When you hear of someone moving to Uptown you probably assume, like me, it’s not because it will save them money. And not because it’s a great place to raise kids. For Jennifer Morgan and her family, though, both of those proved to be true. She and her husband and son are are saving money, are happier than ever, and are even finally planning a long-anticipated family vacation.
It all started with a spreadsheet of family expenses — and the recognition that life was not as satisfying as they’d planned. Jennifer had worked in Uptown for 13 years and her husband, Valton, had begun working in Uptown about 2.5 years ago. Which meant they both commuted almost an hour and a half, each way, to their home near Frisco. Even though they worked in the same area, their son’s school schedule made it impossible to carpool.
By the time they got home, their 8-year-old son had been at school or daycare all day and was over sitting still, over doing homework, and was a rowdy, moody handful. And they had just enough time for dinner, bath, and bed. They missed spending quality time with their son. And each other.
But it was this spreadsheet (after the jump) that convinced them to seriously consider making a move — then every other question mark fell into place one by one, better than they could’ve imagined.
The biggest savings were, of course, in Toll Tag fees and gas from much shorter commutes. And Jennifer says they actually spend even LESS than what’s on the spreadsheet. Last month they only spent $45 on gas. Total.
Surprisingly, their TXU energy bill is actually smaller despite the same-sized apartment (they went from a three-story townhome to a single-story layout), and internet is a bit cheaper, making up for the slightly higher rent and other utilities, car insurance, and renters insurance. They may eventually buy a condo in the area. But right now, maintenance-free apartment living is a huge perk.
“I don’t have to take care of ANYTHING when the A/C goes out or a lightbulb goes out! We pay a bit more but we don’t have to GC a project!”
A bulk of other savings were from after-school care, and from Dallas ISD, where school lunch is included at her son’s public school (along with surprisingly excellent resources for helping her son with Dyslexia). Their decision to live further north was really predicated on having their son in a great school, but from what they’ve seen since their March 2017 move, DISD is really pulling through with great benefits, small classroom size, and great teachers. The principal knows all the students names and the secretary already knows Jennifer — even though she’s been much less involved than she had been in Frisco.
Now that they live so much closer, it’s easy for Valton to head to work early and get off work earlier to pick up his son from school. Or when her husband’s out of town, Jennifer can run her son from school to an after school care program (only $10/week!) and get back to work for a few more hours. If she’s too busy to transport him, she can pay $25 for the transportation service the program provides.
The City of Dallas Parks Department even hosts a fantastic low-cost summer camp at Reverchon Park. It’s a great program that Jennifer would love to see get more funding to accommodate more kids. “You have to camp out the day of registration to get a spot,” as Jennifer did, of course.
The 0-4 year old demographic is the fastest growing age group in Uptown right now. Dallas, get ready.
There are fewer daycares in these in-town neighborhoods, and many spots are taken by kids whose parents just work in the area. So new mothers have started getting on childcare waiting lists while they’re still pregnant. In the suburbs there’s one on every corner, but not here. “There are some small tradeoffs, but it’s not like we’re missing out on the American Dream!” says Jennifer.
The Priceless Perks of Convenience
Aside from the extra cash for paying off debt and vacationing, the biggest benefit in their move is the lifestyle change that the convenience of Uptown has afforded them. Jennifer can take her lunch break to grab groceries and actually have time to run home, put them away, make a sandwich, and get back to the office all within an hour. Which means she can easily (during lunch or after work) run to the bank or the dry cleaner or run other little errands that can easily tie-up an entire evening or take over a Saturday.
Which means evenings and weekends are now quality family time together. In fact, Dad typically gets two hours of ‘bro time’ in the evenings, helping with homework before mom gets home.
Even visiting the in-laws is easier and cheaper now. Both sets of parents live near a rail line — in Carrolton and Garland — so, really, they can just take the train.
“In the 12 years we’ve been married, I don’t think we’ve been as happy as we’ve been in the last three months, spending so much time together as a family — we’re together and not as stressed. Our relationship is better than ever.”
Jennifer says she’s looking forward to walking her son to school as summer cools down — it’s just a 3.5 block walk and another 10 minute walk to her office! Maybe someday it would be an easy way to give her son a bit more autonomy as he gets older. For now through, being the elevator bellhop at the apartment is the most exciting new thing for him.
Living the Party Life
Even Jennifer assumed Uptown was a better neighborhood for young singles, but they haven’t run into many difficulties. “A lot of restaurants don’t have swing seats, or just aren’t prepared for kids, but thankfully we’re past that. He’s 8.”
They make use of all the nearby entertainment: playing at Klyde Warren Park, Griggs Park, visiting the Dallas Museum of Art, the Dallas World Aquarium, and The Perot Museum of Natural History. They even take the train to the zoo.
Is it hard raising a family in an entertainment district like Uptown? Jennifer says not at all. “We live near Kung Fu Saloon. It gets pretty crazy on the streets, but we’re on the interior of the complex facing the pool. A whitenoise app helps for noisy late-night swimmers, but Saturday nights at the apartment are actually pretty quiet and wifi gets really fast,” say Jennifer.