Author Topic: Rural couple returning to school; antimustachian commute!?!??  (Read 3184 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Fine Muststachians,

I discovered the MMM blog through NW Edible Life a month of two ago and have been devouring the contents since then. This is my first post in the forum, hope you guys can give us so good advice.

My husband and I already live a fairly frugal life (we have more work to do though) and have been able to save quite a bit since we got married three years ago.  Making about $60,000 a year, we have put $16,000 into a 401K, have a $10,000 emergency fund and saved up a $50,000 down payment for a house. We have since decided to both go back to school, which leads me to my question: Where should we live?

The money that we had for the down payment will cover my two years of nursing school at the local community college (doubling my hourly wage instantly) and my husband’s online masters in Environmental Science (a 2.5 year program), helping him move into the professional series of jobs in the Forest Service.  The problem is how much traveling distance we will soon have between his FS job and my school.  Up until now we lived across the street from both of our winter jobs at a local ski area and he had a 20 minute commute downhill (West) to his FS job in “Sky” for 7 months of the year which is pretty darn good for our rural location.  We then traveled about 45 minutes East to a place I will call L-town once or twice a week to visit friends, get groceries, etc.  But my school (the closest option) is in W-town, an hour and 15 minute drive from the mountain.  My husband can’t give up his FS job because it is a PERMANENT (though still seasonal) position that is hard to get in normal circumstances in the FS but even harder with all the recent budget cuts, etc.  And they have been super supportive of him getting lots of training and job experience at higher levels.  The 5 months of the year that he is not working for the FS while in school, he will likely pick up part time work teaching skiing at the mountain and/or substitute teaching (in L-town or W-town, the only real populations centers within 90 miles).  So our span is from “Sky” to W-town; 73 miles.  Rather anti mustachian!

So now the task is to figure out how to achieve our goals of going back to school for the next two years while staying on the tightest budget possible, not driving ungodly distances, and staying sane and healthy.  There are a few options as I see it but I hope all of you have some revolutionary ideas for us.

Option 1
We live in L-town (rent would be $700-800) where I can take the bus to W-town for school, allowing us to sell one car, hubby has a 55 min commute for 7 months of the year but works 4-10 hours shifts for several months, can work one day a week from home for some of it, and can stay at the FS bunk house a night or two a week.  I would say the average week would include him being on 4/10s, in the field overnight one night, coming home one night, and staying at the bunkhouse one night.  He would do the commute in the summer and fall, aka no Cascadian snow storms, and then in the winter he will be close to subbing jobs in town and maybe drive to SP once a week to teach skiing.  I would be home every night, he would be home about 5 nights a week in the summer and 7 in the winter. Being home together at night as much as possible is pretty important to me.  Groceries and some social events could be accomplished easily by bike. 

Option 2
We live in the newly renovated place at the mountain ($600/month), he commutes 20 minutes to Sky 4-5 days a week, I would rent a room in W-town ($300/month) and come home on the weekends.  I would be away from home 4-6 nights a week with clinicals and labs on weekends; he would be home every night he wasn’t in the field. I would do the commute year round (aka lots of snow driving).

Option 3
We rent a place in the “CC” area which is about half way between the mountain and L-town ($500-$700/month), giving him a 34 minute commute and me a 50 minute commute.  I still rent a room in W-town for $300/month but am able to drive home once or twice a week, mid-week.  He commutes most days to Sky, but might stay the night in the bunkhouse periodically.  There would still be some snowy driving but the bulk of the snow hits west of CC. We could bike to see friends and go to church in P-town, another tiny town nearby (9 miles, flat, one way).

The stretch from L-town to W-town is the only section accessed by public transportation.  If we lived in L-town we would also be able to bike to groceries, library, etc.  There is one person who hubby can carpool with from the mountain to Sky some days, and they do whenever possible. We are not yet aware of carpool options for either of us from CC (a few hundred residents).  I have a Subaru Forester 2002, he drives a Subaru Outback 1999 that got a new engine a few years ago.  Part of my sales pitch for option 1 is that I would be happy to sell my car, since we both like our own better.

*Note, all locations are in a straight line West-East except P-town.  So the order is: Sky, the mountain, CC (where the turn off for P-town is), L-town, W-town.  Hope that’s not too confusing.

*Also note, when I say “snow” I mean SNOW…up to 49 inches in 24 hours (an anomaly, but it happened this year), though frequently up to a foot or two in 24hrs.  I would love to have a tiny fuel efficient car, but until we move away from the mountain I will not drive without a 4WD or AWD vehicle. : )

Cheers! And thanks in advance for some very Mustachian advice,


Able was I ERE

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Re: Rural couple returning to school; antimustachian commute!?!??
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2013, 12:06:46 AM »
Option 1 has:
  • Cheaper rent (no extra room in W-town costs)
  • Fewer car expenses (only one car)
  • More nights spent together

Given your descriptions, it sounds to me like this is the best option.  What's enticing about the other options?


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Rural couple returning to school; antimustachian commute!?!??
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2013, 08:24:06 PM »
Thanks Able was I ERE for wading into my long situation. : )

The main disadvantage to option #1 is that hubby will have a longer drive while he is working and in school.  He'll be working full time in the summer but probably only part time in the winter (and closer to L-town).  To be honest, option #1 is my favorite too, he's not so keen on it, but seems to be considering it a bit more seriously now.  He also has the option of taking time off from school (he does one class at a time in a six week session with one week off in between each), though that could add considerable time to his degree depending on when that particular class is offered again.  I will not be working while in my program but will have labs and clinicals up to 6 days a week and will not be able to adapt my schedule as it is a set program.  In terms of time commitment level, every person I have talked to in the program says to avoid working while in it, because most of those people drop out before the end of the first year.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Rural couple returning to school; antimustachian commute!?!??
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2013, 11:59:29 PM »
Ihamo, trust me, the options are making our heads spin as well.  We have in the past, and hopefully will be, infinitely more reasonable in our commuting in the future.  We have both had commutes that were a five minute walk, I biked to school and work for years, I even have studded snow tires for my mountain bike for commuting purposes : )  If it was reasonable for him to give up his current job, that would immediately compact our geographic spread, but it is not for the moment.  We just have to make it two years! (Go team).  I completely despise long commutes, and I've never done it in city traffic, only relatively lonely state highways, where you can set the cruise control to 70 most of the time...unless there's a snow storm and then it's crawling at 20-40 MPH.  Traffic isn't usually the problem around here : )

Wow, across Beijing!? That sounds intimidating just thinking about it. 

Once we both graduate, it is possible that we will move where he finds a year round FS position, and I should be able to find a nursing job pretty much anywhere we move.  I would love to stay in Central Washington for the long term, but there aren't many FS jobs that would fit hubby, but we will see. My goal is to work a few years full time, stash all my income and some of hubby's, have kids, switch to part time and then get serious about hobby farming.

Thanks for the input.