How to Decide Where to Live and Why We Chose to Stay Put

How to Decide Where to Live

Where to next?

Have you ever wondered if you’re living in the right place?

The right neighborhood? The right city? The right part of the World?

Mrs. PT (my wife) and I struggled with this question recently.

As you know we’re in the process of moving. Our recent offer was accepted and we close on the loan for our new home at the end of this month.

This may sound crazy, but our primary motivation for moving (right now) was so we could have a yard. We live in a townhome now. We don’t have a yard. That fact stinks now that we have little kids.

You may be going through a similar experience (needing to move). You may have recently retired, become unemployed, graduated from school, or just grown tired of where you’re at. Maybe you too are ready for a yard.

So how do you decide where to live?

Our Decision

Ultimately, we chose to stay in the same suburban town here in North Dallas. We are just changing neighborhoods.

This decision (to stay close) wasn’t an automatic one. There were some factors that made it a tough call for us:

  • The Employment Situation – I’m self-employed and my entire business is virtual. I can literally work anywhere there is an Internet connection. Seeing so many other blogging friends move and live anywhere they wanted has definitely made me think about doing something similar. Mrs. PT is a stay at home mom, so her job would make the move easy as well.
  • The Kids Ages – Our kids are ages three and one. Therefore, we don’t have their school(s) to consider. In fact, we have a solid two years before we need to be settled down for Kindergarden for our oldest.
  • The Extended Family – Finally, this isn’t our hometown. We don’t really have any immediate family here. We live here because this is where Mrs. PT and I were able to find jobs after college. I finished my college in Louisiana, and my wife in East Texas, both just a few hours away.

Given all of that, it would make sense that we would at least give some place else a look before settling down for good, right?

Well, we did.

Factors to Consider When Deciding Where to Live

Here are some of the factors we looked at when considering a move to other places.

Where the Jobs Are – Even though I’m self-employed and doing okay, I’m pretty conservative when it comes to the income. So I never want to be too far away from a metro area where plenty of jobs are available and plenty of local contacts.

Forbes recently published their Best Cities for Jobs list, where they tout many Texas metro areas, including where I live, in their top 10. Lists like these aren’t the end-all, be-all though. Consider your particular industry or skill set.

Good Schools – Even if you don’t have kids yet, school quality might be a big factor for you one day. Mrs. PT and I are big fans of the public schools system. So, location matters for us.

Those interested in homeschooling or private school can worry less about this. But don’t ignore it completely, as good schools can be an indication of other positives in the area.

Thankfully, we live in one of the best areas for schools. The Nation’s Report Card seems to be a good place to compare school performance.

Proximity to Family – As I noted above, we don’t live near family. But we happen to be ‘in the middle’, where we are within a day’s drive of the majority of our close family. There are, of course, positives and negatives to living right next to your family.

For us, we’d like our kids to grow up knowing their grandparents and we’d selfishly enjoy some free baby sitting. So while that’s a big draw for us, we’d be picking one set of grandparents over the other as it stands. Which leaves us liking the middle.

Culture – When deciding where to live, you need to consider the culture. What do the people there believe? What do they care about? Every place has a different vibe because of the culture. Some places have homogenous culture, while other places are more diverse.

I love the people here in North Texas. I was born in Louisiana, and I miss many things about that rich culture, but this place has definitely adopted me. The people here are hard-working, entrepreneurial, independent, faith-oriented, mostly nice and respectful towards each other, and they have strong family values.

These are the qualities I want in the people I live amongst and these are the qualities that I want my kids adopting. Beyond that, Mrs. PT and I have our short history here. We met here, had our first date here, and got married here. We like the idea of raising our kids here and developing that history.

Cost of Living – Before you move, you need to make sure you’re comfortable with the new lifestyle you can afford in your new place. Moving to Hawaii, but love spending time with your extended family here in the continuous U.S.? Hopefully you earn enough to afford regular trips back to the mainland.

Another big cost to consider is real estate. It wouldn’t surprise me if you could find a 3,000 square foot house priced $500k higher in one area of the country vs another. Do you want to remain a renter for a lot longer? Check out this cost of living calculator by PayScale.com

Community – While we don’t have family nearby, we do have a close community of friends that make this place feel like home. We spend most of our time with friends from our local Church. This has definitely been the glue that’s helped to hold our life together here in the big city.

From experience I can tell you that even surrounded by millions of people it’s easy to be lonely if you don’t have a community. Do you have a great community of people where you currently live? Could you easily plug into a new set of friends wherever you go?

The thought of not having good community after a move to a new place has been a big factor in keeping us here. It’s slightly irrational, but it is a factor.

Weather and Activities – Do you want all four seasons? Are you comfortable with extended heat or cold? The weather obviously has an affect on what you can do outside as well. Are you an outdoors person?

Don’t expect to enjoy being outdoors in this part of the country from July to October unless you have your swimsuit on. Thank goodness I work inside and we have great air conditioners.

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So those are some of the factors that we considered and you should as well. Places that ended up being high on our list (mainly due to that last factor) were San Diego and Denver. We have family/friends there and the weather and activities would be drastically different than here.

Like I said above though, this place has a lot of good things going for it and our history and friends are here. Even though our girls aren’t in school yet, we have a great community of friends and Church family that make this place feel like home.

Additionally, Mrs. PT and I decided that we’re more interested in being settled than we are in a permanent adventure right now. Besides we can take the money that we save by living in a cheap area and do a lot more traveling before the girls hit school age. Luckily, we’re in the middle of the country and live in a hub city where airfare is cheap.

Which Neighborhood to Live In?

Don’t forget about deciding which particular neighborhood to live in. The most important factor for me when considering this used to be proximity to my job. I hate a long commute, especially when it involves any traffic at all. It makes me a miserable person. So, I chose to live very close to my job.

Now that I have kids I can see why people choose to live further out from the city center: the neighborhoods are usually safer and quieter, and the schools are often better.

If you are new to an area, it may be hard to get a good gauge on which are the best neighborhoods. Check out any local message boards or forums to see opinions. Drive around the neighborhoods on Saturday mornings. Consider renting in the area first and then buy a place when you find the specific spot you like.

For us, it came down to proximity to schools (our new home is within walking distance), the vibe of the neighborhood (ours is very active and self-contained), and the fact that many of our good friends live there.

Ultimately I think you can be pretty happy anywhere you are. At a certain point, a place is just a place. It’s more important to surround yourself with the right people, I think. And if there aren’t enough people, just have a bunch of kids and start your own little community.

If you recently moved, why did you choose that particular location? I’d love a good cross-country move story. If you’re thinking of moving soon, what factors come into play for you?

Image by wisdomlight




Last Edited: May 14, 2012 @ 11:19 am
About Philip Taylor

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a husband and father of two. He created PT Money back in 2007 to share his thoughts on money and to meet others passionate about managing their finances. All the content on this blog is original, and created or edited by PT. Read more about Philip Taylor, and be sure to connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, or view the Philip Taylor+ Google profile.

Comments

  1. My wife and I moved last year so we could be closer to her family. Like you – jobs took us away from home and my wife and I lived in OH for the first few years of our marriage (coincidentally, we also lived in a town home!). When I became self-employed, we wanted to buy a house with a yard, and we wanted to live closer to one of our families. We chose to move to IL where most of my wife’s extended family lives. We just wanted to be in the general area, but ended up about 15 minutes from my in-laws, which is great. Since we’ve moved here  we’ve been able to participate in many more family get-togethers, and spend more time with our family. It’s been well worth the move.
     
    As far as cost of living – that went up for us. Property taxes are higher, income tax is roughly the same, we bought a more expensive home, etc. But it’s still been worth the move. You can’t put a price on being near family.

  2. My wife and I moved last year so we could be closer to her family. Like you – jobs took us away from home and my wife and I lived in OH for the first few years of our marriage (coincidentally, we also lived in a town home!). When I became self-employed, we wanted to buy a house with a yard, and we wanted to live closer to one of our families. We chose to move to IL where most of my wife’s extended family lives. We just wanted to be in the general area, but ended up about 15 minutes from my in-laws, which is great. Since we’ve moved here  we’ve been able to participate in many more family get-togethers, and spend more time with our family. It’s been well worth the move.
     
    As far as cost of living – that went up for us. Property taxes are higher, income tax is roughly the same, we bought a more expensive home, etc. But it’s still been worth the move. You can’t put a price on being near family.

  3. TheFreeFinancialAdvisor.com says:

    I love how you picked living “in the middle” of the grandparents so you aren’t playing favorites. What a politically savvy move, PT!

  4. TheFreeFinancialAdvisor.com says:

    I love how you picked living “in the middle” of the grandparents so you aren’t playing favorites. What a politically savvy move, PT!

  5. I am planning to move this summer and have already begun the process. I still have a (barely) full time job, as well as my part time job(s) as a blogger and social media manager. I hope to become more location independent one of these days, but for now I’m staying in the same city here in Texas. I’ll be moving a little closer to my work, so there’s less time for commuting but I’ll be upgrading to a bigger place so I’ll officially have a dedicated office space. I like what you said about taking the community and sense of family into consideration. I live within 1-2 hours of all my family members. So I can see them on the weekends or for family gatherings. I’m also about an hour away from DFW so like you, I live near a cost effective airport travel hub. I feel it’s the best of both worlds. Although I’m eyeing Denver as a possible move, sometime in the future. 

  6. I am planning to move this summer and have already begun the process. I still have a (barely) full time job, as well as my part time job(s) as a blogger and social media manager. I hope to become more location independent one of these days, but for now I’m staying in the same city here in Texas. I’ll be moving a little closer to my work, so there’s less time for commuting but I’ll be upgrading to a bigger place so I’ll officially have a dedicated office space. I like what you said about taking the community and sense of family into consideration. I live within 1-2 hours of all my family members. So I can see them on the weekends or for family gatherings. I’m also about an hour away from DFW so like you, I live near a cost effective airport travel hub. I feel it’s the best of both worlds. Although I’m eyeing Denver as a possible move, sometime in the future. 

  7. I am planning to move this summer and have already begun the process. I still have a (barely) full time job, as well as my part time job(s) as a blogger and social media manager. I hope to become more location independent one of these days, but for now I’m staying in the same city here in Texas. I’ll be moving a little closer to my work, so there’s less time for commuting but I’ll be upgrading to a bigger place so I’ll officially have a dedicated office space. I like what you said about taking the community and sense of family into consideration. I live within 1-2 hours of all my family members. So I can see them on the weekends or for family gatherings. I’m also about an hour away from DFW so like you, I live near a cost effective airport travel hub. I feel it’s the best of both worlds. Although I’m eyeing Denver as a possible move, sometime in the future. 

  8. The Navy gave us over a dozen opportunities to see life in different parts of the world, but when we landed on Oahu we knew we were finally in the right place.
     
    “Walk to school” distance is a huge factor, especially when you end up volunteering there.  And in our case, a little standoff distance from the relatives is a good thing.  

    •  @Nords That’s great that you were able to volunteer regularly. I may look into that.
       
      You know, something I forgot to mention in the post was how much travel I used to do in my corporate career. Lots of international trips and Mrs. PT could come along. This contributed a bit to our desire to settle down, even though now we’re free.

  9. rwohlner says:

    Great post Phil.  We went through the where to live decision within the first couple of years of marriage and decided on the Chicago area as we were both employed at the time.  My wife quit working after our first child was born and the youngest of our three just finished his first year of college.  Most of my clients are here but in reality I could probably move and just come back here a few days each quarter for client meetings as I do most of my communicating (and many meetings) via phone and the internet.  We love the Chicago area, but the cost of living is high.  We are not going anywhere in the short-term but who knows over time.

    •  @rwohlner Thanks for sharing, Roger. We were very close to moving to Chicago in 2006 (right after we married, for a ‘big city adventure’), but we fell in love with our local friends and Church here in the burbs and have never regretted it. Well, maybe just a little. Chicago is one of my favorite places to visit.

  10. PT Money says:

    Thanks. It’s worked out so far. Hopefully we’ll get to visit them a lot more. We’ll definitely have a nicer place for them to come and stay for an extended visit.

  11. I enjoyed reading this post, it made me start to dream about living somewhere else again! I live in the UK at the moment but would like to move to a sunnier country where the cost of living isn’t so high.  Like you, my work is virtual and I don’t have any other commitments really so it is possible.  I will consider the points you have made, thanks!

  12. I enjoyed reading this post, it made me start to dream about living somewhere else again! I live in the UK at the moment but would like to move to a sunnier country where the cost of living isn’t so high.  Like you, my work is virtual and I don’t have any other commitments really so it is possible.  I will consider the points you have made, thanks!

  13. Once you have kids, school systems and neighborhoods become much more important.  We’re in the process of moving now and my commute will be a bit longer but it will be a bigger house on a quiet street in a nice town with a better school system.