For most of my adult life, I’ve been your typical urban professional. I lived in what I considered one of the greatest cities in the world—Vancouver, British Columbia—where I worked as a senior marketing executive at a restaurant group, earning a great salary that afforded me an active social life, overpriced lattes and other little luxuries. I also owned a precious, and valuable, two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhome on the water. Life was good, and I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.
Then on Christmas Day 2015, something big happened that changed everything: My boyfriend of two-plus years, Nate, popped the question, and I excitedly said yes!
Of course, this meant we’d finally have to make a major decision we’d been mulling over for months. Nate lives in the small town of Grande Prairie, Alberta (population: 68,000)—a four-hour connecting flight from Vancouver—and we’d spent our entire relationship dealing with the toll the long distance was taking on our hearts and bank accounts. (We’d spent many thousands of dollars flying back and forth to see each other since meeting on a dating site in April 2013.)
Although we initially considered it, we concluded that Nate shouldn’t move to Vancouver—at least not yet. He’d spent the last eight years building up his business in the energy sector, where it’s not uncommon to earn $250,000 a year or more (though the industry can be volatile and earnings can swing widely). Because Nate is extremely savings oriented, and goals like starting a family and retiring early are top priorities for us, it didn’t make sense for him to leave any money on the table, even though I had a nice salary of my own. We also knew I could have a fruitful career as a marketing consultant anywhere, if I networked and sought new opportunities.
Slowly, it became apparent that trading in the big city for a quieter life with Nate in Grande Prairie was the smartest financial choice, especially when we ran the numbers and realized how much we could save. So I packed up my life in February 2016, and made the big move.
Nate’s always been a brilliant money manager, and was already living off a fraction of his income. He’d witnessed far too many colleagues benefit from a few great months, only to lose it all when the money or work dried up. So we agreed to maintain his financial strategy, which consisted of living off just $60,000 a year and funneling the rest of his earnings into his business and savings. Then we’d use whatever I earned to primarily double-down on our mortgage payments.
Thanks to a lower cost of living, this has been a lot easier to accomplish in Grande Prairie than it would be in Vancouver, but it does require some sacrifices. For instance, we cook at home instead of eating out, buy in bulk and have eliminated certain unnecessary expenses, like cable. While this is a pretty big departure from the life I led in Vancouver, the truth is, I was ready for a change and consider it well worth the effort to be with Nate, working toward our joint goals.
Another big part of our plan is to hold onto my townhome as an investment because the Vancouver real estate market is on a tear, and rent it out to cover my monthly costs. That keeps my toes in the market while I build more equity. The end goal is for us to move back to Vancouver in 10 years or so, and have little-to-no mortgage left—which will land us in a great financial position to afford a home, no matter what the housing landscape looks like then.
Needless to say, we’ve been through a lot of changes over the past couple months. And it’s a new experience for me to be this financially honest and open with a partner. But surprisingly, this transition has been pretty seamless, thanks to our complete transparency with each other about where we stand and our commitment to achieving our goals.
In the end, I consider leaving my big-city lifestyle behind one of the best decisions I’ve ever made: Not only did it finally put me in the same city as the man I love, but it proved to us that we make a great team—and it’s moving us closer to our ultimate goal: permanent financial stability.
April 21, 2016