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Opportunity Costs of Rural Living


Recently there’s been a lot of buzz around an AI tool called ChatGPT. It’s capable of producing pretty coherent informational articles, so freelance writers are scared it may take our jobs in the future. AI is even capable of producing images, graphics, and code, as well as editing videos. So a bunch of white-collar jobs could be in danger as these tools become more and more advanced.

The recent advancements in AI technology have forced me to consider what I’ll do for work if freelance writing jobs become fewer and farther between thanks to ChatGPT. Unfortunately, I live in a very rural area, so there aren’t a lot of jobs nearby that pay a decent, living wage. Luckily my spouse works in food sales, which is a career that probably won’t be affected much by the rise of AI.

My spouse can definitely pick up the slack if I start losing work because of new AI tools. However, I don’t want us to have to rely solely on my spouse’s income forever. Trying to figure out a backup plan for my career in case I need it has made me consider the opportunity costs of rural living and whether or not they’re worth it.

Opportunity Costs of Rural Living


Living in a rural area has enabled my spouse and I to buy a home and work toward paying it off early thanks to the low cost of living here. However, there aren’t many career opportunities in our area. I’ll probably be limited to remote work options like data analysis or IT if we choose to build our life here and stay long-term.

Luckily we get Internet through Starlink, so we have a pretty fast connection. Before Starlink was available, we paid $80 a month for subpar coverage that maxed out at 20 Mbps. Now we get more reliable, 100 Mbps Internet for $110 per month. It’s rather expensive, but it’s the best option we have.

Long-term, I’m not sure if I want to work remotely, as it can get pretty lonely! Unfortunately, though, there aren’t many job options around here outside of retail or working at the local prison or hospital. I would also love to explore the idea of opening a home daycare since I love kids, but I’m not sure it would be possible where we currently live because we’re 30 minutes away from town.

I can’t even do gig work out here like driving for Uber or DoorDash, which has been pretty frustrating. I’d love to walk dogs or deliver food to earn extra income and get out of the house if I could! It seems like more people are moving here because our region is being recognized as a climate haven. So hopefully our area will expand and more opportunities will become available. Otherwise, we may eventually use our home equity to buy a home in a more populated area.

Gas and Car Maintenance Costs

Another big downside of living in such a rural area is car and gas costs. In Massachusetts, we were able to get by without a car, which saved us hundreds of dollars per month. Here, we spend as much as $250 per month on gas between running errands and all the driving my spouse does for work.

We’ve put a lot of wear and tear on the car, which has increased our maintenance costs too. Plus, we’ll have to replace the car a lot sooner because of all the miles we’re racking up. My spouse will probably make the switch to remote work eventually so we don’t have to drive around as much. But until then, gas and car costs are a big budget buster.


Making friends in our rural area has also been a challenge. There are a few colleges in the nearest small city 30 minutes away from us. However, it doesn’t seem like many of the students stay and put down roots after graduation because of the lack of job opportunities. We haven’t met many people in their mid-to-late twenties who don’t have kids yet, so it’s been hard to make friends who are at a similar life stage as us. This has left both me and my spouse feeling a little isolated.

Unsure If We’ll Stay or Go

Right now my spouse and I are committed to staying put. Interest rates are too high to make any kind of move right now. Plus, there may be a recession coming, so it’s a bad time for my spouse to switch jobs. Still, the shift in my industry that’s being caused by AI has made me contemplate whether or not we’ll stay in our area long-term.

When the housing market cools and it becomes an option to move, we may decide to relocate for better career opportunities. Or we may stay for the low cost of living so I can be a stay-at-home mom. It’s all up in the air, which is equal parts scary and exciting.

Because we don’t know if we’re going to be a two-income household forever, we’re plugging away at paying off our mortgage to reduce our living expenses. This will give us options and flexibility in the future, whether we decide to stay in this rural area and accept the opportunity costs or leave.

Do you think it would be better for us to relocate to an urban/suburban area with more opportunities, or stay in our rural area for the low cost of living? What are your thoughts on AI? Do you have any future-proof career suggestions that I should look into?

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  • Reply Walnut |

    If there’s a chance you won’t be in your current house long term, stop paying extra on your mortgage! You’ll want a large pot of liquid cash to fund your next move. It’s challenging to time the sale of your current house, purchase of a new house, a move, job changes all at once.

    If you build up a bunch of cash and then decide to stat put, you can always use the lump sum to pay off your current mortgage in bulk.

  • Reply Anonymous |

    Are you still committed to paying down your mortgage rather than saving? I’m confused by this plan especially after this post.

So, what do you think ?