Dear Portland: I Can Barely Afford You…



Dear Portland,

I can barely afford you. We may need to break up.

Look, I love you. Like, you changed my life at 15 when I moved here with zero self esteem and no personality. I even left for a while to “find myself,” going between New York City and Los Angeles to figure it out. Then I met a boy and we fell in love, and LA wasn’t really the place to settle down. So, begrudgingly, I returned. My family was ecstatic that I would be so close, and leaving that fancy private sector job didn’t seem so bad because Portland seemed affordable.

And then, it wasn’t.

Our house search was competitive and complicated. We were looking, and then we found one. And then it fell through and we were looking again. Before we knew it, in a span of six to eight months, home values here doubled (okay, they didn’t actually double but they increased so fast it sure felt like it!)

And then we found our forever home.

We pooled our resources and made a down payment. We spent any leftover money to redo the paint and upgrade the hardwood floors. It was then that I learned the meaning of “house poor.”

  • Let’s go on vacation! Or should we replace the dishwasher? We still have no functional dishwasher.
  • Let’s sign the kids up for after-school activities! Well, the tree in the backyard is leaning towards the house in a not-so-great-way. We spent the money on the tree.
  • Is there an affordable vacation? What’s affordable anyways? We just did Sunriver (off-season so we could afford it, of course).
  • Do we go on a big family trip or stop eating out? We still can’t decide.
  • Where can we buy cheap groceries? I have discovered Grocery Outlet – it’s amazing.
  • I bet we can find that at the Dollar Tree. It’s true. I find so many things at the Dollar Tree that it’s like my second home. 

So, I love you Portland, but this isn’t working. I can barely afford you. However, we spent too much money on this house so I am not actually leaving. We know we are blessed and lucky that Portland is still reasonably affordable, and we are lucky to be able to pull off buying a house at all.

I have no idea how my fellow Portland friends afford to live here. I feel like we are living paycheck to paycheck, and it sucks. College and savings accounts seem like a dream, and I find myself torn between working to live or living to work. 

Anyone else out there feel the same way? I see you. I hear you and I salute you.

I guess the kids will just have to write really good college scholarship essays!