Author Topic: Help us reboot our lives out west  (Read 6019 times)

mandelbrot

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Help us reboot our lives out west
« on: October 31, 2015, 09:15:35 AM »
Hey everyone,
I'm hoping this will be a very open and wide-ranging discussion -- any and all thoughts will be welcome.

The Short Version
My wife and I live in Austin, but increasingly we tire of the burgeoning traffic, hype, inflated housing costs, and dense urban energy of this place. We're thinking it might do our souls some good to move out WEST somewhere for at least a few years. The idea is to find some town somewhere that has much better access to public lands and mountains*, is small enough that traffic is no big deal, has much more reasonable housing costs, and might still place us within striking distance of a major metro center, if we needed that for some reason.

The Mustachian angle here, is that right now even living in Austin and commuting too-far for our two respective startup jobs, we are managing to save about 65% of our income. That's pretty decent, but we want to save even better and even faster. We have the option to take one or possibly both of our jobs REMOTE if we move out west for a few years, so that might enable a really "sweet spot" scenario.

So the easy question is: what are your thoughts about this scheme, and do you have recommendations on where we should look?

*If you know Texas you know this would be a very low bar to satisfy.


I shall post the longer version in a follow-up below ...

mandelbrot

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Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2015, 09:23:41 AM »
For those who are interested, let me provide a little more color to the scene ...

The two of us
Both grew up in Austin. I went to UT, she went to Baylor up in Waco TX. We both did a good deal of world-traveling after college. She also did an internship in NYC -- wouldn't want to live there because it's too noisy and expensive. I did an apprenticeship in the north part of Colorado Springs -- *might* want to live in a place like that if I could avoid the very-suburban feelings parts of it.

In the earlier part of our adulthoods, both of us were more religious and more conservative. Now I would say we are more moderate, certainly less religious, and try to be open-minded and well-educated about the world.

We love our communities of friends here and that may be the most troublesome part of moving. But, maybe we could find a place that is conducive to making new friends and/or finding hospitable neighbors. Shrug. She is an introvert and likes a lot of alone time, but needs a good solid social interaction maybe once every week or two. I'm more of an ambivert -- I like keeping in close contact with a small group of friends, at least *seeing* acquaintances every so often, but otherwise I clam up pretty quickly in a big crowded noisy space.

Work
She works for a fashion startup, I work for a software startup. I love my job, she feels just 'meh' about hers. We've both enjoyed a lot of job growth in our short careers due to the burgeoning economy of the Austin area.

This could have been the thing that really scuttled our plans, because it's likely going to be real tough to find comparable jobs in a small southwest town, compared to the glitz and hubbub of Austin. Luckily our plan is to keep our current level of income by working remote for one or both of these jobs. This will also allow us to presumably settle *almost anywhere* as long as we can get a suitably fast internet connection.

Hopes
This big idea, as you can see, is still very much in the incubation process.

In terms of housing, the idea with this move is that we will be able to rent out our (pretty cheap) house in Austin and make a little money from it while we live out west, while still retaining a place to return home to, someday. In the meantime we would probably consider renting OR buying out west ... not sure about the latter yet, we'll see what the finances will bear. We both love the process of fixing up a home, which we've really enjoyed here in Austin with our first.

Housing and budget details ...
  • We got our current ~1300 sq ft house for $165k and have about $127k balance on our 30yr loan. Suffice it to say we pay MUCH less per month on our house than we would if we were to rent something even in the 800 to 1000 sq ft range
  • If we rented this place out we could probably get $1400 - $1600/mo. Based on the 2.5 years we've lived here so far, I think that should be enough to cover maintenance costs as well as giving us a couple hundred $$ extra income per month.
  • This amount of space is decent for us -- we definitely wouldn't need anything bigger than this out west, but who knows what we might find.
  • Obviously if we are spending almost zero time commuting, our transit and auto maint. costs will go down. I would guess some other costs of living would go down, but unsure aside from (hopefully) our monthly housing.
  • Again I'm still not sure about buying or renting if/when we do move. But we could easily build up a bucket to go toward a new down payment, if we had 6-12 months to stay focused on the plan. I have NOT looked into the intricacies of taking out a second mortgage though, maybe that means higher interest or something? Research yet-to-do.

In terms of lifestyle, our hope is to enjoy more natural light and outside time; be able to camp and backpack in true scenery with non-crushing high temperatures; enjoy a place that truly has 4 seasons, as opposed to the 1.75 seasons of Austin; explore huge tracts of public land, which frankly don't exist in Texas; find our way into a less-consumerist and more meditative existence, e.g. by adapting to a place that is not quite so socially and superficially competitive as the hot-young-rich scene of Austin; and did I mention get outside a lot? Biking, backpacking, hiking, maybe picking up some winter sports that the wife and I have never really had access to.

Fears

  • Maybe we'll move away from our well-established friend communities and find that it's really hard to acquire a new one.
  • Maybe we'll move away from the comfort and convenience of the city and find that we miss the options for eating out, or Costco, or quick access to Home Depot, or just the general feeling of a developed metro area.
  • Maybe we'll try to make new friends but due to subcultural differences we'll just never really feel at home or at ease
  • Maybe we'll be really bad at "winter" living in a place that actually has a real winter. Shoveling snow? Practical layering? Driving through mixed conditions? And so on. All will be new experiences.

But ...... we won't know until we try! Those are just some initial thoughts off the top of my head.

Your thoughts are welcome
As you can see this thread is not JUST about picking a place to live, but really more so about evaluating our hopes and goals and seeing if the entire plan is useful. I would very much welcome anyone's experiences of trying to do the same, living in different places, adapting and adjusting, etc. Enlighten me if you would.

Thanks!

Thinkum

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Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2015, 09:44:46 AM »
What areas do you have in mind? How far out West are you considering?

For me, I did the opposite of sorts and miss my old city. I moved from SoCA to Dallas about 2 years ago. I really miss the mountains they were the backdrop of my old city (Pasadena). The biggest issue with living in most areas out west is that it's usually more expensive.

Me and my SO are considering moving as well. We visited Portland/Vancouver WA and liked that area a lot, Vancouver more since it has less traffic and is closer to nature. The problem is the weather. So then we are also considering going back to CA. This time, northern CA, Sacramento to be exact. It is one of the areas on CA that are still affordable with most of the natural benefits of CA; ocean and mountains/forest. Utah is beautiful, but from what I have read, they have air quality problems and that is a nonstarter for me. Idaho is also gorgeous, but a little too far removed. Colorado might be a possibility, but good god have the rents caught on fire. Another big thing for me is that issue of being landlocked. It's just a mental thing really, but I like having an ocean close or at the very least a big river.

mandelbrot

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Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2015, 09:53:39 AM »
Thinkum,
I can definitely relate to a lot of your quick thoughts here. Foremost among them? Dallas -- yikes. I would shrivel and slowly die up there.

As for the WHERE question ... here's what I'm thinking (the below are mainly geographic concerns, obviously they are *in addition to* the other hopes I listed above):
  • Sunshine -- we both will quickly get SADS if we are in a place that is gray / overcast / drizzly for much of the year. For this reason we have largely ruled out the Pacific Northwest hot spots such as Portland and Seattle. That said, a friend of ours pointed out that if we moved east of the Cascades, the climate situation would improve in that respect. But there's more research yet to be done there. Not sure what the non-oceanfront areas of WA and OR are really like.
  • Really want to be able to drive to mountains that are at least 9000' elevation, in under 2 hours. Closer and taller? Fine! But that's my general minimum-ish hope.
  • We *might* consider something further removed like ID or WY, depending on what the town is like. Boise for instance seems like it has a fair dose of culture, size, energy, and technology, while still being very happily in the middle of nowhere in other respects. That could be a winning combination, but as you mentioned, it might be TOO remote? More research needed.
  • California? I hadn't considered it simply because here in Austin, CA seems to be the place that people are fleeing FROM, due to rising rent and, I don't know, brown-outs? Maybe I haven't given the whole state a fair shake though. I guess most of our transplants are from SoCal or the Bay area.
  • Given all of the above, most of my initial brainstorming were for communities in central/northern CO, or the Wasatch Front region of UT. Exs. Longmont, Ft. Collins, westerly areas of Denver or Co Springs, Grand Junction(?), Provo/Orem, Ogden, American Fork, Spanish Fork, Logan, and so on. Didn't know about the UT air quality. Will have to look further into that. Not to mention trying to figure out whether we could live in a place that was so homogeneously composed of white mormons.

ClaycordJCA

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Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2015, 10:41:11 AM »
You might want to consider Santa Fe.  Darrow Kirkpatrick writes glowing of it in his blog, "Can I Retire Yet?"  Not sure Sacramento or anywhere else in California will have rental/real estate prices conducive to your plan. You might explore some of the smaller cities/towns around Sacramento  - Woodland, Davis, Marysville, Elk Grove, Chico in the Valley or Auburn, Grass Valley, Folsom, El Doeado Hills, Placerville in the foothills. You will get a much bigger bang for your buck, at least real estate and traffic wise, in northern Nevada (no state income tax  and much lower housing prices). 

Telecaster

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Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2015, 12:42:20 PM »
--Boise is a great town.  It is all the things you want.  The only drawback (from my perspective) is that it isn't dense enough, if that makes any sense.   Land is cheap out there, so development just gets pushed further and further out.  A lot of sprawl for a city that size.   

--Wasatch Front.  Probably even better than Boise in most regards.  More people but accordingly more employment options, and the mountains are right there.    The reports about the air quality are true, in the winter anyway.  Maybe consider southern Utah, like Cedar City?

--Bozeman Montana.  Small, but a college town. 

--Bend/Redmond, OR.   Small-ish side again.  But on the dry side of the state, and great outdoor rec.   


NV Teacher

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Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2015, 02:33:43 PM »
    • Really want to be able to drive to mountains that are at least 9000' elevation, in under 2 hours. Closer and taller? Fine! But that's my general minimum-ish hope.   Provo/Orem, Ogden, American Fork, Spanish Fork, Logan, and so on. Didn't know about the UT air quality. Will have to look further into that. Not to mention trying to figure out whether we could live in a place that was so homogeneously composed of white mormons.

    Living along the Wasatch Front in the winter can be pretty nasty.  They get those weather inversions in the winter and it can be grey and smoggy for weeks on end.  You could go higher into the mountains around Park City or Heber but property is way over priced.   What about southern Utah?  Bright and sunny in the winter, close to mountains, and cost of living seems pretty reasonable.  Still lots of white Mormons but even that isn't too bad.

    JetBlast

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    Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
    « Reply #7 on: October 31, 2015, 08:33:41 PM »
    Some other places that might be worth a look in no particular order:

    Santa Fe, NM
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Prescott, AZ
    St. George, UT
    Missoula, MT
    Bozeman, MT
    Redding, CA
    Medford, OR

    horsepoor

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    Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
    « Reply #8 on: October 31, 2015, 08:53:24 PM »
    Boise I'd pretty great, but from your first post, I was thinking of Pocatello, ID.  Public lands right at the edge of town, fairly close to SLC.  I think it's kind of an undiscovered gem for outdoorsy types and super cheap COL last time I looked.  Boise gets hot and smokey in the summer and we get inversions in the winter.  Traffic is getting worse but probably nothing compared to what you're used to.

    Sailor Sam

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    Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
    « Reply #9 on: November 01, 2015, 01:10:27 AM »
    Not sure what the non-oceanfront areas of WA and OR are really like.[/li][/list]

    Eastern Washington is:
    • fucking hot
    • and then fucking cold
    • redolent of sagebrush
    • ...except the parts that smell like hops
    • full of ticked off conservatives
    • ...also cowboy hats
    • ...also sheep
    • legitimately has some good wine

    I spent 10 years growing up in small-town Washington. Then I fled like from the veritable hounds of the fucking Baskervilles the first instant I could. I think it's become a little more cosmopolitan over the years, but not by a whole bunch.

    That being said, I really like Spokane. It's got a city-ish feel without too city-ish nonsense over COL and traffic patterns. Lots of the towns along the Columbia River are also very pretty.

    john c

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    Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
    « Reply #10 on: November 01, 2015, 01:55:45 AM »
    I live in California, and lived in the Sacramento area for 7 years.  It sucks.  The air is bad, the water is bad, the traffic is HORRIBLE (as bad as LA, or worse), the housing is expensive (by regular standards, though cheap by California standards), and the taxes are high.  It's hot as heck in the summertime.  There are tech jobs there, but this mostly revolves around the state government. 

    Redding is equally hot, and surprisingly remote.  It's several hours north of Sacramento.

    If you really wanted to be in the Sierras, which are really great with respect to outdoor opportunities, check out the Nevada side, like Gardnerville, Incline Village, or maybe even Carson City.  You'll save yourself 9% in state income tax over living on the California side.

    I also lived in Provo UT for a couple of years.  Even coming from California, the winters weren't too bad.  The inversion layers were rough, pollution-wise, but actually sunny for the most part.  Most of the time in the West you'll have 300+ sunny days.  The snowfall up in SLC was visibly double or triple that in Provo.  Park City and other high towns are above the inversion layers, and it's clean, clear, and sunny all winter.  The traffic is horrendous.  Actually, the traffic up and down the Wasatch front is horrific. 

    I would recommend Boise.  It's in the "banana belt" of Idaho.  For whatever reason, the micro climate is milder than the areas around it.  The traffic isn't too bad. 

    Another recommendation is Flagstaff, AZ.  High enough up in mountains to where the summers are bearable, and some snow in the winter.

    The_path_less_taken

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    Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
    « Reply #11 on: November 01, 2015, 06:32:51 AM »
    NV?

    No personal income tax. Lake Tahoe and mountains and skiing/hiking/wildlife. Reasonable land prices compared to where you are from.

    Costco/Home Depot 23 minutes away from me, and I have coyotes/hawks in my yard and mustangs used to wander through before I got the fences up.

    I couldn't do Vegas for a thousand reasons, but northern is nice, the closer you back to the mountains, the better. I can walk the dogs by starlight, because of zero light pollution.

    Noodle

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    Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
    « Reply #12 on: November 01, 2015, 06:43:59 AM »
      Not sure what the non-oceanfront areas of WA and OR are really like.[/li][/list]

      Eastern Washington is:
      • fucking hot
      • and then fucking cold
      • redolent of sagebrush
      • ...except the parts that smell like hops
      • full of ticked off conservatives
      • ...also cowboy hats
      • ...also sheep
      • legitimately has some good wine

      I spent 10 years growing up in small-town Washington. Then I fled like from the veritable hounds of the fucking Baskervilles the first instant I could. I think it's become a little more cosmopolitan over the years, but not by a whole bunch.

      That being said, I really like Spokane. It's got a city-ish feel without too city-ish nonsense over COL and traffic patterns. Lots of the towns along the Columbia River are also very pretty.

      I'm not sure that Eastern WA or OR would be close enough to the mountains for you. I have family there and I know they have to drive quite awhile to cross-country ski, which is a favorite occupation of theirs. On the other hand, they've taken up river-related activities since they are right on the Columbia, and enjoy those quite a bit.

      Overall, SS's comments are going to apply to any small town in the Intermountain West, (possibly substituting other kinds of livestock for the sheep, and deleting the wine). If cultural fit is important, a college town or city will probably suit you best. Or you could consider it an adventure to live among people very different from you. Walla Walla, Pullman or Moscow, ID maybe?

      jengod

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      Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
      « Reply #13 on: November 01, 2015, 07:02:28 AM »
      +1 for Fort Collins, CO and Flagstaff, AZ


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      spokey doke

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      Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
      « Reply #14 on: November 01, 2015, 07:36:05 AM »
      You really need to take a road trip (or two, or three).  There are lots of places that could work well out here...(and a few threads on affordable towns in the West).

      bacchi

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      Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
      « Reply #15 on: November 01, 2015, 09:59:15 AM »
      This thread has mostly devolved into another "best places to live" thread.

      Keeping and renting your house is a great idea. If it doesn't work out, you can always move back and save more money for FI. This is especially important because you're depending on a remote startup job in some cool but small town. It'll be tough to find an equivalent position in, say, Bozeman. Most importantly, don't buy a second house immediately.

      That said, are you sure you can get $1600/mth rent? You've checked equivalent comps on craigslist or Zillow rent?

      A road trip is a great idea. Narrow it down and then Airb&b for a week.


      It's a risk and we're going through the same thinking process. Will we miss our once-a-month trip to a new restaurant? My partner's parents live in a small town and the grocery store sucks. It's expensive and the selection is limited. If it's a really small town, everyone's nose is in your business. The crime rate is higher in more rural towns (such as Spokane). What about the lack of art festivals, fun and free entertainment?

      Radagast

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      Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
      « Reply #16 on: November 01, 2015, 11:37:16 PM »
      All of the suggestions are nice, I have the same preferences. Except Redding. Stay way from Redding, or any inland part of CA below 3,000 ft. The Reno-Carson-Tahoe area is pretty nice. Most parts of Nevada are entirely public land, but far from any city, and not totally postcard material.

      iknowiyam

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      Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
      « Reply #17 on: November 02, 2015, 07:23:29 AM »
      Not sure why no one mentioned Albuquerque, NM yet. It's a beautiful small city with mountains clearly in view. Perhaps I didn't read closely enough, and I am missing something in your requirements?

      The winter weather is 40-60 degree days, colder nights. Even in winter it seems mostly sunny and clear. (I have only been there once in winter.)

      AZDude

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      Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
      « Reply #18 on: November 02, 2015, 12:05:02 PM »
      How small of a town are we talking? You could look at someplace like Show Low, AZ(population: 13,000, and that is during the summer). Its right in the heart of the white mountains of eastern Arizona/western New Mexico. Its about a 3-4 hour drive northeast of Phoenix.

      Other than that, you could look at somewhere like Carson City, Nevada. Its a shithole, but its 30 minutes to the Sierra Nevada, no state income tax, and cheap housing(drove through there once, looked like a post-apocalyptic movie studio).

      mandelbrot

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      Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
      « Reply #19 on: November 02, 2015, 01:58:09 PM »
      Hi all,
      It's me the OP again. Thanks so much for all your thoughts -- you've definitely given us a ton to think about. I appreciate the multiple perspectives, you've definitely drawn my attention to a lot of subtleties that we would have easily overlooked until we arrived to scout a place out!

      As I've continued my research over the last few days, I've moved into assessing some more long-term factors that were not initially noted. The rationale has been something like: okay, we can certainly take road trips and eventually maybe rent for a while in one or several places in order to feel these towns out ... but IF we eventually fall in love with somewhere, it sure would be nice to be able to afford a house there. Again you are quite welcome to poke holes in this reasoning. Maybe we shouldn't be thinking about such a thing at all? I don't know. But in my head, we might be setting ourselves up for some disappointment if we were to love a place like (I don't know let's say) Bozeman MT, only to realize that we will never be able to (or would never choose to) buy a house in that inflated market.

      Hopefully you're coming along with me.

      So in thinking along some more long-term lines like that -- housing affordability, possibly raising young children in the place we choose -- my current favorites are Spokane and Boise.

      As you may have already surmised, this thread and this research process is not just to figure out where to meet our goals, but it is also to assess and readjust our goals themselves. Organic process. Ya know how it goes. Trying to figure out what is even worth pursuing, what's reasonable, what is illusory or folly, and so on.

      Anyway, I don't know that there is a further question in this particular post. Though, if you have any thoughts I am of course eager to still hear them.

      Thx again.

      Noodle

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      Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
      « Reply #20 on: November 02, 2015, 08:03:45 PM »
      Boise is lovely. Some people don't care for Spokane, but I think it has improved over the last few years as people move in fleeing the high prices on the coast. And I really like the Palouse (the rolling hills/farm country around Spokane).

      One thing you might consider is that Boise itself is quite moderate politically (pretty much all the liberals in the state except the ones teaching at the University of Idaho seem to live there), but Idaho overall is a very, very red state. Spokane is going to be on the conservative end (although more moderate than the countryside) but Washington State politics tends to be run by Democrats from the coast because of the population majority there. I think you mentioned that you had grown up among conservative folks so it might not bother you--I never felt uncomfortable in either Eastern Washington or Idaho as a liberal--but political climate is important to some people.

      yuka

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      Re: Help us reboot our lives out west
      « Reply #21 on: November 02, 2015, 10:33:59 PM »
      Apologies if this is an unwelcome deviation from your plans, but I couldn't find anything disqualifying my other favorite part of the country (except mountain height): Blue Ridge Mountains/Southern AT. The mountains aren't as high, but they're very green (which I've been missing a lot since being out West.) Also, at least compared to California I find that the mountain recreation areas back East are much less crowded (especially on weekends, which are a madhouse here in CA.) The area ranging from Charlottesville, VA in the North down to Asheville and Chattanooga in the South seems to have a great feel to it. In that area is a good group of interesting growing cities and fun college towns/cities. Also, you'll be missing out on most of the winter if you choose that, although Charlottesville could still hit you hard if your baseline is TX. I put a map below, and I also included Durham because I know some people love it over there. But the towns I've heard a lot about are Charlottesville, Asheville, Chattanooga, and Greenville.