Severe Austerity

Future home state
Future home state

We bought the land. The closing wasn’t a happy occasion as it turned out. My husband and I chose to stress out and argue rather than relish the first moments of finally owning a piece of property. Perhaps that’s why this all happened 6 weeks or so ago and I didn’t bother to document the occasion. Thankfully we’ve been together long enough to overcome I’d say pretty much anything at this point, so we now joyously celebrate land-ownership together and all that lies ahead.

We just spent a week in MI at the property overseeing planting of $8,000 of oats and hay soil erosion control work on the driveway and slope. It was fun being there and exploring local living – what will be our grocery store, how do prices compare to LA, can we buy Pop’s brand of dog food, etc.? We’re also incredibly blessed to have family next door so enjoyed free accommodation. Our combined acreage, with all the sticks and tree branches a young labrador can imagine, was like crack to our precious Poppy.

$8,000 of oats and hay... AKA erosion control
$8,000 of oats and hay… AKA erosion control

Now we’re home though and in full austerity mode. We bought the land in cash and expect the house will cost around $350K-$400K to build, including drilling well, installing septic system and asphalting the driveway. Apparently the driveway will be our single largest expense, and we’ll get two guarantees: 1) it will crack, and 2) no one will steal it. We want to have at least half the build cost in cash up front then we’ll have a construction loan for the rest to convert to a mortgage once we take residence (my beloved USAA does not offer construction loans, so hello local bank). With a build start date scheduled for summer 2018, we have just over 18-months to come up with $200,000 (we’re starting at $0 as we don’t want to touch current investments).

We don’t have an extravagant lifestyle and do have good incomes, but we definitely live comfortably and there is lots of fat to trim in order to reach our goal. It’s doable but means severe austerity is officially ON. Fortunately, I track every cent and have spreadsheets that are works of art, so it’s very easy to see savings potential in each category of spending. Groceries is top of the list.

I re-read an amazing, potentially life changing quote on a Frugalwoods post this week. Mrs. FW doesn’t budget, she simply wakes up everyday intending to not spend money. She is right on that if I have a $250 grocery/household budget, I will spend that $250 because I’ve given myself permission. If I decide not to spend money, chances are good that I’ll only spend when necessary and therefore spend much less. Those drop-ins to Ralphs on the way home from work for a few items that always end up being $30+ sure add up, but they are always OK as long as they’re within the $250. I’ve been researching and shopping grocery smarter this week, and by my reckoning, I’m about $100 ahead than if I’d not put in that little extra effort.

Remember, Remember the Fifth of NovemberTo end on a completely unrelated grumble, I’m English, it’s Bonfire Night, and California is too bloody hot and windy to have a fire. Instead, here is our fire in Michigan last week where the autumn chill was a more appropriate companion on a Fall evening. I cannot wait until I can call that place home. $200,000 and counting…

 

Tuesday Blue

The Jura J9. A 2012 splurge that pays off with delicious coffee every time we hit that magic button.
The Jura J9. A 2012 splurge that pays off with delicious coffee every time we hit that magic button.

The blue is in the early morning sky as I sit in my backyard with my labrador at my feet, anticipating a new workday. There is a lone wisp of cloud tinged pink with the rising sun. The air is cool and even though we’re still technically in summer, I can feel the change in season. I believe you need to live in LA to experience the season change. Seasons obviously are not as pronounced as they are in New England for example, but the subtle shift is there. The early mornings have a cool freshness about them, and we’ve started to feel a chill in the evening as we enjoy our walk in the park. The sun has more or less gone down before 7:30PM. With all that said, today’s forecast is still expected to be 90 degrees. This is something I love about living here. Not the heat, but the beauty of the cool morning on a September day. The knowledge that the heat will come to an end and we’re only mere months away from the possibility of much-needed rain. The low whoosh of the morning traffic fills the air, birds twitter in the trees, and all else is quiet but for the tap of my fingers on the keyboard. It’s a peaceful way to boot up over a cup of excellent coffee.

Today is a return to work after a lovely long Labor Day break. The weekend started highly productive with completion of overdue household chores. By Monday though, I was listless. I have an end-of-summer cold that I can’t shake off, and combined with that and general malaise (despite wanting to do something, I really couldn’t be bothered), it ended up being a wasted day. Sure I did the grocery shopping and cooked a shepherds pie to cover dinner for two nights. Other than that, I laid around feeling bad that I wasn’t doing anything meaningful reading.

Towards the end of the afternoon I started to feel an anxiety about going back to work today. I thought of all the things on my To Do list that I should have gotten done last week and didn’t. I have to meet with my boss this morning and it’s going to be a 92% made up agenda due to lack of progress on said To Do list. I need not stress though. I know that a couple of hours of focused work will take care of everything currently outstanding. I’m reminded again how the pressure and inner-stress needlessly mounts for the sake of a few hours of getting stuff done.

Back to the Now though, and my labrador hops around with a tennis ball in her mouth and another one between her paws. She is purely having fun in the moment. Now I get to walk her up the hill to the park for some play time and stick chasing before I have to get ready to go to the office. These are simple moments to reflect on how blessed I really am.

Books: The Happiness Project

Another good read
Because I’m Happy… Did you hear Pharrell as you read that?

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin has been my companion these last few days during a couple of flights around the Pacific Northwest. It’s an interesting book that I chose on impulse browsing at the airport in Portland a few weeks ago when returning from the World Domination Summit.

I’m not quite finished so can only speak up to November in Rubin’s year of finding more happy. The first part of her year was especially interesting to me because it revolved around my favorite topics of getting more sleep, more exercise, and becoming a better spouse/friend/family member. All lofty goals, and I’ve been failing constantly on the first two for a while now. Although I know I am happier when I exercise and am in better shape (thus able to fit into the 90% of my wardrobe that is currently a bit tight), I’ve been struggling to make exercise a priority. I did great when I had an expensive Equinox membership and a hot 30-year old personal trainer at $120 an hour. However, I currently prioritize savings over fitness so I need to find the will to use the multitude of fitness equipment currently at my disposal in my own house. Getting more sleep is an elusive life goal, and I’ve struggled getting the minimum required sleep lately. This means I need to manage my mind so I don’t lay in bed ruminating over life’s real or imagined dramas, stressing about work, feeling anxious about my performance, and generally letting that critical inner dialogue have it’s way with me rather than quieting it and falling into a restful sleep.

I was super inspired by Gretchen’s attempts to calm her temper and not nag, lash out or generally show irritation to those around her – particularly her husband. I am terribly guilty of this, and I am trying to be more mindful of how my own mood affects those around me. I was struck in the Think Better, Live Better session at World Domination Summit by a story of how a man was blowing up in anger while standing in line at a grocery store register. The lady in front of him had a baby that the cashier was gushing over rather than expeditiously ringing up the shopping. Instead of creating an ugly scene, the man managed to keep his temper and show some good graces towards the cashier when it was finally his turn. The cashier thanked him for his patience. It turned out that the customer was actually the cashier’s mother who was minding her baby and doing her grocery shopping to allow the cashier to be able to work and earn a living to support herself and her child. The cashier’s husband had been in the military and he was killed whilst deployed overseas. I am tearing up just re-telling that. The number of times I have fumed and scowled in disgust at the grocery store when I’ve had to wait that couple of extra minutes because another customer is HOLDING UP THE F***ING LINE!!!!! That reaction not only causes upset to me, but causes upset to everyone around me. Back to The Happiness Project, and Gretchen’s observation that “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” She is spot on and I try to stay mindful every time I feel that irritation and anger rising over some silly triviality. Sometimes I do better than others, but even a 50% improvement results in a better frame of mind for me and those around me.

My one criticism of this book is directed inwards rather than towards the book itself. Every happiness activity undertaken is so worthy, I was left feeling dreadfully inadequate about my day to day life. What that underscores is how much I need to keep reading material like The Happiness Project. Not only read it though, take time out of my day for personal reflection and action towards my goals. It’s not enough to have a running list in my head. That’s not actually accomplishing anything. That’s the classic adage of the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’m not saying I’m on the road to hell and I should probably tweak that into a more positive mantra! Perhaps “the road to success is paved with small actions”. That’s what I need to do. Today was a good day of actions as I got up and wrote two blog posts.

Whirlwind Week

Sun sets over Lake Michigan
The sun sets over Lake Michigan

Whirlwind is the only way to describe this last week. Our offer on the land was accepted last Saturday, and barring any problems, we should close by the end of September. We’ll then be the proud owners of 2 acres of land 2,300 miles from home! Some moments I think we must be mad and it’s easy to get lost in worries for the future. How on earth are we going to save to build the house? What sort of home do we build? How do we leave California? What the hell am I going to do for a job? How do we fly the dog there for a visit at Christmas? How the mind spirals if I let it! To counter those thoughts, I imagine the view of the lake through the lush green trees, and the heavenly idea of one day waking up to that in my own bedroom, in my own house, that my husband and I built. The rest will work itself out.

Having never purchased any sort of real estate before, it’s also been an interesting week of learning. I had no idea what made up closing costs. What was title insurance? Who knew it was important for rural land to “perc”? I certainly didn’t think I’d ever be paying money to a soil erosion expert.

The title search has been cleared, so the person we are buying the land from is indeed the owner and there are no unpaid taxes, liens or other issues with the property. The title company is ready to issue a title insurance policy, meaning in the unlikely event of future problems, at least our initial investment is insured. Title insurance is one of the closing costs typically covered by the seller, but although we wouldn’t negotiate our offer, we did agree to pay the seller’s closing costs (with a cap of course) in addition to our own.

A perc test (AKA perk test or even a percolation test) evaluates the rate at which water drains through the soil. This is crucial information when thinking about installing a septic system. If the land didn’t perc, we wouldn’t be able to build a house. Fortunately, our land (well – soon to be ours) percs very nicely. This is thanks to soil that is loamy sand from 6″ to 7′ below the 0″-6″ of topsoil. Water drains beautifully through sand. Again, not something I’d ever paid attention to!

Speaking of soil, the next big event is our soil evaluation next week. The county expert visits the land for an erosion assessment, then our builder will provide us a cost estimate of what we’ll need to do to manage drainage over the couple of years before we’re ready to build. We suspect this will be nothing more than crushed concrete on the driveway to prevent washout, and perhaps a silt fence as an erosion control on the large berm. But, our offer on the land is contingent on a positive inspection as well as the builder giving a final OK that the land is in good shape to eventually build.

Pelicans over the Pacific
Pelicans over the Pacific

An exciting whirlwind of activity, and we’re grateful to our team of experts in the local area who are handling so much of the legwork on our behalf. We’re also grateful to receive beautiful pictures of sunsets on the bay, which are equally as majestic as those we currently enjoy over the Pacific.

An Exciting Weekend

Advice from a pillow!
Advice from a pillow!

Last weekend we took a trip to meet the owner of the land we are interested in purchasing in Northern Michigan. During the Think Better, Live Better session at WDS Portland, I’d written down a goal of buying land and building a house. In the words of Charlie Gilkey, now was the time for me to “Ship It” (AKA get it done).

It was an early start for a 6AM LA to Chicago flight then a connection to Grand
Rapids, MI. From there, we rented a car and drove a couple of hours north to reach our destination.

We immediately visited the land and it was the first time we were there together since Christmas 2014. At that time everything was beneath a couple of feet of snow, so this was the first proper look my husband had had beyond photos. Fortunately, he reacted exactly as I had. He loved it, and we again experienced the rarity magic of being totally aligned in our decision.

Soil erosion and drainage to address
Soil erosion and drainage to address

In anticipation of our visit, the owner had clearly done some additional clearing and prepping the land for viewing. The foliage on the large berm was cut, the driveway path had been redone, and we noticed a couple of spots that had been touched to either mask or address drainage. That was a little cause for concern, as there had been some rainfall in the area, and we could clearly see a couple of spots of erosion. Although we loved the land, we kept reminding ourselves to look with our heads over our hearts. As my husband pointed out, we don’t want to build a house and have it slide down the hill at the first sign of wet weather!

After a thorough pacing and much discussion of where to put the actual house, I drove my husband to the place that started this whole thing: the 3 bedroom ranch house on 2.5 acres that I viewed back in June. The price dropped $23K over the summer, and the house is currently pending sale. It is a lovely property but neither one of us particularly liked the surroundings.

A treat to wake up to
A treat to wake up to

Thankfully, there was no feeling of having missed out, so we didn’t look back as we went on to my sister-in-law’s house. She had kindly allowed us to stay, and her beautiful property overlooking the lake was a further tease of this possible future.

We went into town that night and enjoyed a steak followed by too much locally produced ice cream. A very different scene from LA, but one that fit better.

We awoke to a beautiful sunrise over the bay then a sharp rain shower, which was a heavenly break from hot and drought-stricken Southern California. When the sun returned, I wandered around my sister-in-law’s property, hearing the wind rustle the surrounding trees and watching the sun sparkling on the lush wet leaves. It reminded me of Northern England, and I felt a little pang of home in a place I’d only visited a couple of times.

I want one!
I want one!

We met the owner at 10AM, and he was in full-on sales mode. He had borrowed a golf cart to take us around the property and show us the estate, and it was far from the tiny electric carts that you find on a studio lot in Hollywood. This was a 4×4 diesel Kubota RTV – a serious piece of equipment! We I strapped in, and we were immediately off road, up a steep hill, narrowly fitting between trees. I suddenly appreciated the scale of the land we were looking at. Only 2 acres, but considering our LA rental sits on a 6,500sqft lot, to our eyes it might as well have been 20 acres. The owner was also a would-be handyman and builder, so he gave us a fresh set of eyes on the possibilities of what we could build to maximize the plot and the view. Our tour concluded with a couple of secluded beaches along the lake and we could just imagine bringing our labrador (plus a couple more!) to play in the clear water.

Our heads were spinning with excitement, information overload, and “and are we really going to do this?!?!”. We left it saying we’d work on an offer and respond by the end of the week. What a week it’s been!

 

Books: New Slow City

I’ve read a couple of books in the last two months that have made a big difference to my life. The first was New Slow City: Living Simply in the World’s Fastest City by William Powers.

Slooooow
Slooooow

This particular friend accompanied me on my visit to Michigan back in June and it perfectly  matched the tone of my visit. William and his girlfriend Melissa spent a year in a micro apartment in New York, focusing on a shorter workweek and mindfully feeling the City. It felt like the Universe had deliberately put that book in my hands. Mindfulness, slowing everything down… Ideas we all seem to aspire to more and more these days. Despite the industry built up around these simple concepts, they seem further and further away from the average life.

I was particularly struck by William’s story of sampling succulent scallops at a neighborhood restaurant. He delayed gratification for a few weeks before finally allowing himself to savor every bite. Slowly. I have been known to regularly inhale plates of food but shortly after finishing this book I met a friend for dinner at a gorgeous restaurant in Santa Monica.

Dusky view from The Penthouse
Dusky view from The Penthouse

To pay homage to William’s wonderful book, I ordered scallops and did my best to appreciate every small bite. I admit the concept of slow food enhanced my whole enjoyment of the evening.

As with everything though, life overtakes if you’re not careful. My goal for this coming week is to slow everything down and see what happens.

World Domination Summit 2016

Morning FlightLast Thursday I did a crazy thing. Crazy for me at least. I got up at 3:15AM and took a day trip to Portland, OR to attend two academy sessions at World Domination Summit 2016. I never do stuff like that. I read about it and think it would be cool, but it’s very rare that I actually follow through.

It started a couple of months ago when I got a Money Boss email promoting the academy session that would be hosted by my two heroes: J.D. Roth and Mr. Money Mustache. In true Risky Business “WTF”-style, I immediately bought a ticket. I then figured if I was going to go all the way to Portland for an afternoon, I might as well make a day of it so I also bought a ticket for a morning academy: Think Better, Live Better.

WDS 2016
#wds2016

As August drew near, I all but talked myself out of it. I decided it was only $118 spent on tickets and while it was terribly wasteful, at least I’d “save” on additional costs for such a silly whim. Nonsense. Thankfully I saw sense and planned a day trip.

Upon arrival in Portland, I was straight into a cab and only just got to the Winningstad Theater in time. The speakers – Marc and Angel Chernoff – were already on stage as I made it to my seat. I was overcome with glee and excitement that I was actually there. The messages of positivity emanating from the stage were the icing on top of my already baked happy cake. I was proud that I’d made the effort to just show up and embrace a new experience.

The next two speakers – Mike Vardy and Charlie Gilkey – were all about productivity and getting shit done. I was a sponge soaking everything in. Kendra Wright then moved me to tears during her #YearofFear project speech. Here was a fearless, vibrant, beautiful woman (in leather pants no less), suddenly projecting pictures of herself as a tiny baby given only a 5% chance of survival. A Cerebral Palsy diagnosis still didn’t stop her from facing life head-on and making the most of every second. Kendra asked us all to write a letter to ourselves about one thing we want to achieve, and then hand it to a person nearby who should mail it back to us in two weeks. In my letter to myself I wrote about wanting to do more with this site. Embrace the outlet, and write.

Mr. Money Mustache #wds2016

I broke for lunch and carried that inspired elation until I was in a front row seat for the Money Boss session that originally prompted my Portland adventure. I was easily as excited as a teenage Belieber catching a glimpse of her idol as I first saw J.D. and Pete on stage. Casually dressed and humble, they were still like Gods to me. I was too shy to say a singe word to either of them, and instead just nodded and smiled goofily along through the whole session. I was proud to sit in that audience having come so far from the person who first scrambled around the internet looking for any kind of advice that might help me become better with money. I was grateful for their advice and council over the years. I was blessed to be there in that moment.

Throughout the day, my mind kept wandering to that piece of land in rural Michigan. Could we buy it? Could we actually build a house? Could I one day quit my high-paying job and leave LA? My heart kept answering that yes I could and I left my long day in Portland with renewed determination to execute on our plan.

Best $118 spent in a long time.

 

Explorations

A few weeks ago we saw a lovely little house on a few acres of land on Zillow advertised at $212,000. The house was located in Michigan – over 2,300 miles away from our current home in LA. We loved the look of it, and last week I spent a day touring several homes in a beautiful town beside Lake Michigan.

I met a realtor who set up showings of five properties ranging from $175,000-$250,000 along a 20-mile stretch of the Great Lake.

A road and a Great Lake
A road and a Great Lake

That was the first time I’d ever done viewings with a realtor and I learned a lot. I kept being told it was a sellers market, but given the inventory and prices available, I didn’t really believe it. What I did believe is that we are spot on in our plans.

We are slowly planning our exit from Los Angeles over the coming years. We love LA and the climate and and and… But, it’s just too damned expensive. Three to five years is our timeframe. Neither of us want to have to sustain our current levels of income, and we desperately want a more peaceful and simpler way of life. This is not necessarily early retirement. It is about buying a property or a piece of land close to a large body of fresh water that we can pay off in a few years then live on a greatly reduced income (if we so chose).

Back to my trip… I viewed four houses and immediately began to realize what I was and was not looking for in a home. I also learned of the unique considerations for a property in that part of the world. The property that sparked all this was the last viewing of the day,

although I confess I made several drive-bys at different times of day to check on the light and location depending on the sun’s position. I liked what I saw, but was not without a few reservations. Perhaps the property was too tucked away? How would I feel alone there at night if my husband was away? Would it be too dark and dank in the winter?

Buy land. They're not making it anymore. - Mark Twain
Buy land. They’re not making it anymore.
– Mark Twain

Just about an hour before the viewing I got a call from my husband telling me to escape the realtor for a half hour and find time to go check out a piece of land that was for sale for $90,000. I managed to do so and quickly drove the beautiful lakeside road to the land. I was irritated if I am completely honest. I liked the house plan and was annoyed at the distraction.

That irritation quickly evaporated as I navigated my rented Jeep up the hillside “drive” (dirt road) to a cleared berm amongst a light forest of tall trees with nothing except greenery and a wooden swing in the corner. A couple of acres and plenty of room for a simple house. I got out of the car and walked the clearing, disappointed to find there wasn’t a view of the bay. A few steps further, and there was my beloved view. I remembered a previous visit to that same land. on the wooden bench in the corner (the only structure currently on the land) looking out onto Lake Michigan. It was December, very cold, with a good amount of snow on the ground. I remembered the peace that I felt then, and the peace that came over me again in that magnificent location. It felt like home, even without a house, a septic system, or a even a drilled well!

An interesting option
An interesting option

Time to meet the realtor again, and I drove the five minutes to see our original house. It was lovely. Without seeing the land, I would have made an offer right there. I felt it was overpriced, but I saw the potential and enjoyed the spirit of the place. The land that that house sat on was equally quiet and peaceful, but it was on flat land at the bottom of the hill.  This house was closer to the lake, but there was no view except for a thick fringe of trees.

I left feeling confused. Upon returning to LA and sharing detailed photos and descriptions of both house and land with my husband, we decided to take a trip together in the summer. There was no sense jumping in.

 

We called the realtor and the owner of the land, deciding our offers would be $180,000 for the house and $75,000 for the land. But, we wouldn’t act on anything until the summer, IF we acted on anything at all.

PeaceThe owner of the house just dropped the price to below $190,000, and the discussion is on again. The house would be a steal but I can’t ignore my gut feeling about the land.

What is it like to buy land and build a house? Is it going to cost twice as much? Is it better than buying a property that we’re not ready to occupy that’s 2,300 miles from LA?

 

Minding my mind

20DFF918-72AA-4ED0-B7A6-111E29888D0B
Just Stop!

It has been a stressful few days and I’m disappointed in the way that I have (or
have not) handled it. This is First World Stress of course. I am ridiculously blessed with a loving family, comfortable home, well paying work etc.

It started on Friday morning with an annoying email from colleagues across the pond that I read before arriving at the office. This is a lesson apparently not learned many times over: do not spoil non-work hours by checking work email at home. It was nothing but stupid politics and coworkers trying to cling to their own imaginery turf. I was only peripherally involved, yet I still took it as a personal attack. When I did get to work, I was too incensed to even make it to my own office to respond on my laptop. I perched on the nearest desk and fired off a response from my iPhone.

The anger I felt in the heat of that moment has lingered all weekend.

We had a wonderful Saturday evening with a good friend staying over at our house. With a full belly, a peaceful labrador at my feet, a fire burning, surrounded by people I love, I drifted into a restful sleep in my comfy chair. My husband woke me up an hour later to go to bed and I couldn’t wait for my soft pillow and the continuation of that delicious snooze. What happened though? I got in bed, snuggled my labrador, said goodnight to my husband, and started thinking about work.

Very quickly, all feelings of peace and gratitude evaporated. I became agitated. I tossed and turned. I composed brilliant responses to petty situations in my head. My husband woke up and felt the tense ball of anxiety laying beside him. When he asked if I needed a Valium to calm down, I realized how far away from mindful I had become. I had unconsciously allowed my mind to spiral out of control.

Those are the moments where mindfulness is most crucial. Putting up that mental image of a giant red STOP sign and reminding myself that all is perfectly well. I’m safe, I’m warm, I’m fed, I’m loved.

Part One: Los Angeles, CA

Our City of Angel$

Last Friday I stopped by my husband’s office between meetings. I found him engrossed in Trulia. He was checking out properties for sale in Portage, WI and marveling at the prices. Single family homes on large lots for $200,000 and less!

In our Los Angeles neighborhood single family homes sitting on postage stamp-sized lots that haven’t been upgraded or decorated since 1953 sell for $750,000+. Realtors in the area say you need to have the full amount ready to put down in cash to even get into a buying discussion. We don’t even live on the phenomenally expensive Westside any more. We moved out into the Valley suburbs to a more affordable and value-based proposition closer to our work. Still, housing is out of control. This is why we rent at $3,200* a month for a 1,400 sqft 2-bedroom home in a safe middle class neighborhood with a swimming pool. The house and this area provided the best value for money of every place we looked at, and the fact it happened to have a pool was a lucky and luxurious bonus rather than a requirement. *Note: although that sounds like a tremendous amount of money, in Los Angeles, it’s a steal. Older homes in critical need of modernization without swimming pools rent for upwards of $5,500 a month in our old Westside neighborhood. You’re lucky to find a decent apartment that rents below $2,500 in many neighborhoods.

Now we don’t not own a home in LA because we can’t “afford” one. We could easily double our monthly housing payment and carry a mortgage on a million dollar home. Why on earth would we do that though?! Put down a huge chunk of our savings and be slaves to a gigantic loan, all for the privilege of “owning” a small fixer-upper? In West LA, tear-downs sell for $1,000,000+. Homes that are beautiful for $250,000 in other cities have $800,000 tags on them here. We just don’t see the value in what your money can buy in LA, and although we like the climate, we’re still not willing to pay that high premium.

Another option-to-own would be moving way out of the city, but doubling and tripling our commute time and cost. Have you seen the traffic LA has to offer these days? All those folks moving here from New York and San Francisco to save money (LMAO!!) like LA isn’t crowded enough? No thank you! I value my life and sanity too much to spend 3-hours in my car every day.

Yet another option would be buying property in the so-called “transition neighborhoods.” A coworker of mine did that recently. She has a small but lovely little home with a pool. She was recently the victim of a home invasion, and doesn’t feel safe taking her dogs out at night. She owns that $600,000 home though!

OK… LA has some pretty nice sunsets (pictured with some multi-million dollar homes!)

Now I know I am ranting about the cost of living in Los Angeles. I should probably answer the question: why on earth do we live here then?! Well, the weather is nice but work is the primary answer. We both have very well paying jobs in the entertainment industry, the center of which is the studio system here in LA. After graduating from college in the late ’80’s, my husband hitchhiked to LA to get into the movie business. My first job was at a media company in the UK (which is where we met), so when I made the move to LA and got my green card (which wasn’t even green) the natural place to look for work was at a studio.

Our current standard of living is as cost-optimized as we are willing to make it. We loved living 10-minutes from the ocean and in a summer climate 20 degrees cooler in West LA vs. the Valley, but prices skyrocketed and when we had to move out of the house we’d rented for 10-years, we weren’t willing to pay more for that privilege. Aside from the change in location, there are plenty more things we could forego to bring our costs down further. Much more would impinge on our desired quality of life though. We are in our late 30’s (me) and early 50’s (my husband), and we do want to live in house with a yard for our dog and an extra bedroom for family and friends to visit, rather than a small apartment or condo with no outdoor space. Our jobs do require travel, and I need to feel safe in a low crime area when I walk my dog or if I have to sleep alone at night.

Wrapping it up with that original point way up there in the first paragraph though… Homes with land for a few hundred thousand in other states. I spend plenty an evening in my comfy chair looking at said homes and longing for a different life. Seeing my husband in that same state last Friday was a miraculous meeting of the minds and the beginning of a path to a change.