After five years living in New York City, I was ready for a change. I had gotten everything out of the city that I had hoped for: experience in a thriving start-up world, access to a wide range of cultural events, and even the opportunity to explore New York’s famous restaurant scene. But after five years, I was tired of crazy rent and $15 cocktails.
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The benefits of living in New York weren’t worth the price tag anymore. I was burnt out and struggling to meet my financial goals. Most of my income went toward rent and day-to-day expenses, and I wasn’t saving enough money.
Choosing to Move to a Lower Cost-of-Living Area
I missed my old friends back in my hometown just outside Boston. So I decided to make the smart financial choice and move back to Massachusetts. As a freelancer, I could take my job with me, so my income wouldn’t take a hit, but my cost of living would be far lower if I moved to that area.
In NYC, spending money on “extras” like movie tickets, fitness classes, and taxis was a constant source of stress. As a result, I ended up downsizing my lifestyle.
Even though Boston isn’t a cheap city by any means, I was able to add back some of the small luxuries that I had cut out when I lived in New York, and I wasn’t stressed out when I went out at night or ate at restaurants with friends.
Prices and Cost of Living in Boston
According to Numbeo, a cost-of-living comparison website, rent prices aren’t much cheaper in or out of downtown Boston compared to New York (18 percent lower for a one-bedroom downtown, or 11 percent lower outside the city center). However, many of my other monthly expenses are significantly cheaper — and that isn’t just my personal experience.
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Number calculates that monthly public transit passes, gym memberships, and movie tickets are 34 percent, 30 percent, and 20 percent cheaper, respectively. And Uber service is about 20 percent less expensive overall.
All in all, local purchasing power in Boston is 29 percent higher than in NYC, and I notice that difference every single day.
So what did I do with all that extra cash? While I did relax a little about “fun” expenses (I’ve been going to more concerts, eating out a bit more, and taking the occasional Uber), I was also able to start saving in earnest for two of my top financial goals: retirement and long-term travel.
How to Find Areas With a Low Cost of Living
There are lots of reasons to move: family, a dream job, a degree, or even just a change of pace. You can’t always control where you move. Sometimes you may end up in a more expensive area than the one you leave behind.
But if you have the flexibility to choose an area based on cost of living, moving somewhere cheaper may be the key to reaching your financial goals. Plus, it’s an adventure!
So where should you move to save money? Rural areas tend to have the lowest cost of living, but if you’re looking for an urban environment, check out cities like Memphis, Tennessee; San Antonio, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; and Indianapolis, Indiana. These are all high on the list of most affordable U.S. cities.
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Worried that your earning potential in a lower cost-of-living area may neutralize the impact of moving somewhere cheaper? Check out Salary.com’s Cost-of-Living Wizard. This online calculator compares average salaries in different cities.
For example, Boston salaries are just two percent lower than NYC salaries overall. Combined with a significantly lower cost of living, you can save a lot more in Boston than in New York.
A Final Thought on Moving to a Lower Cost-of-Living Area
Relocating to Boston has inspired me to consider moving to areas with an even lower cost of living in the future. Portland, Denver, and Austin are high on my list. I may even try living abroad!
Freelancing makes it much easier for me, but even if you’re not a freelancer, there are lots of work options if you want to make an international move.
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I don’t regret my years in a big, expensive city like New York, but I’m very happy that I made the move to Boston. I love being able to save for my future without worrying so much about small indulgences.