Photo by Casey Horner via Unsplash.com
When I told people I was moving to Washington D.C., they tended to give me some version of the same reaction: “That’s expensive!”
And they were right. My rent has increased almost $400/month, and I’m anticipating a lot small cost of living increases (gas, groceries, eating out) that will definitely add up. This is what we call lifestyle inflation, and it’s something I’ve avoided like the plague for the past 5 years of my adult life. So why on earth would a personal finance blogger with a goal of financial independence decide to move to such a pricey place? A few reasons.
I love cities. This one is a little silly, but true. I’ve always loved the idea of living in a city– I’m a fast-paced person who’s always on to her next thing, and I like to be surrounded by others who are grinding. Having an environment with ambient people on the move around me is something I find really motivating; when I was in college, I used to go to the busiest floor in my university’s library whenever I had to get things done. Something I have learned about myself over time is that when I am more productive, I feel more fulfilled. This makes the city the perfect place for me to set myself up to feel satisfied and happy.
Access. This has a lot to do with my happiness as well. Specifically, I’m referring to having access to friends, food, events, etc. by foot. When I was looking for apartments with my partner, we found a lot of great places that had great metro access, but I knew I wanted to prioritize walkability. This is because I notice a serious decline in my mental health when I don’t spend much time a) physically moving and b) outside. Not having a car until I was 21, I walked in my neighborhood as a norm growing up, and also spent at least 40 minutes a day walking to and from class when I was in college (my campus is ginormous). Last year, when I lived in a new suburb, I basically only walked to and from my car everyday (especially during the colder months). This was pretty clearly harmful to my wellbeing, so I knew I had to change my environment to a place I felt lucky to be able to embody my ideal flâneuse self.
Planning trumps frugality every time. I write and talk a lot about cutting costs. It’s an important part of personal finance as well as living with intention. But for most people, it’s also a very small way to change your change your finances that allows you to feel okay about ignoring much bigger money moves you could be making. So many people view themselves as frugal or good with money from reducing their costs everywhere they can, and yet they fail to save strategically or invest for retirement. Being frugal makes them feel like they are doing everything they can, when in reality, simply planning their finances would allow them more freedom to spend without guilt or be able to use the time they spend scrimping over money for more important, more productive things.
This is exactly what I used to do in college: I could feel good about not knowing what was going on with my money as long as I a) worked as much as possible and b) saved money whenever I could. But these conditions always led me to feel guilty rather than free– the opposite of how I wanted to feel about money– and, of course, led me to sometimes overwork myself or deprive myself unnecessarily. I know now, after working with my budget for so long, that I am capable of inflating my lifestyle, spending intentionally on things that are important to me, as long as I can still reach my financial goals through planning. Getting my student loans out of the way was a big help, too. 🙂
These are the reasons I moved to D.C. Was it worth it? I don’t know yet– it’s been three days! But I’ll write an update after a while and let you guys know 🙂
As always, thank you. it means the world to me that you read my blog. Let me know if there are any topics you’d like me to discuss in the future!