- We moved to a New Hampshire town of 1,300 this year, where we bought a three-bedroom, 2,700-square foot home on 2.3 acres.
- I bought my house at a bargain because it was a foreclosure, so I only owe $161,000, but my mortgage and taxes are still my biggest expense.
- I've also been surprised by some unexpected expenses of rural life, like having to treat and test our well water, and needing to pay for snow removal and lawn care.
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When I give people directions to my home, I do it the old fashioned way: Pass the house with a white picket fence, count two more mailboxes, then a long stretch of woods, then it's our driveway. If you reach the dirt road, you've gone too far. No, really, I warn friends, take the directions, because there's no chance you'll have cell service here. Even if they had service, GPS can never find my house.
That's because, frankly, I live in the middle of nowhere. When I first moved from a Boston suburb to New Hampshire four years ago I thought we were in the middle of nowhere, but our town had 13,000 people, a Walmart, and exactly three restaurants. That was the big city compared with where we moved this year. Our new town has 1,300 residents, no school, no restaurants, and, as mentioned, no cell service.
Being in a rural environment has changed everything, including our finances. Here's exactly what it costs to live in my three-bedroom, 2,700-square foot home on 2.3 acres in rural New Hampshire. And, what I'm learning about the cost of rural living.
The mortgage payment is our largest monthly expense
Each month, I pay $1,419.35 to my mortgage servicer. The payment breaks down like this:
- Principal: $229.12
- Interest: $553.59 (Yikes!)
- Taxes: $636.64 (New Hampshire sells you on no income tax, but fails to mention its massive property taxes.)
This is the largest monthly expense, but I know it could be much worse. I bought my house at a bargain because it was a foreclosure, so I only owe $161,000. Considering that five years ago I was paying almost this much to live in a Massachusetts rental apartment, I'm happy with my mortgage expense.
The other monthly expenses
While my mortgage is my biggest single bill, other utilities and services add up fast. These include:
I break these expenses down into monthly amount to have a more honest picture of my expenses, but most of them aren't paid monthly. Homeowner's insurance is paid in a lump sum of $780 in January. I know I'm stuck with that price for the long term, because we're so rural (and so far from the fire department) that only one insurer in the state would write us a plan.
Oil is our biggest monthly expense, but it's entirely seasonal. We usually fill our oil tank about three times between October and April to fuel our heating system. Allowing the tank to get below a quarter can clog the furnace, so it's critical that we keep money set aside for fuel delivery, and check the tank regularly. Propane, which fuels our gas stove, is similar. Our tank costs about $200 to fill, which we've been told should last a year.
Uniquely rural expenses include our well, septic, and a ride-on mower
When I first moved to New Hampshire, I was shocked to learn there was no trash collection. We could pay a minimal amount to haul our trash to the dump, but instead we have a small dumpster at our home that is emptied every other week. The $85 a month is well worth it.
Our new home has a septic system and well water. At first, I was thrilled to save the $100 a month we had been paying for water and sewer. However, I quickly realized that septic and wells have their own expenses. We had to pay $475 to have our well shocked when we moved in, to ensure the water was safe. After that, I spend $25 a month on test strips for the first three months, until I was convinced the water was safe. We know we'll need to pump the septic soon, which will cost about $500.
Living on a large lot means we need to invest in snow removal and lawn care. We bought a $1,200 on a ride on mower when we moved, which allows us to cut the grass in one hour, rather than three (after all, time is money). We're currently debating whether to spend about $1,500 on a plow for my husband's truck, or pay $50 each snow storm to have someone plow our driveway. The plow will likely pay for itself in three years, so we're leaning toward that option.
Then, there's preparedness. If we lose electricity we'll have no water or heat. We know that we're a last priority for power restoration, so we'll likely spend $1,500 on a propane-powered portable generator that could power the basics even if we lose electricity.
Overall, we still come out ahead
There are certainly added expenses to living rural (including ones not mentioned here, like the extra gas money is takes to get, well, anywhere). However, the low housing expenses and limited options for shopping and dining out keep our monthly spending low. Of course, my husband and I chose this lifestyle for more than financial reasons, but saving money has been a great added bonus.