I really got into the Financial Independence movement during the first lockdown in March 2020. (I knew that FIRE was a “thing” long before I immersed myself into it but I never thought I could do it.)
My newborn, baby M., was small enough to spend most of her time in my arms sleeping, and while she was asleep, I was binge reading blogs and listening to audiobooks. Most bloggers I read wrote about the high costs of living in expensive cities, towns, or countries. I moved to London in 1998, when London was still relatively affordable. For the past 20 years, I couldn’t see myself living anywhere else but in London. Since I was so into London, I never gave a second thought to its rising living costs, until I started reading financial blogs.
Unfortunately, since I moved to London, the city has changed and become this unrecognisable monster, willing only to accept the privileged few, at the same time pushing lots of people out of it because of its high living costs and tiny spaces that come with those high rents.
Of course, when the UK voted for Brexit, I was heartbroken and knew I wasn’t going to stay here for the rest of my life, as I once planned. Still, thinking and hoping is very different to taking concrete actions or seeing that your actual pension or a ticket to financial independence is sucked out of you by high living costs in the city that has become unliveable for an average person (don’t even get me started on how family-unfriendly the UK is compared to many other European countries). Communities are being pushed out of areas, while new regeneration and gentrification programs take over one part of London after another.
It’s not only the high living costs of accommodation (for what we pay, we get very little space), it’s also the ever-growing traffic and the distances you must cover to get from one place to another.
Of course, cities offer unique opportunities and cultural adventures. But as all the lockdowns have proven, the work can be remote, and when all the cultural activities and other distractions are shut down, we can still survive and shift our priorities towards what matters the most.
I’ve been thinking about the cons and pros of living in a high-cost area, and I cannot find many pros that would make me want to stay in a city like London. Many financial bloggers live in smaller towns with low living costs and go to big cities only to have fun and genuinely enjoy them. When you live in an expensive large city, you don’t have much time and money left after paying for the travel and accommodation to enjoy all those amazing attractions the cities offer.
To get from one place to another in London takes on average about an hour, and during the lockdowns, we were all asked to stay within our local area. If your local area was just a concrete jungle, as many neighbourhoods are, you were asked to sacrifice a lot.
If you want to be more outdoorsy, as I now feel I want to be with my family, living in a city such as London will not fulfil that desire.
Simply put, I’m paying a premium for a lifestyle that isn’t as exciting and outdoorsy as I would like it to be.
In short, we, as a family, will be on the move relatively soon.