Wanderlust And Your Wallet

By Teresa Iqbal

January 15, 2016 4 min read

You've packed your bags and have set your sights on a brand new place to call home. Before the moving truck can be packed and the plane tickets booked, there are several financial factors to consider. How much money do you have to spend on housing and other important cost-of-living items? Is there room in your budget for the costs of public transportation or are you hoping to tote your car along to a more automobile-friendly city? These questions and more can help you decide which new city you'll be calling home.

Many Americans have grand visions of moving to the Big Apple. Of course, New York City is infamous for being one of the most expensive cities in the country, second only to San Francisco. In a city where the housing is astronomical (the median price for a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan being $1.35 million, according to Bloomberg Business in 2015), most New Yorkers can only afford to rent. Housing isn't the only expensive part of this city, either. Utilities, food and even public transportation all contribute to a significantly high cost of living for those looking to make this particular move.

Likewise, if sunny California is next on your destination wish list, you'll be greeted with a high cost of living all across the state. San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Orange County are particularly expensive compared with other California cities. In 2015, the average rent for many of these towns sat close to the $2,000 mark, leaving less money to enjoy all of the great attractions that these cities have to offer. There are also less obvious costs. For example, it can prove to be much costlier to own an automobile where parking is sparse (and expensive) and traffic is congested. To top that off, drivers' insurance premiums are higher in densely populated areas.

Smaller cities, such as San Luis Obispo (dubbed the happiest town in America by Oprah) is a great alternative, as it's still minutes from the beach, is right smack dab between Los Angeles and San Francisco and boasts a lower cost of living than the aforementioned cities.

Hawaii is another American dream destination, evoking images of paradise and palm trees. However, much like California, the overall cost of living is much higher in the Aloha State, especially in Honolulu. Because of the high costs from importing goods, you can expect to spend more money on everything from a gallon of milk to a tank of gas in this state. Demand for housing is high, driving up the prices to an average of $600,000 to $900,000 in 2015. If you're searching on a more modest budget, cities that require longer commutes to Honolulu, such as Wahiawa in central Oahu, offer much cheaper housing markets, with the typical rent of a two-bedroom apartment around $1,400.

If the Midwest is more your style, you'll be happy to find many more options to help your income stretch further. Dayton, Ohio, home of the aviation industry, has become one of the most ideal cities to move to in the U.S. due to the affordable housing. In fact, the median home value for this city is $120,000: 33 percent lower than the national average. This makes it an especially ideal destination for those who are looking to settle down and establish permanent roots.

There are several other cities in the Midwest that boast low housing prices, as well as other lower expenses. Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Indianapolis, Indiana, are two other great options for those looking to transition to this area. With housing prices averaging in the $185,000 range, getting a place in these cities should be no problem, whether you plan to rent or own. Other fixed charges, such as utilities and transportation, are also significantly lower in these places.

All it takes is a little research and consideration of pros and cons to make your budget work for you in any new city that you wish to call home.

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