Author Topic: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?  (Read 5569 times)

ontheupandup

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My husband and I are in the process of looking for new housing. At this point, we are keeping absolutely all our options open: house, townhouse, condo, treehouse, RV parked in someone's backyard, etc. and most locations within a 30 mile radius of our metro area are fair game. My emphasis from the start was on walkability. I didn't care where we ended up as long as I could walk to the market, coffee shop, library, restaurants, theaters... most things I'd need to access in a week. I've primarily been focusing the search on condos in the middle of our downtown, as this is where my husband works 3 days of the week and would obviously be very walkable.

I keep running into the same thought, though, which is: If we live in the middle of a bustling downtown area, blocks from expensive coffee and meals, good theater, bars, sporting events, and on and on, am I going to be spending not only hundreds of thousands of dollars for a shoebox-sized condo, but also surrounded by temptation 24 hours a day?! Yes, I'll be close to free things like the library and parks, but it seems a questionable trade-off to me. Furthermore, it's great to be able to walk to the supermarket, but groceries in the city are expensive! Am I going to be driving to the suburbs to buy food that's reasonably priced anyway?

Perhaps this is just an issue of willpower, but it seems like living farther away from fun, expensive activities might also have its own benefits. Thoughts?

arebelspy

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2013, 12:03:01 PM »
My condo is right around the corner from a 7-11 (maybe 50 yards), and I love Slurpees (Slushees), but I don't feel any more tempted than if it was a mile away, or 10 miles.

At some point you decide what you want, and buy it, and stop wanting the other stuff.

It's harder for some than others, so if you can't control yourself, maybe you should put in place physical limitations.
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totoro

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2013, 12:15:27 PM »
We live in a smaller sub-neighbourhood just outside of the core.  I would not personally like to live right downtown.  Maybe your downtown is different, but ours has visible homelessness, higher crime rate, bars, and lots of traffic. We are about five minutes from the centre by car or a 15 minute bus ride and it is way more peaceful and much better for a family imo. 

No movie theatre but great coffee shops, two pubs, the library, park, rec centre, restaurants, deli, bakery, three pharmacies, corner store & gas station, two bigger grocery stores, great consignment store, antique shops, flower shop, garden centre and hardware store all within a 5-10 minute walk... and loads of charm... 

Way better than downtown and I do walk everywhere and our kids walk to school and their friends.  I don't buy more of anything due to location except from the consignment store and maybe once in a while the Chinese take-out (across the street), but I'm okay with that and view it as a plus.

I agree you should look at your will power quotient and if it is a problem then don't live there. 

The only issue we do have is that two of our kids are tempted by the slushees at the corner store/gas station :)

Spork

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2013, 12:18:21 PM »
The only thing I have walkability to is: the woods.  I live in the boonies, which gives me an unmustacian commute.

The result of this is that unplanned trips "to town" are generally associated with "nah, screw it."  When I get home, I have no desire whatsoever to get back in the car and drive back to town.  We try to batch everything as much as we can.

That's a rather extreme opposite.  I know.  And I've been told I am "a little barn sour" anyway.

Done by Forty

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2013, 01:34:28 PM »
I'd say the tangible benefits of being able to walk and bike to more destinations outweigh the risks and temptations, all other things being equal. 

You could build a comparison to run the numbers between your different scenarios (typical shopping list at different locations, cost of gas, rent, HOAs, etc.).  While there will be some things difficult to quantify, (e.g. - how many more Slurpees do you buy in scenario #1 only?) even if new expenses start creeping up, you have a lot of really persuasive people here who can help you cut out any unwanted new spending. :)

ontheupandup

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2013, 02:10:49 PM »
Thanks for the comments so far! I think I got a little carried away thinking about how walkable/bikeable our next location needed to be. There may be a distinction for me personally between being close enough to the things I need, and being regularly inundated by the allure of expensive, interesting activities.

And, certainly, there is room for improvement in my willpower--I was raised in a very antimustachian household, so this whole endeavor is new for me!

The feedback about what it's like to live *just* far enough away from something that it's an inconvenience is what I find most helpful. The physical barrier of space and the added time are what I was really thinking about being potential benefits. I can abstain from Slurpees pretty easily, but walking by theaters, art galleries, independently owned shops... I'm a little weaker. :)

I also really appreciate the suggestion to try to run some hypothetical numbers for different scenarios. This is a great idea and will probably help me factor in most of the difficult-to-quantify aspects of this kind of decision. Thanks!

Reepekg

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2013, 02:18:11 PM »
Having lived in urban apartments and grown up in the suburbs, I'd say the mental effort required to get out your door and go to a shop is about the same. Whether it is 3 minutes by foot or 8 in the car never really changed my buying frequency. Once you get moving, you'll finish the task.

If distance really does matter to you: Right now I live in an urban setting 3 blocks from restaurants, bars, movie theater, library, etc. I feel like this is the right distance where having to walk 10 minutes seems like enough of a PITA that it is the same deterrent that living in the 'burbs and having to get in the car to go to a strip mall used to be.

BTW, being able to walk and stay out of the car has been a HUGE lifestyle improvement for me and I'm much happier in a walkable place.

daymare

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2013, 05:25:31 PM »
Really interesting question -- temptation of going out to eat is probably my biggest unnecessary expense.  It's definitely the default thing people my age suggest doing (going out for drinks/dinner/brunch/ice cream).  I'm with you on the willpower thing -- my parents never, ever eat out and so I didn't start doing it until college, where I pretty much ate out or at the dining hall for every meal, and unfortunately might have embraced it too much.

That said, as I look for an apartment to live in during grad school, walk-ability is key.  Being able to walk to school is a must-have, and I've picked an area that would allow for a 20-minute walk to school, and some grocery stores (TJ's, farmer's mkt, asian grocery store) are biking/walking distance.  The best part of living in a walkable area is that you don't need to have a car (or if you have one, little reason to use it) -- and I personally love to walk around cities.  I love looking at all the stores, shops, buildings, parks, people, and that's an easy (and cheap) way for me to be happy.  I find that packing a snack & bringing a water bottle when I walk around is enough to resist wanting to buy a drink or snack and spend money needlessly.  I love walking around a city, and it really increases my quality of life if I can do that.

As far as the temptation -- I used to live near the Georgetown neighborhood in DC and would walk around and go shopping there frequently ... having since realized that I really, really don't need new clothes, I've found that I pretty much get the same amount of enjoyment from just walking around the neighborhood, and walking through and looking at the clothes in stores without buying.  So you might surprise yourself!  And I can't help but think that living near theatres could work out very well .. don't some of them have last-minute or day-of-show tickets?  If getting in line and doing that is relatively convenient (and not far from where you live), that could be a good way of getting reduced tickets.  I have a few friends who have ushered at shows -- a pretty easy gig, and they get to watch the shows for free.  Not to mention, a city/more populous area may have more smaller theatres/clubs/cultural venues that aren't very expensive to check out.

Jamesqf

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2013, 09:28:35 PM »
The question you should be asking yourself is just how tempting are those things.  Would you be spending lots of time & money on them, or constantly fighting the desire to do so?  Or would it be more of a "Well, I don't have anything better to do..."?

sheepstache

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2013, 10:03:14 PM »
I was in a similar situation when we moved to a cheaper apartment in a less desirable neighborhood.  My spouse is unmustachian and it turns out he is less likely to order take-out all the time now that he doesn't like the take-out options.  So that was good.

However, it's not all about money.  What we're really going for here is maximizing happiness for your money.  Are you spending money, as Jamesqf says, just because you have nothing better to do?  Or are you enjoying what you're getting for your money and enjoying it more than you would enjoy any other use for it? 

Personally, I enjoy potential.  If I could live in the old neighborhood for the same rent, I would.  Knowing that there is delivery sushi available makes me almost as happy as actually ordering sushi.  Actually, it might make me more happy.  The occasional hit to the checking account of walking to our favorite brunch place would be better than the underlying knowledge in our current place that there is no place around that we would enjoy going out to.  That has, in fact, resulted in our spending money 'just because.'  That is, now when the spouse or both of us or the spouse and friends are really in the mood to go out for dinner, for example, we still go out--though this occurs less often than in the old neighborhood--but it is just for the sake of going out and we do not actually enjoy the food or atmosphere that much and consequently the outing is less enjoyable than it could have been.  In the grand scheme these things are not big priorities for me, so I feel the money saved is worth the slightly lowered quality of life.  (Lest I sound obsessed with restaurants, there is also a different atmosphere which is less pleasant in our new neighborhood so I am also thinking of that when I talk about quality of life.)  So, like I said, the general quality of life is what you have to evaluate, not just the concrete expenditures. 

There is also room here to discuss the 'willpower as limited resource' theory.  Even if you can resist temptation to these local treats, have you then exhausted your self-control in other areas?  But I don't really have a lot of thoughts on that theory.

And also, if you're living next to them constantly, are you really going to want to go to the theater or sports events 24/7?  Or is it more likely you'll be like, 'man, I live right next to this great theater but I never go to shows' which is how most New Yorkers are.  I think your level of spendy-activity is going to depend more on the social circles you choose than your geographic location.

einzweidrei

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2013, 10:59:35 AM »
I have very little self-control and I will say that being in one of the most walkable places in the States I have a very hard time limiting myself from going to stores. But that's me. :-)

anastrophe

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2013, 11:19:49 AM »
I definitely noticed we started spending more on different things when moved to a walkable place. Less on movies, concerts, and bored-shopping, and more on dinners (better restaurants closer by). But we sold the car when we moved, so that was a big win.

There are temptations everywhere. Moving just brings up new ones. That's when you have to flex your frugality muscles to take on the new challenge.

May I recommend: http://theartofeatingin.com/ . NYC might be the most tempting place in the world, but you don't have to fall for it.

dragoncar

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2013, 11:32:02 AM »
I had same thought... I personally think walk ability outweighs the risks, but it depends on what your goal is.

For me, only part of the goal is actual walk ability.  In this case, I want to be walkin distance to certain amenities that I will directly use (grocery, farmers market, park, library), but don't care that I'm near the fanciest restaurant in town (I'm one block from it but have not yet gone there).

That leads into my second goal, however - neighborhood vibrancy (I can hear jamesqf rolling over in his grave right now).  Basically, what kind of neighborhood do I want to live in?  Personally, I like an active neighborhood where there are interesting people around walking their dogs, having brunch, browsing shops, running their errands, etc.  I may rarely go to that hot new restaurant, but I'd rather have it on my block than across town, and I worry that my local restaurants, cute cupcake shops, etc. aren't going to survive even as I refrain from financially supporting them myself.  I completely understand if others feel the opposite way.

tldr: a walk able neighborhood is more socially vibrant than one where people drive

anastrophe

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2013, 12:05:33 PM »
  Personally, I like an active neighborhood where there are interesting people around walking their dogs, having brunch, browsing shops, running their errands, etc.

My new hobby when I moved became people-watching. Free and always interesting.

Jamesqf

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2013, 12:10:13 PM »
That depends.  But I was thinking more of the expensive temptations, and how tempting they might be.  As an example, in my earlier life I lived in several places that were a 5-10 minute walk from major casinos.  Even now, I drive by casinos every time I go into town, walk by a bank of slot machines at the grocery store, etc.  These might be temptations to some people, but they aren't to me.

galaxie

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2013, 02:23:04 PM »
I care about walkability because we have a lot of friends in the neighborhood, and we tend to make friends with the kind of people who would want to live where we do.  What do you do socially? How far are your friends from your various housing options? 

Debbie M

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Re: Thoughts on "walkability" also being closer proximity to temptations?
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2013, 09:23:32 PM »
One time I moved near my favorite used book store and worried that I would spend way too much money there, but I didn't end up going there much more often than I used to.  However, I did end up at the local food coop more than I used to--with no car I would usually take a bus to and from the more affordable store, but when I'm sick or otherwise not in the mood, I would just go local.  In that spot, I quit going to the affordable store the third time I brought home spoiled food and I ended up buying my dairy products at the local convenience store and my other food at the local food coop.  It wasn't all that expensive, though.

Now I'm really good about not buying things unless I love them and/or could really use them, so I don't have to worry about temptations so much.  That's saying a lot since the Montgomery Wards was replaced with a Target!

On the other hand, ask anyone who works in retail--if you see fabulous merchandise on a regular basis, you almost can't help eventually figuring out a reason why you need some of it--a lot more of it than if you remained blissfully ignorant.

And also, once I get into the habit of doing something like getting a snack out of the handy snack machine or something, it's very hard to break that habit.

In sum, I have no clue what your answer will be!