After college and their roaring 20s, many Americans find themselves in a subdivision with a lawn and a mortgage and a couple kids. Hip twentysomethings may mock the suburbs and its bourgeois values, but when their first child arrives the nesting instinct sets in. A neighbor and her husband lived on the north side of Chicago until the kids came; then they moved to a western ‘burb for safety and quiet. “I miss the energy of the city,” she says five years later. “In fact, when we moved to the suburbs, we had a hard time sleeping at night because the neighborhood was so quiet.”
That quote has always caught my eye. When I first read the article I was single…not even dating. At each new reading I have found myself in a new place (dating, engaged, married, parent, changing vocations, etc). So I read that quote with different eyes than before.
I think Goetz is dead on. Many twentysomethings, hipsters, etc. do tend to mock the values of the suburbs. I did a little. I couldn’t stand the cookie cutter houses, the strip mall (you know the one w/a Barnes and Nobles, Starbucks, Macaroni Grill, etc.) that is planted in different places all over the country. Even though I mocked at some points, I grew up in the suburbs. And I loved where I grew up. It was not the kind that has their own built in walking trails, parks and pools, but it was the suburbs nonetheless. Honestly, isn’t anything that is not out in the wild, the suburbs. I mean, can’t you picture the early settlers in the cities mocking those who moved out into the country…or maybe it was vice-versa…mocking those who left the outskirts for the comfort of the city.
Since my post college years I have primarily been living in locations within walking distance to the mountains, oceans, grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants and downtown areas…places like Pasadena and Brentwood. But now my wife and I are living in a leased house in the North part of Dallas, contemplating where we want to settle down. And new questions have arisen for us during this journey.
Let me begin with one question we have been asking:
What does it mean to be a good steward of our finances?
We believe that when we are good stewards of our finances, it often allows us the freedom to pursue the things that we believe God has been calling us to do, or will call us to do one day. We don’t want finances (primarily debt) to keep us from what is being asked of us. Or preventing us from picking up and moving. (FYI: We are in the process of aggressively paying off debt after listening to Dave Ramsey). A lot of our thinking in this area has also come from owning, living in and selling a house in Los Angeles. That has really formed how we think of finances, mortgages, ownership, etc.
So answering this question sometimes limits where one can live. And if you haven’t noticed, sometimes the urban areas are about as expensive as any place to live. Well, at least the “cool urban areas.” Yet, not many are flocking to the more run down parts of the urban environment.
So standing in the shoes I’m in now, I see why many people flock to the suburbs. Often that move involves the opportunity for a parent to quit their job and stay home (usually the mom). Sometimes people go for the schools, rather than putting their kids in private schools or schools that they feel aren’t up to standard. Sometimes it means the family can spend less on a house, downsize their living. Sometimes it means that the traveling to church, practice, school, grocery store, friends, etc. is all very…well convenient and practical. Of course, some flock to super size houses and all the negative things you hear about suburban life. But overall, I see why families do it…and it makes sense to me, and I no longer look at them as selling out, like I might have did in my earlier days.
I think we have to stop spiritualizing some of the choices people make in where they live, and better understand how those decisions came about.
Every person, couple and family has to determine what is important, and how they are going to make decisions based on their values.
So for my wife, daughter and I, we are thinking through what it means to be a good steward:
- If we are good stewards we believe that allows us the opportunity for my wife to not have to work (if she doesn’t want to–which she doesn’t).
- Which allows her to be home with our daughter which she wants to be.
- Which continues to allow her to stay home when another kid comes along someday.
- Which allows us to be freed from debt, live frugally, and have no financial ties to anything if we felt God was calling us somewhere else.
As we think through these things, we may find out that we will stay in the general area we are already in (North Dallas). Or we may find that we want to move to some suburbs (Richardson, Frisco, Coppell, Grapevine). Or we may move to some suburbs within the city (Lake Highlands, Lakewood, Lower Greenville, M Streets), etc. As you can see, we have some decisions to make. But with finances, we are looking at a place we can buy for way under our budget, and which will allow us to live off only one income, and give us the freedom to be mobile.
- Where does financial stewardship fit into your, your marriage or family’s decision making in terms of where to live?
- Do you think that financial stewardship should not have as primary a role in this process? Why or why not?
- Do you judge people based on whether or not they live in the suburbs?