Welcome to this month’s Reader Case Study in which we’ll address Melanie’s questions on whether or not she and her family should decamp from the San Francisco Bay Area. I am delighted to delve into Melanie’s story because it brings up a number of questions that many folks grapple with: how to save in a high cost of living area, how to plan for a growing family, and how to achieve the life you know you want to live, but aren’t currently pursuing.

Case Studies are financial (and life!) dilemmas that a reader of Frugalwoods sends to me requesting that Frugalwoods nation weigh in. Then, Frugalwoods nation (that’s you!), reads through their situation and provides advice, encouragement, insight, and feedback in the comments section. For an example, check out last month’s case study.

I also provide updates from our Case Study subjects at the bottom of each Case Study several weeks/months after their story is featured. To see what past Case Study participants have decided to do, check out the Case Study section and scroll to the bottom of the individual posts.

P.S. Another way to get support on your financial journey is to participate in my free Uber Frugal Month Challenge! You can sign-up at any time to join the over 20,000 fellow frugal sojourners who’ve taken the Challenge and saved thousands of dollars.

I probably don’t need to say the following because you all are the kindest, most polite commenters on the internet, but, please note that Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone where we endeavor to help one another, not to condemn.

With that I’ll let Melanie, this month’s case study subject, take it from here!

Melanie’s Story

Hello, Frugalwoods folks! I’m Melanie (age 29), my husband is Kurt (age 31), and we have an adventurous son named Oliver (age 1). Kurt and I met in San Francisco, CA about five years ago and were married in 2014. We still live in the Bay Area, but we’re growing tired of life here and need your help. Both of us have always been savers, but we got serious about financial independence two years ago after reading Frugalwoods and other blogs.

Melanie & Kurt’s son, Oliver

I have a Master’s in Education and teach Language Arts at a public middle school, while Kurt is in software, making the world a better place one website at a time. He holds a degree in economics (and was once a financial analyst), but transitioned into software engineering a couple years ago because he yearned for something less monotonous.

Our hobbies include visiting the park, the library, or one of our many local museums. We love biking and recently purchased a second-hand bike trailer for the kiddo from Craigslist. I enjoy reading novels, sewing, volunteering with my local mom’s group, and making music and art; Kurt likes skiing, working out, and figuring out how to retire earlier than his co-workers. Together, we like to cook, travel, and hang out as a family.

In general, we aim to be quite frugal and unfancy, even in our high cost of living area. We have a home gym in our garage, and rather than eating out, we host friends for dinner on Sundays. We cut our own hair, do most of our own car maintenance, and spend our money consciously. We have no student debt (thanks to very generous parents), no credit card debt, and we’re still driving the car that I purchased (new – yikes!) way back in high school. Kurt and I consult one another on purchases over $20, which is a system that works well for us. We’ve done our best to trim our spending down to the essentials, but it always helps to have more sets of eyes on our plan!

Melanie and Kurt’s Home

For the past five years, we’ve lived in a cozy one-bedroom apartment, and there are some definite perks to living here. Our apartment is less than a mile from both daycare and my work, and a ten-minute bike ride to the train station for Kurt. Our rent is super low (for the Bay Area) because we’ve lived here for so long.

When Oliver was born, the three of us shared the one bedroom for a while, but now he has the bedroom to himself and Kurt and I sleep on a pull-out couch in the living room (we all seem to sleep better this way.) I have dreams of living in a tiny house someday, so this is good practice! However, as our son becomes more mobile, the lack of space here (especially safe outdoor space) is increasingly problematic. Additionally, we hope to have another child soon, and the high cost of living here simply doesn’t feel sustainable.

Recently, a two-bedroom apartment came up for rent in our complex and we are planning to take it. This will increase our rent from $1,785 per month to $2,550, which is still below market rate. We spent a couple weeks agonizing about this decision, but think it will be for the best despite the cost.
Oliver makes good use of the family’s cramped living quarters

The Cost Of Living In The Bay Area

Having a second child here in the Bay Area would mean at least $20,000 per year in additional housing and daycare costs (and that’s just for renting). To buy a house or condo would cost, at minimum, close to ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

If we scraped and suspended our tax-deferred savings (401k, 403b, etc.), we could save up a 20% down payment, but we’d be left with a mortgage payment more than double what we currently pay in rent plus $10,000 per year in property taxes and/or HOA (home owner’s association) dues. Altogether, buying a home in the Bay Area would entail a $40,000 annual increase in our spending. Technically, we could afford this, but we don’t want to because we think we can achieve a better quality of life elsewhere (and also achieve our early retirement goals).

Something to note, when and if we do leave the Bay Area, Kurt can stay with his company and work remotely, but he will take a significant pay cut (perhaps 15%). I plan to continue teaching, but leaving the Bay Area would mean a salary decrease for me too. We’re hoping that the cost of living in our next locale will be similarly reduced, even with renting/buying a larger home.

Melanie and Kurt Want To Move

So we want to leave… but where (and when) do we go? We’re considering Colorado and northern New Mexico due to ski resort proximity, school quality, home prices, and general outdoor loveliness, but the decision will likely come down to where I can find a teaching position. Other considerations include needing to move in the summer (I’m under contract as an educator for the school months), not wanting to move right when we have a newborn (or when I’m hugely pregnant), and the ability to locate near natural beauty.

Our families are located on both coasts, but neither is in a place where we would like to live. So, ideally, we need to be somewhere that is reasonably accessible by airport. We’ve also entertained the idea of purchasing a home with an in-law unit in which family can stay with us for part of the year as Kurt’s folks are retired and Melanie’s are not far off from retirement.

Where Melanie and Kurt Want To Be In 10 Years

To put it simply, we’d like to be somewhere else! Our dream is to be early retired, own a small house with a backyard and a rusty home gym, and be within biking distance to a grocery store, a library, and some nature. Kurt would appreciate living close enough to a ski resort to make frequent day trips. We’d like to spend abundant time with Oliver and his sibling(s), garden, hike, fish, ski, paint, bake cookies after watching Great British Bake Off reruns, volunteer in our community, travel a bit, and do miscellaneous fun/home projects during our retirement.

Ideally, we’d have enough money to send all of our children to college without debt. While we might dabble in open source software or pro bono Certified Financial Planning work (Kurt) and teacher preparation programs (me), ultimately we want to spend our retirement together as a family. Sidenote: I’ve considered getting a PhD in Education someday, but only if it’s at no cost to me. I would pursue this only after all of our kids are in school.

Our dollar amount projection for reaching financial independence is somewhere in the ballpark of $1.5 million, but it depends on how many kids (read: college expenses) we have. By our projections, we should reach this number in less than ten years.

Melanie and Kurt’s Finances

We max out our Roth IRAs, HSA, 401k, and 403b accounts each year. My work might be adding a 457b account option in the near future, which would allow us to save an additional $18,000 tax deferred (fingers crossed that this happens soon). Kurt also owns shares from his company, but they are privately held and of indeterminate value.

Annual Income

Item Amount Notes
Kurt $6,006 This is after taxes, 401k contributions, and HSA contributions.
Melanie $3,100 This is after taxes, 403b contributions, and health insurance.
Monthly Subtotal: $9,106  
Annual Total: $109,272

Monthly Expenses

Item Amount Notes
Rent $1,785 For our 700 square foot 1 bedroom. Seems high, but is a great deal in the Bay Area. Similar units go for ~$2,200+. We don’t have renter’s insurance, but we have very little of material value worth insuring. Except for a few family heirlooms, everything we have we could afford to replace.
Daycare $660 This is actually $800/month for 10 months out of the year since I’m home during the summer months.This is a great deal as most daycares are $1,200-$1,600/month in our HCOL area. We have a friend paying $2,000/month for daycare in a nearby area. YIKES!
Groceries $400 Mostly Costco and some Trader Joe’s. This includes most of our lunches during the week and bulk toiletries, some OTC medicine, and an article of clothing or two per year.
Vacation $250 Covers airfare, hotels, etc. We take approximately 6 trips a year to visit relatives, another couple to go skiing (often with family), and another 2 or so trips on our own. We use miles and points as much as possible.
Gifts, Personal Care, Home, Craft Supplies, Charity, Misc. $150 Includes ski equipment.
Doctor and Pharmacy $130 Both of us have well-managed but chronic conditions. Oliver had an expensive health scare earlier this year (costing $2,500) but is now fit as a fiddle (phew!).
Car & Transportation $113 Includes gas, car insurance ($300/yr), tolls, parking, and public transit around the Bay Area. We own a 2006 Mazda3 Hatchback, which is paid off. We try to bike as much as we can.
Restaurants $90 We go out for Indian/Vietnamese/Mexican food 3-4 times a month.
Utilities $63 Normally ~$40.00, but we have electric heat and this spikes in the winter.
Cell Phone $50 Kurt and I both have Google’s Project FI.
Internet $40 Teaser rate, so we switch service providers every 12 months. We do not have cable TV or any subscriptions. We stream and use our ChromeCast.
Fast Food $30 Gasp. In-N-Out or Chipotle a couple times a month. (Mostly Kurt.)
Baby/kid stuff $30 Food, diapers, wipes. We’ve received a lot of grandparent gifts and hand-me-downs from friends, so this is low.
Entertainment $20 Museums, mostly; maybe two movie tickets per year. We usually do free things.
Clothing $10 Goodwill here and there and some baby clothing.
Monthly Subtotal: $3,821  
Annual Total: $45,852  


Item Amount Notes
Taxable Investments $124,862 Held in a Charles Schwab brokerage account. Targeted allocations:
50% SCHB (S&P500 proxy ETF)
15% SCHA (small cap ETF)
20% SCHF (international ETF)
15% SCHZ (total bond ETF).The expense ratios on these index funds range from 0.04% to 0.13%, the weighted average is about 0.06%.
401k and 403b $121,633 Target date type funds, Vanguard 2050 and 2055.
Roth IRA and HSA $114,734 Same target allocation as taxable accounts.
Cash $5,000 We always keep $5K in cash and everything else goes into our investments.
College Savings Account (529) $4,261 Through Wealthfront, free up to $10k.
Total: $370,490


Item Valued At Notes
2006 Mazda 3 with 95k miles (paid off) $4,000.00 We drive maybe 6,000 miles a year. Hopefully this vehicle will last us another 10 years.

Debts: $0

Melanie’s Questions For You:

  1. Do we bite the bullet and deal with the high cost of living in the Bay Area while our family grows? Or is it more prudent to leave now while our family is still getting started?
  2. Where should we go to realize the family lifestyle that we seek?
  3. What are we not thinking about that we should be?

Thank you for reading! We look forward to your feedback!

Mrs. Frugalwoods’ Recommendations

First of all: wow! Melanie and Kurt are doing a fabulous job. They’ve followed a clear path of frugality, planning, wise investing, and consciously spending for years, which is going to pay off for them big time in the future. These two are doing just about everything I recommend to get one’s house in financial order, including:

  1. Being debt-free
  2. Having an emergency fund
  3. Maxing out their retirement accounts (401K, 403B, and IRA)
  4. Investing in low-fee index funds
  5. Adhering to a longterm lifestyle of extreme frugality that brings them joy and doesn’t leave them feeling deprived
  6. Creating clearly articulated, and agreed-upon, longterm life goals (this, after all, is what it’s all about)

This, my friends, is precisely how you reach financial independence and craft the life you WANT to live, not the life you MUST live. I offer a hearty congratulations to these two for following such a straightforward route to achieving their dreams. Well done.

To Move Or Not To Move?

And now, onto Melanie and Kurt’s most pressing question: should they leave San Francisco now or later? In a word: now. I see absolutely no reason for them to remain in a city they know they don’t want to live in, where they don’t own property, and that they want to leave.

I didn’t hear any longing or particular love for the Bay Area in Melanie’s writing and so I don’t recommend they remain in a sinking ship. They have nothing to gain by staying. Bail ASAP!  But not actually ASAP… Since it’s the beginning of a new school year, and Melanie’s on contract until the summer, I highly recommend Kurt and Melanie dub this their “year of exploring where to move to” with the intention of making the move this coming summer 2018.

I suggest Melanie and Kurt put all of this year’s vacation time and money into service as home exploration time. They should visit all of the cities they’re considering, make appointments with realtors to tour homes, visit schools, explore neighborhoods, and just generally get a feel for whether or not this is a place they want to live.

A great deal of the leg work can be done online ahead of time and I highly recommend they do extensive research on all of the factors they cited as important before actually visiting a place. Astronomical housing prices or a failing school district alone could rule out an area for the family and these things can be ascertained from afar, thanks to the world wide web. Mr. Frugalwoods and I conducted a years-long, long distance homestead hunt, which is chronicled in this series: Frugal Homestead Series.

Since family expansion is on their brains–and I well understand the desire to carefully space out the births of children–I’d get a move on this move plan NOW. Spend this school year visiting potential locations, make a decision, and move in summer 2018. This, hopefully, will be before Melanie is pregnant (or super duper pregnant) with bebe #2 and will allow the family to settle into their new home before the arrival of Oliver’s sibling.

Where To Move To?

I’m afraid that no one can really answer this question except for Kurt and Melanie themselves. Only they know what they truly want and need in their new hometown. I recommend creating a spreadsheet outlining all of the factors and attributes that are important to them and then figuring out which town best meets their criteria. In addition to all of the variables Melanie mentioned are important to them, I’d include: weather, income/property tax rates, and political/cultural leanings.

Oliver hanging out in the grass

The only note I have on specific locations is that many desirable parts of Colorado are now quite expensive with home prices and costs of living that rival their east coast counterparts. I know that there are still some affordable areas in the state, but it might take a bit of research to suss them out.

Melanie and Kurt have the luxury that Mr. FW and I enjoyed of moving to a place solely because they want to live there. This is a wonderful position to be in and I hope they have fun with the search.

I also want to add that Melanie and Kurt might want to consider renting for awhile before buying a home in their new town. Renting would enable them to visit every neighborhood in their town, learn about the school districts, meet friends, and visit lots of open houses in order to ascertain exactly where they want to live. If they do happen to find their dream home before they move, great! But I wouldn’t rush into buying a place before moving just to buy a place–it’s better to wait until you find the right home at the right price, even if it means renting for awhile and moving twice.

Melanie and Kurt’s Cash Position

While Melanie and Kurt are doing FABULOUSLY well with managing their finances, one glaring exception is their low emergency fund. It’s awesome that they have an emergency fund, but in my opinion, it’s not large enough. In general, I recommend having three to six months’ worth of living expenses in cash (in a checking or savings account), which for Melanie and Kurt would be $11,463 to $22,926. An emergency fund is your buffer against the unforeseen, but entirely predictable, disasters and challenges of life. While their index funds can be liquidated, there’s no reassurance like cash in an easily accessible checking or savings account.

Additionally, since moving and potentially buying a home in their new town are on the horizon, Melanie and Kurt need to dramatically increase their cash position over the course of this year. I recommend they stop funneling money into their index funds and instead start saving that money into a checking or savings account.

They want to be ready to put down a down payment as soon as they find their dream home. The reason I don’t recommend holding money you’ll need soon (i.e. for an emergency fund or an upcoming down payment) in index funds is that the market could tank at any moment and you could lose a significant percentage of your net worth. This is not a problem at all when you’re investing for the longterm–in fact, it’s simply what the market does–but, this presents a conundrum if you’re planning on liquidating stock in the near future in order to make a down payment. It’s more conservative and less risky to save up cash for near-term purchases and then begin investing again as soon as the move and house purchase are over and done with.

Savings Accounts Side Note

One of the easiest ways to optimize your money is to keep it in a high-interest savings account. With these accounts, interest works in YOUR favor (as opposed to the interest rates on debt, which work against you). Having money in a no (or low) interest savings account is a waste of resources because your money is sitting there doing nothing. Don’t let your money be lazy! Make it work for you! And now, enjoy some explanatory math:

  • Let’s say you have $5,000 in a savings account that earns 0% interest. In a year’s time, your $5,000 will still be… $5,000.
  • Let’s say you instead put that $5,000 into an American Express Personal Savings account that–as of this writing–earns 1.70% in interest. In one year, your $5,000 will have increased to $5,085.67. That means you earned $85.67 just by having your money in a high-interest account.

And you didn’t have to do anything! I’m a big fan of earning money while doing nothing. I mean, is anybody not a fan of that? Apparently so, because anyone who uses a low (or no) interest savings account is NOT making money while doing nothing. Don’t be that person. Be the person who earns money while sleeping. Rack up the interest and prosper. More about high-interest savings accounts, as well as the ones I recommend, here: The Best High Interest Rate Online Savings Accounts.

A Note On Jobs

Something that surprised me is that Kurt would take a pay cut if he began to work remotely for his company. I don’t know all the details of his position, but in general, software engineers are in high demand and I would imagine he could find another company that would happily allow him to work remotely with no pay cut. I consulted with Mr. Frugalwoods (who is a software engineer who works remotely) and he concurred that if Kurt’s skills are in demand, he should be able to both work remotely and possibly command a higher salary.

Another variable is that it sounds like Kurt is working at a pre-IPO company and so perhaps his stock will pay out big some day. However, if that’s not the case, and if Kurt doesn’t love his current company, I’d recommend at least looking around for a better paying position that wouldn’t entail any salary reduction for remote work.

There could be many reasons why Kurt prefers to remain with his current company, but I think it’s at least worth a perusal of job listings to see if there might be a more advantageous arrangement. Plenty of tech companies hire folks to work remotely from the start and so he might be able to finagle a better situation.


No Frugalwoods Case Study would be complete without a run through of expenses! Melanie and Kurt are already quite frugal and, if they weren’t gunning for financial independence and didn’t need to increase their cash position so dramatically, I wouldn’t recommend they change much. However, since these are two goals of theirs, they do have a bit of room to trim. It’s also true that the decision to spend less should be balanced with how quickly Melanie and Kurt want to reach financial independence. The more they save, the faster they’ll get there. On the other hand, it doesn’t sound like either of them hate their jobs, so they may prefer to remain on their current timeline and savings rate.

If they do want to save more and get to financial independence more quickly, here’s what I recommend:

  • Gifts, Personal Care, Home, Craft Supplies, Charity, Misc.: I’d do an in-depth analysis of what all is included in this $150 line item to determine if there’s any slack to cut.
  • Restaurants: You can guess what I’m going to say here. Cutting this out entirely would give Kurt and Melanie another $1,080 per year to work with. And if deleting this line item in total is too painful, perhaps pare it down to one dinner out per month?
  • Cell phones: I’d look for something even cheaper. I use BOOM mobile for $19.99 per month and other services, such as Ting, are even cheaper (I’ve heard in the range of $14/month). I highly recommend shopping around for an even lower rate here.
  • Fast food: This is another one I’d cut out entirely, if possible. That’s another $30 per month saved.

Overall, Melanie and Kurt already have a super frugal budget, but, with a few tweaks they could save even more every month, which would help them boost up their down payment fund even faster.

Another topic I want to touch on is their plan to move into a two-bedroom apartment and increase their rent from $1,785 per month to $2,550 per month. I’m sure they’ve already thought about this long and hard; but, if they commit to moving to a new state next summer, I wonder if they would be open to toughing it out in their one bedroom until they move?

I am deeply impressed that they’ve lasted so long already in their tiny space and, if they could grit their teeth a little longer, they’d save $6,120. On the other hand, it’s also very true that Melanie and Kurt can afford to take on this higher rent. They’ve lived frugally for years and so they can easily afford more expensive rent. It’s just a question of building up that down payment and their timeline to financial independence. Thus, there’s no right or wrong answer here, just a weighing of variables and a consideration of their timeline.

Investments and Retirement Accounts

Melanie and Kurt get a gold star for maxing out their retirement accounts and contributing to low-fee index funds. Hooray! One note I do want to make is that they’re paying slightly higher fees through Charles Schwab than they would through Vanguard or Fidelity. Vanguard’s low-fee index funds (VTSAX) have an expense ratio of 0.04% and Fidelity’s (FSTVX) are at 0.035% (I happen to use Fidelity for my investments, but either is a great option). This isn’t a huge deal, but, as their net worth and investments increase over the years, every little bit of fee can add up. They might consider transferring over to Vanguard or Fidelity to take advantage of these lower fees.

Additionally, since they’re on the path to financial independence, I want to be sure Melanie and Kurt are aware of the Roth IRA conversion ladder, which my friend the Mad Fientist outlines here.


I can’t emphasize enough how fantastically Melanie and Kurt are doing with their finances and I hope that this Case Study serves as useful inspiration and guidance for other folks interested in pursuing financial independence. My advice for them, in summary, is as follows:

  1. Spend this school year hunting for their new hometown. Conduct extensive internet research and narrow the list of possible towns down to those that merit an in-person visit. Then, visit those potential towns and tour homes, schools, etc. Start today with the intention of moving during the summer of 2018. Don’t invest any more time or money in a place (San Francisco) where they no longer want to live.
  2. Increase their cash position, both from the perspective of needing a larger emergency fund and from the angle of planning for a down payment on a house (as well as moving expenses) in the coming year.
  3. Research potential other employers for Kurt that would: a) pay a higher salary, and b) not penalize him for working remotely. This might not pan out or be a possibility, but it seems worth the research at least.
  4. Move next summer and, after those expenses are paid for, begin funneling money back into their low-fee index funds and coast to financial independence.

Ok Frugalwoods nation, what advice would you give to Melanie? She and I will both reply to comments, so please feel free to ask any clarifying questions!

Would you like your own case study to appear here on Frugalwoods? Email me (mrs@frugalwoods.com) your brief story and we’ll talk.

Updated April 15, 2017 with Melanie & Kurt’s Decisions:

Hello, Frugalwoodsfolks! Thank you for all of your advice (both Ms. Frugalwoods and the comments were very helpful). We’ve experienced some changes since writing our case study… namely that we’re expecting a baby brother for Oliver this summer! In preparation for baby, we’ve agreed to delay our potential move date.

The school calendar (combined with my two months of saved time off and teacher tenure) make the decision to stay another year pretty easy. In the meantime, we’ve moved to a bigger place in the Bay Area while we prepare for baby’s arrival. With that said, we’ve taken the rest of your advice to heart:

  • We have boosted cash reserves to a rolling average of $15,000 for emergencies.
  • Kurt was promoted and received a hefty pay increase (more than canceling out our temporary rent increase)!!! Yay, Kurt!
  • We are taking trips around the US to scope out where we would like to end up. The comments on the case study were awesome! There are some places we love that we had not considered before.
  • We completely slashed our restaurant budget, and we honestly don’t miss it. I’m more interested in cooking (in our bigger kitchen with a dishwasher! Oh, the luxury!), and we now prefer a home-cooked meal. I’ve even started experimenting with my own sourdough. Anyone with advice, please get in touch. Sourdough is funky stuff.

We haven’t decided on our destination yet, but we plan to move the summer of 2019, in time for that school year.

Thanks again for helping us on our journey!

-Melanie & Kurt

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  1. As someone living in the Midwest and paying $760.00 for a two bedroom, two bath apartment, I think moving to a more reasonable area of the country should be seriously considered. I know Mr. Money Mustache lives in Longmont Colorado so maybe look into that area? If you guys were willing to head further East, the Midwest has better values on housing, the cost of living is much lower than either coast in the U.S., schools are good, and community can be really wonderful. There are plenty of IT opportunities out here as well ~ so helping your husband find a better paying work-at-home option should be very doable. Ultimately, I think if you can be as financially solid as you are in a high cost area like the Bay Area, then FI would be easy for you in a more reasonable area of the country.

    1. I agree with this! The Midwest is a great place to raise a family, and it has some of the best public schools in the country.

      1. It’s not a great place for minorities IME- I experienced more bigotry there than anywhere else in the country, and I’ve lived all over.

    2. Definitely true…I own my house in Baltimore and my mortgage (including escrow with taxes and even PMI!!!!) is only $700/mo for a 3br/1ba row house, and there are tons of jobs that pay DC area wages (if you are willing to commute to DC…and commuting is generally horrible but the thing is…plenty of people who work in DC and live in the “DC metro area” pay more for housing AND have a longer commute than if they lived in Baltimore and too the train.

      Most Midwest and even Southeast cities have superrrrr cheap housing (Any deindustrialize city). Pittsburgh might be worthwhile…weather isn’t great if you like sun but it’s very close to great hiking and camping in the Appalachians, and there is a tech work there and more coming.

      You might want to look at the tech triangle area in NC…if you can stand to be in the south. I don’t think housing is super cheap there anymore, but it is super cheap relative to SF!

      1. Hi neighbor! I too love my 900 sqft townhome in SW Baltimore. Can’t beat this $700 mortgage – plus I love how centrally located we are from everything – the city, beaches, mountains, etc. I can’t ever imagine living anywhere than Maryland.

        1. Too funny- I’m in Baltimore as well. We should have a Frugalwoods Group Meet-up!. I am curious where you are that your mortgage is so low – I’m in Federal Hill and my taxes alone are about $530/month, and that’s AFTER using the adjustment for having this as my primary residence, otherwise it would be $800-900/month. The only other way I’ve heard of lowering a tax bill is by a CHAP tax deferment for 10 years. Is there some other deduction I’m missing?

          1. We should have a Meet-up! I’m in Dundalk (SE Baltimore County–15 minutes from downtown) and also pay $700/month for my 2 bedroom row. I’ve lived a lot of places and I love Baltimore!

    3. As someone else living in the Midwest and paying $1,250 for a one bedroom, one bath apartment, I think such generalizations cannot be made about the entirety of “the Midwest” housing market.

      1. I would assume before just moving anywhere in the Midwest, they’d take a look at prices. You must live in a very popular area of a large city? That amount is higher than the mortgage I paid on my 3 bedroom 2 bathroom home on a 1/4 acre lot. (though admittedly a “starter home”). But there are alos condos near the University that are 2 bed 2 bathroom for $400,000.

        That said- I can’t believe their daycare prices. I live in the “midwest” in a college city, and pay $260 a week for daycare.

      2. I think it depends on where you choose to live. I could choose to rent a 1 bedroom loft downtown for $1600 per month but I don’t. I live about 5 minutes from downtown, right on a major nature trail, and pay far less. I do know that there are safe and affordable housing options here and they are far less pricey than the West or East coast.

    4. Longmont and the other more affordable Front Range towns are high up on our list.

      We have not given too much though to the midwest — although we have family in Southwest Michigan and do plan to visit this year. Maybe that will be our trial run.

      1. Hey! To throw another mention in for Michigan, we have some great areas and more affordable season ski passes 🙂

        We are up in the Traverse City area. It is a little pricier that some areas of MI (still very affordable!), but we are close to several small ski areas and have a great community!

      2. Not sure where your family is, but Kalamazoo has the “Kalamazoo Promise”–where any student who graduates from a KPS school gets free tuition to a number of Michigan Universities! My husband’s family lives there, and it’s no California, but there are ski resorts close by, Lake Michigan is an hour away and beautiful, and a great bike trail. Getting to the coast isn’t easy (airport is small), but Detroit and Chicago airports are ~2 hours away and you can get anywhere from there. Good luck!

        1. I went to college in Kalamazoo and I LOVE that town. It has super cheap rent, a really laid back atmosphere, and a lot of progressive things going on. Great place.

      3. Moved from SF to Longmont this year. 20 min North of the Google offices in Boulder. They are expanding and hiring LOTS of software engineers right now.

      4. I’m a Michagander and love the state (it really is very beautiful!), but it’s become extremely hostile to teachers. I would do some serious research on recent legislative changes before considering moving there.

    5. I live in the Midwest–Kansas City–and own a nice three-bedroom house for which my monthly mortgage payment is $1200. Rents can be high in the same area where purchase prices are reasonable.

    6. Longmont and Colorado generally are no longer affordable. MMM said so himself 🙂 I also teach and I live in Denver and we’re getting squeezed out. There are good sites that calculate how far a teacher salary can go as a ratio of salary and cost of living since both vary widely. Wyoming and Michigan both are high on the list and have beautiful outdoor areas. We’re likely moving to Wyoming in the next few years.

    7. While I would never begrudge someone moving to Colorado, as a Longmont native, I can tell you that prices are astronomical there; even comparing to the crazy high prices of SF. There are several smaller areas to look at before committing to the Front Range though. I had to move away to NC to care for elderly parents four years ago. I go back to Longmont yearly & am constantly surprised at how much the cost of living has risen; so much so, that natives can get priced out! One huge plus is you won’t find better schools than the Front Range but I suggest looking further north to Ft. Collins/Loveland or further south to Colorado Springs. I’m not saying they’re cheap but they will seem more reasonable & will most likely have openings for both of your careers.
      All that being said, I’d love to make my home in Longmont again. It’s a wonderful town!

  2. Wow! I’m super impressed by how frugal y’all are in such a high cost of living area!

    I agree totally that you should move now. I have 3 kids, and moved when they were smaller. They adjust well to the move at a young age, much better than moving kids that are older and have been in school and created friendships already.

    It’s awesome that you have the ability to move anywhere! That gives some help possibility to the situation. I live in the Southeast and the cost of living is incredibly low, but there’s not any available skiing. We’ve always wanted to try out Colorado too, but given Ms. Frugalwoods higher cost of living response, I’d rethink that. Basically, dream big so y’all can find an awesome new place to live!

    I recommend staying in the one bedroom apartment until you move next summer. I know that is going to feel tight, but paying $6k more for a year, plus the whole process of having to move only to move again next summer…. I don’t think the process would be worth the budget increase. Especially when you can use that to pump up your emergency fund.

    Do like Ms. Frugalwoods recommended…. build up that emergency fund! You will have unexpected costs come up during your move and it’s better to have that than be scrambling. And with another baby in the plans, you can always use the extra padding.

    One last thing. Check out Republic Wireless for phones. We’ve used them for a few years now and love them. And they’re only $15/line. Awesome stuff!

    Enjoy your dreaming and searching for your next hometown! I can’t wait to hear where y’all decided to go!

    1. Hi, Ember! I think moving while our kid(s) are younger is a good plan (and I’m sorry to say that I hadn’t even figured Oliver’s feelings into the moving aspect). To stay in the one bedroom would probably entail moving our bed to the living room and putting up some sort of temporary divider, but it can be done.

      I had no idea Republic Wireless had such great deals! Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. If you don’t enjoy the city once your contract is up with SF public schools I would definitely move. I would use this as the year to explore where else you could potentially live. This means potentially taking weekend trips to potential places you want to live to get a feel of the different seasons. On top of that I’d start putting out resumes for you and your husband to ensure that you would have jobs that would be fulfilling in the future. When you do find a place to move to I’d encourage you to wait a year before buying a house to ensure that you love the area and that you find the right neighborhood for your family to grow.

    Good luck on your adventure!!!

    1. Your advice is short and sweet, and I think it’s the direction we need to go in. Thanks for weighing in! We’ll keep the Frugalwoods Nation updated. 🙂

  4. Clearly the cost of living is high, and you would save money by moving.

    You would want to consider moving now that your kids are young. My parents decided to relocate after 10 years of going back and forth on the decision. I was 15 when we made the move, and didn’t quite get why they thought it was okay to yank us away from our friends and everything we have come to know as home. It took me 3 years of social awkwardness to finally adjust in the new city and for a long time I resented my parents. I know they did it for financial reasons, but I didn’t care ( too young to bother about finance and debt and frugality 😂)

    With a second baby in mind, you will be needing any extra cash you can save.

  5. I’m impressed with the current financial situation Melanie and Kurt set up… you are doing great, especially in a high cost of living area!

    I’ll add another vote for moving now. Mr. Adventure Rich and I moved from California to Michigan last year with a 1+ year old. A few of the factors for moving “now” vs. later included 1) hassle/difficulty of moving later (especially if/when we have more kids) 2) the lifestyle change we craved 3) the benefit of having our son settled in one place earlier rather than later (more difficult to move a 7 or 10 year old who has his friends at school, etc.)

    I would also suggest (as Mrs. FW did) a savings account down payment fund, even if you don’t plan to buy immediately. We moved back with every intention of renting but stumbled on a for sale by owner on Craigslist that was an incredible value and our ideal situation (house near town with acreage). If we had not saved our down payment in advance, we would not have been able to move on our home purchase when we did. One tactic for saving we used was making a “mortgage payment” into our savings account each month. In reality, it was just a payment to our down payment fund, but it got us used to the payment and built up our fund relatively quickly.

    Have some fun as you explore new places to live! It was exciting to look around and see if a place would be a good fit for our family last year. As you look around, I would also suggest checking out some community items beyond the schools and neighborhoods. What are the community events? Is there a local ski club or ski race league for Kurt? Are there local paved trail systems for commutes and family fun? These aspects can greatly add to a community and finding a place to call home.

    Good luck with the decision… I hope everything goes smoothly for you! 🙂

    1. I love the idea for a ski race league for Kurt!!! Local paved trails would also be spectacular.

      And yes, I think we’ll be adding to our savings account this year in preparation. We want to be ready when the time comes!

    2. I second the “mortgage payment” to savings. Another thing you can consider is continuing to put this money in your Roth account, and then withdrawing your contributions from that account when you’re ready to buy. I did this as a first time home buyer, and it helped me to feel like I could take my time (and not lose the growth opportunities of having my money in the market), and having the money available when needed. It’s more risky though, so you’ll have to decide if that’s something you’re ok with.

  6. I definitely agree with Mrs. Frugalwoods, you should use this year to house hunt! I’m impressed by how low your expenses are for your HCOL city! I’ve heard daycare costs are about the same in my medium sized Midwest city!

    Since you plan on moving to a new location, I’d highly recommend renting for six months to a year to really get to know your neighborhood. Buying a house, then discovering you don’t like your neighborhood can be a costly mistake. If you are super pregnant at moving time you can have the one time expense of hiring movers.

    Great work! I’m impressed by all the changes you’ve already implemented!

    1. We managed to find a daycare that is run out of a family’s home, so we are definitely paying less than others in our area. Renting is a great plan. Thank you for the suggestion!

  7. Thank you for sharing your story, Melanie! I think both of you are giving a move lots of thoughts. Mr. FAF and I have a very similar situation to yours and have thought about moving out of the expensive DC area.

    If Kurt doesn’t have any strong preference for location, I think he can get a job anywhere. You might think about where YOU want to develop your career and, apply for multiple positions to see what you can get. Kurt can then follow you to the new place and apply for a job there. Hope that helps.

    1. I think applying for my jobs (and simply seeing what locations are available) is a smart bet. Kurt could even work remotely while he searches for a new position of his own. Lots for us to think about!

  8. Wow your expenses are under control for living in SF. I was shocked at how little you are paying for daycare. Ours is more than twice your expense for one kid.

    Take your time to find a location. If you are switching jobs anyway take some time off and explore.

    1. We have a good deal on daycare for sure, but it’s also high quality and Oliver has a strong bond with the caregiver and other children. I’m not even sure if we’d be able to replicate this in a different part of the country. In Colorado for example, it looks like the median cost is about 1200/month.

    2. Yes, I am utterly floored by how affordable your daycare is. The cheapest infant care I could find in SF was a home day care for $1600 per month, which was about a 35-45 minute drive from my house. Most others were very close to or over $2K/month. How…? Child care is truly the most overwhelming cost for us here, and has really put a damper of the idea of having another kid. But we’re kind of tied here for the next two years for school. So very curious and if you have any tips, would be very grateful.

      1. No idea about the legalities etc of it, but have you considered hiring a nanny? I know I was broke as a joke in Oakland and looking for a job, and everything I found payed way the heck less than 2,000 / mo (I was a cook at the time). I’m sure there are lots of young bright things who are great with kids (I had ten years’ experience in education at the time–now it’s more!) who would be very happy to make several thousand a month taking care of your (and another couples’) children. I honestly have no idea how it works since I no longer live in the States and don’t have kids, so I hope I’m not the Captain Obvious who’s giving impossible advice. But it seems to me that you could get together with another family and hire somebody together…just a thought! Best of luck

        1. It’s usually the case that nannies are actually even more expensive than daycare. One exception can be a nanny share, where several families hire a nanny together, but then it’s more likely to cost the same amount as daycare. High quality childcare is very expensive!

          1. Nannies are almost always the most expensive form of childcare! A nanny in the bay area would cost you 20-25 dollars an hour, and CA law states you need to pay OT for all hours over 8 in a day. So 8 hours while at work plus commute time 2 hours (20 x 8 + 2 x 30 x 5 days per week) your looking at $1100 per week. Thats without factoring in the employee cost of taxes, Unemployment and workers comp insurance……
            Mrs Frugalwoods is correct in saying that it probably won’t save you much money. Although a nanny share may work out better off for your family if you have two children and are in a share

  9. I totally agree with your recommendations. The more time spent exploring alternative locations before moving the better. It’s a shock to the family to move. So while they should move they should do their best to make it a single move.

  10. Malanie and Kurt are already doing an awesome job! And Mrs. Frugalwoods already made excellent suggestions so there is not a lot to add. Here are a few small things:

    1) I’m FIREd in Philly now but I grew up in the Midwest. The generally lower cost of living in the Midwest means you should at least consider it.

    2) If you want a house with an in-law suite, you should think about the viability of using the same space to rent as an Airbnb. Check Airbnb rental prices in any area that you’d consider for potential profitability.

    3) You may not want to live real close to one set of parents on either coast, but it may make sense to live with in a day of driving distance. This would lower the cost to visit family and make it possible to get family help in an emergency.

    4) Don’t forget to look at the state and property tax differences of each state and city you look at.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks so much for your ideas! I love the possibility of turning an in-law suite into an Airbnb unit! It would offset part of our mortgage and provide income for years to come.

      State and property taxes are a smart suggestion, too. We’ll add them to the spreadsheet.

  11. I do hear love for SF in the post. Heck, if we could get rent that low, we’d probably move to the Bay area. What’s stopping us now is that I can’t work in my career there. (Actually we’d want to live in South Bay where DH could find work, but the lowest we could get for a 2br apartment would be closer to 5K than to 3K.)

    Outside of a few major cities, it is difficult to find libraries and museums of the quality you’re used to. Outside of the Bay area it is difficult to find such a wealth of different ways of enjoying nature (if you’re really into one thing, there are plenty of cheap places to live, but the bay area has so many amazing microclimates). Outside of California it is difficult to find such fresh tasting produce of all kinds year-round. Have a salad using butter lettuce from your local farmer’s market, and then have a salad next time you’re outside California. And the weather in SF is temperate year round (recent heat wave a noted aberration).

    It is easy to be frugal in the bay area. There’s tons of free fun every single weekend– if you’re in SF itself, there’s free fun every day. There’s no space to put purchases. (And did I mention the quality of the library system?) Everyone else is frugal too. And long-time residents can get a pretty good deal on rent (as it sounds like you’ve done) or property taxes.

    So I would disagree with this article’s advice. It isn’t obvious that you should up and leave. Daycare is at most 5 years long. Think a lot harder about what you like about the city and that part of the country and what you’ll miss.

    And, given your rent is so low, you could always do what most of our friends who stayed out there did and work out a sweetheart deal where one or both of you work part-time while the kids are little (probably easier for the tech worker than for the teacher). It is a lot more fun to have free time in the bay area than in most of the rest of the country. Even if all you want to do with your free time is read novels.

    1. I think you’re right about the variety of activities here in SF, and that’s something to consider. Within thirty minutes, we can be at the beach, in the forest, at a lake, or stuck in Karl the fog. There are more than a few world class museums here, and yes, our library system cannot be beaten! I have lived in California my entire life, so perhaps I take some of that for granted. It will certainly be challenging to find a place that rivals my home state in terms of free time opportunities!

      1. I’m in the bay area as well. I moved to the East Bay 2 years ago & bought a small 2bed/2.5bath townhouse. It is expensive, but have you checked some of the outlying communities along the BART line? There are some great neighborhoods & although, not cheap, much less expensive than the City. Good luck & excited to hear what you decide to do.

        1. What are did you buy your townhouse? I live in Oakland and looking around. Also, any suggestions on free things in the East Bay would be appreciated 😀 Im newish to the area

    2. Thanks for the pro-SF voice here. My husband and I live in SF, working very hard to stay, about to do the whole baby-in-a-rent-controlled-1-bedroom thing. Yes to good salads. Yes to ridiculously good arts and culture. Flying direct almost everywhere cause of our airport being so crackin. There are many reasons to leave, but also many reasons to stay. Ocean. Redwoods. Progressive people. Also, if you can’t spend a few bucks here and there on In & Out why bother being alive at all, lol. (I’ll report back after I’ve actually been living that baby in a one bedroom life for a year though!!!)

      1. Yes to all of the above! While we’ve recently been having conversations about the “do we stay in SF or do we go”, you cannot beat the quality of nature, outdoor spaces, weather, food and free activities in SF. We absolutely love it here and if we do end up leaving down the road, part of our hearts will be left here (the song is true!)

        We’ve been making a baby in a 1-bed work for the last 19 months and it’s totally doable. We gave our toddler the bedroom and turned our living room into a “studio apartment” – building a divider w/ shelves and plants. Not only does the limited space help curb the number of physical things we have by A LOT but it forces us to get outside in the evenings and weekends. Feeling like we’re on top of each other? Let’s take the dog and baby to the park / ocean / on a hike / on a walk / to street fest / etc. All in all, we don’t know if it will work forever but it’s working for us now.

      2. Yeah, I will definitely miss the SFO, OAK, SJC price competitions! And there’s nothing like a Double Double with grilled onions. Congrats on the baby! I’d be happy to offer you my one bedroom baby tips.

        1. Melanie, I’d like to suggest that you take your compass and draw mini circles around the Bay Area, thinking in terms of staying close enough to enjoy the BEST but avoiding the high prices, being able to eventually buy a house, retire early, maybe even stay at home with your baby(ies)… YOU DON’T have to leave California…you just have to leave the Bay Area but stay close enough to continue enjoying all that you do.

          We moved from the East Bay 90 miles into the Foothills of California…the weather is great, sunshine 320 days a year, NO FOG, within an hour of Sacramento airport and 90 minutes to SJC and OAK. Yes, it is hotter during the summer but a lot less rainy and cloudy so we spend A LOT more time outside. Above the fog, but below the snow. Think TOWN, not CITY. Counties such as Calaveras have wonderful towns with great neighborhoods where very nice three bedroom houses can be purchased for $300,000 or less. I agree though, RENT! Both our sales tax and property taxes are less than the Bay Area, cost of living is less, too. Two hours to skiing, three hours to Lake Tahoe, yet only two hours to San Francisco for Theatre and museums.

          California has SO much to offer…if you paid $1000 a month to buy your home, just see what that does to our budget! Child care is cheaper too…we enjoyed the services of a local grandmother who gave our kids SO much love at a terrific price. Not sure our local districts could match SF contracts including several years of step-and-column, but probably not too far behind. Note: I usually don’t recommend graduate degrees in Education…they generally don’t pay unless you get away from teaching and go into management…and plan on working 30 years. My niece will be paying for her Masters Degree for the next 20 years and she wants to continue teaching middle school, she will not make enough to pay for it, ever.

          We are surrounded by four lakes and many miles of hiking trails. I feel that we have found rural California beauty such that I had thought previously we would have to move to Oregon to find. Explore in a circle around the Bay Area, you will be surprised! Good luck!!

  12. I’m putting in a vote for the Central Ohio area – it’s relatively cheap, has the best of urban, suburban, and rural environments, there’s an airport, skiing nearby (not sure what the quality of it is as standing on two boards while sliding down snow scares me), and there are countless neighborhoods to chose from. Plus no hurricanes, earthquakes, or gators. And we’ve got lots of school districts for you to work in. More generally, I’d recommend listing out all your ‘possibles’ and spending the time between now and next summer researching and visiting as much as possible. The cost of travel would be worth it, even if it’s just for a weekend. If you get your list narrowed down to two or three places, you might even be able to use your summer break to test-drive them out a month or so at a time. Also, check out the local paper for the locations that seem promising every couple of weeks – it’ll help you learn the major pluses and minuses of the area you’re investigating that folks might not think to mention. Good luck!

    1. I would put in a vote for Ohio as well. I’m from Northeast Ohio and can’t recommend the state enough. We moved away to a high-cost city and realized how much Ohio has to offer and that’s a big value. Good weather in the Cincinnati /Columbus areas and a nice small-city vibe. If you like spending time outdoors and don’t mind the snow, Cleveland and surrounding suburbs are fantastic. There are tons of museums here, the West Side Market is one of the largest indoor/outdoor markets in the country and the Metroparks, our park system are extensive.

  13. Here’s a place you may no have considered: Boise! We moved here from CA via NY a year and a half ago and LOVE it. Idaho gets a bad rap–somewhat deserved – – but Boise is a mostly liberal, well-run city with some good restaurants, great outdoor space, decent schools, and affordable housing (for now). It has some big companies and pretty good industry for its size, people are friendly, and the lifestyle is very laid back. People move here all the time from CO and OR for all these reasons.

    Can you tell we love it here??

      1. It’s funny–just a few hours after I posted this comment, my husband forwarded me your case study and said “Don’t tell them about Boise!!” (Another thing to mention is that we have young kids and it’s SUPER family friendly.)

        I’d be happy to talk it up some more any time you want!

  14. Other things for Melanie to consider as a public school teacher:
    •the state teacher’s pension system. These tend to favor teachers who have worked within the same state for years, not teachers who have moved around and have taught in different states. In this respect, it’s better to move sooner rather than later.
    •how happy teachers are with their particular state education system (usually having to do w/pay, benefits, strength of unions, etc.) California is a teacher-friendly state in many respects. There are some states where she might not want to teach.

    1. You’re so right about the teacher pension system. To qualify for California’s pension, I need to work here for at least five years (check!). If another state has a similar requirement, we have to move soon!

      For the second bullet point, I’m not sure how to start researching. Should I try to get in contact with teachers in those other states, or is there a teacher-union-rating website? I had not considered this, so thank you very much for bringing it to my attention.

      1. I would start with the /r/teachers subreddit. You could post a question about moving from CA to whatever state you’re thinking about (and maybe specifics about an area–Denver might be different from Fort Collins from Colorado Springs, for example). I’m guessing that you’ll get a good number of responses. You can ask about the employment market, union presence, typical workload, salary advancement, whatever is important to you. Caveat: As you probably already know … teachers can sometimes be a bit negative and down on some aspects of the profession (being held responsible for all of society’s ills can wear on a person ;), but overall I find this subreddit to be filled with helpful (as well as knowledgeable and dedicated) educators.

        1. I’m pretty active on /r/teachers! But yes, that sub can be an echo chamber of negativity, especially from folks who are itching to leave the profession. So sad. After we narrow down our list, I’ll post asking for some input. Thanks!

          1. Also look into states that offer 457 plans with 401k options too! Those could work out better since you plan to RE. I’m not a teacher, but a public service employee and the 457 is amazing. Plus it really lowers your taxable income during your earning years. Vesting is quicker than a pension, but obviously health care after retirement is it included.

            I believe http://www.millionaireeducator.com/ has talked about this in great detail.

          2. I think comment nesting can only get so deep, so this is in reply to Mrs. Kiwi:

            I’ve been the squeakiest wheel in my district to get them to offer a 457b plan for us. It’s in the works for the 2018 calendar year!

            And thanks for the blog link… I’ll definitely be learning a thing or two from them!

  15. I was also going to suggest looking for property that you could rent as well as use for family. Whether airbnb or something similar. Perhaps a separate space rather than attached to the property such as outhouse conversion. This may leave you time to do the work frugally before it is needed. Check out the Lettered Cottage blog for how they are getting so much into a tiny extension for the in-laws.
    I suggest Kurt looks for a job that allows him to work remotely before you move. That way you have money coming in if Melanie can’t find a job straight away.
    I’m impressed that you can eat out 4 times a month for $90 but agree that cutting this to funnel into a down payment fund would be a good idea.
    I think moving probably is best for you but as someone living in a HCOL areas with fantastic facilities (london) it is hard to think of moving. You may want to create a checklist of facilities and keep a record of how often you use, or would use if they were available. For example, Kurt likes skiing but how often does/would this actually happen? The checklist will provide evidence of the things you care about, rather than relying on feelings. So, “London has so many theatres!” Which I’ve been to 3 times in 4 years so how important is it really?

    1. The Lettered Cottage blog is SO CUTE. I think I know what I’ll be reading today while Oliver takes his afternoon nap.

      Our eating out is typically “fast casual” as they say, so that’s where the $90 average comes from. But, you are right. We don’t need it! Having a tangible down payment goal will make it easier to abstain from restaurants.

      Have you been to see The Cursed Child yet? If not, I suggest that we house swap for a week. You guys can check out SF and we’ll stay in London. Deal? Deal.

      1. I love that idea! Hoping to plan for New York this year but that does sound fun. I guess I can’t encourage frugality whilst also telling you to travel to London but if you want tips, advice or “the life not travelled” info let me know! victoriablyth at yahoo dot co dot uk

  16. Wowza, those daycare costs are awesome! It does suck to live in a HCOL area. My thoughts on this have always been that, unless you’ve “made it” and can afford the crazy rent or mortgage, it’s not wise to live in San Fran/NYC/any other huge and expensive city. With Kurt’s job he could even work remotely, so you could potentially be location-independent while raking in a decent salary. I live in south-central Texas and our costs of living are extremely low. We paid $900/mo for a two-bedroom apartment, just to give you an idea.

    Good luck!! 🙂

  17. As a Midwesterner, I am obviously biased, but I think you should research and look into options in the middle of the country. Many areas of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are beautiful, close to nature, and offer wonderful homes and apartments that are in price ranges easier to wrap your head around. No, this part of the country may not have huge mountains for skiing, but these are wonderful, affordable, and vibrant communities in which to grow up in (I grew up in central Ohio). I’d recommend checking out Duluth, Minnesota (great outdoor town with bike trails), Madison, Wisconsin, and Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Many of these towns have great school districts for employment opportunities for you as well as education for your child(ren).

      1. Duluth is awesome. I think we are up to 86 miles of single track winding along our city with more added each year. Ski hill is used for mountain biking lift in the summer. Outdoor enthusiast paradise IMHO, but you have to like snow 😉

      2. I think you would find Duluth to be too small. And it’s just kind of up there in Minnesota on its own. It’s not that far from the Twin Cities, but Minneapolis/St. Paul has a lot more to offer. Madison, Wisconsin is my hometown, although I no longer live there. (Lots of family there, though) It’s a lovely city, but housing is becoming more expensive. Also, the present governor has done a lot to undermine the public schools in the state. Teachers are very discouraged there!

        That said, the Midwest is a lovely part of the country. I have lived on both coasts too, and the Midwest often gets a bad rap as “Fly Over Country.” I learned from experience that native New Yorkers and Californians are very reluctant to leave there home states, but there truly is another great world out there!

        1. I have lived in CA, Connecticut, and NYC and currently live in Wichita, KS. I have to say that although Wichita doesn’t stack up to the larger cities as far as amenities it beats it HANDS DOWN in neighborhood friendliness, safety, and a sense of community. Although I’ve only lived here a couple years I feel as though I am friends with all my neighbors. One even mowed my lawn while I was having baby #2. These are the perks of the midwest. I never want to live in a more expensive city again!

  18. Being from CO, I can tell you a few things- daycare costs here are some of the highest in the country. Why? Who knows? But I also know we currently aren’t producing (graduating) the number of teachers we need, so finding a job for Melanie could be easier than other parts of the country.
    Lots of people are moving here having discovered our great climate and outdoor activities (along with a large airport that’s easy to find all sorts of direct flights out of), so housing prices are rising. Being from CA, the costs won’t seem astronomical, but we are not the affordable place we once were.

    That being said- I agree with Mrs.Frugalwoods in using the next year to scope out places to live and the leave ASAP. No need to delay the inevitable.

    1. Good to know about the teacher shortage. I have heard that Coloradans (Coloradinos?) have developed a distaste for transplanted Californians because they are coming in and raising the COL. Would you say that’s true?

      “No need to delay the inevitable.” So true.

      1. We recently moved from CA to CO and had heard the same thing and feared not being welcomed. I think the locals do complain about the housing prices going up but they are very nice and friendly to us, we are feeling very welcome. No one has been harsh or rejecting us.

      2. It is absolutely true about Coloradans disliking transplanted Californians… it’s primarily related to housing.
        Nobody likes it when they get outbid on a house because the Californian just sold their million dollar condo.

        1. Yes, we very much dislike Californians and Texans (so you’re not alone). Just please learn to drive in the snow and you’ll be just fine. Colorado is the best place to live if you love the outdoors and happen to be a software engineer.

      3. Yes, we’re not keen on Californians, however if you are our neighbor, we’re friendly to you and you wouldn’t know how we feel. I live very close to an area derisively called “little California” (but it’s a great area and if you live there, you love it).
        Colorado has seen a quite a few new transplants in the last decade or so, so much we natives are rare (and you will see people with Native stickers on their car to show off they’ve been here forever).
        I get the appeal, though, and understand why many want to come and live here (which is the same reason why I’m never moving, no matter how expensive it may get)

        1. I relocated to CO from CA 25 years ago, right after college, also from the Bay Area. Ha, I turned my CA license plates in that first week after I moved! Californians were disliked even then. I had one CO native explain it to me this way: the Texans show up with their obnoxious giant RV pulling their boat and their jeep, but then they go home again. Californians show up and don’t go home again. To the point: there’s so many transplants here, (I live in Boulder) that really, they outnumber natives by about 5:1. Many other front range communities are similar in that almost everyone is from somewhere else. The upside of that is that when you reach out to make friends, everyone around you is similarly here with little to no family nearby, and it makes for an easier time finding your community. I have heard that moving to somewhere where there are less transplants can make it hard to ‘break in’ to friendship groups because it still revolves around extended family and who you went to high school with. Do I miss California? The first 10 years I was so relieved to have ‘escaped’ (I’m not a city person) that I missed absolutely nothing. I always loved the mountains more than anything so I’m happy where I am. I miss a few things here and there but for the most part, those things can be made up for, like my annual vacation to a beach (any beach) which I prioritize. My kids are 16 and 12, and yes, move soon.

    2. I was going to say the same thing about daycare costs in CO. We pay $300/week per kid, and that’s with a corporate discount through my husband’s employer. And to compound the cost issue, Colorado has some of the very worst regulatory oversight of daycares, so there’s no way I would put my kids in a home daycare here unless I already personally knew the caregiver very well.

      Click through to the fourth picture to see the graphic explaining how Colorado stacks up against other states in daycare oversight:

      When my husband and I were looking for a new place to live, we relied heavily on city-data.com for research. They have great forums that will help you get a feel for the culture of each place as well.

  19. You are doing an amazing job. I’d consider Spokane, Washington! It is where I grew up. It is within a ~2 hour drive of four amazing ski resorts, the cost of home ownership is still relatively affordable, and the public schools are very good. It meets all the criteria you describe and I believe it satisfies all the reasons why you’d consider Colorado. You may contact me directly if you need recommendations or have additional questions about Spokane.

  20. As someone who has tenants paying my entire mortgage – I highly recommend going for a two family or in law situation when you buy. Also regarding your future mortgage: consider getting a 15 year mortgage *or* pay it down like a 15 year mortgage, or shorter, so that the mortgage can pay off when you plan to leave your jobs. I’ve got my mortgage set to payoff when I leave my job, so that it will feel like I’ve replaced some of my income. Every once in awhile it’s a little annoying to have tenants – but then I do the math and the pros ALWAYS outweigh the cons by a longshot. And, as nearly all others have mentioned, try to suck it up and stay in your one bedroom. If it’s kind of annoying, it might encourage you to make your move faster!

    1. Oh yes, a fifteen-year mortgage is in the plan! Great job on getting tenants to pay your entire mortgage, too! That’s something to strive for.

      Staying in our one bedroom is possible… we just have to get a little more creative I guess. Thanks for the input!

  21. We’re in Denver, and while the cost of living is high on the national scale and getting higher, home prices still have nothing on the Bay Area! There are still many parts of the metro area where you can buy a single family home for $300-400k. If you’re interested in continuing your museum-going, cosmopolitan activities, I’d recommend Denver or Santa Fe, there are very few similar activities in other parts of either CO or NM. A college town like Fort Collins might also work for you, since university activities might fill the museum void. Colorado Springs is cheaper than Denver, also has its fair share of cultural activities and great proximity to natural beauty, but its culture is on the whole quite different than SF. Or, if you’re considering small-town life with easy access to skiing, I’d check out Granby, Georgetown, Buena Vista, and Leadville. None are resort communities (cheaper than resort towns), all are beautiful and have easy access to both back country and resort skiing. each would be a huuuuuge change of pace from Bay-area life, though, while the Denver/Boulder area would facilitate an lifestyle much more similar to what you’re living now. I’ll end my Colorado thoughts with a warning that as a state we are on the very low end of the teacher-pay scale.

  22. I wanted to put in my two cents regarding moving (as an expert mover with 15 houses and 4 states under my belt)! My mother took the plunge of moving away from the Bay Area, where she had lived for the past 10 years to move to a lower cost area. She is able to work remotely with Cisco but choose to work in an area that has one of their major offices nearby. After hearing great things about retirement in North Carolina and the opportunity to work in a Cisco office, she decided to move to Holly Springs, NC (right outside of Raleigh and near Research Triangle Park). We joke that NC is like the East Coast Bay Area with many tech firms but with a lower cost of living and honestly more green space. Our area in Holly Springs has dramatically grown since she moved; they have added an extra elementary school and are working on building another high school. The value of her home has also significantly increased since moving in (though the overall sale price is 1/5 of what you would pay in the Bay Area). The majority of NC near Raleigh-Durham has a very large number of transplants from other states and nearly everyone on her neighborhood block is originally from out of state. There are also wonderful free museums in downtown Raleigh. In conclusion, I highly recommend checking out the Raleigh-Durham area!

      1. Yes, I have to upvote the Triangle! We live here and we absolutely love it. Just a few hours to the mountains or a few to the beach. Excellent culture, decent cost of living. I moved here from Ohio for school and honestly, it is much nicer to live here and not that much more expensive for us. I will say that the houses in Durham and Chapel Hill are getting kind of expensive (the area is growing), but we bought a house and it seems like it was a good investment so far.

        If I had my choice of where to live next, I’d go for western NC. Stunning views and wonderful weather.

        Oh, and a quick note on teaching in a different location- you may want to consider that some states are notorious for low pay. As much as I love living in NC, I know it has a pretty bad reputation for teacher compensation. So I think that should factor into your decision!

      2. My parents live in RDU area and it’s an extremely nice place to visit but the teacher salaries are a deterrwnt from me wanting to relocate there. NC was ranked extremely low on teacher salaries for a while

      3. My whole family lives in the Raleigh-Durham area and while they love it, it can be difficult to be a teacher there (several of my cousins and aunts are teachers there). Public schools are particularly underfunded there and teacher salaries are some of the lowest in the country compared to cost of living. Just something to think about!

      4. Another vote for Raleigh, I live in Raleigh about ten minutes from RTP. The cost of living is very low compared to SF, but I agree with the other posters, the teacher salaries are low. I love it here, lots of green space, decent cost of living and many high tech employers. Chapel Hill, Durham and NW Raleigh/Morrisville near RTP housing prices have gone up, but there are still many areas that are affordable. Teacher salaries are on the way up here, not quickly, but that may change if the GOP state super majority changes in 2018.

  23. I loved hearing Melanie’s story because two years ago my family and I were in a pretty similar situation. We lived in the East Bay in a small duplex in an area we loved with lots of nature and amenities nearby as well as all our family. But the high cost of living made us feel that even though we were frugal we would never own a home with a yard. The fast pace of life and crush of people everywhere was also getting old. But we could never leave California because of our family, the beauty, the food…or so we thought.

    Amazingly my husband’s job moved from Pleasanton to Boise and instead of looking for another job we decided to give it a try and couldn’t be happier with our decision! I changed jobs of course too and something about taking the risk with the move let me take a risk too and try a new career. I now make much more money, my husband makes his same great salary, we own a very reasonably priced home in a great neighborhood and our daughters go to great schools that I’m quite impressed with. It hasn’t been perfect of course but we love Boise and would highly recommend it.

    We’re still frugal from our tight days in the Bay Area but it feels more hopeful now.

    Good luck to you Melanie. Just remember nothing has to be permanent and the kids will be ok. When they see you’re happy and excited about something they’ll be open to it too.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Elizabeth. I imagine your daughters are happy to have a yard to run around in! That image gives me hope for our future, too.

      If only Kurt’s company pointed us in one direction! I think that would almost make it easier to move. Maybe we should resort to picking places out of a hat!

  24. As i was reading this, it was almost like it was describing our current situation. We also live in the SF Bay Area, have a 1 year old, currently house hunting, luckily paying low rent in a HCOLA, being frugal as much as we can, shop at TJs and Costco, love eating @ InNOut 😄.
    The only difference is that we want to stay in the Bay Area and looking for a house just outside SF (Peninsula like Daly City, South SF, San Bruno). I know it’s a bit lower than SF and its still a HCOLA but both me and my wife grew up in the Bay Area and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
    It sounds like you guys are determined to move out of the Bay Area and want to move to an area where your closer to ski resorts and good school system. Couple of areas i would look into is still in Sacramento, Reno,NV, and Portland, OR. You stay in the west coast and all 3 areas are definitely cheaper than the Bay Area. Sacramento is only an hour drive to the Sierras and I believe their schools are pretty good. Reno is even closer to skiing areas than Sac.and its a booming city so their could opportunity there. Portland is a rising city, close to nature, skiing areas and nice schools.
    You guys are in a great financial situation and would consider Mrs Frugalwoods advice especially build up your emergency funds. Please keep us updated on your guys’ situation. Would love to hear where you guys end up moving.

    1. Hi Kris. Good luck in your search on the Peninsula. We considered something similar, even went to a few open houses in San Bruno. But the numbers just didn’t work for most places, 10k a year in property taxes and insurances in perpetuity. And for the down payment alone, you can have a house outright in many other places of the country. This was something we just couldn’t stomach.

      The cities you mentioned are all something we are considering.

      Thanks for the comments and good luck in your search.

  25. I have lived in Denver, Colorado for 35 years and it has gotten very expensive, at least to us. Part of this is because of people moving here from California and other more expensive places bringing with them more money than we were traditionally used to here. Although we have been in our house for 20 years and it is almost paid for, it has 14 stairs to the bedrooms and we are both in our 60’s and would like to move to a ranch, but with prices as they are here now, we can’t afford one in the Denver metro area, so we are thinking of moving somewhere less expensive. We are considering Vancouver, Washington, Des Moines, Iowa or Grand Junction, Colorado on the western slope.

    1. Hi Marcy, I’m sorry to hear that you’re finding Colorado more and more expensive. I hate to be those Californians who come in and ruin what you’ve worked so hard to build.

      Good luck on your home search! I hope it works out for you.

  26. Not a lot to say except that I am ultra-impressed with Melanie and Kurt! I would like to put in a vote for Pittsburgh, PA as a place to live. The cost of living is low, there is a lot of nice housing stock, and plenty of hills to hike! It’s family-friendly and the folks are as nice as you could ask for. Loads of opportunities in education and in IT as well. Good public transportation system, too, which will help that old MAzda last longer. Many of the suburban communities around Pittsburgh have excellent public schools, where Melanie could get a job. While property taxes are high, if Melanie and Kurt decide to make a permanent home there, they will find a very senior-friendly state. In addition, Pittsburgh is easy to get to from both coasts. As an example, JetBlue runs about 6 non-stops a day to Pittsburgh from Boston.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Kate. We do love JetBlue! And public transit is a good item to add to our spreadsheet. I think that living in the bay has made me forget that not everywhere has trains/buses/cable cars/ferries/bike shares. That’s definitely something I want in a future living situation (and yes – we hope to make this Mazda last another 100,000+ miles!).

      1. I love Pittsburgh, also you should check out the folks at Eating the Financial Elephant. They just retired with one child and bought a house with in law suite out west to be closer to skiing. They go into detail about finding a town to move to.

  27. Kudos on your savings! We have similar incomes in a high COLC and I am IMPRESSED. Two thoughts re. relocation: I originally thought about suggesting NC or central VA for a relocation, given the lower cost of living, culture in medium sized cities, and access to nature. However, I have several family members who are teachers in central VA, and the pay is really low. FWIW, I think your sweet spot is an area with lowish cost of living and strong teachers’ unions (for pay/benefits reasons)–maybe the Midwest. Also, I’d strongly consider the political leanings/culture/tolerance of anywhere you look. I acknowledge this may not be important to you, but I too live in a progressive bubble (small city outside of DC) and it could be a major culture shock moving to certain parts of the country. May not matter to you, but just throwing it in the mix. Congrats and good luck!

    1. Culture is definitely important, and not something to be overlooked. Moving to SF from Southern California was even a bit of a culture shock to me, but now it’s hard to imagine anything else. Thanks for your input!

  28. I’m really impressed with how frugal you are. I’m at the beginning of this journey and am so inspired by people like you do this whole frugal living thing naturally! Not sure if this has already been mentioned, but one thing to keep in mind is maternity leave. I’m a former teacher and principal and I know that in many ed situations you do not get any paid maternity leave until you’ve been employed at least a year. Since personal and sick days are usually accumulated, you also may not be able to use those towards leave. So if you are planning to take a mat leave soon after starting a new position, you will want to have the cash on hand to cover your salary for however long you plan to take leave. I’d also think about the odds of getting a new teacher job for the 2018-19 school year given the timing. As I’m sure you know, many districts/charter networks now start hiring as early as January and going through until June for the following school year. You may not be ready in January to commit to a location(s), etc of where to start looking. This will be further complicated if you get pregnant and are due around the beginning of the school year (which, legal or not, may preclude you from getting a job). If you are looking to get hired once mat leave is over, the only mid-year positions available may be sub positions, which are sometimes hourly, etc. My point is that between moving, possibly being pregnant, and trying to get into a new district, its a strong possibility that you could not be employed full-time during the 2018-19 school year; in which case you would need cash to cover that possibility. Just my perspective coming from the ed world and having been on both ends of the hiring process numerous times!

    1. Maternity leave is a big issue! I currently have 40+ sick days saved up (couldn’t use them for Oliver because he was born in the summer), and Kurt would get 6 weeks of paid job leave through the city of San Francisco. That’s worth a lot!

      I think I could take a year off and be fine (financially), but I worry about the lack of intellectual stimulation that comes with staying home with a newborn. Being in a new place without friends would likely add to that isolation. Working out the timing of all of this is crucial. Lots to think about. Thanks!

      1. Don’t worry about being home with a newborn in a new location–I found it was a fabulous way to meet people! Babywoods and I made tons of friends by visiting all the local libraries and (free) parents’ groups. I felt more connected than I ever did pre-kid. It was–surprisingly–the opposite of isolating and we’ve continued many of these friendships and parents’ groups.

        1. I had the same experience. I’ve made some lovely friends from going to the same park all the time with my toddler, as well as visiting the local playgroup. We’ve become really close through sharing such an intense experience as becoming parents.

  29. One potential bit of financial planning for college is to get a full-time job at one. Right now, at some of the more prestigious private colleges, it’s not unheard of to see 50k/year tuition, which over 4 years would be 200k.. A full time job will also earn tuition remittance for dependents. Since Melanie mentioned both a PhD and sibling(s), a potential cash home run hit. If she were able to get her PhD and a full time job at a university, it would mitigate their college costs tremendously. While not retired, an academic lifestyle is very appealing to many people, and would still give the summers off. Alternately, it might let them leave work earlier with less saved up with the idea that she would complete her education and then return to the workforce. For some families, it might be more appealing to take a few years off while the kids are in elementary/middle school to travel or do intensive focused studies, and then return to work when they get closer to college age.

    Having 5 children, we plan to be mostly FI prior to the eldest’s entry to college, and then either my wife or I will take a pay cut for a non-academic job at the university.

    1. As someone who has a PhD from a top-ten university in her field, lots of fellowships, and several publications–and has nevertheless been unsuccessful on the academic job market–I have to point out that planning your financial future around getting a TT job at a university is dubious at best. It sounds like it may have worked out for you, but that’s a vanishingly rare exception.

      These days going the academia route is *never* a good path toward financial independence. Even if you do land one of the good jobs, you’ve probably given up a decade of earnings and savings in order to do so.

      1. Thanks for your input, Post-Ac. It sounds like depending on this scenario is too much of a gamble. Although I still want to think about pursuing some path in academia after we FI/RE, it’s not viable for us at this point.

        1. It does depend a bit on your field, but the humanities job market has tanked in the past decade (and it was never very good to begin with). Out of a large group of my peers–again, top university, all very talented and productive–only a few have “good” TT jobs, and none of those have been able to choose where they live. Non-faculty academic jobs can be great for the right person, but, again, getting a PhD is a circuitous and dispiriting route to get there.

          You can easily google around and find all the stats/ personal narratives about employment in and people leaving academic, but I would have been lying awake at night worrying about this if I hadn’t commented. I don’t think people outside of academia really understand what it’s like these days.

          I’m happily and gainfully employed now, and I wouldn’t say I exactly regret my degree, but I did lose out on years and years of securing my financial future. If you can imagine doing anything else, DO IT.

    2. I was thinking the same thing! A friend teaching at Mount Holyoke gets the benefit of her kids being able to attend any of the sister colleges for free. I think there are like 300, including Smith College.

    3. Five children! Congratulations! Please don’t mention this to Kurt… he wants like four… or eight… I’ve lost count. (For the record, I’m thinking I’ll be happy with two or three.)

      I love the idea of working in academia; publishing, researching, and developing teacher candidates sounds right up my alley. And yes, spending time with the little ones would be so lovely. I think we would have to run the numbers on that scenario, but it’s something to think about. We’d also have to move somewhere near a university… let me go add to the spreadsheet again!

  30. I think you should also consider the social and political culture of the state you’re considering moving to. I live in Mass where it is very expensive (and liberal) but there are many parts of this country that I don’t think would be compatible with my values and beliefs. If you create a spreadsheet like Mrs. Frugalwoods suggested, I think you should include information about political issues that could affect you and your family. For example, how have the political leaders voted in terms of women’s healthcare, education, civil liberties, etc. Since you plan on having another baby soon and you said you have health issues, what are the healthcare laws in your new home state? How will your state policies affect you, financially?

    1. Di,
      This is a terrific and important consideration for me also. I recommend adding it to their spreadsheet as a high priority and especially when buying a home.

  31. Come to San Luis Obispo!! LOTS of outdoor activities, cost of living is high but far lower than the bay area, and we have a bit of a tech boom going on here. Amazon and others. Very relaxed, slower pace of life and amazing weather.

  32. Hi Melanie, I work at a community college, and they pay for you to get your master’s degree or PhD, one class at a time. I don’t know if K-12 school districts do this. It’s a nice benefit to have, and allowed me to get my master’s debt-free. Something to consider down the road once your kids are in school. Maybe you can adjunct for a while and eventually get a job as a professor? (Generally you can be a professor at a community college with “just” a master’s degree.)

    1. My current district doesn’t offer a stipend, but I’m sure many do! Being an adjunct for a while sounds fun!!! I think proximity to a community college or university needs to be on our list. Thank you for your comment!

  33. We talk a lot about where we would go if we sold our home in our expensive west coast and moved to a lower cost of living area but ultimately we always find we love where we live. If we didn’t, we’d strongly consider leaving. We have found the book Desicive by Dan and Chip Heath really helpful in making big decisions too and you may also find it helpful for weighing both the when and the where questions. It’s helped us make all sorts of great decisions and I always recommend it to people because it is an interesting quick read with useful tools.

    1. We do need some help making this decision, so thank you for the book recommendation! I will put it in my library queue.

    2. Thanks for this book recommendation. In the same boat living on So Cal and loving it but also seeing the huge value if we cashed out and sold our house.

  34. some ideas:

    Exploring other locations with Google maps and YouTube can give a good initial impression of a new locations.

    Credit card churn a Southwest card for both of them to get 50,000 pts from Chase this year to have free flights for exploring new locations.

    A SWOT analysis on SF compared to other cities. Compare in a spreadsheet the best forecast between current city and future town/city such as home prices and salary, and potential new work commute expenses.

    Download free public tableau software and overlay ski resorts, average salaries for your profession, average home prices. See what areas stick out to meet your long term life goals for financial freedom, family, and free time activities.

    1. Ooooh Tableau data is a great idea! I used that software for my Master’s thesis, but hadn’t thought to employ it here. Thank you!

  35. A midwest company that might be of interest to Kurt is CivicPlus, located in Manhattan KS. It’s a robust, relatively new technology company – homegrown by a really great guy! I work in Manhattan and live just east of town, about 15 miles. Folks around here would tell you that housing is expensive but cheap by Bay Area comparisons. We have Kansas State University and Fort Riley, both of which are incredibly important to our local economy. If you drive east on Hwy 24, starting at Manhattan, there are 5 public school districts within a 40 mile stretch. Lots of teaching opportunities for Melanie!

  36. I would say if you have your heart set on moving you should move while the kids are young. That way there not too attached to there friends. Move where you think you will be happy and can afford to live. Many things to consider though. Can you get jobs at the salary your accustom to living at?? Is the cost of living there something you can afford?? Do they have good schools for your children. If you go to church do they have churches you like. What about all your friends you have now??? Is it easy to make new friends. What about grocery stores do they have the ones you like. I would never move blindly. I would go and visit the area several times and see what it is really like. Can you see yourself living and raising a family there. Whatever it is you do, I am sure you will do what you feel is best for you and your family. Don’t forget its not cheap moving across country I know I have done it several times. I live in las vegas right now and hate it here. Cant wait till June to Move back to Florida. I really didn’t think my move through. Sometimes you make mistakes and thats ok too as long as you learn from them. Wishing you and your family the best and have a safe journey wherever you go. love, faith

  37. I agree with Mrs Frugalwoods that you can move right away, you don’t have to wait. And to avoid getting a pay cut, your husband can look for a job in another company. He might even get a raise. Software engineers are in a very high demand. My husband is a programmer too and he was able to significantly increase his salary when he started working from home. And he can now work for companies all over the world.

    If you don’t mind, how did your husband transition from Finance to software engineering? I hope one day I can do the same so I can work from home and get to drop off and pickup our 1-year old daughter to/from daycare more often. It’s hard to find a remote Finance job that pays well.

    1. Kurt really loves his current company, but I think you’re right that he should look around.

      In terms of the transition from finance to software, he basically taught himself to program when he was a youngster. He continued to use it (developing finance algorithms and such) and then did a few months of really intense learning on his own. In the software community, at least here, it doesn’t matter how you learned (just that you did). So he was able to get an internship, which led to an offer. A few years and companies later, he’s a full fledged developer. Gooooooo, Kurt!

      We know a lot of folks who do those boot camp programs, but they seem pretty darn expensive for what they offer. Most of what you can learn from those programs is available for free online through Treehouse and things of that nature. Good luck with your journey! I totally get the desire to spend more time with your one-year-old. 🙂

  38. We are going threw the same situation right now.. but our question is weather to move back to Ireland where we are from!! Guess what no Property tax no water bills and education /college and health care is free!
    My sister in law just told me she is paying for after school it was $5 a wk I starting dying laughing it’s about $200 in Boston 🤣😭

  39. We moved out of the Bay Area before we had kids. We chose Sacramento because it was close but 70% cheaper. It was *so much easier financially* that we considered another lower cost move at some point, but then my husband and my dad had serious health problems and I was so relieved we had not moved further from family. This is where we still stay. Anyway, I throw it out as a starting point, since it’s not a BIG move, still gives you access to Bay Area jobs, etc. I know several teachers who make six figures. If you choose the right job and career path, you can do very well. If you are happy with the move and it goes well, could also buy you more time to consider a bigger move. But don’t under-estimate how important family is.

    Personally, we moved because of the cost of living, solely. But our kids’ educations here have been unreal. It’s like paying 70% less and being in the high-end neighborhoods with the top schools. Back home, we lived in San Jose and had been able to buy a 3-bedroom condo for $260,000. It wasn’t horrible, but the glaring difference is the neighborhood/education. My kids would have gone to some of the lower tier schools and grown up in a more iffy neighborhood if we stayed. Not having a lot of options, I was fine with it. We figured we’d likely raise our kids in that condo. But after moving and having my kids in the public schools through high school, this is the striking difference. We are committed to getting them through high school and then would probably be perfectly happy in a small condo in a crappy district. (By the time our kids finish high school, our parents will be elderly, and we figure we may feel the need to be closer to them. I also miss the “perfect weather.” I once read that weather is the least important consideration when moving, but apparently it becomes a bigger factor when you grow up in weather paradise. & I think in the grand scheme of things Sacramento is about as good as it gets. But it’s no Bay Area).

    1. We have some friends in Roseville who recently purchased a veritable mansion, and they love it out there. We have it on our list, but as John Muir once said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” I think being over an hour from skiing is too far for Kurt!

  40. P.S. I did not take a pay cut with this move. My husband never found a job and was laid off. This doesn’t sound relevant to you. But I share because it is *so much easier* here financially that this has mostly been a shrugs. Our cost of living is just so substantially lower that we can live more comfortably on literally half the income. It’s really crazy. (My husband has stayed home with kids for 15 years and I am on track to retire at 50).

  41. Wow, I’m very impressed with your savings so far! You’re doing great! If it makes you feel any better about daycare costs, we pay $1920/mo in the suburbs of MA for just one infant and that’s with a 8am drop off and 4pm pick up! (they charge even more for 7am to 7pm care)

    1. Oh the daycare costs in MA make me cringe – and I’m a daycare teacher, not parent! The daycare I work for now in the Boston area prices 5 full days a week of infant care for about $3000/month. ITS NUTS!
      My sympathies for bearing with it 🙂

  42. Move now. As your kids get older they get entrenched in school activities and friends and then you feel guilty pulling them away. There’s nothing to lose a much to be gained from getting out while your kids are very young. Good luck!

    1. Kurt is pushing for the Salt Lake area… but with what others have mentioned, I’m not sure about the culture. No offense to anyone, but I wonder if we’d be able to make friends when we don’t attend the same church as half the population. Maybe I’m over-analyzing?

      1. Salt Lake City itself is quite diverse but yes the LDS factor is real. Idaho has a large Mormon population as well. I find I just assume anyone I meet is Mormon until I see them drink or curse. But I learned something valuable last year during the Idaho Caucus. The turnout for Bernie was astounding. I realized that I would have no trouble finding like-minded people if I just made a little effort.

          1. I am LDS (Mormon) and I was for Bernie….lol. My gentle point is do not judge me by my religion. Btw, all of my close friends are nonLDS and I am an active member, graduate of BYU, etc. So, do not rule out Salt Lake City. It is close to ski resorts (I stayed at my friend’s condo about 30 minutes away, in Park City, when I went to SLC, Utah for my daughter’s wedding reception)…. Lots of folks in Salt Lake are not LDS, and my own daughter lives in Salt Lake and is not active LDS. The housing prices have risen in Salt Lake, but are cheaper a little farther north and South, and the commuter train runs there also.

      2. Do you want me to f-bomb now or later?! I’m a non-Mormon SLC native. Have lived a few places around the country, including college in Portland (back when it was affordable and there wasn’t gridlock on all the highways). I’d absolutely suggest Salt Lake! Yes, the overall Utah culture is conservative, but several areas are much more liberal including SLC itself, Park City (though expensive to live in), Grand County (Moab), Springdale (the town at the entrance to Zion NP), and Price. For skiing, you have your choice of 7 world-class resorts in 3 canyons less than an hour away. More places if you’re into x-country skiing or snowshoeing, and not downhill. With all the canyons (4 more that don’t have ski resorts), there are countless places to hike, pretty much right out your door. Utah has a thriving foodie scene, farmers markets, several summer concert series, symphony orchestra, opera, museums & art galleries, and craft breweries to rival Colorado. (And if you’re whiskey drinkers, you can ski in to High West Distillery’s Park City location!) We have a huge tech industry here. Delta hub @SL International Airport–and they’re building a whole new terminal. Regardless of what airline you fly, it will be easy for you to see parents, whether you go there or they visit you. Salt Lake has a lot of public transportation that includes bus, light rail, and commuter trains. I just found two websites that show the COL in SLC is 15% lower than Denver. Cost of property taxes are very reasonable. Groceries too. As a plus, Utah has (of course) an abundance of children. School districts are growing. And if you get tired of the mountains (!) there’s the redrock of southern Utah: Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears….. And to your concern about making friends, Utahns are very friendly, regardless of religion.

        1. Cathy, ILY. I love Utah, too, except for the smog! I get so tired of my friends from the coasts and their narrow, uninformed view of Utah. I have nothing to add except- beware the smog. I am from the East Coast and I LOVE it here. Melanie and Kurt (if she’s willing to be open-minded) would be so happy in Sugarhouse, the Marmalade District, 9th and 9th, the Aves, or Millcreek. ITA on the awesome airport, cheap groceries, cheap taxes, safety, and the cultural activities.

          The only thing I would caution folks is it’s so child-oriented here that those without kids can be lonely.

        2. Completely agree! I just wrote a comment below and should have searched for Utah earlier.
          The culture is not what is portrayed typically (though you might find pockets of close-mindedness, but over all there is really a great culture of COMMUNITY in Utah, not tied to religion…).
          PLUS the booming tech industry would give job opportunities galore if needed. 🙂

      3. I lived in Park City and SLC for many years(18!), but recently left because we started a family. Many in our group of friends have made the same decision. We are avid skiers (both worked in the industry) and there is no comparison when it comes to an amazing city with the outstanding Wasatch out your backdoor. However, the air quality is awful and not something we were willing to subject our children to. Air you can taste in the winter inversion and ozone with red air days all summer. Plus state wide politics that are actively suing the EPAs attempts to reduce emissions from local coal plants. Schools are also mediocre and the lowest per pupil spending in the nation. Teacher pay is also poor. SLC is progressive and certain neighborhoods won’t feel much different than SF or Seattle where I grew up. Members of the predominant religion are generally lovely and warm, but too many other factors made it a place we were unwilling to raise our kids.

        Park City has great schools and good air, but also hard to afford… And it can be silly with wealth if that makes any sense.

      4. Look at Park City, UT. The schools are the ranked the best in the state, you’re 10-20 mins away (max) from some of the largest ski resorts in the Rockies, and it has higher elevation than SLC so you don’t have to deal with smog! It’s also considerably more liberal than the rest of the state (it is the location for Sundance film festival) and draws a ton of transplant Californians looking for outside activities, great schools, low taxes, and low COL. I, from SF originally, have been living in Park City for the last 10 years with my family and absolutely love it!

  43. I agree with Mrs. FW re: take this year to explore areas you’re interested in! We found our current town via a similar method. If possible, stay in town a few days… Maybe get an Airbnb and try to immerse yourself as much as possible in the local community. Talk to people there, and read the local paper (I feel like you can get a strong sense of a place through the newspaper – persistent issues will receive continued attention from reporters, and local events will often reflect those issues). *Definitely* rent for 9-12 months so that you can bail out if you’re not as thrilled with the place as you expected. BTW, if you’re looking for a place kind of like CO but not quite as expensive, northern Arizona is a good option!

    1. Reading the local papers during our travels is an excellent suggestion! (The people around here complain about a lack of parking and affordable rent… so it’s clear to see what we care about in SF.) Thank you for your idea.

  44. Well, actually I’d like them to drill our expenses and advise how I could do better ;-). Gee, what do they eat if the food budget is so low considering they live in SF? OK, I’m kidding, but their expenses are super, others could learn from them. Our food expenses are higher, but our children are much older. One of them eats more than me LOL.
    Before leaving SF, I’d advise to learn of the real potential haircut for the husband’s salary and not estimate it. What if it’s more than 15% (less would be preferable). Also, perhaps the wife should explore her teaching opportunities in advance which might guide them where to move to. I’d be a bit concerned about the health insurance ‘bridge’ unless they’d sign up for the husband’s plan while the wife finds a new job with a better health insurance.
    If they’re really set to get a house in a new place, I’d advise against shopping for a large house just because the payment will be lower as compared to the rent in SF. First, the low mortgage payment would help offset the lower net home pay and secondly, you want to keep it small so you don’t go crazy furnishing it and cleaning it. Anyway, not sure why I’m teaching them. They sound very down to earth already, so I wish them good luck.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I’m all about a smaller house! Less to clean, heat, etcetera = more time together as a family!

      Health insurance is a big consideration (as we both have chronic conditions). I love love love my specialist doctor here, so finding someone as good is going to be difficult. We’ll keep you updated!

  45. As a native New Mexican and mom in a family of snowboarders, I want to warn you that proximity to ski resorts doesnt mean much in New Mexico because of the low amounts of snowfall we often receive. We are located fifteen miles from a ski resort and buy season passes every year, but some years there isnt enough snow to board/ski until January. My brother and family left Las Vegas, New Mexico for Colorado Springs years ago. They started out renting in Monument and recently built a home in Peyton. They are close to several ski areas that receive plenty of snow each year. My brother wanted better education opportunities for his daughters which was one of his main reasons for choosing the Colorado Springs area.

    1. Snowboarders? We can’t be friends with you. (Just kidding!)

      That’s a pity that sometimes the resorts don’t open until January! Colorado Springs does sound nice, so we’ll look into it. Thank you!

  46. I left SF for Sacramento a year and a half ago, and I love it. Summer is terrible but that is the tradeoff for my $1800 mortgage – which is what we paid for a room in a shared house in SF after our landlady jacked up the rent by 300%. We went through a similar process as you. I made a lot of lists and did a lot of research, but also ultimately, I popped over here for a visit and it just felt right.

    I’m super impressed that your vacation budget is $250 a month and you take so many trips! I’m guessing most are driving trips? We budget around that and it covers one vacation and one trip to visit family. It costs us about 4 months of that alone just for the airfare to visit my family at Christmas! Which is why we stayed in NorCal. My husband’s family is up here and we wanted to stay within driving distance of one set, at least. A useful factor for you to consider, possibly.

    1. Our trips are mostly on the short side: LA, PNW, Colorado. Being flexible with schedules helps to get the best deals, and we use miles/points when we can. Some things, like traveling around Christmas, are unavoidably expensive.

  47. I live in NYC and $2,550 is a deal for a 2-bedroom here! And your expenses are very low, except for the daycare, which can’t be helped. But it sounds like there isn’t very much tying you to SF, except the boost in income. Are you tied to the culture, the convenience, the diversity, etc.?

    Both of your jobs seem fairly mobile (meanwhile, if you worked in fashion or something, it would be harder to move), so that’s good.

    I would take some time to test out a new city. Also, don’t buy a place in the new city right away. Rent first to make sure you don’t hate it.

    Also, another thought is if you bought a place with in-laws that could help reduce the daycare costs (if your parents are into it), and the kids growing up with their grandparents is always a good thing.

  48. Obviously I am biased towards the western US, but some areas I would suggest looking into are the greater Denver area (like Longmont or Erie); Salt Lake City, UT; Boise, ID; and Bozeman, MT. All have airports, skiing, outdoor activities, reasonabil-ish housing prices, and some of those cultural amenities that you are looking for.

  49. A quick note on Schwab – if you’re open to switching funds, their total stock market index (SWTSX) has an expense ratio of 0.03%, which is actually lower than both of the Fidelity and Vanguard shares that Mrs. Frugalwoods mentioned, and is equal to Vanguard’s “Admiral” shares which require a $10,000 initial investment. We’re new Schwab customers (nearly entirely for their investor checking ATM fee-free card) and have been growing more and more impressed with their offerings.
    You mentioned the kiddo’s college fund – depending on what state you go to, they might offer enough in scholarships those funds don’t need to be that big. As an example, my parents chose to move to Georgia before freshman year of high school. As a result, I got120 credits of free tuition because I
    a) chose a state school (Georgia Tech – top 3 nationally for engineering) and
    b) kept a 3.0+ GPA in high school and college.
    My parents weren’t able to contribute much financially, but that move really set me up for success. The rest of it was paid through part-time jobs and some federal loans (which are set to be paid off by the end of the year!). Oliver and siblings will be prepared no matter what you guys choose to do though 🙂

    1. We really like Schwab so far, so we’ll look into SWTSX! Thanks! I have to admit that Kurt does most of the stock market choices for us… I’m still learning the ropes.

      Scholarships are a great thing for us to consider! I regretfully didn’t apply for many during my college years, but I like the idea of planning that out for our kids ahead of time.

  50. Leaving the bay area and california would add ??so much % to their income (state income +13% and sales tax is up to 10% in some areas along with the gas tax etc) also loking at a state with NO income tax is even better…

  51. We lived in Northern California for 8 years until recently (In the Sierra foothills), and I was never so glad to get out of that state! Even though our cost of living was cheaper than SF, California is just not a good place for the long term. We are back in the Midwest again. (Minneapolis). Yes!

    With your teaching career, keep in mind that you will need to be licensed in your new state. When I first moved to Minnesota from Indiana, I was required to take some classes to obtain a MN teaching license. This was a number of years ago. Now the requirements are more rigorous. You may actually have to delay teaching for a year while you obtain necessary credits in a new state. This almost always seem to involve online or classroom instruction. Perhaps you could still be hired on the stipulation that you will be earning the needed credits and will present proof of doing so. It’s hard to say since each state is so different regarding licensing. Best of luck as you make your plans. As others have said, it’s best to move while your children are young.

  52. My husband and I were in the exact same spot last year, wanting to leave San Francisco for Colorado.
    We moved to Fort Collins, CO last March and rented there for 2-3 months to explore the area. During that time my husband (also a software engineer) looked for a new position nearby. He ended up getting hired by Google who is expanding a lot in Boulder (lots of hiring ahead!). We started to look for a house to buy around Boulder and found out about Longmont, which is 20 min north of Boulder with houses that are still affordable (although the prices have doubled in the last 5 years). The cheapest houses were available for $300K and we decided to go for a 2 bedroom townhouse. We are very happy with the recent events and decisions. We love Colorado, we are close to Boulder and the mountains and my husband is loving working at Google (amazing perks and benefits).

    1. Hi, family twin! It sounds like you’re super happy in Colorado, and that’s what we want! Longmont looks lovely and it’s high on the list. Maybe we’ll be neighbors someday? Thanks for the input.

  53. I am not US-based so have no valuable insights on particular areas, but we did move with our then-5 month old back to Cape Town from London, NOT on a whim, but as a sort of now-or-never thing. We’d always wanted to come home, I was on long maternity leave, husband wanted a work change, so we thought… why not?

    And have never regretted it for a moment.

    But anyway. The only thing i would say is definitely rent for at least a year before buying somewhere ”new”. Yes, I grew up in Cape Town, know it, love it, thought I was totally clear on our incomings and outgoings, where we wanted to live, where our son would go to school… all of it.

    How wrong I was! Renting a really great little place where we imagined we needed to live helped us realise what we wanted and didn’t want in a home, where the very good government schools are located, where was affordable and it gave husband the time to realise he loathed his new job and to find a new one… in a vastly different direction from the initial one. I work from home, but having a little place helped me see that I do in fact benefit from a small dedicated work space that’s not my bedroom or in a shared space because I use headphones quite a lot. Anyway. We had no idea when we arrived in a very familiar town, what was in store, and renting for the first year -18 months was definitely a good thing in staying flexible. I highly recommend it. Yes it feels painful having to move twice, but it won’t be in a very short space of time by the time everything has been sold, notice given and so on. It would be 1-2 years realistically. Then you could work out if 2 bedrooms is enough for 2 adults and 2 kids, or if 3 might be better OR if there’s some other permutation.

    I would definitely plan to go sooner rather than later though. You want to move on, it’s very obvious. You are currently well-positioned in every way to do it with relative ease. I say go for it!

    1. Thank you for your insightful comment! Sooner is sounding more desirable by the minute. And renting first seems to be the consensus, so that’s what we’ll plan to do!

      I would love to hear more about your adventures in Cape Town. Do you have a blog?

  54. Another vote to: “strongly consider the political leanings/culture/tolerance of anywhere you look.” This can vary area by area in addition to state-to-state. We’ve had friends who were quite surprised by the variance even w/in an hour north/south/east of the Bay Area. You want to find your “fit”. It makes a difference even if you feel fulfilled w/ your family. Community (especially when your kids get school age) permeates your life, it’s wonderful when it’s in synch w/ your views and you don’t feel you’re continually swimming upstream.

      1. You are right! We hadn’t considered that part of it, but I think it’s important to finding friends and putting down roots. Also, thanks Mrs. Frugalwoods, for all of your brilliant comments!

  55. Another vote here for the Sacramento area. Hubby and I used to live in the east bay. We now live in Rocklin (just outside Sacramento) on a 1/4 acre lot. We have a garden, pool, 5 bedroom house, yard, view of the Sierra’s all on one income. We are happy. Last year during the winter we dropped all 3 kids off at school, drove to Sugarbowl to snowboard and made it back to Rocklin in time to pick them up from school.

    A few things to consider: there is no place like Cali- ocean, mountains, desert, volcanoes all in a few hours drive. I used to live in the midwest, yes it’s cheaper, but it’s also winter 6 months out of 12 months.

    As kids age, they grow and need more space to live. At some point your baby boy will be 15 and possibly as big or bigger than your husband. I know this is stating the obvious, but it is easy to forget when buying a house with a baby.

    We rented first before buying. It’s a lot of extra work, but worth it in the end.

    Roseville, Rocklin, Granite Bay, Folsom, El Dorado Hills, Auburn and Nevada City are all family friendly, safe communities.

    Good luck! It’s a huge decision to move, but the journey and adventure to reach your dream it’s what life is all about!

    1. A garden, a pool, five bedrooms, a yard, and a view??? Can we move in with you?

      We’re already feeling the impact of a growing boy in a small space. This kid loves to explore and climb and run (as I’m sure many children do), and we are longing for a yard and perhaps a dog for him to play with.

      Thank you for your comment. I’m happy to see other families living the dream!

  56. I recommend the Twin Cities, Minnesota if winter snow/cold/ice isn’t a problem. There are great jobs, arts and outdoor activities.

  57. First of all, what a great job in planning your finances! I live in the SF Bay Area ( look towards the outer East Bay-much cheaper to buy a house) and note that it can be done for much cheaper. We are a very frugal family as well. We have paid off our house( and know some who have done the same),sent or sending 4 out of 5 kids so far to college debt-free, one is starting this fall and wants to go to medical school so we may have to take out loans then,a12 yr old still that will need to go and he knows he has to get straight As(he is- sister got straight As t/o school graduating with 4.56 and numerous scholarships) and wants to obtain a basketball scholarship. We have told our children from the beginning they have to work at it. My 12 yo even has started a business and sells shoes, whatever the latest trends ( right before it becomes wildly popular and makes a lot of profit-200-300%!)and he uses this to pay for his own clothes and shoes. The kids go to the top public universities and one is paying for his own master’s graduating at the top of his class!

    All of this from simple beginnings. We married young, lived off 50% of our income, invested in a small house with only 6000.( builder closing out gave us another 4k)- made 75k off that house to put into our next house. Not big, but enough to raise 5 kids! Schools were only okay and now not great, but I have always supplemented their education and had them in advanced math classes ( free), etc. My now 12 yo was doing high school math with hs students in this special program and he was only in the 5 th grade at the time! My daughter graduated top 9% from a medical high school giving her further scholarships and a guarantee to be accepted into the UC system.

    So all of this was on a busdriver’s salary and we make nowhere near what you are making, but it is doable. However, if you do not have love for this area then move now while the children are young. You can settle in and be established before the kids start school and get a feel for the area. Over in the SF Bay Area, it is getting very congested and sometimes you feel you cannot breathe, so I understand. We stay because both of our families are here.

    I agree Sacramento, Placerville, Rocklin,Modesto, Davis are still fairly close to SF Bay Area but have a lower col. Near the Nevada/CA border, if you are on the NV side, there are tax advantages( we probably pay the highest taxes in CA and CA taxes even social security benefits!). So whereever you live if you maybe look for a place with no income tax or at least lower, no property or sales tax, that would be better!

    Good luck! I am sure whereever you go, you will do well because both of you seem to have a good head on your shoulders! Wish you the best- getting off now because fingers typing on the cell is hard to do with so much to type-lol!

    1. Thanks, Ellen! It sounds like your family is doing great… and kudos on making it work in the Bay. If our families were nearby, it would be a huge incentive to stay. We’ll see where we end up, though. 🙂

  58. Ha, I haven’t fully read through the comments, but I’m putting in a plug for Minneapolis/St. Paul. There is skiing here (where Lindsay Vohn learned!) but it sure isn’t mountains, so be away of that. Many lakes and beaches, awesome bike trails and tons of nearby (and boundary waters) camping opportunities, it’s been named best park system that people actually use…tons of green space, which was important to me. They are very liberal cities, if that interests you, though if you find a job in the burbs driving an be a problem. Driving can be a problem in general, as we’re experiencing our share of urban sprawl. We have a three-bedroom, 1800 square foot house purchased at the rise of the market that we pay $1,000 per month for…. we are still underwater on it too. Sigh. Affordable homes. Tons of cultural events, including many free events. For kids we have ECFE (where I met a ton of my friends) and moms clubs and I don’t think you’d have a hard time finding a job. Childcare costs are like yours or higher. Add it to your list to check out.

  59. We are in a similar situation and life stage (1 year old daughter, Seattle tech market) and are making a move this spring. We actually decided on Waterloo, Ontario because my husband can transfer to an office there and stay with the same company. We also have family just across the border in upstate NY. I would encourage you to consider Canada in your search. Waterloo’s housing is not cheap but they are a bargain compared to SF or Seattle. There is a very strong tech scene thanks to RIM and the University of Waterloo and Toronto is just an hour away (direct flights pretty much anywhere). Schools are very good and the social safety net is just so much stronger. I could imagine that teachers might be paid better and have better support, although I don’t know. We were feeling anxious about retiring with the constraints of the US healthcare system and decided that Canada was a much more secure place for a young family to retire. If you are not dependent on the location of a job, you can target beautiful and affordable communities all over Canada depending on your preferences.

    I will note that income taxes are high, so it may be better for people in their final years of accumulation, but you can do the math on that see if it would work for you. Also, people always like to point out that you can’t just move to Canada–they have to let you in. However, for someone with software skills in your age range, it’s a slam dunk. I think you’d be surprised how quickly you can get a visa with a path to permanent residency, even without a job offer from a Canadian company. Something to consider!

      1. A word of warning: it is VERY difficult right now to get hired as a teacher in Ontario, especially in the southern half where the major cities are. I have had my teaching licence for over 5 years, and the closest I’ve ever been was hired as a emergency occasional teacher for the last 2 months of the 2016-2017 school year. When the recession happened, retirements stopped; but the teacher training programs kept the same number of students. (As an example, my board recently hired 200 occasional teachers, but had over 800 applicants!) I believe the average time spent on an occasional teachers list is now about 5-7 years before getting a long-term placement (like a maternity leave). Most people I know who graduated after that time have switched fields entirely.

        That being said, you do have experience, which definitely doesn’t hurt! It might be worth seeing if your state qualifications would transfer over, just in case. I’ve heard that it is slightly easier to get on a list for the Catholic boards, even if you aren’t Catholic.

  60. Btw what internet provider do you use? I am looking for a cheaper one now. There is a new one Sonic in this area for 40. so I was going to check that out. They have bundles where it is 30. but then you have to fet a bundle which increases it by a lot then!

    Also check into 529 plan before putting anything more into it. If that is considered the child’s money and account then they would consider under FAFSA more of a percentage of that money as assets. They will consider less of the money if it belongs to the parents. Like a paid off home, FAFSA does not include your primary home equity as part of the equation. So just check into that.

    1. I think we have Wave (formerly Astound), but I’ll have to double check. I am not sure about the 529 plan… Kurt is the expert on that one. Thanks for bringing it up!

  61. I agree with Mrs. Frugalwood’s conclusions about relocating!

    Have you considered Raleigh, North Carolina? My husband and I are both born and raised natives of large cities (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) and relocated here 6 years ago for my husband’s job. We are OBSESSED with Raleigh now and sing it’s praises to anyone who will listen! This city is large enough to offer TONS of fabulous restaurants and bars, it has some great schools, it’s a very safe city and walkable city with a small town feel, and it’s super easy to commute/get around. With 3 major universities (Duke, UNC, and NC State) within a stone’s throw and many smaller colleges as well, there’s an abundance of cultural and sporting events. The weather is AMAZING year-round, and since NC is abundant with farmland, there’s local produce galore, especially at the huge farmer’s market which is open year round (you can even get local fresh-cut Christmas trees and wreaths there in the winter). We are about 2 hours from a slew of cute beach towns (including Wilmington, NC where Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill were filmed), and 3 hours from the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    Despite what you may have heard in the news about North Carolina, Raleigh is a VERY YOUNG and VERY PROGRESSIVE city. I encourage you guys to come visit!! Feel free to email me if you want to check it out, I’ll give you a list of places to eat/see!

    1. You’re the second person to mention Raleigh, so perhaps we should check it out! I like the idea of being close to major universities (both for myself and for Oliver in the future). Thanks for the insight!

    2. Considering Raleigh Durham Chapel Hill area as a possible place to retire. Good to hear about the progressive nature of the area-that (and the fact that my kids would not be nearby) are what give me pause. I have a cousin in Durham-he and his wife are very progressive and love Durham (especially the beer and CounterCulture coffee). I did a little exploring when we attended their wedding 2 years ago. Seems to be an area with a lot of good independent bookstores and lots of restaurants-important to us. Also seems to have great healthcare options, lots of great colleges and universities, and an airport with decent connections-also very important to us. People bash NJ ( our home now)-I happen to love our beaches, our proximity to Philadelphia, NYC, D.C. and Baltimore, great healthcare and great airport connections from PHL, EWR, BWI, And JFK. Although we are older, we are in the same quandry as Melanie and family-is it bettter to stay or go? I think everywhere has its pluses and minuses.

  62. Melanie and Kurt, kudos to you for a wonderful job on your expenses. You are definitely on your way to early retirement and you’ve managed to get so far already in what is one of the HCOLA in the country! I’ll definitely add my vote in for moving sooner rather than later and renting. Once Oliver starts kindergarten, you will start making friends with other families that have kids the same age and it will be harder to leave an established community.

    I know you said both of your families do not live in areas where you would like to be but what about moving close to a sibling or a best friend with kids close to your age? We live literally a mile down the street from my brother- and sister-in-law and their kids are similar in age to ours. It also works out great for babysitting (so we can go out) and also trading kids for longer trips. Even if you can move within a 2-3 hour driving distance, you will see them a lot more often and you can drop off each other’s kids once a month or once every two months so you can have some time to yourself or to travel.

    Another option to consider when buying a property is to look into buying both sides of a duplex – you can rent one side (either on AirBnB or a regular rental) and live in the other. That will help offset some of the housing costs.

    All in all, keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks for your kind words! We do feel that we’re on the right track, so it’s good to have that reassurance.

      Living near friends would be excellent, but we’re basically the first of our friends to have kid(s). And of those who have, they have all moved away. Oliver is unlikely to have cousins any time soon because I have no siblings and Kurt’s brother is much younger. But gosh, trading babysitting costs would be ideal.

      We’ll consider duplexes! Thanks!

  63. Denver native here! The COL here has definitely increased, but not near SF levels (at least for housing). We were recently looking at moving north to Loveland for my job and modest homes there go for $300-$400K, which is similar if not slightly lower than the Denver metro area (where we currently live). We didn’t end up moving because we couldn’t find affordable daycare ($500 more/month) and we wanted to stay close to family. The area is growing faster than the ability to provide daycare and so prices have spiked. We currently pay about $2k/month for our almost 4 yo and 1.5 yo. to go to an “affordable” Denver preschool/daycare.
    Teacher salaries are definitely lower in Colorado than California, at least in the Jeffco public school district that we are located. For the past couple years salaries have been frozen and they have only given a few COL raises. There has been talk of giving the step raises, but my husband has yet to see it on his paycheck (he’s a plumber for the district). They are going to have to start raising salaries soon in order to better keep up with COL!
    Finally a comment on skiing. I’m sure you have experienced this if you have come to the Colorado Rockies but the traffic to and from the mountains and Denver on the weekends can get horrendous at times. As someone who grew up skiing from the age of 3, I have stopped skiing entirely because I can’t stand the traffic to get to the resorts (also the price to ski is outrageous, but there are passes that bring the cost down). I do have many friends that live for skiing and brave it every weekend, but they also have places to stay in the mountains so they can make a trip of it. It’s the price you pay if you love to ski, I guess.
    With all that said, it probably sounds like I’m discouraging you from considering Colorado (maybe just a little 🙂 ), but Colorado is an amazing place. I’m so grateful I grew up and live here. The outdoors, community, breweries, sunshine, and lifestyle are hard to beat. Good luck to you as you decide what to do!

    1. It does sound like you’re discouraging us from Colorado! You’ve definitely given us a lot to consider. Thanks!

      (In other news, Kurt’s brother went to school in Colorado, and we constantly have arguments about which state has better beer!)

        1. I’m also a Denver native and would echo everything Meghan said! I love Denver, and will live here forever, but I’d take a hard look at moving here in your particular situation. Due to various state constitutional requirements, Colorado funds schools at a very low level which = low teacher salaries. One of my friends moved from Denver to teach in California and is actively recruiting all of his friends to relocate too for the better salaries, benefits, etc. And Meghan’s absolutely right about the skiing! The skiing is the best here, but it’s such a nightmare to get to the resorts that we don’t go! But, again, I only know the Denver area (which I love); there may be other options such as Longmont or Colorado Springs that could get you closer to what you want!

  64. Hi, I loved your post and it sounds like you are doing wonderfully all around. I would second the comments regarding moving while your kiddos are little as opposed to waiting till they are in school.
    Regarding locations, I’d suggest taking a look at Fayetteville, Arkansas and the surrounding areas. It’s a wonderful place to live and raise children. The community is diverse, progressive, and welcoming. The Fayetteville/ NW Arkansas region is very much a standout of the South. Fayetteville in particular with the University of Arkansas, Buffalo River National Park, and more outdoor glory than one could ever take advantage of is just plain awesome. It’s also has a very, very low cost of living. From the public library system to the farmer’s markets, it’s really worth a trip. The only thing it doesn’t have on your list is quick day trips to skiing. It does however have a great airport (XNA) that is much bigger/better than an area this size normally has because of the Corporate headquarters of Walmart. I will add in, and this isn’t a bad thing, that the opinions of Walmart in general here are much higher than what you typically read on the internet. Practically everyone knows someone personally who started as a cashier straight out of high school and worked there way up to management or works in one of the many Walton family funded endeavors. Walmart and the Walton’s have been very good to this region, check out Crystal Bridges for just one example. The presence of Walmart and all the vendors means the job market is great too. There is always a competition for software engineers. All of the teachers I know have had no problems getting jobs and there is a booming charter/specialty institution movement in addition to continued funding for public schools. One comment on the public schools, I’d suggest paying attention to more than just the “score” that each school earns. From what I’ve seen (I have three kiddos) the score actually has less to do with the quality of education than I would have expected it to. Our current teeny tiny rural school district that has just a middling score is providing an outstanding array of educational opportunities for kids with very different backgrounds and home environments. It certainly isn’t a prep-school approach, but of course that’s available in NWA too. I think you and your family might find it to be a great fit if you are willing to fly for skiing of course. Instead of skiing we canoe (which just happens to be a very frugal activity because no passes to buy and one canoe last a lifetime). You’ll see canoes and kayaks strapped to all sorts of cars here, just avoid going through drive-through windows with a canoe strapped to your roof! Best of luck in making the choices best for you and your family.

    1. I absolutely agree that the score of a school has little to do with the actual quality of instruction (speaking as a teacher who works at a “low performing” school). It’s just one of many factors to consider when we go elsewhere! Thanks for the comment!

      1. I grew up in Fayetteville, and I agree with everything Robin said. Fayetteville Public Schools are incredible, and the area has so much natural beauty with a very reasonable cost of living, a great airport, and close proximity to Tulsa and Kansas City. Teachers in NWA (Northwest Arkansas) are paid far above the average for the State. It is like a bubble of awesomeness nestled in the Ozark Mountains. I would also suggest you look at Oklahoma City (larger and closer to skiing). I live in Alabama now and am so biased towards the South and the moderate weather and low cost of living, but if you made me move back up North–there is zero doubt Fayetteville would be my top choice.

  65. Wow, Melanie and Kurt have done a fabulous job of saving! My advice: get out of the San Francisco area as soon as possible! I don’t know how anyone can afford to live in a high cost of living area (and save like you do). San Francisco is my favorite city to visit, but my sister lives in the San Fran area so I know what the cost of living is there. There are so many more nice places to live with ski resorts nearby. I live in the Phoenix, Arizona area and we have ski resorts in the northern part of the state. Phoenix is a reasonably priced city. I lived in Colorado growing up (33 years), New Jersey (ugh, high cost of living), Jacksonville, Florida, Kansas City and now Phoenix. Colorado is a beautiful place to live, but unfortunately their cost of living is high, but not as outrageous as San Fran. . Six years ago I sold my parent’s house in Denver for $110,000. A few months ago it sold for $220,000! Maybe I should have kept it. It was a two bedroom home with a bathroom on the main level and an unfinished basement with only a bathroom finished there. I saw the note from Marie above about Minneapolis/St. Paul. . The Twin Cities in Minnesota is a nice area, but the cost of housing is much higher than in other places. (My brother in law and sister in law live there) How much do Melanie and Kurt like cold weather? My husband grew up in Duluth, Minnesota and he says he will never live in a cold climate again! Overall, getting out of San Fran seems to be a great idea. You then need to decide where to live that is low cost and still provides you good ski areas. When I moved from Colorado to New Jersey, the ski resorts there were like little hills compared to the splendor of the Colorado Rockies.

    1. I’ve lived in California my whole life, so I don’t know how well I would fare with actual seasons. However, I read once that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

      And you’re right, nothing beats the Rockies!

  66. I would have to disagree with moving right away. I would first want to figure out where a want to move to. Maybe narrow it down to 4-5 cities. Then, look into what it will cost to live there. You mentioned that your husband would take a 15% pay cut and you will not make as much either. Without really knowing where you want to move to, how do you know it will be at least 15% cheaper to live there without doing any math ahead of time. Maybe your husband could ask for a 10-15% raise not to work remotely. That would be a 25-30% swing in pay if you were not to move.

    Also, if San Francisco still allows it, you should try renting out your place on Air BnB when you are traveling. This will help recoup some of your rent money.

    From what you wrote, I’m not sure how anyone could advise you to move ASAP without 1. Knowing where you will move to and 2. Not doing any math on how much it will really save you. At the end of the day, it may not save you as much as you think.

    Hope it all works out for you.

  67. I think you nailed it with the suggestion to use this year to figure out where to move. As much as it pains me, a family we know from preschool did just that. They up and moved to Denver just this summer. We live in Santa Barbara – while not as insanely crazy as the Bay Area, you are still looking at a million bucks for a single family home, and we don’t have the matching high salaries.

    I also agree that Colorado is not a panacea of cheap housing. We recently vacationed there. Ski resorts like Telluride are expensive. My spouse’s company is outgrowing their space and is looking to open an office elsewhere. Goal #1: to be someplace cheaper than Santa Barbara and their other office: Washington DC. Ouch. The only recommendation so far is Boulder, and holy sticker shock! It’s similar in cost to SB, just the homes are bigger. So price per square foot is about 2/3 of here, but because the typical house is bigger, you still are looking at $700k to get into a home. Which: no. But that is Boulder proper, not further out.

    I would also agree to look into cutting out some of the eating out and consider staying in the 1 BR apt. Because yes, the goal should be to move at the end of the school year.

  68. So I never thought I would recommend this (as I was raised in MI and still miss it – but not enough to move back if you’re reading this Mom!) but San Antonio, TX has a very reasonable COL, fresh veggies are VERY cheap (avocados are .78 for small and .98 for large OUT of season). We found a large 3000sqft, 4/3, home on 1/3rd acres with a MIL suite for 210k back in 2012 which is about 325k in today’s market. House is great because we can have my family stay with us but is in town too – Less than 1 mile from Target, Grocery store, great restaurants and movie theater for our monthly treat. 1.5 miles to library, parks. Direct bus line to downtown (Riverwalk park, most museums, beautiful historic buildings). Many bike trails throughout town (both bike lanes and actual park trails), TONS of great museums (I recently left my job directing a museum to have my son). The airport is international with direct flights to MI, CA, Las Vegas, DC/VA, Chicago, and Denver (we have family in all of these areas). You can also take the Train directly into Chicago from here! My MIL & FIL are retired teachers here and they have good things to say about the retirement process. Also, my husband is a Linux Systems Admin and makes *very* good money.
    And yes, I know we do not have skiing here but from what I am seeing, your family already takes skiing trips with your extended family… And, will it still be a treat for him once he can do it locally / every day? Or will he fall victim to hedonistic adaptation? (another reason I will not be moving back to Traverse City, MI – too much fun, tourism things to experience!)
    Above all, know yourselves and HAVE FUN with Oliver during your journey.
    Best of Luck.

    1. Hi, Terri! You might be right about Kurt falling victim to hedonistic adaptation! And you’re making San Antonio sound lovely… we will look into it. Thanks, and we’ll keep y’all updated!

      1. I know I’m years later, but I recommend Dallas Fort Worth. I love it! Wonderful friendly people, affordable cost of living, good growing seasons, generally good weather, good museums and other activities, good schools, etc.

        I previously lived in about 5 other states. I did not love Nevada and Arizona. I did not find people as friendly as here…these are just my people! I’m sure lots of people enjoy those places.

        For reference: we’re in a central suburb (between Dallas and Fort Worth). We paid $223k for our 4 bed 3 ba 1900 sq ft house on half acre lot in 2019. It’s now worth about $300-320k in 2022.

  69. We live in the North bay, and plan on leaving in a few years. We just got our only son launched at CSU-Ft Collins (hurrah!) and took a leisurely road trip thru Colo, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon scouting out potential new hometowns. We really liked Ft Collins (although my goodness the front range has changed since my husband went to grad school in Boulder!). Also Boise seemed to have alot of potential.

    I think you seriously need to take climate change into account. Will there by water and snow in your new home in twenty years? We have lived in Sonoma County for 25 years and have seen a definite shift to a warmer climate. That said, I would never consider a place prone to flooding, hurricanes, and high humidity. You trade those for drier climates prone to drought and wildfire. That is one thing that keeps us where we are: the climate…we can grown food year round and can get away with no air conditioning. We are on a excellent community well and know and trust our neighbors. The future might not look like the present as population growth, resource depletion and change change is here to stay. I found this very helpful in thinking about future choices https://www.peakprosperity.com/crashcourse.

    Social capital is just as important as financial, so feeling a connection to the community in terms of shared values is vital. When you start adding in those more intangible variables to your spreadsheet the possibilities will get narrowed down quickly I suspect. I think getting out of SF is wise.

    1. Climate change is something to consider; you’re absolutely right. And I read Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” earlier this year, so I agree about social capital. Hopefully those narrow down the options!

  70. I loved reading this post! It reminds me so much of my husband and I (he’s in IT, I went to school for teaching). I think that Melanie and her husband are doing a great job. Shameless plug–check out Grand Rapids, MI. My husband and I used to live in Seattle, paying $2300 a month for a loft apartment near downtown. We moved when our daughter was 1 to Grand Rapids, and were able to purchase a 4 bedroom house in an amazing walkable neighborhood for $128,000. The city has made several lists in the US–best place to live, raise a family, “Beer City USA”, ArtPrize, etc. Lake Michigan beaches are a hidden gem, and there is plenty of skiing and snowboarding opportunities up North. My husband is also in IT, and the jobs here for that field are extremely plentiful. Best of luck to you! 🙂

  71. I agree with NicoleandMaggie. I would really take the time to look at this from another perspective. The midwest is affordable, but depending on your political leanings, you may be dismayed. It’s very conservative compared to Cali, especially the Bay area. The “life philosophy” is very different. (E.g., recycling– not a thing here.) I’m from Ohio and have lived in Berkeley, Boston, Seattle, and now Chicago; I would not have come back to the Midwest if my spouse’s job hadn’t required it.
    Ditto on the free cultural activities. If you do feel like you want to give the Midwest a try, as others have suggested, and you want culture sans the city, look for a college town. If I had to be in the Midwest and could choose something with similar perks to SF (I mean, not really but as close as you can get) I would consider Madison, WI, or Ann Arbor, MI.

  72. The only thing I have to add is that if they DO buy a place with a MIL apartment, when family is not using that space it could potentially be rented out via AirBNB, thus increasing their income that much further. I realize that AirBNB is not for everyone and it can be tricky to balance the pros out with the potential downsides (having strangers in your family’s space, particularly when there are concerns of privacy and whatnot with small children) but it’s worth a thought.

  73. May I suggest Huntsville, Alabama? The Space and Rocket industry, Redstone Arsenal, UAH, are all big employers and I think your husband could find a great job. Teachers also vest in the state retirement system in three years, I think. The mountains nearby are beautiful, and you can go to Gulf Shore, Alabama for the beach. It has cultural diversity thanks to the above industries. The houses are really cheap compared to California, and it has many good public schools in the area. This is an option no one mentioned, so I wanted to let you know about it. I also think the Raleigh, NC area is also a good place.

  74. Hi there 🙂
    I’m a native Coloradan and I can assure you that I never venture out into the mountains on any weekend or holiday because the traffic is horrible, really, and everything is so crowded. I don’t know how this population explosion happened so suddenly, but pristine places are becoming overrun and damaged (see Hanging Lake).
    Sorry, to be Grapes of Wrath-ish, but it’s expensive and crowded here.

  75. I relocated to CO years ago for many of the reasons I’m reading in Melanie’s list of desires. Yes the cost of housing is currently considered high but relative to what they could ever get in CA for the same $ I think it’s a mute point. Also the interest rates now allow for a reasonable payment and opportunity to pre pay the mortgage. My suggestion is to consider the Colorado Springs area as we did years ago. It is a mecca of IT/engineering jobs right now and email me for some of the better opportunities. The teachers here belong to PERA which is one of the highest rated retirement plans available and Melanie would benefit from putting in as many years as possible into her PERA retirement. There is a plethora of activities year round including Territory days, Pikes Peak races, Rodeos, Hot air balloon festival, and more. We are only 3 hrs from the best skiing in the country so day trips are the norm here. The cost of utilities is a fraction of other cities in the country and real estate taxes are incredibly low compared to other states. The outdoor activities are year round and best of all we have about 300 days of sunshine a year. Bike trails abound as do day hikes and the Garden of the Gods is over 400 acres of natural land to hike and bike right in the city. It’s only an hour to Denver for museums and more activities as well as flights anywhere in the country, and our airport has tons of cheap flights on Frontier. As for winters we have some of the mildest weather compared to the Midwest and more northern states. We spent 2 years researching and visiting cities before choosing the Springs. I agree with others that the funds need to be diverted from retirement accounts temporarily to have a substantial moving/start up fund, although Kurt has a good chance of relocation funds if he changes jobs. I would tough it out in current apartment keeping the end goal of a move in mind when it feels crowded. I would suggest making a vision board with pictures and goals as a reminder why it’s important to tighten the discretionary spending budget this year. Sometimes that simple reminder keeps one on track and reminds you why you are staying the course.

    1. Just a quick point of clarification on my advice: I do NOT recommend diverting funds from their retirement accounts, but rather, from their taxable investments. They should be able to save up the requisite down payment that way, while still taking advantage of their 401k and 403b benefits.

  76. Hi Melanie!

    I happen to live in southern New Mexico, drive through the northern portion every couple months, and I’ve been poking around housing sites for the area on the off chance I can snag a job there. It is both inexpensive (rent in my town runs around $300-400 per bedroom, buying farther north looks to be pretty cheap as well) and beautiful. The landscape is varied enough that you will probably find something to love. ABQ will meet most of your airport needs, and Denver is a few hours farther north if necessary. And, of course, plenty of skiing around. I think your biggest challenge will be determining which town you would like to live in, especially when it comes to school quality. It may be different closer to Albuquerque, but most people in my town don’t seem to believe in the internet. I mean, it’s there, but nobody uses it for advertising or discussions outside of the town’s Facebook sales page. Visits to the areas you’re considering would be ideal.

  77. Give Cheyenne, Wyoming a look. We have no state income tax; our sales tax is 5% and there is no tax on groceries. I’m a retired teacher here, and the Wyoming Retirement System in excellent. Our district starts beginning teachers at close to $50,000. Cheyenne is just 45 miles to Laramie where the University of Wyoming is located. Wyoming high school graduates are eligible for the Hathaway Scholarship, which, depending on GPA and ACT scores, pays all or most of tuition at UW for four years. There’s skiing at the Snowy Range Ski Area; just 45 minutes west of Laramie. Cheyenne and Laramie have many outdoor and cultural activities. Plus, our library is nationally recognized and absolutely amazing.

  78. We also live in the Bay Area and are planning to move to Southern Oregon in 2 years. We would honestly leave now, but our oldest graduates high school in 2 years. We also have twins in Kindergarten and while we love the immediate community and the school,15 years in the Bay Area has worn on us. We are ready for a slower pace of life with less traffic and less people.

    We also considered Colorado (Boulder/Fort Collins area) as I’ve spent time there for business travel. The area is beautifu, but the winters are very cold and while we love the snow (Tahoe is great), we’d rather drive to it than deal with living in it. The cost of living is high, but still much lower than the Bay Area.

    Congrats on your frugal ways and being so wise at such a young age. My husband and I are in our 40’s and wish we would have focused more on spending less earlier on! Good luck with whatever you decide! You are in the perfect position to set yourselves up for the life you desire!

    1. Yeah, I’m not sure this California girl (me) could handle real winters. Thanks for your kind words! We are hoping that with some planning now, we will set our family up for success.

  79. My kneejerk reaction to anyone thinking about leaving the Bay Area is “Do it!” The housing costs are unfathomable to me! I’m guessing their $109k income is somewhere around the average for the area. How does anyone afford a house there? In our neck of the woods, upstate NY (very beautiful nature, by the way) that million dollar San Francisco home would probably cost $250k. Our mortgage is less than $700/mo. and the house cost 1x our household income. Not 10x!

    And if you move up here, we can help you with those Great British Bake Off reruns. We have every season!

    1. “How does anyone afford a house there?” is exactly what we’ve been asking ourselves! Upstate NY sounds quite cost effective, but can you bake like Mary Berry?

    2. Although I would say it isn’t always an easy decision. We actually realized that we could not afford to move out of the SFO bay area, funny enough. We do house hack here, so we only pay 800 a month for our historic home in Berkeley. (We are lucky, I know). I received a job offer in Portland, and by the time we figured in my reduced salary, as well as my partner’s–not to mention that house prices aren’t exactly cheap there–i’t just didn’t make financial sense. Strange, but moving to a cheaper place isn’t always financially better. Always pays to crunch the numbers, which it sounds like you have Melanie. But if you could swing a place with a cottage or MIL, you might be able to make it work here.

  80. My husband and I were where you were in 1979 living in Mountain View with a one-year-old. At that time, $100,000 could only purchase a shack. Our rent on a two bedroom/two bath apartment was $450/month. A headhunter set up an interview with HP in Boise and we moved in ’81. Skiing is 40 minutes away, a couple of hours more if you want the fancier Sun Valley. We have a nice airport but it’s still true that there are few direct flights to major cities. We never felt the need to pay for private or parochial schools because they weren’t necessarily better. Both our kids got degrees from Stanford anyway and I can’t say it was from legacy admission (one got into Yale as well.) Being from a small state is attractive to admissions officers because they like that diversity as well.

  81. May I ask where you are eating out 3-4 times a month for 90$ total? We live in San Jose, CA and a typical meal out runs close to 50$ for 2 adults, 1 toddler and incl. tip. It’s so expensive to eat out! We moved to SJ 7 years ago, after having lived in Paris and London. So we are used to the high prices, but it still hurts writing that 1,200$ pre-school check, and the insane housing prices. Luckily we bought our house at a good time, it has gone up a lot since 2012! The reader tip about Sacramento sounds interesting, I’ll check that out as well. Being closer to the Sierras would be a plus for me personally! Good luck!

    1. We have a local pho restaurant that we really love (it’s about $8 a bowl), and there’s a taqueria that serves up street fare for great prices. Oliver eats off of our plates for now, but he’ll probably need his own food soon enough. $1200 for preschool would make me cringe, too! The Bay Area is so tough for families!


    My parents recently retired from East Bay, CA to Park City, Utah and I have come to experience and fall in love with the area. Most residents are transplants from CA and East Coast. Salt Lake City is an amazingly affordable town and I have heard so many great things about the public school system and quality of life. People in Utah are obsessed with spending time outside, sunshine, and participating in outdoor activities: winter skiing, summer biking, shoulder season hiking & running. Park City houses have appreciated quickly, but still are pennies to the dollar when compared with Bay Area. Groceries, taxes, etc. are cheaper and SLC is considered the next tech capital housing many operations depts. for major companies (Goldman Sachs, etc.) while fostering entrepreneurship (e..g Backcountry.com)

    Worth a weekend, if you haven’t been! I am trying to work a Utah move into my five-year plan…

  83. Hi Melanie,
    I myself escaped a similar ‘city tax’ having lived across the river from NYC from which I received little benefit. My experience is that the salary differentials are minimal and don’t even come close to making up for the cost of living in these areas. I am living in Abq. NM and can help answer any questions you might have about jobs(government or iffy) or schools(iffy) in the area. Real estate is of course relatively cheap and the weather is great. It’s fun being able to drive up into the mountains and see the snow and then mountain bike in the afternoon.

    1. I really like the idea of going from snow to mountain biking in one day! But iffy schools are less desirable from both an employment and a parenting standpoint. I guess it comes down to being in the right area. We do have some friends in Albuquerque, so perhaps we should pay them a visit. Thanks for the comment!

      1. We also live in Albuquerque! We moved from CA almost 8 years ago and we love it! We do have our children in an APS spanish immersion charter school, where they are thriving! I would be happy to offer you more info about Albuquerque. Also you could check skinewmexico.com for more info as we haven’t taken our kiddos skiing yet! Albuquerque is beautiful! It is the desert, so low humidity and bugs, but warm here in the summer. If you come to visit come during Balloon Fiesta in October!

  84. Congratulations! Wish I had started so young. My input as someone in high tech in the SF Bay Area: go for the move and do it soon as possible. Pay cut in this area is very standard because we get premium pay to make up for high COL. People I know who go to remote always have a pay cut. And it’s worth it! I wish I could convince my beloved, but she is born and raised in SF area.
    Also consider that we are due for a downturn. I’ve been through the 2001 and 2008 downturns here. Layoffs abound, jobs dry up, housing prices don’t change much or quickly, and it will get harder to make your move and the timing might not be your choice. It would be good to get established elsewhere before the next downturn.

  85. So enjoyed your life story and your child is adorable! You’d be very welcome in the Midwest. (I’ve lived in Ohio and Indiana) The daycare here can be very reasonable and we love and support our teachers! One thing to consider: unless you are a-political you may want to search out a state with majority politics to your liking. State laws and even city ordinances can have a big impact if you are in disagreement. The Frugalwoods are frankly liberal and picked Vermont consequently.

    1. Oh, thank you! We like Oliver and we think we’ll keep him. 🙂

      I love the idea of a place that supports teachers. SF is actually building “teacher housing” because most educators afford to live near where they work. Teachers are leaving in droves… and it’s not good for schools or students.

      We’re not highly political, but I think overall trends are worth considering in a future living area.

      1. I remember seeing in a vintage magazine (1920s?) an architect’s pictures of what teacher housing could be. It was beautiful…modest but lovely homes adjacent to the school. I think the idea was that just as priests and ministers had housing provided with their “calling” so teachers should also. Probably not going to happen in our world but a good idea.

  86. Wow! Sounds like they’re doing a really fabulous job! I just thought I’d throw out Northern Utah as a fabulous place to look for a house—close to skiing, very reasonable cost of living (we just got a newer 2002 home that’s 2,000 square ft on over a quarter acre for about $200K), and an hour’s drive from an international airport. Melanie would take a pay cut with teaching, as Utah is the lowest state for paying teachers, but the greatly downsized cost of living would even that out for sure, in my opinion.

  87. I am northern New Mexico native and I love it here. However, most northern NM communities are quite rural with limited amenities and school choice. I have actually never shopped at Trader Joes or BJs. I can drive 100 miles to the nearest Sams Club. Santa Fe is a good population area with lots of culture and arts and probably job opportunities. You could also reach several ski areas with a 2 hr drive. But Santa Fe is also the highest cost of living area in the state. If you are open to small town living, check out Farmington (mid size) Taos (small town) or Angel Fire (village). Good luck!

  88. Melanie – If you want to stay in northern California, consider the Sacramento region, which include the counties of Sacramento, El Dorado, and Placer. These counties include cities with great schools, job opportunities ( have a friend that’s a software engineer who works in the Business Park down the street from my neighborhood), driving distance to Lake Tahoe, lots of cultural activities for families. Some cities such as Folsom, El Dorado Hills, Roseville, Rocklin, Fair Oaks (to name a few) are more suburbia, with everything close by. Other cities, such as Loomis, Cameron Park, Auburn are more rural, with a little land, but still close to amenities. Lost of farm to fresh foods, farmer’s markets, CSAs, etc. Sacramento Airport is about 30 minute drive. Home prices are definitely less expensive than the Bay area. As you can see, I’m partial to this area and enjoy living here!

  89. Hi everyone! My husband and I have been living as expats for more than 5 years now, which means we moved to 3 countries and changed several apartments and cities. We have lived “not so comfortably” in a studio apartment in a very expensive city, but also experienced the life in a 2 bedroom apartment for the same price as the previous one, in a less expensive city. In a country such as the US, I bet that moving around and changing homes and states is similar to what I have been through.
    What I have learned and recommend you to do: As for us the rent was the most difficult part and the highest expense we had, I know now that it is simply not worth paying a very high rent, just because you are in a certain area. You can find places where you can live in a bigger apartment for the same rent or buy your own house, and still have the quality of life you’re looking for. I find that some citites all around the world are just more expensive wihtout having nothing to do with the quality of life itself; it’s like buying 2 pair of jeans that are exactly the same, but for one you pat 5 $ and for the other you pay 700 $ because it’s written “Versace” on them; you pay for the name.
    As you want to retire in the next 10 years, find a place with a good environment, where you can have everything in handy, with a nice community, without being a “fancy” city.
    As for which place exactly, it depends on what you want, what kind of people you want in your community, the weather (if you care about that), the life your kids could have there and so on. Good luck and congrats for having such a well thought out plan and doing so great with saving.

  90. Hi Melanie!
    Mrs. Frugalwoods has given you some great advice here! I am also an educator (in my 29th year) and I actually do coaching on decisions like this (for free) through what I have learned in my doctoral program. I even did a case study with a couple in California last year who had similar concerns as you. They told me that I could start a whole business helping folks because there are so many people with a similar struggle as you 🙁 They ended up taking a 6 week trip to a number of different cities to see where they might want to live and ended up moving. We are in Colorado right now (at the Mr. Mustache HQ for a conference) and it is BEAUTIFUL here. But it is a higher cost area – as some have commented above. We are from the Finger Lakes region in NY – and it is nice there too. I don’t want to “spam” up the comments, but if you are still struggling even after all the great advice here – I’d be happy to share more too.

      1. Terrific! We just sold our home for $162K – 3 bed/2 bath, inground pool, backed up to a 23 acre city park in a beautiful community with a 17 mile lake. Good schools, nice people – with many jobs around. NY taxes stink – but there is plenty to enjoy too. And we have a ski hill just a few miles down the road too 🙂 Happy to chat! Folks have given you great ideas here too – such a great community!

  91. I couldn’t resist writing in as we JUST made this move ourselves! After 2 years of talking about it and working out a good job situation, my husband and I moved from Oakland to Portland, OR last weekend. For now we are renting and our cost stayed about the same but we got so much more for the money, an adorable renovated 4 bedroom house with a yard in an awesome neighborhood up from a decrepit 3 bedroom flat with no outdoor space. We haven’t been here long enough to have a full financial comparison, but so far our 2.5 year old daughter’s childcare has dropped from $1150 to $750 for 3 days a week and my husband will be able to bike to work saving a ton on commuting costs (not to mention time and sanity). We have found people to be unbelievably friendly and we can’t wait to enjoy even more accessible outdoor and winter activities than in the Bay. I also moved at 6 months pregnant with our second baby which worked out great–if you happen to be pregnant at the time 2nd trimester is totally doable, even with a toddler in tow. We are hoping like you that a move out of the Bay will allow us to buy a home and offer a more relaxed lifestyle. Portland fit the bill for us as we wanted to stay on the west coast to be near family, be in a tech-friendly town for my husband’s work and be close to the outdoors, but wherever you go just about anywhere has to be a better bet than a town where buying is such a pipe dream. Fingers crossed for both of us!!

    1. Hi, family twin! I’m so glad the move has worked out for you so far. We’re hoping for a similar result. I’ve never visited Portland, but I’ve always wanted to. The bike culture seems awesome!

  92. I think you should seriously consider New Mexico. I live in central NM and have no experience as a skier, but Taos is a world-class ski resort (and lack of snow isn’t really a problem – they make their own if there’s not enough) in an area where you could live semi-rurally or in town, and you’ll find the COL to be amazingly low in comparison with the Bay Area (though it’s higher than in Albuquerque) and in comparison with many nice places in CO (which is lovely, but just not nearly as affordable). It is GORGEOUS in the area (and the state as a whole) and one of my favorite things about the state is how many fantastic places of natural and cultural beauty are within a day’s drive (by my count, 15 national parks within a one-day drive from my house).

    1. Oh, AND, many houses in NM come with an in-law house (called a “casita”) and our weather is sublime. You’ll love it here.

  93. Hi Melanie and Kurt, thank you for sharing your story with us all. I love reading the case studies on FW! I can’t comment too much on where you should move to as I’m Australian and I’m still working on my own finances so I’ll skip any advice in that area too. What I really wanted to say was DO IT! Move somewhere beautiful, where you can have easy access to the outdoors and a sense of space. I have a feeling you will not realize that you’re missing this right now, but once you move you will relish this space, both in your home and in your sense of environment. Choose somewhere that lights you up – that has outdoor activities, a lovely community feel, your preferred weather and you will not look back. I am so excited for you all because this is the start of a whole new adventure – wishing you well 🙂

  94. One reason for you to consider staying in the Bay Area is because your husband has more opportunities here to drastically augment his income compared to any other place in the US due to the sheer number of tech companies and competition for talent. This ultimately means that your family could reach financial independence sooner, especially considering how little you’re paying to live here.

    Your husband right now has an average software engineer salary but by interviewing at other companies and being willing to jump ship every couple of years he can find himself with a more competitive total compensation (300k+). When we first moved to the Bay Area my husband, who is also a software engineer, had five job offers, and because of the high demand these companies competed with the other offers he had which ended up with him having a total comp that was 250k more than the first offer he received. I don’t think he’s a special snowflake, he just made the most of the current market. I have two friends that are just two years in working in tech in the Bay and are making 180k and 225k respectively. If your husband negotiates and interviews at multiple companies at the same time it’s possible for him to double or more his current salary.

    This site shows total compensation for large tech companies in the Bay: https://blog.step.com/2016/04/08/an-open-source-project-for-tech-salaries/ You can see that at Level 3 Facebook and Google are over 300k. This is why my husband and I have decided to stay in the Bay, even though we pay 3.3k a month in rent (super jealous of your low rent!) we are still saving over 75% of our take home pay due to high incomes and will be comfortably FI in 5 years.

    Also, If you do decide to stay you should definitely switch to the two bedroom. 🙂 Best of luck!

    1. I think it might be time for him to look around… 300k! That’s amazing. We could easily retire sooner with that. Thanks for the advice. We have a lot of thinking to do!

      1. Yes, I commented on this issue, above, but we found that our salaries would be reduced to such an extent if we left, that it actually didn’t make sense for us financially to move.

        1. I should add that our plan is to stay here another 8 years or so, cash in the equity of our house (which, admittedly, could be gone tomorrow, but right now is twice what we paid for it) and head to greener pastures–literally. We are looking at Sequim, Port Townsend and Klamath Falls. But our plan then is not to be working or working remotely.

  95. I’m originally from Palm Springs area of California and my brother migrated to a great little town in Colorado called Glenwood Springs about 8 years ago. His family is fairly middle class. He’s a single dad with 2 kids still at home & works at a body shop. They moved there for the skiing, biking, hiking, and paddle boarding/kayaking on the Colorado river. Glenwood Springs is about 30 miles from Aspen. It’s more reasonable than Aspen because it’s where people live year round not a ski resort. The skiing is fantastic every year. The bike trails are awesome. My now 12 year old niece bikes everywhere. The schools have been good. The high school has a fantastic pre-collegiate program that 2 of my nieces & nephews & 2 of their cousins have participated in. 2 of the girls have entered college as Sophomores thanks to the program. Being close to Aspen you have a small airport but it does fly lots of places. I usually fly to Denver and just drive it’s about 2 1/2 hours. My brother went there to have small town living, be close to the outdoors, and have his children attend good schools. Hope this helps.

  96. I know a lot of people suggested the Sacramento region, but I thought I’d throw in my two cents as well.

    I live in the suburb Folsom, and I can’t recommend it enough. Intel has a R&D plant there, so it is a very educated, high tech community, which translates into some of the best schools in the area with strong focus on STEM education. The public services services (libraries, parks, pool, Lake Folsom, Folsom Zoo, etc.) are well funded and maintained, and there are always lots of free events for kids. I moved here from Bellevue Washington (basically Microsoft-Land, just a skip and hop away from Medina where Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos live), and Folsom reminds me of Bellevue in some ways – high tech town with a charming Old Town section, great schools focusing on STEM education, safe family friendly community, near a large body of water. It is in the Sierra foothills, so it’s maybe an hour to the ski resorts. But you don’t have to deal with the snow on your property, so your car and house insurance should be lower. By the way, according to the “Just Sold” flyers I periodically get in my mail, houses where I live are selling around $600,000 for 2500-3000 sf (around 3-4 bedrooms, 2-3 baths, 3 car garage). You can definitely go smaller and find something $350,000 to low $400,000.

    Davis is also another suburb I’d like to recommend. It is obviously a college town (UC Davis is there), so the school district is renowned there too. Real estate values in Davis tend to hold very well because there is always demand from students and people who work/teach at the university, plus the city itself has strict limits that prevents overbuilding. Also, there is an Amtrack station, so Kurt may even be able to take Amtrack/BART into San Francisco if he wants to stay with his current company. I’ve once taken Amtrack/Bart to and back from Union Square for a training once, and I saw a lot of people working on the train during the commute.

    Last thing I would like to point out is that, although Washington State has no state income tax and Oregon State has no sales tax, California does have Prop 13, which limits annual property tax increases. Think of all the property taxes Warren Buffet saved throughout the years on his Orange County house he purchased in 1971 for $150,000 and which he put on the market for $11 million right now.

    1. Do the heat and smog bother you? My SO wants Folsom, but I love Park City! How do you cope with the insane summer heat and bad air?

      1. I don’t think we get as much smog in Folsom as in Sacramento proper (we’re around 30 minutes east), but we do have smoke come down our way if there is a fire in the mountains. The summers often get up above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but I’ve noticed I feel less affected here in Folsom/Sacramento than in Bellevue/Seattle. I think the reason is because Bellevue/Seattle homes usually don’t have a/c, so I still remember how miserable I whenever Bellevue/Seattle had 100 degree heat waves. Back then, the company I worked for let us all stay in the office until late in the evening to escape the worst of the heat. Here in the Sacramento region, a/c is a standard feature, so I’ve actually fared better living here during the summer.

  97. I would like to suggest Rochester NY or in and around the Finger Lakes.I am jaded as I have lived here all my life lol
    Pluses are cost of living, you can afford housing here-house with land, you can be to water and then mountains to ski daily, fabulous colleges and universities-good schools for the younger years,tons to see and do for active families, the arts and music.
    Here is a place to live where it is possible to live well and one parent could stay home with children .
    I see the plan for more children in the near future why not consider a place where daycare isn’t a must
    Any way I could go on and on about the positive attributes of this area especially for raising a family and having a quality life

  98. I’m a little late to the party but we’re in the same boat, shooting for a move in 2018 away from the Washington DC area. We have used the listings in Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine to help us compare cities and narrow down the places we’re visiting this year to make a final decision. They have best cities criteria for outdoors, best cities for taxes, etc. I didn’t see anyone else in the comments suggest this source, so thought it might be helpful to you. Good luck in your decision!

  99. Melanie & Kurt,

    You two have done a great job with your finances! As Mrs. FW mentioned, you’ll want more cash when it’s time to buy. Keep that in mind. Also, I agree with Mrs. FW suggestion to try to tough it out in your 1BR apartment until the school year is over. What’s another year?

    As far as moving–Idaho is worth a look! My husband and I considered moving to CO a few years ago and ID was a possibility because it’s lower COL. The bonus is the scenery! You get CO scenery at a huge discount. In fact, Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area is the largest area of protected wilderness in the US!

    In ID you have the mountains to keep you occupied and a good job market to keep you employed. Maybe your husband could snag an engineering position at Bodybuilding.com!

    This site lists 11 reasons to move to ID. *pictures are unbelievable!!*

    1. CO scenery at ID costs sounds lovely, and I’m sure Kurt would fit in with the brogrammers at bodybuilding.com! I think you’re the third person to suggest Idaho, so we’ll be visiting this year!

  100. Have you considered the Smokey Mountain region in Tennessee? Tennessee has a lower cost of living including some of the lowest childcare costs, housing is affordable, and it is a beautiful area. It also has snow skiing and hiking available. Teachers are vested in the pension plan after 5 years too. Also, Tennessee has no income tax and they are phasing out their taxes on interest and dividend income.

    Just a thought.

    1. I moved to Knoxville after growing up in the East Bay Area and graduating from Cal. You will find your tribe wherever you decide to put down roots. East Tennessee is lovely, perfect for the frugal minded and has farmers markets, trails, rivers, lakes, and mountains galore. With Oak Ridge National Lab, there are many spinoff companies and tech opportunities. Our daughters grew up in a home that we couldn’t have imagined buying in the Bay Area. Sometimes I’m wistful for California but the quality of life here is undeniably wonderful. Good luck with your search!

  101. A fun resource for small space living ideas during this year (assuming they choose to stay and avoid a short-term move), I adore this website (they have 2 children now and still live in their 600 ft2 place.) Many, many articles, resources and an honest dialogue of the pros and cons. http://www.600sqft.com/

    1. Oh thank you! I will be reading up on that. We have about 700 square feet, so I suppose it can be done. I’ll check out the link.

  102. Well, just wow! Doing a great job, wish I had been so together in my 20’s, or, well in my 30’s. 
    Anyway, a few local thoughts. The Bay Area does offer some slightly more reasonably priced neighborhoods, great schools, walking life style, lower cost of living, with lots of houses that might appeal. Albany and Kensington and even El Cerrito in the East Bay might fit, and all three are a short bike ride to the amazing Tilden park. Good luck and keep it up!

  103. I love your story! You all have done great and should move sooner than later. We’re in Oakland and have lived here for a long time, but are planning on moving soon, probably next year. I’m from California so it’s hard but I’m excited about it. I would suggest you look again at Salt Lake City. That’s likely where we’re going. I understand your concerns about culture, but if you live in the city, it’s quite liberal and diverse. (Utah country and suburbs not so much!) The mayor, for instance, is a gay woman, and they had some of the largest Bernie Sanders rallies around. I’ve spent a lot of time there and have close friends who are very liberal. I grew up in the Central Valley (near Sacramento) I think you would find more in common culturally with SLC than Sacramento, the foothills etc. Also they have a thriving and growing tech scene. We’re also in tech and while working at home for the same company is a great option, you can’t always count on that job staying. If you move somewhere with limited tech employment and his company shuts down or changes his role, then what? Especially with kids, you don’t want to have to move. Boise also sounds like a good option, yet it has significantly less tech employment. Not even close. The pay for teachers in Utah is not great, but the tech options may balance that out. Also there is a university right in town, and the new SLC public library is amazing. Lots of music, theater and family activities, and an International airport with direct flights to Europe, tons to California etc. I recently went to Denver and found it to be very crowded with a ton of traffic. I’ll probably offend people, but the culture there seems dominated by younger, partying kids from Texas and the midwest, with a heavy dose of pot smoke. Boulder is definitely not cheap. I think Denver will keep growing and the traffic will be a nightmare. It’s also a lot farther to the mountains/skiing than many realize, and certainly more than SLC. But the state’s politics are certainly less crazy than Utah’s, so that’s a consideration as well. Many homes with in-laws in SLC are rented as AirBnBs in the winter and during the Sundance festival. We may do that as well. I have a good friend who is a middle school teacher in SLC at an Arts charter school, so if you have questions, please feel free to contact me through my blog. Good luck!

  104. have you considered Nevada? My cousin sold her bay area home and moved outside Vegas to Henderson and they were able to buy a house and pay off enough of the mortgage with the sale of their Bay Area home that their current mortgage in Henderson is $1,100 a month (their bay area home was purchased in 2006 I think at the top of bubble but they actually did ok with recent sale because of SF real estate boom) . They’re in a nice community in Henderson with lots of activities around. She’s originally from Wyoming, so it still is drivable to family but there is also a good airport nearby too.

    I also recommend what others say–about moving to a sort of post industrial town that has been revitalized. Pittsburgh and Bethlehem, PA are two that fit that bill and still have some proximity to skiing, although the mountains are not as tall.

    Also, wherever you look, be mindful of property taxes. Where I grew up in Texas, while there’s no state income taxes, property taxes are high, and that really hurts anyone who wants to be an early retiree, especially in a more expensive real estate area. Property taxes are only going to rise, so you want to be mindful of how much they are when you move in. Plus if you have high property taxes AND terrible public schools, unless you’re in an area de jour where people are dying to live, that only hurts future chances of selling the house. It’s unfortunate though, that you can’t search homes by property tax amounts on any of the MLS-based listing sites! I recommend Realtor.com for the most accurate property tax info, but Trulia.com is better for getting crime stat /neighborhood info. Best of luck with your search!

  105. Hi Melanie and Kurt,
    We just did what you guys are thinking of doing. We are very happy with this move and definitely feel like it was the right one for our family. We left the east bay with our 1 year old this past May. We did not move far (Davis) because we were both able to take job transfers to jobs over here. I also have family in the bay area. It made the job transition easier since we are both doing almost the same work for the same pay as back in the bay. After leaving that large metropolis, I really enjoy the smaller town feel of Davis. I say go for it and consider smaller(ish) towns too on your hunt. How did you find childcare that cheap in SF?!?! Also, shout out to Mrs. Frugalwoods who I had a wonderful time chatting to at the Lola Retreat.

    1. Glad to hear that the move is working for you! I would love a small town vibe… SF can feel a bit cold for families. We were very lucky in finding this daycare (through my coworker), and we know we probably can’t replicate that anywhere else. We’ll be sad to leave our daycare provider! 🙁

  106. Hi Melanie, it sounds like you and your husband Kurt are doing fantastic in the realm of saving and investing, great work! I admittedly am curious about how your husband Kurt transitioned in to software development. I’m considering a career change myself in to that field, but am not sure where to begin. Did he go back to school for a short time or take online classes? In any case, best of luck in your search for your new home!

    1. Hi Spencer. I’m self taught. I knew a bit of C++ from a while ago, and started to use that in my old job to help automate small things. At a certain point I realized I could do more (and much faster to write) with a modern language, so I learned Python and moved my scripts over. After a while of hacking and learning Python, I quit my job and found an internship.

      1. Kurt, that’s awesome – thanks so much for the info. I’m doing something similar, in addition to exploring some formal education to toss on my resume.

        Best of luck to you and Melanie in your move – it sounds like you both have worked/focused really hard on achieving this goal, and I’m sure it will be nothing but rewarding!

  107. Middle school reading teacher in the second largest district in Nebraska here. I love our city and our school district is one of the best in the state as far as employment prospects go. We own a 1950s 3 bedroom/3 bathroom ranch home within biking distance of grocery stores, public parks & our workplaces (both spouse and I are in public education) for $160k. We are 35 (me) & 36 (spouse) with a 2.5 year old son. Combined income is $115k working in public education. We love it here. You’re within a days drive of skiing in Colorado. Silicon Prairie startups are hiring software engineers.

  108. I am originally from the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY. While beautiful, the TAXES in NY drove us out (that and I was cold 9 months a year – the “mountains” nearby to ski are not much, unless you’re willing to drive to the amazing (and frigid) Adirondacks or the Catskills). I admit that I did kind of go a bit mentally bonkers as a SAHM with the first kid (we moved across the country and knew hardly anyone in our new city) and was happy (somewhat) to go back to work. That being said, no one tells you how much you change when you become a mom and especially how much you change after having two little ones at home (and how much less you want to go back to work with two little ones at home). So the option of being able to rent out an airbnb inlaw type unit for potential lost earned income (should you choose to be a SAHM for awhile) is a good one. We used neighborhood scout.com for some info when we were looking for places to live. Also, have you considered Lyon(s?), CO? It’s close to Longmont and has excellent schools. A friend moved there and she’s so very happy (she drives by MMM HQ when she commutes to work!). Also, consider putting your apt. up on home exchange.com to lower the cost of exploring your options this year (I’ve seen people list their apartments – and by the time you exchange, you end up becoming friends with the people and becoming FB buddies and exchanging Christmas cards, so technically you’re exchanging houses/apts with “friends”) 😉 Best of luck!

  109. Longmont or Loveland Colorado. Or if you really want a low cost of living with all of the outdoors at your fingertips and ample teaching jobs in the surrounding area, Grand Junction on the western slope of Colorado. They also have their own airport.

  110. I’m a teacher too! I live in Minnesota and LOVE it. We are in a small town 45 minutes south of the MSP airport (an hour south of Minneapolis and St. Paul). Anywhere in the Twin Cities metro area totally checks your boxes, and there are so many things to do here — both as adults and with kids. Lots of free, cheap, and still affordable stuff. The Twin Cities are still affordable and have a good job outlook. Taxes are a bit higher here (tho maybe not compared to the Bay Area), and quality of life is good because of that. I am really glad I moved here from Seattle. We’ve got two kids — 3 years and 4 months — who love the Minnesota life.

    Also, have you ever read Millionaire Educator? He’s got a lot of interesting ideas with 457 plans. I work at a private school so don’t have access to one, but I want to let you know in case you end up with that.

    good luck!

    1. Hi Leah. Melanie is campaigning for a 457 so hopefully will have one soon. I went to a Big-10 school so I’m comfortable in the Midwest, however I don’t know that it meets our other criteria.

  111. I am very impresssed with the amount that you have put away for retirement! Biven that you currently live in a blue state, and that your families are on the coasts (typically blue areas, except for the very southeast)) I suggest that you seriously consider the political climate of your potential new home. I have friends in the academic world who have recently moved from the northeast to Florida who are having a very hard time fitting in and are struggling with explaining the way of their new world to their children.

    1. We’re more concerned about the real climate than the political climate. Melanie and I are not very political and can and do fit in with the red tribe as easily as the blue tribe.

  112. If you want to be near skiing, might I suggest Salt Lake City or Albuquerque? Salt Lake has a higher cost of living (but still affordable), low crime, tons of kids, a decent instate university, and seven ski resorts within an hour. It does have smog, and that can be a HUGE issue for some folks, but it’s only certain months and you can escape to the mountains. There is a huge tech industry and a worker shortage across all fields. Teachers do not get paid a ton, however. Albuquerque is further from skiing, but has a really low cost of living and a unique culture. The air is crystal clear, but crime can be an issue.

    Good luck!

    1. We’re looking at both SLC and ABQ. IN n fact we’re planning “prospect” trips to both places for next year. Smog is an issue for me unfortunately as an asthmatic. We’ve had some wildfires around here locally which degraded air quality, and just half an hour outdoors was enough for me to start wheezing. I’m confident I can get a good job in SLC, Melanie too, although we both might take pay cuts. Thanks for the advice.

  113. Have you considered the Dallas, Texas, northern part, say Plano or Murphy ….. absolutely top public schools, good daycare, decent housing prices (rising) teachers needed, lots of techie type jobs ….

  114. I can’t recommend a place to live – I’m in the Greater Boston area and its expensive, the drivers are insane and the winters last five months! However, you might re-think the renter’s insurance. As someone whose 16 room house burned to the ground 2 1/2 years ago I have become all-too-familiar with insurance. The renter’s policies can be very affordable – like $20 a month – and you want to find one that will not only cover the replacement value of your things (opposed to actual cash value) but the cost of renting somewhere else if your apartment becomes uninhabitable. Some policies also cover liability if someone is injured in your home. Here in the Boston area most (many?) landlords require renter’s insurance. You may think you won’t need it but a friend of mine lost her apartment ,and everything in it but her purse, when a neighbor decided to grill on his balcony and caught his and her units on fire. She did not have insurance so friends and colleagues raised money for her plus donated furniture and clothing and other essentials.

    1. Hmm… I didn’t know that renter’s insurance could cover the costs of renting somewhere else in the case of an emergency. That’s helpful information and we’ll look into it! Thanks!

  115. I’m not surprised at all that the company is imposing a paycut for the engineering job. Software engineers are paid relatively well everywhere, but paid even higher in the bay area to account for the higher cost of living. Companies don’t think it necessary to pay that premium if the employee no longer lives in the high cost of living area.

    I can’t even imagine living anywhere else. Having grown up in the bay area, having 80% of my family here, and being part of a large minority diaspora makes my case different though. Also, I work in biotech, and just the sheer number of companies here has made for a flexible and exciting career. For example, I was able to jump ship easily after I got ‘stuck’ at a former company. And after I realized that larger company wasnt for me, I was able to return to one of the many start-ups. If I moved to a city with, say, only 3 companies in my field, I could be at the mercy of a bad boss or lack of promotion.

    So yeah, if there’s nothing tying a family to the bay area (in terms of having a longstanding community or career opportunities), there are plenty of other decent places to live.

    Best of luck to this family! With their discipline and vision, they’ll be FI in no time.

  116. I did it as a single mother with two children–you can do it also. My travels were much different from yours, but here are a couple of things that have worked well for me:

    1. Dig out the unusual for buying a home. My first house after the big D took me 6 years to save up the down payment and I bought a house that had been vacant for 10 years and had two million dollars worth of levies on it. This was in Marin County. I bought it at an auction and got a provisional loan depending on the levies being removed. It took months for the developers trying to sell this and several other houses to come to fruition, but it did. I fixed it up and sold it for twice what I paid for it in less than five years.

    2. Look for houses that are for sale by owner. My daughter just got one (in a hot market where everything is selling fast) at a price that avoided the almost inevitable multiple offers and over asking prices. It needs some work, but we are a family of three gals who own not only hammers, but paint brushes and electric saws, etc.

    3. In your out of town looking, hire different realtors for different locations in the same general area. Hire only
    specialists in this little town or that little town – they know the area better than a generalist. Some folks will object to this, but it is your best bet to finding something you like. Also, find realtors that are also property managers. Let them know that if they can find you something to rent that is reasonable in the right location (they have a massive inside track on this), you will use them to buy your next home. I am currently looking to move again and have 5 realtors wanting my listing, one of whom also currently has over 50 homes in his property management portfolio.

    4. Look for repos. My granddaughter and her husband bought one of these a couple of years ago and have a huge increase in value now.

    5. My other daughter and her significant other live in a house that is 100 years old that she bought directly from the owner, and the owner holds the mortgage so no additional fees on the mortgage, etc.. Hire a real estate/land attorney to check all paper work when going this route. This kid is the one who took carpenter class in Junior High School.

    These are only a few ideas. There are many more avenues. One of the things I like to do (it’s a pain, but it works) is picking out an area and driving the streets. By doing this you already have a handle on school districts, commute time, etc. etc.. No telling what you might find.

    I definitely recommend renting first wherever you go. It gives you more leverage if you decide this wasn’t the place after all, or you find a different area in town you like better. Would I recommend you leave San Francisco? I did with a whole lot less than you have and guess what it worked out. I went to the Sacramento area and moved around there (fixing up houses along the way) and ended up after three years with twice the salary I had been making. It’s hot in the summer, but that’s why God invented air conditioning. Now I live in the Pacific Northwest and have learned to live with two season: Summer (short) and rain, with occasional snow from November to February. The people are great and the prices are still a lot lower than San Fran. If you want to consider this, look at SW Washington. An easy commute to Portland without the horrific taxes in Oregon. No state income tax in Washington. Seattle is too expensive and the traffic is not to be believed. I’d rather drive the hills of San Francisco than anywhere in Seattle.

    1. I also bought a house in a less conventional way. Mine was purchased at a tax auction for 4000.00 . If I had been a better bidder, I could have gotten it for 3100.00. I had to wait a year to move in. The proper documents at the court house cost a 1000.00
      . I am out a total of 20 thousand in 4 years. This included taxes, 6000.00 Trane unit, 2000.00 wiring and a few small upgrades. My house is 10 years old and is appraised at 147 thousand. It suits my empty nest lifestyle. The worse thing that could have happened to me was if someone showed up to claim the property. They would have had to give me my money back with 20% interest. That wasn’t risky for me. Not to many places you can make 20% interest in 12 months. The funny thing is that in 4 years we have never heard a peep from anyone. I believe in the mortgage crisis, the mortgage owner may have been changed so often, that someone lost track of it. The homeowner had filed bankruptcy and divorced. The house had been foreclosed on. I am home sweet home. I dont miss my 5 bedroom mansion one itty bitty bit and definitely don’t miss that payment……

  117. Just wanted to add my two cents on Colorado, since you are not the first reader question to ponder re-locating here. I live in a suburb north of Denver, grew up in a small town south of Denver (Monument), went to college in Fort Collins, and have immediate family in Colorado Springs, Black Forest, Woodland Park, Loveland, Greeley, Wellington, Longmont, and probably a few more I’m forgetting—so you could say I know the Front Range!!

    I highly suggest you spend at least a long weekend out here to see what things are like. A lot of people want to live in a city close to work, but also close to nature, but in a town like Longmont that nature will be a grassland with views of the mountains. If you want to be able to get to the foothills quickly enough to go for a little hike after work then I’d look at Golden, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Monument/Castle Rock area. As you get further out on the Front Range the drive gets longer, and the traffic here has gotten horrendous in the past couple years. Two of my siblings are teachers, and job prospects are great for that! If it were me, I would get a teaching job in a smaller town off the beater path- Red Feather Lakes, Montrose, even Canon City.

    As others noted above, us locals are leaving. Like you, we can afford the real estate market, but we don’t want to. My brother that lives in Longmont is looking at moving to Montana, my husband and I are moving into an RV to travel next month. And other family members with looser spending habits are looking to their parents to help them buy a house in this market. We are a welcoming bunch, I think it just makes us sad to see our state so overrun with people (I read several comments w/ people inviting you to email them for more info—see, we can’t help but spread the love!). So, feel free to email if you want to have a more detailed conversation. Good Luck!!!!!!!!!

  118. OK kiddos here are a couple of expansions of my previous blog that may be of interest. The city of Portland is definitely happening. They call it weird. Coming from SF you would feel right at home in this area. The bicycle lanes are the best in the country – they should be they started working on this 50 plus years ago and are still expanding. They have a whole Department who spend all their time on this. They also have a great transit system consisting of in-city trains, street cars and busses which is constantly expanding outward.
    They have a forest park that is huge (look up google maps – all that green space is inside the city.) The down side is that it has to be paid for somehow and that somehow is property tax in a city that has closed property lines. No expansion into ag land, etc. for this city. They have just passed a huge bond issue to work on the schools. Many are old and need a lot of work. How this affects teachers and students scholastically and salary-wise I don’t know. The next thing on their agenda is streets – some need a lot of work and I expect another bond issue to show up for this.

    The answer to all of this is to hop across the Columbia River to Clark County in Washington to live. Property and property taxes are lower and there is no state income tax in Washington. Lots of folks who used to live in Portland have moved over the river for that reason, including a couple of my neighbors. While property and state income taxes are prevalent in Portland, Oregon has no sales tax so we take full advantage of this and live in Washington and do our major shopping (Costco, etc.) in Oregon. This makes a big difference in the budget. We have Washington State University here as well a Community Colleges. The Portland area is loaded with Universities and Colleges as well as multiple community colleges. This gives you two areas to look at for teaching possibilities – try the Ridgefield School District in Washington – they are building many new schools K-12. If your husband can snag a job that pays what he wants for remote work, if you live in Washington, he will pay no state income tax on his salary (check this out with your CPA for how to do this). If you commute to Portland, you will have to pay Oregon income tax. Lots of snow in the mountains for many winter activities, Mt.Hood in Oregon, rivers to fish in and forests to hike and hunt in. This is (in spite of rain) a very outdoorsy place. Hope this helps with your hunt. Feel free to contact me if you decide to come this way and I’ll get you hooked up with housing, shopping, etc.,

  119. First of all, super impressed with how you are doing now!
    I just wanted to put a plug in for the Salt Lake Valley area (Utah) for consideration.
    1- It’s nearby to all kinds of outdoor activities. Lakes, mountains/trees, some of the best ski resorts in the US, desert terrain (st george, salt flats, etc all SUPER different experiences and beautiful in their own way) and all are within pretty much a weekend trip.
    2- Cost of living is MUCH lower than what you’ve quoted in the case study. We were looking at the prospect of moving last summer (didn’t work out for many outside reasons) but a 4000+ sq foot house (6 bedrooms, 4-5 bathrooms with a .30-.50 acre lot- talk about space for the kids!) ran around $450,000 in the northern Utah areas like Syracuse/Layton which is still way under your cost reporting… and MANY places around here don’t like HOA scenarios, which means some cost savings. Plus, things like mother in law apartments/basement areas are commonly found here in utah, both for rental potential and for family situations.
    3- The culture here is very welcoming and family friendly, as well as VERY frugal minded! You wouldn’t be considered “odd” to be the way you are, in fact you might be able to find new perspectives on new ways to save/prepare. (If you’re interested in this blog, it seems like it would be a great fit here in UT.)
    4- Utah has a HUGE increase in IT jobs and that only seems to be growing. Your husband would have a LOT of opportunity to find another job if for some reason the pay cut/coworker response to his going remote didn’t go well or if he wanted a change down the road. (https://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/13/a-high-tech-mecca-rises-to-rival-silicon-valley.html)
    5- Depending on the area, you can find either highly conservative OR highly liberal viewpoints (despite the myths that all of Utah is the same) so you can find people who fit your views.

    Good luck on your decision!

  120. I just wanted to throw out another city to check out -Bellingham, WA. It’s a college town, active outdoors community (with every activity you can imagine), its close to Mt Baker and has easy access to ski areas in BC (Whistler etc). It also has easy access down I5 into Seattle without the Seattle COL and has an airport that is serviced by Alaska Airlines (so you can get in and out). Oh and WA doesn’t have a state income tax 🙂

    I’ll also +1 SoggySuzzy- I have plenty of friends who live on the WA side but enjoy PDX and the surrounding areas.

  121. We too live in SF and pay well below market rate for our rental, but we don’t fall under rent control b/c we live in a single-family dwelling. We have lucked out school-wise (it really felt like we had won the lottery with our elementary school assignment — crazy system). I’m starting to love SF less and less, but we do love our western neighborhood and our community. My husband bikes to work, and we only have one car. If we moved out of SF, he would have to give up biking, and we would spend more on transportation. Our kids are 13 and 10 and don’t want to leave SF. I say move before your kid(s) become attached to your location. I am from MN, and my spouse is from OH. We have considered both, but would really miss the ocean. I also would miss the library system. Have you checked out SFPL’s Discover & Go program? Free tickets and entrance into many cool events! Good luck! I look forward to reading an update to your search.

    1. Yes we love Discover and Go! Thanks for the tip about leaving before our kid(s) get too attached. That’s hopefully in our plan.

  122. I’d say kudos to Melanie, Kurt and Oliver for being so frugal while living in SFO Bay Area! Also looks like they have really solid finances (hurray for generous parents!). If I were in there shoes, I’d move to given an opportunity, the high cost of living is just too much of a deal breaker for me personally.

  123. I can so relate to this story! My husband and I currentoh live in Denver. He works for a tech start up that is allowing him to work remotely and we are in the middle of selling our house and moving to Grand Rapids Michigan as Denver housing is very expensive and the schools are not the best. The Midwest for us was a good compromise to support our financial and family planning goals. We will literally be dropping $200,000+ In debt by moving into a more affordable house and unloading our rediculously overpriced house. Good luck with your decision!

  124. I used to to live in the Bay Area and we noticed a few thing when we moved.

    First, our transportation expenses went way up. Before, my husband biked to work or took the train, which was reimbursed through work. I walked everywhere because the weather was perfect almost every day (we were in Belmont–no fog). We spent very little on gas and wear and tear. As soon as we moved to Utah we had to get a second car because it is so spread out with no public transport. We had to drive much more often and much farther, and we had to get snow tires for the winter.

    Second, in the Bay Area our healthcare was extremely affordable. My husband’s company paid our whole premium and we had no deductible. Out here we pay $450 a month for our family of four and we have a $9,000 deductible. We spend much more on healthcare and it is really crappy to weigh how serious things are because we want to save money.

    Third, the cost of living simply wasn’t as low as we thought. We still couldn’t find a two bedroom apartment in the area we needed to be for less than $1500 a month. My husband’s salary was cut I half moving here, but our COL wasn’t.

  125. Wow–that is such high rent. I don’t know how anyone in San Francisco could ever get ahead financially living there.

    We just sold our 4400 sq. ft. home on a .36 acre lot for $415K (in northern Utah). The payments were $1440–hundreds of dollars less than the rent for your one bedroom apartment. I can see why you want to move even though San Francisco is a beautiful place .

    I think you could go almost anywhere between the coasts and find a reasonably priced house. Denver is expensive if you’re thinking of moving there, though. You could also have a house that’ll fit a gazillion kids :^ ) for a fraction of what you’re paying to live in S.F.

    1. Our current rent is a bargain and a half. The median *1 Bedroom* in San Francisco is something like 3,500.

      May I ask where in Utah? I *love* the skiing there as well as the low cost of living, but I don’t know that my asthma can tolerate the air.

  126. They must purchase Tenants/Renters Insurance. This not only covers loss of personal items (furniture, clothing, etc.), it covers catastrophes. Say, Oliver figures out how to turn on the bathtub flow…no one knows and the water runs for 2 hours…the bathtub falls into the apartment below. Most leases hold the tenant responsible. A high coverage policy ($100,000) should cost no more than $100 per year. Small price for peace of mind.

  127. Hi Melanie,

    I am an administrator of a Montessori Middle School in New Orleans, looking for great middle school teachers, and New Orleans is a fabulous city!

    Good luck in your search 🙂

    1. We have been to NOLA twice together. Wonderful city for the most part. But the crime there is a non-starter. I’m from Baltimore by the way, and there’s no way I’d raise kids in a place like that. We want to live in a place where our children can roam more or less free, no neighborhood, nothing off limits.

  128. Hope this reaches you even though Mrs. FW has moved onto November. I just tripped over a headline in The Columbian (local newspaper online) that Google is planning to add 40% more staff in their Portland, Oregon office. Just a headline because I don’t pay to subscribe. How about checking out a job with Google there and finding out where else they have offices and shoot for a transfer if it works out there. Who knows, you might even get some moola to help with a move to Colorado, Pacific NW or wherever else they have offices in an area you might be interested in. Just a thought. Even if Kurt has to move before you he could get the rental set up and you could be ready to move the week after school closes. The newspaper in Portland or any other cities you are interested in could be a helpful clue to the area. With a substantial salary increase from someplace like Google a few months of doubling up on rent should be easily doable, even if it is a minor pain the rear.

    With your master’s degree you could teach at the Community College level and I would suspect that some financial help for your PHD may be forthcoming. Ever think about expanding your horizons in that regard? Lots of them in this area. Anyhow whatever you decide I wish you the best of luck.

  129. If you want to stay in bay area look into Vallejo , American Canyon, Fairfield. I lived in Berkeley for years then wanting to buy, i rented a 3br house in Vallejo for three years. Learned all about the town and area and settled on a home purchase in 2016. Its a cool place 30’ to Napa or Sonoma. Rentals and home prices are far below bay area. My home was between 300k and 400k. Not uniformly upscale but there are lots of fabulous neighborhoods like Glen Cove, St VincentS, the Heights, Vista, etc

  130. This post is old, but I’m dying to know where this lovely family ended up! The update said they were moving in Summer of 2019.

    We live in a ski town (Mammoth Lakes, CA) with our two young kids and their goals and values seem to line up very closely with ours.

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