For all that I complain about living in Orange County, we’re not just hanging out here. It’s no secret that cost of living is through the roof. When I met the Bean, I was paying $865 for a tiny studio apartment in a not-so-great section of Long Beach. There was no assigned parking, and I sometimes had to park up to ½ mile away. There was no laundry facility. Utilities were not included. There was a balcony, but it appeared to be so flimsy that I never felt comfortable actually standing on it, and I’m usually not one to care about such things. The walls were paper thin, the place leaked like crazy when it rained, and the building was in such disrepair that the ceiling literally collapsed on my bed one morning.
When I told people what I was paying, the general consensus was that I was getting a fairly good deal. “Under 900? You have a kitchen with an oven? A balcony? That’s not bad… that’s not bad at all.”
So, yeah. The cost of living here sucks.
On the other hand, wages here are generally a lot higher than the rest of the country. They have to be, or we’d all be huddled beneath bushes.
So, there you go. Cost of living is high, but the wages are also high (in comparison with other parts of the country).
And the Bean and I have a plan.
We live with my parents and split the mortgage on the house with them. When we were blessed with my wonderful job early in January, we decided to do our best to continue living on the same shoestring budget we’ve always survived on. We made a few exceptions. We traded in my old 1986 clunkermobile for a new civic (my first legitimately “real” car with a “real” car payment ever). We also paid off a few people and allow ourselves to splurge and go out to dinner once every month or so. We each have a modest monthly budget of individual “play money” that we can spend on whatever we want, from Starbucks and the occasional singing lesson (me) to computer parts and car window tinting (the Bean.)
We make okay money, but we’re doing our best to shovel every spare penny into savings.
Sometimes it’s annoying.
In fact, sometimes it’s downright frustrating. I see other people my age with all sorts of toys and goodies. I watch other families go on vacations and visit theme parks. We turn down invitations to go to the movies because it’s not in our “budget” and put off trips to the grocery store because we’ve used up that weeks’ budget on food. I scour craigslist for deals and decorate my house through my weekly Saturday morning garage sale extravaganza. If the DragonMonkey owns a new toy, it’s because someone else bought it for him.
The budget is annoying and restrictive, but for the first time in my life, I have a savings account. Well, let me take that back.
For the first time in my life, I have a savings account with MONEY in it.
So I work my 50 hour weeks, and the Bean works his 60 hour weeks, and somewhere in the middle of all that he fits in school. We guard our family time closely, and frankly, I’m still not even sure how we managed to find the time to get pregnant with the Squidgelet. Maybe gmail chat didn’t have the proper firewalls up? Perhaps we texted each other too hard one evening?
As much as I complain about living in Orange County and my current lack of horses, the Bean and I have a plan. Every penny that goes into that savings account takes us one step closer to our Arizona ranch.
I’m not sure when our focus turned from Washington/Idaho/Montana to the sunburned desert, but somewhere along the way the Bean and I realized this was the only place the two of us both agreed upon. I wanted Montana. The Bean wanted North Dakota. We discussed eastern Washington and possibly Idaho.
Somehow we settled on Arizona?
Anyways, it makes sense to us. There’s something truly bewitching about the lonely, desolate space of the desert.
It’s alternately haunting and soothing, and to my eyes it’s always beautiful. After years of living in the Kern Valley, I’ve fallen in love with the way twilight seems to last forever in the desert. I love the feeling of a heat-wrapped summer evening, where the breeze stirs along your skin and it seems like your very bones relax into a quiet stillness. Plus, it’s hard to beat the allure of a place that lets you ride year-round when you’ve been horseless as long as I have.
The Bean likes it for his own reasons. He likes the angry, spiny plants, the relatively scarcity of neighbors and the lax gun control laws.
To each his own.