Portland, A Wonderful & Cheap City To Live In
Today I’ll be moving up to Northern California. I’ll miss Portland for sure but I’m excited to live in a new place especially now that I’m moving in with my partner. This post is a little about what’s so great about Portland and a little about what sucks about Cali.
Portland doesn’t have cheap housing like you would find in Michigan but it’s an incredibly cheap place to live. Perhaps due to the high rent and home prices many will overlook the unique aspects of this little city. It’s wrong to assume that just because housing is expensive that living here is expensive as well.
I am completely against measuring ‘cost of living‘ by using the CPI, consumer price index. CPI is used to determine inflation/deflation in the US. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts in some serious effort to determine these values by questioning random families, I don’t believe that I am those families. If one sector goes up in price guess what I’m gonna do… cut it out, that’s right.
I’m not gonna let some bureaucrat determine how much MY cost of living is or is going to be, that’s absurd. And the reason I’m going on and on about this cost of living stuff is because we don’t have to spend on the things that have become artificially inflated.
The people I know in Portland, the ones I associate with and meet out and about seem to have placed more emphasis on the quality of life rather than how it would measure up on MTV.
One of my buddies is a home-body who enjoys spending time with his kids and spends money on good groceries because he loves cooking. My other buddy spends money on driving out to the river so that him and his wife can enjoy stand-up paddling and drinking beers by the river. Another friends enjoys walking her dog and meeting people at the dog-park. And yet another is into some weird obstacle bicycling race thing. I don’t quite get it but her and her husband are totally into it and I assure you their bike expenses are far below that of the SoCal dude trying to impress ladies at a club.
I should say that though many think rent and home prices are high here I don’t find that to be the case. I can get a studio all by myself for $800-1,000/mo and I can buy a studio condo for $150k. These aren’t high prices, especially for a major metropolitan area. If I was willing to rent a room in someone’s house I could get away with $600/mo, not bad for a single guy. Yes, I know, most of you aren’t single and many of you have fetuses to deal with. A decent 2-bedroom and 1-bath house would rent for around $2k/mo. It’s not cheap but you get to be in the heart of the city.
There are homes in the $800k range all day long and there are nice downtown high-rises renting for $4k/mo. These extremes are nice luxuries but not necessary. I don’t want to focus on housing, there is much more to Portland.
Granted, there are a lot of homeless people but I haven’t found them to be violent or a hindrance in any way. There are a ton of a groups handing out free personal products and food to the homeless population of Portland which means that I don’t feel the need to give cash to them. Health care is also easy to come by for free for many of the homeless population.
What makes this a really cheap place to live is that there are a ton of inexpensive theaters, movies in the park, free concerts, outdoor activities and really well maintained public parks. Everyone is social so there is no need to sit in a fancy bar or restaurant in order to socialize.
I’m gonna throw this bit in which I know is so not PC but fuck it, it’s my platform. So when I lived in SoCal trying to enjoy free amenities of the city was not a pleasurable experience. It was generally overrun by a lot of the undeserved population who didn’t have much respect for those areas or perhaps didn’t know how to keep it equitable for everyone else. I don’t get the same sense here in Portland, the public areas are shared well by everyone and there is no status disparity among the patrons.
Public transportation in Portland is incredible. I’ve tried public transport in NY and I would say PDX is better. It’s easy to figure out and it’s inexpensive. Well, actually $5 for a 1-day pass isn’t terribly cheap but still affordable. The fleet is well maintained and the drivers arrive timely.
Going out for drinks/dinner is much cheaper than other major cities. The food is incredible and hands down can beat the pants off any food I’ve had in LA. And getting to places is much easier, especially if you’re a little tipsy. There is no need for a car because there are at least 4 car-sharing services, Uber, Lyft as well as a bike sharing service. There are private bus lines that go directly to the coast and other popular destinations and there is always Amtrak.
Jobs pay well here and there are plenty of sophisticated individuals around, if that’s your thing. Tech and healthcare are the biggest industries but real estate is booming as well. Quite a few startups are seeding here which brings some really interesting personalities to the city.
My pay is quite similar compared to what I was making in SoCal. However, from what my colleagues report they recently got a $30k raise in the same medical group but these are the same friends who have no idea how much they are paying in taxes every year so I’m skeptical.
People in Portland want to talk to each other, they want to be friendly and keeping up with your neighbor is all about who has the most outdoor climbing gear. I have never known a city that’s this easy to make new friends in. I’ve lived in Germany, Los Angeles, Irvine and San Diego; Portland is by far the most friendly and open-minded city so far.
State income taxes are high, at 9% it rivals California. Just a few miles north there is Washington with no state income taxes. Oregon doesn’t have sales tax which is a big plus for the average consumer family but doesn’t save me a whole lot. Property taxes are somewhere in the 1% range though that’s not how it is calculated, it’s complicated.
People pretty much shop at REI and you will stand out with fancy jeans or fancy shoes. If you want to live that kind of life, however, the Pearl district is right around the corner. This is the Beverly Hills of Portland. It’s mostly rich Persians and rich Koreans driving M3’s and living in $1 mill+ downtown condos. I’m guessing most of them are in the healthcare industry and possibly transplants from other well-to-do cities.
Many bars stay open until 2:30am and on a weekday most bars and restaurants and parks are fairly populated. The bars with outdoor patios are awesome on good-weather days. What you have to worry about here is increasing your alcohol tolerance because 3 beers in one sitting is not even half-way impressive.
Speaking of weather, it’s not as gray as everyone says it is. There are plenty of days full of sunlight and most days you are going to see some sun, even if for a brief period of time. Come summer it’s sun, sun, and a little too much sun. Though in all fairness, it’s beginning of August and there was a beautiful cool rain today and the night-time temps are dropping to the mid 60’s… absolutely wonderful.
What people call rain here others around the nation would call a drizzle. So it rarely rains here but it drizzles a good amount. I don’t find it excessive at all. Even on a rainy day there will be times when it lets up completely and you’re left with is a beautiful fresh scent in the air.
I’ll miss my friends in Portland, I’ll miss being able to walk everywhere and I’ll miss being able to make friends left and right. Socializing here feels effortless without that underlying sexual or judgmental tension that is present in California. Few people have that determined, angry look on their face when walking around that I’m too familiar with from living in Cali.
I know I’m hating on California but there is a reason I left. Nothing wrong with locking yourself into your mini-mansion and just going to the same fancy gym and the same evening bar … it’s just not my cup of tea.
My last comment on Portland is that I love hanging out at coffee shops late at night and watching people mingle and play chess or read books. There is a whole coffee-shop culture here that’s hard to describe. And I love that coffee shops are friendly towards pets and unfriendly towards children. It’s hard feeling lonely in Portland and it was a wonderful city to live in, hopefully I’ll be back.