Not long ago, Krissy Eliot, 32, was living a pricier life in San Francisco. She needed money, a lot of it, for her basic survival. Rent for a 600-square-foot apartment — Eliot calls it a “hovel” — in Richmond, a city 18 miles north of San Francisco, was $2,000 a month. The daily commute from that apartment to San Francisco, where she worked at a tech company, cost $80 a week. If she decided to forgo public transportation — Eliot recalls that Bay Area Rapid Transit, known as BART, sometimes smelled like feces or feet, and some days she just didn’t want to deal — and instead drive, tolls totaled $14 roundtrip. Either way, the commute ate up two hours every day. Plenty of other things were pricey there, too, like doing her laundry at a laundromat and paying tolls whenever she drove somewhere. 

Within a few months of the start of the pandemic, Eliot realized she wanted to get out. She was burned out from working sometimes 12-hour days in communications at a tech company. “I didn’t have time to do basically anything that fulfilled me on a personal level,” she says. “I was like, you know what, f— it, I’m getting out of here.” She continued: “There are tons of opportunities for creative pursuits in San Francisco, but no time to pursue them,” Eliot, who is currently working as a freelance writer, notes. “In order to survive there, you have to be working all of these jobs that are less than creative.” The only jobs that paid livable wages for the region, she says, were in the tech industry. 

When she started to think about leaving, she realized she doesn’t need that much money to be happy. “I have pretty simple desires,” she says. “I just want to eat and write.” She left the Bay Area in fall 2020.

Eliot and her then-boyfriend found a 1,000-square-foot house in Clark County, Wash., about 20 miles outside Portland, Ore. The house, which has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a backyard and a washer and dryer, costs them about $1,500 a month. Eliot turned to full-time freelance writing to make an income and is currently contributing journalism and copywriting to various publications and clients. Even when her now ex-boyfriend moved out, Eliot could still pay for her rent, health insurance ($500 a month) and utilities ($300 a month) from her income. She is even able to save each month, and hopes to purchase her own house. “I’m putting money away to do it and could feasibly accomplish that in the next five years,” she says. “What a dream.”

Dreaming of moving to a less pricey city too?
Here are some resources to help you make that decision

  • Housing: See what kind of a mortgage you can qualify for here, and look up what you might pay in rent here.
  • Cost of living and other lifestyle factors: Compare the cost of living in a new city with your current city here, as well as things like taxes, crime and more.
  • Healthcare: Look up how U.S. News ranks your the new state ranks in terms of healthcare here.
  • Jobs: If your current job won’t let you work remotely, you can hunt for jobs via sites like Indeed and Glassdoor.
  • Crime, education and other lifestyle factors: Look these up on Niche.

Even better, she has way more time. Along with pursuing topics that interest her, as opposed to those that merely make money — Eliot is carving a niche for herself in the field of paranormal and cryptozoology journalism — she can do so at a much slower pace, and still make enough money to survive. “I’m making probably half of what I was making in the Bay Area,” she says. “But my lifestyle is dramatically better. I can wake up and work a normal eight-hour day without losing sleep from stress.”

Though the cost of living in her new town is lower than that in Richmond, Calif., moving is about more than money: “Time and space are wealth,” Eliot says. “Living in a three-bedroom house with the luxury of having time to make art is freedom to me.” In the future, Eliot imagines working on a video game script or writing a choose-your-own-adventure book. If she had stayed in the Bay Area, she says, she would have been too tired from working and commuting to even consider such a project, she says. “Leaving the Bay Area has given me the freedom to be happy and creatively fulfilled,” she says.

The move has come with downsides, though: She misses the different kinds of people she met in San Francisco, for example. But in Washington, she can get a dog.  “I’ve wanted a dog for the last decade or so,” she says. “It’s finally the right time.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story spelled Eliot’s town incorrectly in the headline. The error has been fixed.

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