I write about this because I had relocated for a few times in the past few years. In 2011, my family moved to Oregon, USA because my wife needed to be there for a business assignment. In 2012, we moved back to Penang after she completed her work. A few months back, my whole family moved south to Klang Valley.
It is fun and exciting to stay at a new place for an extended period of time. It is unlike a tour organised by a travel agency, where you go through tourist attractions and are in a hurry to see as much as you can. When you move into and explore an area, you will understand better the difference in the culture, commerce and general ways of living of the locals.
In recent years I have been joking with my wife if she is willing to give up her career, we would be have to move to a cheaper place to stay. She can be a housewife and we can even opt not to own a house. We can choose to stay at any town or village for a few months, and keep moving. She is not the sort that likes frequent change like me so this would still remain an unfavourable option for a while!
It is obvious that there is a significant difference in terms of the cost of living when you move to a rural town compared to staying in one of the big cities like Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Everything seems to take a price cut instantly, e.g. cheaper labour cost, cheaper rent, cheaper house (or get a much bigger house with the same amount of purchase price) etc. The benefits could be tremendous.
But the fact is that there is a massive urbanisation force due to better prospects and job opportunities in big cities. Take a look at the whereabouts of your old time secondary school classmates now. How many are working in a foreign country? How many choose to stay in Klang Valley? Penang? Johor Bahru?
Let’s examine some of the benefits you will have if you choose to move to a cheaper area.
You can get a bigger house
Let’s start with the savings on a house. In big cities, real estate is way more expensive due to population high density. For instance, you only get a terraced house in Penang for RM1 million. If you move to the mainland, just across the bridge, you can get a bungalow or at least a semi-detached for the same price. This also means more built-up or land area. Your children could have a garden. You can watch TV in a bigger living area. You can fit a king sized bed in your bedroom.
If you get a house with the same space, your monthly mortgage installment may be reduced by half. Instead of paying RM5,000/month for a million ringgit loan, your installment may be as low as RM2000/month, saving RM3000 per month.
Less Traffic Congestion
In the Klang Valley area, we plan our travel to avoid expected traffic congestion.
When you stay in a smaller town, everything seems nearer. Even if you are caught in traffic, it just takes a little longer to travel to your destination.
Drivers are easily tensed and frustrated during traffic jams. Moving to a rural area, you instantly get a lot more peace of mind.
Assuming that you spend 50% less time on the road, and you don’t need to pay tolls, you are expected to save RM300-RM500/month on transportation expenses.
Your children can get better education
My wife grew up in Kuala Lumpur. She told me that she used to sleep in the school bus because it took an hour to reach her school. One way! Meanwhile, I grew up in Sungai Petani, where I could reach my school within 15 minutes on a bicycle, or 5 minutes with a motorcycle.
Nowadays, many parents send their kids to school. Sometimes, in order to let their kids study in a school with a good reputation, they are willing to commute long distance. Coupled with the traffic congestion, the family might spend a lot of time in the car.
Moreover, your children get to learn extra skills at a fraction of big city tuition fees. A piano lesson in Klang Valley area might cost RM80 per session. But in a small town, RM80 can last for the whole month of tuition.
No desire to keep up with the Joneses
I once read this research about the relation of happiness to the place you stay. If you are staying in the biggest house in your neighbourhood, you’ll be happier than staying in a bigger house but located in a neighbourhood where everyone else is apparently more affluent than you.
Without the need to keep up with the Joneses, you won’t have the urge to change your vehicle frequently, or getting the latest gadgets, fancy vacations or household appliances.
Is it an option?
If you are staying in a city right now, maybe it is time to consider the option of moving to a suburb or rural area but is this even an option?
Because of the lack of job opportunities compared to big cities, often times, you will have to take a pay cut for the same job function in a small town. You may be able to find a balance by staying in the city outskirts where wages are competitive but the cost of living is not as high as the city centre.
Furthermore, due to the advances of technology, some companies do allow the employees to work from home. You can look into this option too.
Globalisation and Migration
When considering moving to a new place, we are no longer restricted within our country. Talents are sought after in many other countries since we are all living in a flat world now.
In recent years, I’ve had many friends and clients moving overseas. Some say that it is just a temporary relocation. They will work for 5-10 years, accumulate enough nest-egg and come back to semi-retire.
Some migrate for good. One of my clients moved to Australia for the better standard of living. He managed to live in a better house, with a bigger car, better air quality, security and have equal opportunities. In fact, many Malaysians move out of the country for a lot of different reasons. This phenomenon is commonly known as the ‘brain drain’.
After writing about all the advantages of moving to a place that gives you a better living standard, ironically I myself am moving into the capital city. My business gives me the flexibility to work from anywhere with Internet access, but yet I have just moved to a place where everything is more expensive. Why?
In the movie The Wedding Diary II by Ah-Niu showed a father trying to expand his business to Singapore. He said that whenever you feel contented, means you are grateful with what you already have. On the other hand, it also means that you have stopped improving, which is not a good thing. In my humble opinion, growth certainly gives more satisfaction than living in your comfort zone and never expanding your means.