Saving Money in Small Town USA

In my lifetime, I’ve had the pleasure of living in several different sized towns. I grew up 10 miles from the big city of Fresno, California. I’ve lived in several other big cities since then; Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas and Nashville, to name a few. I’ve lived in medium sized cities and small towns. Now, I live in a tiny town with a population of 3,800. It’s my qualified opinion that small town living can save you money.

Let’s start with small town banks. We’re all aware of the problems that large, corporate banks are having. Our small town banks don’t seem to be having those problems. I’m talking about banks with 4 or 5 local branches. These banks didn’t make the same mistakes as the big time boys because they couldn’t afford to. Instead, they focused on lending to people in the communities that they knew and grew up with. They focused on how they could best serve their community. My local bank offers 4.87% interest on my checking account with no monthly fees. All I have to do is use direct deposit and use my debit card 10 times a month. I’m saving money and making money. Plus, when I get ready to take out a home mortgage, I’ll be old friends with the person who approves the loans because I’ve made small talk with them on a weekly basis.

Property is cheaper in a small town. This has always been true, it seems the smaller and more rural the town, the cheaper the cost of any property. I live an hour away from a big city and our cost per acre is one-fourth of theirs. Property taxes are also less than larger cities. Rent is less expensive and you get more for your money. I rent a 3 bedroom house for cheaper than I used to rent a tiny one bedroom apartment in Seattle.

Groceries are cheaper and fresh locally grown produce is available all over town. Local farmers often set up impromptu fruit stands or sell out of the back of their trucks. Small town, locally owned grocery stores are cheaper than big name food chains.

You can get good deals just by talking to your neighbors in a small town. If you let your neighbor know that you’re in the market for a second car, he’ll tell you about his friend or relative that either has a car for sale or knows someone that has a car for sale. Small town folks are good at networking.

Transportation is cheaper in a small town. No, the price of gas isn’t likely to be cheaper, but you spend a lot less time waiting in traffic or driving around. Plus, you can walk more places and not be afraid of getting run over.

In general, places like barber shops, beauty salons, local coffee shops and restaurants, are all less expensive. This is because they have less overhead and pass the savings on to their customers.

You save money on entertainment costs. To be fair, this is mostly because there isn’t much to do in a small town. But going to the local high school football games and participating in the church choir can be fun.

You don’t have to spend as much to keep up with the Joneses. Small towners don’t tend to be as pretentious or showy. Most of them are middle to lower middle class. Smaller towns have not been as affected by the economic problems that our nation is facing. They tend to be more self-supporting and will pull together as a community to help each other out in difficult times.

Small towns are not for everyone. Some people enjoy the amenities of big city life too much to give it up for the perks of a small town. Aside from the obvious reasons to live in a small town, such as lower crime and friendlier folks, saving money is a great reason to move to a small town.

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13 Responses to Saving Money in Small Town USA

  1. Julie says:

    I live in a small town and I love it. I could never live in a high traffic area.

  2. Annie Jones says:

    I agree with almost everything on your list, but when I’ve lived in small towns, I’ve found that the locally owned grocery stores are much higher than the chain stores in the city.

    Maybe it’s a regional thing, though.

  3. Joan says:

    Small town grocery stores are sky high in my experience– nearly like trying to do your shopping at 7-11 in the big city. Local produce is only going to be available for sale if there are local farms. Live on the high prairie, for example, and there aren’t many fruits and vegetables to be had.

  4. Brooklyn Girl says:

    Most small towns don’t have many high-paying jobs – so one would have to commute even further for them.

  5. Monkey Mama says:

    I actually live in a “small town, turned city.” As such, when I See the city versus country debates I identify with both sides.

    Big cities have plenty of small banks (& credit unions). That one I Don’t necessarily agree with.

    Property is cheap here. I can walk to the nearest farm for fresh produce.

    On the flip side, there are no commutes (5-minute drive to downtown) and there are so many free cultural events and such. The pay is also very good because it is a relatively big metro area.

    No doubt our hybrid living won’t last forever. The farms will probably disappear in the long run. But in the meantime I certainly feel blessed to have the best of both worlds.

  6. Rob says:

    In my experience as well. Locally owned grocery stores prices are way higher.

  7. Amy says:

    I live in a small town as well. The lack of traffic is a plus, but the groceries and property in this area are the same as the city. I had to commute to Atlanta before finding a job that offered the benefits that I need(insurance). The movie theater however is much cheaper than larger areas and has that small town appeal.

  8. Cassie says:

    I live in a small town, population 700. We have a small town bank, that I happen to work at, and what you said is so true. We have a relationship with our customers that bigger banks do not.

    Our little grocery store, hardware store, pharmacy, etc are more expensive than going to the “bigger town/city” stores to buy things but the convenience of not having to drive 45 miles to shop is a big plus. I find if I buy things on sale at our grocery store, the prices are very reasonable and comparable. It’s the not-on-sale $6.00 box of cereal that’s a little tough to swallow.

  9. Heather says:

    Transportation isn’t necessarily cheaper in a small town. I currently live in a big city & can just hop on the subway/streetcar/bus for about $100 a month with a bus pass, without having to worry about car expenses such as gas and insurance. That being said, I do spend a lot of TIME on transportation, whereas in a small town it doesn’t take too long to get from one end of town to the other!

  10. Carol says:

    I have lived only in large cities, so I don’t have a small town perspective (unless you can count my college town, but it was near a major metro area). However, I know that property taxes and insurance (both home and car ) are very high here, so if you can get a break on those costs, it would be worth it.

  11. gaelicwench says:

    It’s my guess that the reason grocery stores in small towns are pricier, especially if they are a good half hour to hour from the nearest city, is because of having to transport food and merchandise that far out in the country. But I’ll take small-town living any time of day.

    DF and I are planning to retire in a small town environment in southern PA near WVA. As long as there’s a nearby Cracker Barrel nearby, I can transfer there and keep working.

    Property is definitely cheaper, too. Bigger lots/acreage for far less and more privacy, no covenants to worry about, altho we follow them as needed. Property taxes can go in either direction depending on the age and size of the home/property.

    Personally, I like the Mom and Pop diners. That’s where you go to socialize. You get to know the servers on a first name basis.

  12. Gail says:

    I love my small town and yes the grocery prices may be higher but where else will you get to know the frozen food manager and ask him when the your favorite will be in again or ask him if he can get a certain something and he tries to get it in? Okay, my son is the local grocery store frozen food manager and he takes his responsibilities seriously and is happy to try and fill requests. Everywhere I go with him, he always seeing people he knows as he has worked in the one place in town where eventually everyone comes to. It is what makes small town living great. Walking into the bank and everyone saying hello by name. Same with the library, etc.

  13. Pingback: financial wellness project » festival of frugality #152: affected by recession edition

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