I write about this because I had relocated for a few times in the past few years. In 2011, my family moved to Oregon, USA because my wife needed to be there for a business assignment. In 2012, we moved back to Penang after she completed her works. A few months back, my whole family had just moved south to Klang Valley.

It is fun and exciting to stay at a new place for an extended period of time. It is unlike the tour organized by travel agency, where you are going through the tourists attraction in a hurry just to complete the back-to-back sight-seeing. When you have time to explore an area, you’ll get more understanding of the difference in culture, commerce and generally the ways of living of the locals.

For the recent years, I’ve been joking with my wife several time. I told her that if she is willing to give up her career (she is doing really great right now), we would be able to move to a cheaper place to stay. She can be a housewife and we can even opt to not owning a house.

We can choose to stay at any town or village for a few months, and keep moving. She is not that kind of frequent traveller like me. So this thought will still remain as an unfavourable option for a while. It is obvious that there is a significant difference in terms of the cost of living when you move to a rural town compared to staying in one of the big cities like Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

Everything seems to take a price cut instantly, e.g. cheaper labour cost, cheaper rent, cheaper house (or get a much bigger house with the same amount of purchase price) etc. The benefits might be tremendous. But the fact is that there is a massive urbanization force due to the better prospect and job opportunities in big cities.

Take a look at the whereabouts of your old time secondary school classmates now. How many are working at a foreign country? How many choose to stay in Klang Valley? Penang? Johor Bahru? Let’s examine some of the benefits you can get if you have the option to move to a cheaper place.

You can get a bigger house

Let’s start with the saving on house. In big cities, real estate are way more expensive due to the high density of population. For instance, you only get a terrace house in Penang for RM1 million. If you move to the mainland, just across the bridge, you can get a bungalow or at least a semi-detached with the same money.

This also means that you will get more built-up or land area. Your children have a garden to enjoy their evening. You can watch TV in a bigger living area. You can fit a king size bed in your bedroom.

Assuming that you are going to get a house with the same built-up, your monthly mortgage installment may be reduced to half. Instead of paying RM5,000/month for a million ringgit loan, your installment may be as low as RM2000/month, saving RM3000 per month.

Less Traffic Congestion

In Klang Valley area, we’ll normally arrange our travelling to avoid expected traffic congestion. It is so common to get caught in the jam, even there is no political rally. Most people will also avoid school hours.

When you stay in a smaller town, everything seems so near. Even if you are caught in the traffic, it just takes a little longer time to travel to your destination, say 5 minutes extra.

Drivers are easily tensed and frustrated during traffic jams. It makes our lives uneasy. Moving to rural area, you instantly get a lot more peace of mind. People walks slower and the pace is more relaxing. Good for your health too! Assuming that you spend 50% less time on the road, and you don’t need to pay tolls for the short distance highway usually found in Klang Valley area, you are expected to save RM300-RM500/month on transportation expenses.

Your children can get better education

My wife grew up in Kuala Lumpur. She told me that she used to sleep in the school bus because it took an hour time to reach her school. One way! Meanwhile, I grew up in Sungai Petani, where I can reach my school within 15 minutes on a bicycle, or 5 minutes with a motorcycle.

Nowadays, there are many parents who send their kids to school. Sometimes, in order to let their kids study in a school with good reputation, they are willing to commute long distance. Coupled with the traffic congestion, the family might spent a lot of time in the car.

Moreover, your children get to learn all sorts of skill by paying only a fraction of the tuition charged at big cities. A piano lesson in Klang Valley area might cost RM80 per session. But in small town, RM80 can last for the whole month tuition. With the same budget, your children got to learn more lessons. Right?

No desire to keep up with the Joneses

I once read about this research about the relation of happiness and the place you stay. If you are staying in the biggest house in your neighbourhood, you’ll be happier than staying in a bigger house but located in a neighbourhood where everyone else is apparently more affluent than you.

For example, you’ll be happier to stay in the biggest corner lot of terrace house, rather than a semi-detached in a neighbourhood where your neighbours stay in bungalows. Out of sight is out of mind. You won’t be comparing yourself with those who are more affluent.

Then without the need to keep up with the Joneses, you won’t have the urge to change your vehicle frequently, or getting the latest gadget, fancy vacations and household appliances.

Is it an option?

If you are staying in a city right now, who get to work early in the morning and stay late at workplace to avoid traffic congestion, maybe it is time to consider the option to move to suburb or rural area. Is this even an option?

Because of the lack of job opportunity compared to big cities, often time, you have got to take a pay cut for the same job function in small town. Anyhow, you may be able to find a balance to stay at city outskirt where wages is competitive meanwhile the cost of living is not as high as city centre.

Furthermore, due to the advance of technology, some companies do allow the employees to work from home. You can look into this option too.

Globalization and Migration

When considering moving to a new place, we are no longer restricted within our country. Talents are sought after in many other countries since we are all living in a flat world now.

Recent years, I’ve had many friends and clients, dozens of them moving oversea. Some said that it is just a temporary relocation. They will work for 5-10 years, accumulate enough nest egg and come back to semi-retire.

Some said that they had migrated for good. One of my clients moved to Australia for the better standard of living, even though as an employee. He managed to live in a better house, bigger car, better air quality, security and fair treatment.

In fact, many Malaysians had move out of the country for a lot of different reasons. This phenomenon is commonly known as brain drain. After writing about all the advantages of moving to a place that give you better living quality,  ironically I am moving into the capital city.

My business give me the flexibility to work from anywhere with Internet access, but yet I just moved to a place where everything is more expensive. Why? In the movie The Wedding Diary II  by Ah-Niu showed during the past Chinese New Year, the father tried to expand his business to Singapore.

His family condemned him for being money face. He said that whenever you feel contented, to say it nicely is that you are grateful with what you already have. On the other hand, it also means that you had stopped improving, which is not a good thing.

In my humble opinion, growth certainly gives more satisfaction than living in your comfort zone and never expand your means. Nevertheless, you’ll still get very good standard of living in a big city, provided that you have the money.


Personal finance author and trainer

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