On a lot of the blogs and websites I’ve visited, the really frugal families and moms are living on rural or semi-rural properties. There’s a big emphasis on raising your own cows, pigs, chickens, goats, veggies, fruit, etc., as well as on fairly drastic measures to reduce energy and resource use and go “off the grid”.
Sometimes it’s hard to see how to write about frugality from an apartment-dwelling middle-of-the-city perspective, especially when I don’t even have a balcony! But it doesn’t take long to see that there are frugal benefits to living in the city too. It’s just a slightly different kind of frugality.
Living in the city doesn’t rely on a car. This is the number one biggest saving for us living right in Centretown. We can walk almost everywhere. Cycling expands our radius significantly, and anywhere else we need to go, we can take one of the buses that conveniently pass through the city just a few blocks away.
Where rural families can rely on the abundance of Nature, urban families can rely on the abundance of consumers (otherwise known as Scavenging). I’ve picked up many useful items for free that were left at people’s curbs. While it doesn’t compare to growing your own food, this kind of post-consumer re-cycling is another way to glean from the area around you.
In the city, there are many things we can do for free or cheap entertainment. The library is just down the street. There are three “play” parks, and several other scenic parks, within a few blocks from us, which we use heavily for most of the year. There are also museums and in the summer, Centretown Movies that play classic films outdoors for a “pay-what-you-can” donation. All within a short walk from our house.
The biggest benefit of enjoying neighbourhood entertainment is getting to know our neighbours. I love seeing the same people at the park, the grocery store, the musuem, and just bumping into them on the street. Having a baby, now a toddler, has brought me in contact with a whole network of moms & dads whom I now call my friends. We socialize mainly in an ad-hoc manner when we see each other at the playground, and sometimes we trade hosting for dinners or brunch. This type of socializing doesn’t cost a thing, but to me, it’s priceless.
So, while I don’t have the benefit of living off the land (and I do wish for some land, some day, or even a small balcony!), or modifying my house to be more resource-efficient, there are definitely financial benefits to living in the city. The social benefits keep me sane, and stop me from longing for a farm of my own.