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The Simple Dollar

Moving? Consider the cost of living first.

You should live in the city with the lowest cost of living that allows you to pursue the career you want, Hamm advises readers. 

By / August 14, 2013

Riders pass tall grass on July 22, 2013 during the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa in Des Moines, Iowa. It costs 19 percent less to buy groceries and 69 percent less to afford housing in Des Moines than it does in San Francisco, Hamm says.

Christopher Gannon/The Des Moines Register/AP/File

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One of the most mystifying things that readers write to me about is when they’re living in a very expensive urban area and struggling with a minimum wage job or just above it.

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The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two. Our busy lives are crazy enough without having to compare five hundred mutual funds – we just want simple ways to manage our finances and save a little money.

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I received a note not long ago from “Jenny,” who lived in San Francisco and made only $22,000 a year. She shared an apartment with three other people and had virtually no money. Her only spending money was money she received as gifts.

Where did Jenny work? She worked part time at a Starbucks and at a Home Depot.

Right now, she could move to Des Moines, work at Starbucks and at Home Depot with the exact same hours, and she’d have several thousand dollars more per year in spending money.

How is that possible? It’s all about the cost of living.

Check out this calculator. In Des Moines, as compared to San Francisco, groceries cost 19% less, housing costs 69% less, transportation costs 12% less, and health care costs 22% less.

It’s very simple: the income from a minimum wage job in Des Moines goes much further than it does in San Francisco.

My philosophy is this: you should live in the area with the lowest cost of living that gives you access to the type of job you’re working.

If you’re a tech wizard, it makes sense that you might want to live in Silicon Valley as you’ll be able to get many jobs that utilize your skills.

On the other hand, if you’re a writer who works minimum wage jobs and write in your spare time or your focus is on raising your family… why are you living in a high cost-of-living area?

No matter what your situation is, here’s an easy three step plan to trim away a significant amount of your spending by moving elsewhere.

First, figure out where you could potentially move while continuing your current career path and major lifestyle choices. Remember, access to things like “concerts” can be achieved in a lot of metro areas. Access to specific cultural icons can be done via travel. Focus on the things you need as a regular part of your life.

Second, use this cost-of-living calculator to compare eligible areas to the place you currently live. There are areas in the United States that have cost of living numbers that are less than half of the numbers in other areas. Compare whare you live now to other areas and you might be shocked as to what you can save.

Finally, start filtering through the eligible areas that meet your needs and save you significant money. Learn more about those alternate areas and what’s available there. You might just find that an area you’ve previously written off actually meets your needs quite well.

Even if moving is the furthest thing from your mind, moving through this process can really open your eyes and is well worth doing. You might just find that a move really can change your life.

The post Want to Save Enormous Amounts of Money? Change Where You Live appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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