Long time no blog! I am using this time of quarantine as a way to get reacquainted with the wonderful habit of journaling and blogging with a first person voice, keeping you and me entertained in the process. You may feel like you have missed a few episodes, or rather a whole season! I will try to catch up as we go. In the meanwhile, stay safe and wash your hands 🙂
Yesterday, I talked about how we manage to live quite large on a military salary in San Diego. Also, that was day 50, can you believe how long we’ve been locked up! Can’t wait for it all to be over… but it’s quite nice in San Diego with the beach and all.
Anyway, back to living in San Diego on a budget. A big part of why this is possible is the housing allowance my husband gets. $3,165 per month, tax free, based on his rank and the fact that he is married (he gets an additional $468 just for being married, which is why I don’t pay rent!).
After paying for RV rent, RV and truck loans, utilities (included in rent), and RV/truck insurance, we have $1,800 left of that allowance, before even touching his salary! But then you hear families around saying it’s harder to live in San Diego than it is to live in say Arizona, another place with a Marine Corps base.
I disagree. If we were to live in Arizona, our housing allowance would be $1,350. Truck and RV payment as well as insurance, would stay the same. Say instead of paying $900 for the RV park, we found a place for the low, low cost of $300 per month. I doubt we’d get the amenities we do here, pristine restrooms, WiFi, lounge, BBQs and gas fireplaces… but anyway.
Our RV costs would be $800 instead of $1,400, and after receiving the allowance, we would have $550 left, versus $1,765 here. That is a $1,215 difference that we can use to “offset” the cost of living in California. But aside from $4 gas (which is cheaper on base, and around $2.50 now thanks to negative brent prices), everything else isn’t much more expensive.
People say it’s always in the big 3, the biggest 3 lines of your budget:
Living in San Diego, we get $1,125 more tax free for housing, than if we lived in AZ.
Food is pretty cheap, I frequent Mexican supermarkets, get free veggies from the USO twice a month (the USO generally just has airport locations, not centers like this one, but I can’t speak for AZ), and we cook from scratch. There isn’t a lot to scrap off our $200 monthly budget for two adults and two Great Danes who, again, eat free thanks to the USO.
Transportation I would imagine in AZ we’d have to drive more around if we wanted to go somewhere, and might live further away from work. All things being equal, if we spend $100 on gas here at $4 a gallon we’d spend $50 there at $2 a gallon, for a $50 saving.
All in all, we get $1,215 extra for housing and spend an extra $50 on gas, so we have $1,165 more to live in San Diego than we would in Yuma.
San Diego also has free beaches that are world reknown, Sea World is free for military, there are thousands of hiking trails, we don’t need to heat the RV in winter, dozens of museums take turn to be free on Tuesdays, and there are so many more ways to have fun and explore for very cheap.
Just last weekend we went to the harbor, looked at the boats, saw some fish, put our feet in the sand, and got a free sun burn.
I think talking about High Cost Of Living and Low Cost Of Living (HCOL/LCOL) really depends on how you do housing and transportation.
If you insist on having the same square footage in Manhattan as in Ohio, and on keeping your car when a parking space is more expensive to rent than a two bedroom in a rural area, you will have a hard time. And probably won’t save enough to make HCOL life worth it.
Everything is a trade off. We decided to live in an RV because housing is expensive and we’d rather have over $1,500 in our pockets after paying for housing than use up the whole allowance for “something we deserve because we work so hard”.
Because David is earning a bit more living here, I would say we have a higher tolerance to high prices as well. We will pay for a nice dinner or something we value.
For me, HCOL is a great way to earn more, and increase the gap between earnings and spending. Saving 10% of a $100,000 salary is better than saving 30% of a $25,000 salary. Always consider your savings in terms of absolute amount, rather than percentage saved.
HCOL areas are generally big cities (NY, SF, D.C., …) or areas of outstanding beauty (Aspen, Key West, the Hamptons,…). Places where there should be plenty of jobs for people willing to work hard, from hospitality to anything that caters to the amount of visitors and permanent residents who have tons of money.
When I lived in a posh neighborhood of Paris in high school, I was able to get very high rate for piano lessons and tutoring for younger kids. As a teenager, I easily made $20-25/ hour for piano, and that was 20 years ago!
And even if you can’t save that much in your HCOL, you are living somewhere people pay lots of money to go on holidays. So that’s your time to visit and enjoy all you can.
I shake my head my Parisian friends never go to art shows, concerts or museums. They just pay Paris prices to not enjoy the town.
In San Diego we enjoy the beach daily, have a kayak, two bicycles, often get tickets for shows and games from military organizations, have visited Sea World and local national parks, and plan on visiting more post quarantine,… every time I look at tickets to Hawaii or something I’m like “dude, you live in California, enjoy it”.