:20 am

    I’ve lived in several great American cities, and I’ve actually found St. Louis, Mo., to be the easiest and most fun place to live a Mustachian life. You can buy amazing houses here for peanuts, it’s a real city with all the cultural amenities you want, it has lots of neighborhoods that are like small towns, socially (I mean that in a good way), it’s got a lot of greenery and beauty for a city, it has actually decent public transportation and lots of bike trails if you’re a Mustachian and are motivated to use them, and I think it has at least average employment opportunities. It does get hot and steamy in the summer, but it’s worth it to me for the early Spring and the late Fall, and I am a vegetable gardener so I don’t like it too dry. And the Lou still has room for new people, so you can talk about it without worrying that it’s already peaked :-)

    Reply
    • Michael Moramarco May 13, 2014, 9:59 am

      I’m glad you posted about Saint Louis! I had the post a few above this about Phoenix, but I was born and raised (0-21) in Saint Louis. My wife and I miss it a lot, and can definitely see ourselves moving back there. I think you’re right though, it can also be a fairly Mustachian place to live. Although, on your gardening note, I’ll just say that I live in the desert, and my vegetable garden rivals those of the Midwest. It’s just a slightly different timetable for growing and harvesting. Cheers. Also, go Cardinals!

      Reply
  • carl May 13, 2014, 7:11 am

    What about Boise, ID? We visited there recently and we were really impressed with the town. Lots of outdoor activities, thriving downtown, good bike infrastructure. And breweries. Of course we were only there for a few days vacationing so we only saw the highlights.

    Reply
  • Rick May 13, 2014, 11:33 am

    I live in Baltimore. The Mid-Atlantic area isn’t thought of as a stashy area, and I think there are good reasons for that (we are actually refugees from the cost/traffic/general awfulness of Long Island) but Baltimore has a lot of things going for it for people who want to live in this part of the country:

    – cheap housing. Maybe not in absolute terms, but a comparable house in a comparable neighborhood is at least 100-150k cheaper than DC and isn’t even in the same ball park as the NYC area. We got a great rowhouse (which is what everybody here lives in) in a great neighborhood for 240k. Lovely schools/neighbors, etc. Most of the housing stock is older, which means you can get really good deals with mustachian DIY skills.

    – good job market with high paying jobs in both the public and private sectors (although there is a strong emphasis on feds, eds, and meds).

    – decent biking, and it’s getting better all the time. Generally, the city government seems to get the fact that attracting new families and smart kids just out of school is a priority. I have a lovely 3 mile ride to work.

    – art/music/bar/bohemian scene. There’s a general feeling of a lot of young creative types settling here. Many are probably here because they are priced out of other places.

    – proximity. BWI airport right outside the city. DC is 35 miles away (border to border) and a commuter train runs regularly, 7 days a week. Philly is 2 hours away and NY is 3 hours away. You can do cheap trips to NY on the chinatown bus or its imitators (Bolt, Megabus).

    – water. We have a great harbor and other bodies of water that are great if you have a boat. I have a cheap inflatable kayak, but bigger boats work, too.

    Reply
    • Harry B May 13, 2014, 11:56 am

      I’m in Columbia just south of you. BMore really isn’t so bad.

      Proximity is a big one. I like the idea of Colorado (never been) but it just seems to be in the middle of nowhere and would have to fly everywhere. My family are across the Atlantic and we like trips to Europe (we live frugally to afford travel). Getting there is already a big hassle from BWI/IAD and another 4-5 hrs to the west would be even worse. (Or you could say it’s already such a long flight, what does another 4 hours matter..). There is a lot I dislike about the NE but it really has a lot right in the back yard and Europe is not that far away. (i.e: a trip to Iceland for $500 and a 4 hr flight.)

      Reply
  • Harry B May 13, 2014, 11:47 am

    Anyone have any opinions/fact about Vancouver, WA? My company has an office there and I’m intrigued by the NW.

    We’re in expensive MD, but with a nice area, good schools and a baby I don’t feel so bad about it, for now..

    Reply
  • CooperJohn May 13, 2014, 1:42 pm

    For the DC region, I like Greenbelt MD, and Old Greenbelt in particular.

    Old Greenbelt was built by CCC workers in the Roosevelt era as one of the first three planned communities in America. There are many apartment options available, all next to tons of amenities and mass transit. Most of the purchased housing is run as a cooperative (GHI Inc.) and these houses are CHEAP, compared to mainstream housing in the area. My townhouse—a 2 bedroom 1.5 bath end unit with a nice yard—is presently appraised at about $165K (bought in 2002 for ~$90K). The price is tempered by a high monthly co-op fee (presently ~$500 per month) which covers repairs to the house, plumbing, certain renovations, trash pickup, insurance, and property tax. I have been throwing extra money at my mortgage, so I should pay it off in 17 months (and counting).

    More than 200 acres of protected woodlands and wetlands practically surround the town. There are paved bicycle trails and many sidewalks and underpasses that avoid roads. There’s a nearby Metro rail station that heads into DC. The town center includes a co-op cafe (the New Deal) with a bar and live music 6 days a week. Also in town center: a co-op food store, restaurants, community theater, youth center, swimming pool, arts center, library, and movie theater. All of these are within walking distance from anywhere in town.

    The town has a fantastically diverse community of various combinations of eccentrics, hippies, survivalists, rednecks, scientists, immigrants, artists, and “normies” too. Greenbelt throws many festivals during the year, including blue grass, jazz, folk, and craft festivals (e.g. Crazy Quilt festival and the Green Man festival). It’s real easy to develop lasting friendships here.

    Greenbelt is located next door to DC, and less than a few hours via car/rail from mountains, beaches, and well known cities. Many companies and government employers are a bicycle or bus away, including NASA, USDA, the University of Maryland, and, well, all of DC’s Federal offices.

    Reply
  • Chris May 13, 2014, 2:41 pm

    Colorado Springs. It’s similar to the main post.

    The city itself is larger, with around 425,000 people. It’s big enough to have plenty to do – without the hectic life of the big city (Denver). The city is surrounded by five military complexes (Carson, Peterson, Schriever, Air Force Academy, and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station) which help bolster the economy. Utilities are owned by the community so you don’t have to worry about investor-driven rates and profits. Bike lanes are throughout the city, along with trails, golf courses and more.

    There are a ton of things to do here, many of which are free. Garden of the Gods, Red Rocks, Manitou Springs Incline, Pikes Peak, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Cave of the Winds, 7 Falls, Waldo Canyon, The US Olympic Committee, as well as local events such as the Balloon Glow, summer festivals, Pikes Peak Hill Climb, Pro Rodeo Association, and more. Once a week a local downtown pub sponsors a 5k which is very popular and good for meeting neighbors and new friends. Another place teaches country dancing for singles and couples for a mere $5. You get to wake up with a beautiful view of the mountains and know that they’re a short distance away if you’re feeling adventurous enough to tackle them.

    There is a good mix of companies and jobs here, both large and small. Lockheed Martin, USAA, Atmel, T Rowe Price, as well as the hospitals, military bases and more. There are three main colleges here (University of Colorado, Colorado College and Pikes Peak Community College). There are some great schools in Colorado Springs for kids as well.

    I just purchased a nicer 2bdr house on a good side of town for 100k. You can find really nice properties for $250k. Prior to that I was splitting rent with friends for less than $400 a month. Cost of living is low and it’s also easy to get around. Very little traffic makes it nice. It’s easy to see why many people choose to retire here. :)

    Reply
  • Ian May 13, 2014, 3:12 pm

    Great post! I definitely agree that it’s important to live in a place that you love, both because you will be a healthier person in general, but also because you will be more inclined to take care of and invest in your community.

    I live in Portland, Oregon. People love to make fun of us for all the hipsters, goofy subcultures, and the “dream of the 90s” folks, but I honestly can’t imagine living anywhere else!

    Here are the top five reasons why Portland is awesome:
    It’s beautiful–in Portland, you’d think there were twice as many trees as buildings. It’s just so GREEN all year round, even in the most densely populate areas. And even driving down the highway you can see snow capped peaks on all sides.
    It’s fun–There are lots of fun things do in Portland: a great music scene, outdoor recreational opportunities both in Portland and nearby, great dining, and plenty of interesting people to interact with.
    It’s biker-friendly–I think Portland ties with Minneapolis as being one of the most biker-friendly cities in the country. There are bike lanes all over the place, great bike trails, and a fair share of bike shops scattered throughout the city. Drivers also tend to be fairly considerate.
    It’s nice–I haven’t traveled too much, but I feel like Portland is a fairly gentle place, and people are pretty friendly.
    It’s smart–top quality universities, cool tech companies, and the biggest book store in the world!

    There are a few reasons why it sucks sometimes though:
    It’s expensive–between state and local income taxes, high housing costs, and gas taxes, Portland isn’t cheap (no sales tax though!)
    It’s hard to find a job–they don’t call it the place where young people go to retire for nothing.
    It’s sketchy (in a few places)–Portland has the reputation of being a hot spot for sex and drug trafficking.
    It rains a lot–but if you’re a true Portlander, this isn’t a problem.

    Thanks for you great post Mr. Money Mustache!

    Reply
  • Frugalina May 13, 2014, 6:33 pm

    San Diego, CA

    I’ve lived here for 4 years and there are many things to love. The weather, of course was our main driving force here. There are a few drawbacks …housing, gas costs and it’s very much a car culture. And not just any ol’ cars but A LOT of higher end/luxury cars but my Toyota sedan doesn’t care. Things are spread out quite a bit so if you want to live in a nice area, especially close to the ocean, you’d pay a hefty price. I’m not finding much mustachianism around…but I’m still searching. A lot of my coworkers drive high end cars and live in million dollar homes and I can’t relate to that.

    Reply
  • Luke May 13, 2014, 7:30 pm

    Eugene, OR, is one of the most mustache-friendly cities there is, in my opinion. I lived there for 6 years, and I currently live in Portland but am moving back to Eugene for grad school at the end of this summer, and I can say with confidence that from a Mustachian-perspective, Eugene has Portland beat soundly on several fronts:

    It has many of the same advantages the MMM noted in his description of Longmont – incredibly bike friendly, big enough to have culture but “small enough that you can fit the whole thing in your head”, great nature very close by and accessible, cheap housing if you know where to look, but it also has a few things that set it apart:

    1. It has an enormous, beautiful University Campus (University of Oregon) that adds an incredible amount of vibrant and cheap-to-free cultural activity. There are lots and lots of great talks from visiting lecturers, movie screenings, music events, etc, all of which are accessible to non-students. There’s also a craft center which is basically an enormous, state of the art woodshop, which offers very cheap membership for non-students, etc. If you know how to research, be proactive and take advantage of all the available resources, you can find a huge amount of stuff to do that isn’t usually available in a town of Eugene’s size (for a rough comparison, imagine if UC Boulder was in the middle of Longmont instead of the ritzier Boulder). Also, having a huge and constant influx of new, energetic and creative young people moving through the town adds a lot of freshness that is unique to college towns (though this is not without its downside, which I will get to in a minute).

    2. The diversity and sheer beauty of the surrounding nature. In Eugene, you’re an hour from the Cascade mountain range, an hour from the Ocean, and about two hours from the high desert area of Bend/sisters. Eugene is where the Willamette (which is kind of polluted as Eugene is downstream from Portland, but I’ve swam in it and its no problem) meets the McKenzie river (which is pristine and has some great rafting). You are just a casual bike-ride from plenty of beautiful territory (Eugene has the nicest city parks of anywhere I’ve ever lived, better than Portland in my opinion), and for the occasional long bike-trip or the infrequent driving excursion, you can get to endless beautiful outdoors destinations. Some of the nicest hot springs I’ve ever been to are about an hour away, and in the summer there are endless great swimming spots along the various rivers, all of which are way less crowded than the good swimming spots near Portland. And you can get in a full lifetime of amazing summer camping trips without every having to leave Oregon.

    3. The cliché about Eugene is that its “where all the hippies went when the sixties were over”. There is definitely some truth to this claim, and also, there is a neighborhood in Eugene (the Whiteaker district) that is a notorious hotbed of Anarchism, and was once considered “the most anarchist neighborhood in the country”. I have even heard (though this has not been fully verified) that for awhile back in the 70s, the Whiteaker stopped using American currency for all local business and did everything via the barter system. This all bears mentioning because there is a deep subculture of crafty, open-minded and creative people, and its very easy to find a bad-ass, self-reliant cohort of people. The towns mentality is extremely harmonious with just about every mustachian principle discussed on this blog.

    THE FLAWS

    – It rains a lot, especially in the winter, and it can get a little dreary. I personally have never been deterred from biking year-round, and the weather does contain the big plus of having relatively warm winters. During the late spring and summer its basically the greenest, lushest, awesomest part of the country, and the falls are lovely, but the winters can really bring some people down. Also, if you’re allergic to grass seed, you will be more allergic in the lower Willamette valley than literally any other place on earth (I deal with it though, since its worth it).

    – The hippie culture can be annoying and dogmatic sometimes – mostly the older set and the die hard, really tripped out locals. The eye-roll inducing people are a very small minority (albeit a vocal one), though.

    – Unlike the Boulder/Longmont area, there are not a plethora of high paying tech jobs (that’s more Portland’s forte). Not to say there are no good jobs (especially if you could find something affiliated with the University) but Eugene may be more of an ideal place for the Pacific Northwest Mustachian to retire to after making her fortune in Seattle or Portland, or the Bay Area.

    Anyways, I’m sorry that this was such a long post, but its hard to sum up all the good things there are about Eugene – this really is just the short list.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene,_Oregon

    Reply
  • Free Stater May 13, 2014, 8:30 pm

    Check out the city of Keene in New Hampshire. It’s a GORGEOUS walkable, mixed use, high density downtown that is perfect for biking and pedestrian activity (cyclists – the city is totally flat). NO income tax, NO sales tax, moderate property taxes considering it’s the east coast. NH lands in the top 5 among just about every available metric (happiness, health, confidence in government, etc). Check it out, great place!

    Reply
  • JT May 14, 2014, 4:20 am

    Hey MMM, This is a great article, I’ve often thought your spot looks great and have even looked it up on google and yearned for a visit. The outdoors looks GREAT! I’m loving your offer to help people move there. I’d definitely love to live there. Maybe one day I can visit and go for a tramp and bike ride, taste the beer, say g’day to the locals?

    We’re living in Auckland, New Zealand, Aotearoa (land of the long white cloud).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auckland

    As cities go, it’s had a bit of development in the last 14 years. When I arrived, it seemed quite heartless. But it’s a great place to live now if you love city life. (I saw the comments above and can agree but as cities go Auckland’s very livable). There’s art on the overpass, funky bridges, Mission Bay, North Shore, Waitakeres, black sand beaches, hot pools and lots of maori culture.

    Check out Bethell’s Beach:
    http://www.google.co.nz/search?q=bethells+beach&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=1S5zU7DuDYqykgXB4YHABw&ved=0CDYQsAQ&biw=1280&bih=680

    and Piha Beach:
    http://www.google.co.nz/search?q=piha+beach&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=IC9zU_TcNoeskgXP7IAQ&ved=0CEkQsAQ&biw=1280&bih=680

    Both are black sand beaches.

    There’s great tramping in the Waitakeres: http://regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/cascades

    And there’s a huge park/active farm close to the CBD called One Tree Hill: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Tree_Hill,_New_Zealand

    There’s also the Domain: https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/parksfacilities/premierparks/Pages/aucklanddomain.aspx

    There’s hardly any smog, as the seas on either side of Auckland blow any away!

    And there’s a great waterfront:
    http://www.google.co.nz/search?q=auckland+waterfront&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=SzFzU66zNpDRkAW854DoBw&ved=0CEMQsAQ&biw=1280&bih=680

    And there’s islands to visit:
    Rangitoto: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rangitoto_Island
    Waiheke: http://waiheke.aucklandnz.com/
    Great Barrier: http://www.aucklandnz.com/discover/great-barrier-island

    And there’s theatre for kids: http://timbrayproductions.org.nz/

    On the not so nice side, the traffic is awful and on public holidays it can take hours to get out of the city; public transport isn’t fully integrated (getting better) and has been known to run late (although this is improving); housing! Totally ridiculous, if you bought in the early 2000’s then you could have made a lot of money, cause the house market has suffered from not enough houses for the growing population. http://www.qv.co.nz/resources/monthly-residential-value-index

    Possibly the thing that scares me the most is the volcanic field: http://info.geonet.org.nz/display/volc/Auckland+Volcanic+Field
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auckland_volcanic_field

    Cycling isn’t all that relaxing. But, if you pick your route carefully and wear bright gear and good lights, you can still have a go at it. Cars aren’t all that tolerant of cyclists and there’s a stretch called Tamaki Drive where cyclists regularly get injured/killed. I’ve noticed more people commuting to work by bike though and I’ve got to say this can be faster than being a car clown where your car is parked in the middle of the road as you’re driving to work!!

    Rent is expensive and a two bedroom flat can earn $350 – $500 p/w (subject to location): http://www.dbh.govt.nz/market-rent?TLA=Auckland&RegionId=2

    Property tax for last year was $2,600.
    Goods and Services Tax is 15%
    The government abolished the tax free threshold so even paperboys get taxed
    Superannuation is not compulsory and people can elect to contribute 3%, 4% or 8%. Employers contribute 3%, and this is taxed.

    Cost of living in NZ:
    http://www.newzealandnow.govt.nz/living-in-nz/family-friendly/comparable-living-costs

    The New Zealand Stock Exchange is tiny, so I’ve often been fascinated by your stocks.

    We’ve had a few finance companies suffer from dodgy directors and some of those dodgy directors have ripped a lot of people off and landed in jail.

    And, to end on a good note, Auckland is multicultural and we have a fantastic Lantern Festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year: http://www.aucklandnz.com/lantern

    And we celebrate the Maori New Year, Matariki: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/matariki-maori-new-year

    There’s a saying in NZ that means we think something’s great: It’s “world famous in New Zealand”.

    MMM, I think you’re World famous in Longmont!

    Reply
  • G-fiberific May 15, 2014, 3:19 am

    Kansas City

    I looked up the numbers for my county (Platte county, MO – pop just under 100k), which is part of Kansas City (common in KC to call where I live the Northland), and found that median income is $65k with average house at $185k. So housing is slightly less than 3x income.

    I’ve whittled my budget down to $1.5k/mo without the mortgage (car gas/oil = $120). This is before I get my internet down to $3.57/mo (save $42.50/mo thanks to Google Fiber) and move the phone to RW (save $25/mo).

    They are working hard to make Kansas City a biking city, but there is still a lot of work to do. I know they want to have a hike/bike trail go the length of the MO river in Platte County. That said, almost every day I see a group of cyclist go down my street. For me to bike to work (8 miles) I would have to go 18 miles because there is only one biking bridge across the river.

    Things to do? Major and minor sports leagues (Chiefs, Royals, T-bones, Sporting KC), shopping centers are replacing malls (The Legends, Zona Rosa, The Plaza), Ren Faire, hiking, biking, fishing, boating, skiing (yes skiing! in Weston, MO, about 30 minutes from downtown) etc… Lots to do getting away from the city and back to nature.

    I have to say that I wouldn’t mind a mountain close by though. The Ozarks are about 3-4 hours away. Denver is a 9 hour drive West, Dallas is equal that headed South. Flights are cheap to all major cities in the US (airport code is MCI, not KCI, which is the downtown airport).

    Known in the tech sector to be called the Silicon Prairie, headquarters for Sprint, and the first city to get Google Fiber.

    Favorite BBQ: Smokehouse (in Gladstone), Favorite home-style cooking: Corner Cafe (in Riverside).

    Yeah – Californians have reverse sticker shock here too… “You mean I can get a 4,000sq ft lake-side home for the price of a 900sq ft home in San Francisco?!? And have money left over?” They do tend to panic every time the wind blows. “Is that a tornado?!?” Yeah – it’s the dead of winter. But I guess it can happen since I drove through one on Feb 29 one year in the middle of Kansas…

    Reply
    • Troy May 15, 2014, 2:34 pm

      Go KC.

      Grew up there. Family still lives there. Great city.
      I reside now in Southwest Missouri -Springfield. Smaller (300K) population. More my speed. Lots of nature and walking/bike trails, several surrounding lakes including lake of the ozarks, trees everywhere, ozark mountains. Low cost of living, cheap gas, good schools, several universities.

      Reply
  • Little House May 15, 2014, 7:43 am

    I live in a suburb of Los Angeles and though I love the beauty of Southern California, it’s crazy expensive and smoggy – although I’m lucky enough to ride my bike to work a few days a week. However, CA really doesn’t fit me very well, but it’s what I know. Many of my family members have relocated to parts of Colorado over the years (Denver and CO Springs) and I’ve been working on my husband to at least consider CO. The biggest hurdle is the snow – he absolutely hates snow having grown up in Nebraska. I’ll keep chipping away at him and perhaps over time convince him to look somewhere other than ONLY CA!

    Reply
  • James May 15, 2014, 5:54 pm

    I’m really curious to hear from any Michigan dwellers, particularly northern lower peninsula. I live in Portland, OR and love it, but we have to be closer to family in the Midwest eventually. One of the things we want to keep in our life is the outdoor lifestyle and sort of progressive culture, along with all the other mustachian qualities of a good city/town.

    I have heard a lot of good things about Traverse City. Any other Midwest or Michigan cities/towns fit the bill with quick access to plenty of outdoor activities and nature in all of its glory plus sort of progressive but not that super pretentious or unfriendly? The Upper Peninsula looks good too, but it is almost getting too far from family….

    Reply
    • A.G. May 16, 2014, 12:02 pm

      Hi James –

      My wife and I are from MI. We live in OH right now but are moving back this summer, likely to the Kalamazoo area. I grew up in the Escanaba area, which is quite small. But it’s an hour from Marquette, which is a beautiful area, and there’s lots of outdoors stuff there. The main issue I see is that it’s really far away from all the other cities in Michigan and Wisconsin, and yoopers are not known for being especially progressive.

      I went to college in Grand Rapids and lived there afterwords. I loved it. It’s a good size (around 200,000 city limits). West MI has a slower pace of life, and easier access to the outdoors than the Suburban sprawl around Detroit, but there are some great spots on the east side as well.

      If you want more info about Marquette or anywhere else let me know and I’ll send you an email.

      Reply
  • Ed Mills May 16, 2014, 8:34 am

    This was a timely blog post for me since we’re looking to make a move in the next few months. We are interested in rural north Florida. If anyone has any info, please share. We’re looking for a small town with: good public library, decent public schools, low property tax, and an overall bike friendly environment. There seems to be lots of potential in this part of Florida:

    http://www.naturalnorthflorida.com/trail/37/bicycle-trails-of-natural-north-florida?utm_source=Madden&utm_medium=GoogleCPC&utm_term=florida%20biking&utm_campaign=Biking

    http://www.chiefland.com/nature-coast-state-bike-trail

    If anyone has the inside scoop on towns such as Cross City, Chiefland, Trenton and Fannin Springs, please share!

    Thanks in advance for any info,

    Ed

    Reply
  • DF May 17, 2014, 4:56 am

    Grand Cayman…a haven for accountants and lawyers (from the UK, Australia, etc.)

    The weather in GC is wonderful all year round except for some rain in the summer months and hurricane season. I have lived there for over 5 years and have no experienced a significant hurricane. The beach is always close with very clear, blue water.

    Your income earned in GC is tax free as long as you make less than around $105-120k, pending other income sources. Rent is high (we pay around $3k a month for rent and utilities) but if you compare rent to the tax you are saving, you are basically living for free! Everything is expensive but it is a consumption tax which should be welcomed by any Mustacian who does not consume like most Americans.

    One of the best things about living in GC, other than no taxes a nd amazing water, is the people you meet. We have met various people from all over the world. I have visited friends in London and South Africa and have many other friends throughout Australia, the US, Canada and other countries.

    If any accountants want more information, contact me. There are certainly other professional opportunities but the most are for beginning accountants. Living here can really get you started on a very good path towards early retirement.

    Reply
  • Zambian Lady May 17, 2014, 3:20 pm

    I have been living in Vienna, Austria for the past two years. It is a beautiful small city with a lot of cultural activities to do, come rain, shine or snow. My main hobby is hiking with a club that I am a member of. We hike when the weather is beautiful and we hike when the weather is bad. Only extremely bad or dangerous weather/terrain stops us from going on with a hike. Hiking has not only helped keep me fit, but has also been instrumental in me getting to see the ‘real’ Vienna and surrounding areas and not only the tourist trodden paths. I love hiking in the Vienna woods and other places. Compared to another country that I lived in, Vienna is more expensive with a lot less shopping choices (not that I like shopping :).

    Reply
  • tiskagent May 18, 2014, 7:07 am

    I really enjoy your blog, Mr. MM. I’m totally with you on many of your ideas on frugality, activity and pursuing quality of life over the rat race, and I’m really fortunate to live in a place where it’s easy to do. I live in Prague, the Czech Republic, a beautiful, cheap city in a country that values outdoors and activity over a life locked away in an office. Even though Prague has come very far from its grimy communist days, it’s still inexpensive enough to live off of about $1,200 a month if you keep your expectations and expenses in check. Outside of the capital, prices drop even faster. The city has a great public transport system and it’s small enough to walk most places in the center, so although many people have cars (I’m afraid the clowns have arrived with rising incomes) there’s little use for them. Meanwhile, the old cliches of eastern Europe are still delightfully true: a meal and a beer or two out on the town will run you about $8 a person, but dinner for four at home can be done for the same price if you know what to eat and how to shop.

    One big difference here is the propensity of people to have second homes, a legacy from the communist era when people couldn’t travel so instead spent time at their weekend cottages. I know it’s something you’d dissuade people from on the path to financial independence, and they are a financial cost. However, many people here, (something like 40 percent of Czechs either own a cottage or have family access to one) have found a nice equilibrium between living in their modest city apartments and working a 40-hour work week (at most) and spending weekends and their 4-6 weeks of annual holiday at their homes-away-from home where they hike, mountain bike, rock climb, ski and do other outdoorsy stuff.

    Like most European countries, the state healthcare is fantastic, poverty is low, and there is zero need to think about safety. The Czechs aren’t the most community-oriented folk in Europe, but they’re very hands-off on how you live your life. The rule is generally this: you can do whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s freedom. For anyone who’s already financially independent (I’m still working on it) or who doesn’t need to live in any specific place, it’s fantastic. My wife and I have lived in eight countries and spent considerable time in dozens more and we think it’s probably one of the best, easiest places to live in the world.

    Reply
  • Michelle May 18, 2014, 7:49 am

    I grew up in Boulder, lived away for some years, and am now living in Longmont. I’ve been here for six years with my young son and I LOVE IT! We live in a lovely, diverse, east side neighborhood within walking distance of downtown. I wouldn’t go back to Boulder if you paid me. Everything that MMM says about Longmont is true. The people are friendly. It’s a great place for kids. (We’ve been really happy with St. Vrain Community Montessori School, a public charter school that embraces Mustachian values in so many ways.) I would love to know if there is some way of meeting other local Mustachians. Are there any local gatherings?

    Reply
  • DoggyFizzleTelevizzle May 19, 2014, 1:48 pm

    I’ve read a bunch of MMM posts about the Longmont vs. Boulder relationship (quality of life, affordability, etc) and have often felt very similarly about my town of Ventura, CA. I’ve got a ton of friends who live in Santa Barbara 20 miles up the coast and pay out the a** each month for rent, and refer to Ventura as the “blue collar cousin of SB” (my wife and I used to be SB snobs as well). However, when my wife and I got serious about actually living on the Central Coast, we started checking out Ventura and ended up loving the town. We were able buy a house (eerily similar looking to the new MMM Mid-Century) a couple blocks from the beach in Ventura with a mortgage roughly equal to what all of our smug friends up the coast pay in rent with precisely zero sacrifice in quality of life. We enjoy the same sunny year-around weather, I’m able to surf one of the best breaks in California almost every night, I can ride my bike all over the town, and now that I’m 20 miles closer to work I commute via bus which is subsidized by my work. Talk about paradise…

    Reply
    • portrero May 20, 2014, 8:38 am

      Mustachian west coast surfers need to plan a meetup sometime. Would be fun to surf together and chat over beers after.

      Reply
  • Poppy May 21, 2014, 4:27 pm

    I loved reading all these comments. I live in Napa in California. I have also lived in Palm Desert, CA, but I moved back to Napa in 2006 because I think the area is so beautiful. What I love about this area is that it is a smaller town of 140,000 people and it is pretty easy to bike around town. The downtown area is full of Victorian houses and we have amazing food and wine. I also love that we are in close proximity to San Francisco, Tahoe, the beach, Mendocino… The main drawback is the cost of housing. In 2012 I was paying $745 for a studio apartment, then I moved in with a partner for a while and now that i am single in 2014 the cheapest rent I am looking at is $1350 a month for a one bedroom apartment. My wage has stayed almost the same as I was bringing in in 2012, but I have job security and good benefits where I work, so I have not been able to walk away from the job. I am at a crossroads right now where I am trying to figure out where to live, since I cannot afford to live in Napa, and the surrounding areas are not that much more affordable when you factor in the commute.
    Anyway, I love reading about all the places people have mentioned. I would recommend Napa Valley to anyone who could afford it, it truly is beautiful and temperate.

    Reply
  • Adam May 22, 2014, 4:18 pm

    Portsmouth NH

    Not cheap to buy a house in, but there is certainly a bikership here that is growing, great community events, walkable town to be sure. We got the ocean – SUP, surfing, kayaking, close enough to tons of mountain activities. I’m planting mustache seeds everywhere.

    Reply
  • Toby May 23, 2014, 10:50 am

    Good-timely article. I’m in northern San Diego county, great area but pricey and requires lots of driving (especially with 3 young kids). My wife is ready to move…Oregon, Washington, and Colorado all sound appealing and nearly anyplace would have a cheaper cost of living. I’m torn, mostly because I’ve got a high-paying job and while I’ve set aside enough for FI, it still takes a lot of courage to make such a dramatic change.

    This summer we’ll be traveling to Victoria, BC and rather than using a hotel, we’re staying at a house we booked on Airbnb. In addition to saving money, I hope the Airbnb experience will give us a more realistic picture of what it’s like to live there (as opposed to the more sterile hotel environment). Assuming it’s a positive experience we plan to take similar trips to the area’s mentioned above, staying in local houses and trying to get a feel for the community. Only time will tell if I’ll be ready to take-the-plunge and up-root but even the prospect of exploring and considering new areas to live will be a freeing experience.

    Reply
  • Christy May 23, 2014, 2:00 pm

    We are from Iowa and visited Fort Collins last fall (and took the jaunt through Longmont) and saw that there was lots to love about the area. We’re currently grappling with easing into a semi-retired lifestyle and then hanging it up for good. We do enjoy the seasons but have grown weary of the tough winters here. I wouldn’t say that we’re outdoor “enthusiasts” but we do spent a lot of time outdoors – walking, running, biking, gardening… I dread the long winters that have made it tough to run outside.

    There is actually lots to like about where we currently live (contrary to what some might believe who have actually asked me, “and you LIKE living there?!?!?”) including beautiful outdoor spaces, parks and trails; great restaurants and main street stores; lots of great small town community assets (it’s a college town)…

    I would love to LOVE it here but can’t due to the employment situation. My husband has a great job at the college, within walkable distance of our home (which we built). I, on the other hand, have the dreaded commute to work as a CPA. This is a quaint small town, but with a terrible job market — lots of cottage industry with low wages that don’t pay benefits, as well as jobs that just aren’t that stimulating. So I am quite envious when I read of places with solid job markets, and I do think a population of 75,000 to 100,000 is ideal — just enough to give you lots of amenities without being a mass of sprawl. I really want to give up my commute. I’ve done my math and recognize what it is costing me to have my job, but also am not willing to work as a “bookkeeper” for a small business. I want to be challenged and to keep investing in my human capital.

    So, we’re in limbo and grappling with how to make the change. My husband’s job is great and we have some of the building blocks in place, but not all. We’re not sure if we want to hang it up so we can both go somewhere else, or if I should re-think my career. But again, a person can have dreams but in a town of 10,000 it can be difficult to pursue them. Having a critical mass is important.

    Reply
  • SomeDudeCLO June 6, 2014, 4:30 pm

    What a long strange trip it’s been for me around the US. Grew up in SoCal, went to school in GA, to work in Raliegh, then tranfered to Kansas City where I got caught up in the “Road Whore” subculture of engineering contracting in the energy industry (look it up, it’s a thing: http://www.roadwhore.com). That’s when things got really interesting.. first UCLA (upper-central-lower-Alabama) then over to Houston where I picked up even more velocity. Then I was hitting large cities and small towns every week-month (for longer than I wanted to after the economy tanked and I was trapped out on the road with an angry wife and new baby at home)… MMM isn’t wrong in his opinions, I used to work a whole bunch in CO. I’ve spent many a night in the Holiday Inn in North Boulder, communting to sites there and in Longmont. It’s aces… but I have it beat… Long story short, last year I was in China working on nuclear reactors, trapped in a bad place, and hating life, yet agian. Living in China was cool for about 6 months, then the novelty wore off, and it became the most depressing grey, polluted, uber-corrupt place I could ever imagine (sometimes it’s not even cheap). I found this blog and began reading it religiously after being a longtime fan of ERE, engineering myself the ultimate escape plan. I applied for jobs, both in Longmont and Boulder, even interviewed, but was turned down (no hard feelings though, the plants there are old slated to be closed in the near future). New Braunfuls, TX also was on the short list. But then I got an awesome contract in Bellingham, WA. I did some research and found it was on par with places like Boulder and Burlington, VT, so I pulled the trigger on a contract job knowing nothing about it… Couldn’t be happier. It’s got mountians, every activity I could imagine a bike ride away, tons of parks, great shopping being border town catering to Canadians, laid-back hippy neighborhoods, mild weather, no income tax, a very short trip to Seattle/Vancouver, and great affordability (Ferndale being the Longmont to Bellingham’s Boulder)… But it has Boulder beat with the whole dimension of being by the sea. A sea that has some awesome islands in it too. Even when it rains (hey, it’s the NW), it’s still an Epic Win.

    Reply
  • Enrie June 12, 2014, 7:53 am

    My wife and I live in Longmont while she was working on her masters at CU Boulder. Loved the town. after several year we moved back to New England. I group up on the water and now reside in Brunswick Maine. Great small town and area on the coast. Close to Boston via train and local town is very family friendly, and Bowdoin college brings a lot of resources into the area for theater and arts. And as a cyclist can’t beat the long rolling country roads with little traffic.

    Reply
  • Planner July 7, 2014, 2:39 pm

    Corning, NY. The quality of life in the Corning area is remarkable. Frugality is still the name of the game in this part of NY and the locals are welcoming (cashiers smile and actually talk with you).
    Most notably, the wages here are OK, but you can keep your cost of living WAY DOWN; which makes you relatively wealthy.
    http://www.city-data.com/city/Corning-New-York.html
    http://www.bestoftheroad.com/town/corning-ny/6385
    http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36/3618256.html

    If you need ‘culture’ or a university; corning is not too far from Binghamton, Ithaca, and Rochester.

    Reply
  • Carter August 26, 2014, 6:55 am

    Hi Daniel, That sounds great. Jef and I already tentatively planned on meeting next week. Send me an email at cartercoe at gmail, so we can coordinate.

    Reply

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