When it comes to finances and building wealth as a financial planner in Boston, I live by a few important mantras.
The most important one to me — and the one that helps guide my clients — is to use money as a tool to live a life I love today… while still planning responsibly for the future.
That means I’m not just hoarding money for some distant point in the future. I set my long-term savings and investing goals and I fund those as a priority, but having those goals along with a smart financial plan frees me to use a percentage of my cash flow to create the life I want right now.
Part of living a life I love right now is living in Boston, but we didn’t make the decision to live here for the last few years only because it’s what we wanted.
The decision came after carefully considering what city living would mean for our finances. And this is where another manta comes in: question everything.
Blanket Statements Have No Place in Your Finances
Most people are conditioned to believe particular things about money and how to use it. Some of the most pervasive beliefs are related to where and how we live.
Here are two biggies:
- It’s better to buy rather than rent.
- It’s always cheaper to live in the suburbs than in the city.
These statements aren’t always wrong. In some cases, they may accurately describe the situation you find yourself in.
But you won’t know that unless you actually ask the question for yourself and examine your own, unique life.
You shouldn’t automatically apply blanket statements like these to your personal situation. Consider the source of advice like this first and then question it thoroughly.
Just because it makes sense in one context doesn’t mean it makes sense in context of your goals, priorities, and values.
Here’s How We Save While Living in Boston
For us, at this point in our lives, living in the city makes more sense than in the suburbs. In fact, in many ways we save more money by living in Boston than if we lived outside of it!
Depending on your own choices, city living doesn’t have to automatically mean “most expensive lifestyle available.”
Here are 5 ways we save money living in Boston so we can thoroughly enjoy our neighborhood without busting our budget.
1. We Research and Find Free Events
There’s no shortage of events going on in Boston every single day. Many of these require you to buy a ticket or pay some sort of fee — but there are plenty of free festivals, parties, talks, presentations, networking opportunities, and other events going on year-round.
The key is to research to find free and fun stuff to do. We sign up for mailing lists, talk to friends and neighbors, and periodically search around online for upcoming events.
2. We Align Spending with Our Values
Of course, not everything is free and we do spend on entertainment and nights out. But we keep that spending focused on what’s actually important to us and we don’t worry about other stuff.
For example, we love going out to eat. We also love spending time with friends.
Instead of going out to high-end restaurants that would easily cost over a hundred bucks, we go to food trucks with friends. Instead of going out for a night of drinking at fancy cocktail bars, we grab a six-pack of beers or a bottle of wine and hang out on the stoop with our neighbors.
We also save for big nights out the same way we’d save for travel. We have a separate saving account that we put a little money into each month so when we do want to have an expensive date night, we can use the fund to help make sure it fits in our budget that month.
We make these simple switches all the time. It’s not that we don’t spend — we just find cheaper alternatives to expensive activities that are more in line with what we actually value.
Or we budget for that spending. But other times, aligning spending with values does mean avoiding spending altogether. We don’t often buy material goods like electronics, furniture, or other stuff.
For one, it just clutters up our small apartment. But more importantly, we just don’t use or need that much stuff. So we don’t buy it.
The takeaway? Enjoying more does not mean spending more. Aligning your spending with your values can help you enjoy life to the fullest without maxing out your budget.
3. We Avoid Lifestyle Creep
Our rent on our 650 square foot apartment is by far our biggest expense. That means it’s the most important cost to manage.
We’ve lived in the same place for 3 years. We always pay our rent on time and in full and do our best to be good tenants. Our landlord has kept the rent the same for those 3 years as a result.
Sure, sometimes we dream about moving into a new, luxury, high-rise condo somewhere else in town. The temptation to move to someplace bigger or newer tends to creep up on us as our incomes rise.
This happens no matter where you live. It’s lifestyle creep. But instead of allowing our spending to go up as we earn more, we keep our spending at the same levels and save more instead.
4. We Walk
Boston is a tiny city and we live in the city proper. That means anything we need is about 2 miles or less from where we are at any point in time.
With few exceptions, we walk everywhere we need to go. Not only is it good for us physically, but we also save on transportation costs since we rarely drive or use ridesharing services.
In fact, our car insurance is $60 a month because we only drive about 5,000 miles a year!
5. We Use the City Itself as Entertainment
It’s easy to spend if you get bored or distracted from your financial goals. When my fiancee first started living in Boston, she’d get stir crazy in the winter. Our solution was to go get a drink or a meal.
When we realized spending was our solution to boredom, we would bundle up and go for a long walk first before deciding what we wanted to do next.
Many times, we’d find that just getting out of the house is what we really wanted to do and we’d be satisfied coming back home without spending anything at all.
Now, just getting out and seeing what’s going on in the city is entertainment enough. Sometimes we stumble on something to do, other times we just make a big loop. Either way, we always have a good time — without spending.
We also try to enjoy actually living in Boston as much as possible while we’re here. It may not be forever, so we’re really focused on spending time here and in the local area rather than taking expensive vacations to faraway places.
We look for new things to do in Boston, or we take day trips around New England. It’s a fraction of the price of a fancy or international vacation and we don’t have to lug around suitcases and we get to sleep in our own bed every night.
Bonus: Living in Boston Benefits Our Businesses
Living in the city allows me to better network with people, exposing my business to more growth potential. In turn, that increases income — which is just as good as keeping costs low.
Kali’s business benefits from the same factors, and she’s also increased her income since she started living in Boston.
Remember, saving isn’t just about not spending. It’s about increasing your earnings, too.