While visiting Raleigh earlier this month, I spent a morning with my pal Justin (from the excellent Root of Good blog) and his wife. As we sipped our coffee and nibbled our bagels, the conversation turned to cost of living. (Money nerds will be money nerds, after all.)
“Things are cheaper here in North Carolina than they are in Portland,” I said. “Food is cheaper. Beer is cheaper. Hotel rooms are cheaper. Your homes are cheaper too. Last night, as I was walking through the neighborhood next to my hotel, I pulled up the housing prices. I was shocked at how low they are!”
“Yeah, housing costs are lower here than in many parts of the country,” Justin said.
“Take our house, for instance. We bought it in 2003 for $108,000. Zillow says it's worth around $198,000 right now. But I'll bet that's a lot less than you'd pay for a similar place in Portland.”
He's right. Justin and his wife own an 1800-square-foot home on 0.3 acres of land. Their place has four bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. There's only one place for sale in Portland right now that matches these stats and it's going for $430,000 — more than twice the price the same home would fetch in Raleigh.
Housing is by far the largest slice of the average American budget, representing one-third of typical household spending. Because of this, the best way to cut your costs (and, therefor, boost your “profit margin”) is to reduce how much you spend to keep a roof over your head.
One obvious way to cut costs on housing is to choose a cheaper home or apartment. But if you truly want to slash your spending, consider moving to a new neighborhood. Or city. Or state. If you're willing to change locations, you can supercharge your purchasing power and accelerate your saving rate.
Cost of living is one of those factors that people seldom consider, but which can have a huge impact on the family budget — sometimes in unexpected ways. According to The Millionaire Next Door:
Living in less costly areas can enable you to spend less and to invest more of your income. You will pay less for your home and correspondingly less for your property taxes. Your neighbors will be less likely to drive expensive motor vehicles. You will find it easier to keep up, even ahead, of the Joneses and still accumulate wealth.
It's one thing to talk about the effects of high cost of living, but another to actually experience it. [Read more…]