By Julia Cox
Cost of living. When contemplating a move, weâ€™ve all heard it. Whether from anxious parents, broke friends, or concerned co-workers, the term is unavoidable when researching a change of scenery. Cost of living loosely describes how much it takes to live in a particular area. However, estimating cost of living is often a misguided process. Online calculators, zagats, craigslist, guidebooks, etc give you a holistic financial outlook, but by nature do not address your personal lifestyle or financial situation. Generalities like â€œNew York is more expensive than Bostonâ€ can only get you so far. To best assess whether you can afford to relocate, take an introspective look at your personal finances and lifestyle. In a nutshell, figure out your cost of living, not someone elseâ€™s. The daily drains on your finances may be dramatically different from statistics in a guidebook. Cost of living goes way beyond how expensive your apartment is and the price of gas. Itâ€™s how you live your life: what you eat, where you drink, who you visit, where you workout, etc. Make sure to incorporate the following lifestyle habits into your overall financial picture as you crunch the numbers.
Transportation. Can you afford to bring a car? Gas and parking costs vary from city to city. Investigate. If itâ€™s too expensive, can you make do without one? Compare with public transportation.
Coffee. It sounds silly, but if you guzzle lattes the cost of caffeine should be on your list of financial considerations. Especially in large cities, plain coffee runs $4-5 a cup. Youâ€™ll say youâ€™ll start making your own, but old habits die hard. If you like to purchase coffee, make sure you can afford to in your prospective neighborhood. Due to competition from Starbucks and the recession, even local places are expensive. Google/Urban Spoon it. Youâ€™ll be glad you did. Caffeine withdrawal is not pretty.
The Gym. If youâ€™re attached to weight-training, make sure you can finance your fitness. If you go to a big chain gym like Goldâ€™s, see if thereâ€™s a branch in the area youâ€™re considering. Itâ€™ll likely be cheaper to transfer a membership branch-to-branch.
Food. What do you eat? If you donâ€™t cook, make sure you can afford the takeout/eat-out lifestyle in your new area. Easy mac and ramen get old. Also, if you have dietary concerns, make sure you can affordably find food that suits these preferences.
Nightlife. What do you do at night? If itâ€™s bar hopping or expensive dining, really do some research. Moving to a new town wonâ€™t magically make you content with sitting on the couch and watching TV. Your preferences wonâ€™t change, regardless of your financial outlook.
Airfare. Can you get home when you want to? Inevitably, youâ€™ll want to visit family and friends. Make sure you have the financial ability to do so.
An honest evaluation of your lifestyle is critical in assessing the financial feasibility of relocating. Estimating cost of living is as much a look in the mirror as a crunching of numbers. Like Plato said, â€œknow thyself.â€ Then budget accordingly.
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