Save Money on Housing: Move To a Lower Cost-of-Living Location… Like Austin, Texas?

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As you may know, I own a house in an expensive area of the country. I love my house, and I love where I live, but I also admit that I occasionally daydream about moving somewhere with a lower cost of living.

In my experience, many people don’t like the idea of moving elsewhere because it involves something unknown and unfamiliar. However, if you ask people to think back to the places they have been, they’ll speak fondly of those places. Specifically, I think about moving back to a place that I spent several childhood years in – Austin, Texas.

Now, there are many things to consider before moving besides costs. These may include:

  • Can you find a job there? If so, how will the pay change? Will it offset the change in cost of living?
  • Do you enjoy the local culture? Can you easily participate in your hobbies and interests?
  • Love, family, weather, traffic, nightlife, cultural diversity, etc.

I think a lot of people who haven’t lived in Texas (and most other areas) may have a misconception or stereotype of what it’s like to live there, and that is especially true of Austin. What I like about the area includes the relatively temperature weather, a large university center, a strong tech industry, and of course a low cost of living and tax burden. As for the financial details, I grabbed some graphs from the Austin Chamber of Commerce website, which were based on independent data.

Cost of Living Index, 4 Quarters Ending Q2 2007

The index takes into account the combined costs of housing, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and other factors. According to this CNN calculator based on the same index, if you are earning $100,000.00 after tax in San Jose (CA), the comparable after-tax income in Austin is 61,217.

Average Home Price, Middle Management Housing, 2007

(For the chart, a “middle management house” is a single-family dwelling model with approximately 2,200 sq.ft., 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, family room, and 2-car garage.)

These might have changed a lot since 2007, but the median home price in Austin is still a shade under $200,000. If a house in California costs $600,000 that only costs $200,000 in Austin – how many more years of work would it take to pay for an extra $400,000 plus mortgage interest? Would you move to Texas if it meant you could retire an entire decade earlier? Hmmm…

Tax Burden: State & Local Taxes Per Capita, 2005

So not only do things cost less, but I can also earn a lower salary and still get the same after-tax results. In general, Texas ranks 45th out of the 50 states in terms of total taxes per $1,000 of income. With no personal income tax, the primary taxes in Taxes are property and sales tax. In Austin, property taxes are about 2.2% of appraised value per year.

Quick Summary
Going by the numbers, moving somewhere else can certainly seem attractive. For me, not only do things cost less as a whole, but my income would take much less of a tax haircut as well. Now, I don’t think everyone should move, and I have no plans currently to do so myself. But if you are re-examining your financial situation, it can be worthwhile to keep an open mind and consider the possibilities. Everything is a trade-off, and what you gain may be worth more than what you lose.

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  1. You seem to focus mainly on major city centers (nothing wrong with that). But keep in mind while Manhatten is the most expensive place in the country and certainly NY state. You can move to a smaller city in NY like Albany, which is a very nice place to live, only 2 hours from Manhatten, and costs the same or even less than Austin, and its not such a major relocation.

  2. I love Texas, you can get incredible bang for your buck, in Austin or in a large city. My commute is 12 minutes, I can walk to a bunch of pubs and cafes from my home, and my convertible is down 9 months of the year.

    But isn’t this the kind of thing you should have considered BEFORE buying a 600K house?

  3. In Jonathan’s defense, the sources of data he’s using to report housing, taxes, cost-of-living, etc. tend to focus on major cities. While you can find data on smaller cities, sometimes its incomplete (and lets be honest which cities do you pick… certainly you can’ list every small town in the US).

    I’m originally from Louisville, KY, but we’ve been in Houston now almost 10 years. In some ways, I almost feel trapped because we have it so good here. To maintain the standard of Living I’ve grown accustomed too, I would have to find a job making so much more money, it’s scary.

  4. I wonder too about some of the factors evaluated in comparing COL.

    Most of the cities listed (including Austin, where I spent 6 years) would almost certainly require a car, whereas cities like Chicago, NYC, or Boston (where I currently live) it’s very easy to live car free, and is certainly a fairly substantial net savings.

    Single family homes are rare in Boston, but there is dearth of condos and multifamily complexes which are waaaaay cheaper than the average cost listed above. I wouldn’t say the space is exactly comparable, but the above chart is an outlandish comparison of housing costs, and a better comparison would be median home price.

    Tax burden:
    Focusing on just Texas and Massachusetts, and from personal experience, I can say that as a homeowner, you will pay more in total taxes in Texas as a result of the property taxes. If you only rent, you’ll come out ahead.

    One thing that is not mentioned at all is average salary. Places that are cheaper to live may not pay salaries comparable to expensive cities. In my case, any savings by cheaper COL would be wiped out by the lower salary paid for the type of work I do. Saying you could retire a decade early simply because the COL is simply misleading.

    I love Austin, and do still think about moving back there. Having done some of the number crunching myself based on my current situation, I can say that the COI calculator at CNN is misleading. All this just means that this kind of decision obviously depends on your individual circumstances, and requires greater investigation than simply looking at graphs and calculators.

  5. Living in high cost LA I’ve definitely considered moving at times. But there are a lot of things I like about living here that I can’t find elsewhere. Also I’ve built my career on personal reputation, I’d have to start over in a new city.

    Austin is the only city in Texas I’d consider, there is also a decent music scene, SXSW etc.

  6. If you are ready for retirement, you can also evaluate to move outside USA. For example, to Uruguay.

  7. I guess the only problem with these sorts of ideas for saving on housing is that you have to SELL your existing house first…..

  8. Don’t mess with Texas. Haha. I enjoyed your post – and I actually had an Uncle who went to school in Austin and loved it. I also think people have misconceptions about living abroad. I’ve lived in Switzerland, France, and Aruba for extended periods of time and loved them all. People tend to think that culture shock would set in and that life wouldn’t be sustainable abroad, but in reality it is a very cool experience. Especially if you are willing to learn the local language.

  9. Tim Adler says

    I think ‘quality of life’ factors should also be considered. While most are not easily measured, some can be, such as the quality of the schools that you will send your kids too.

    Incidentally I think that if you save an above average proportion of your take home, it is better to reside in high cost area while working, and then move to a low cost when in retirement.

  10. You make a very good case for Austin. I think there may be something wrong with your Average Home Price, Middle Management Housing, 2007 data because the New York seems a bit off.

  11. Very excited to see this article this morning, as I had considering relocating to Austin around three years ago.

    I never visting but heard great things. My intentions were that in 2005 I was having trouble finding a good job in NY, so I started considering using Austin as a “starter city”. What I mean by startr city is that I planned to start my career out of college there and stay for several years until my job experience was better and I could land a better job in NY and move back with a higher salary.

    ended up landing my current job and decided to stay in NY. Hindsight is saying I should’ve followed through with moving to Austin.

    I’m still living home with the parents rent free and on $60k salary, have emergency fund, contribute to 401k for employeer match, invest, and currently saving for a down payment on a house. I feel once I reach my down payment goal I will not have received raises and promotions at work to afford a house in NY anyways. Even condo living in NY is high with prices and maintence fees. I might be wrong but I don’t see a glimpse of hope that I’ll ever be able to live financialy comfortable here in ny.

    I should give Austin some more consideration but that would be a tough go as NY has my girlfriend, family, friends.

  12. I live in rural East Texas, home prices 5-10+ miles from town sell for about 90,000 for 3BR and several acres of land.

  13. I lived in Texas myself a few years ago, right after graduating from university. Like you, I long for the opportunity to find a good job and go back, for exactly the same reasons: good weather (not as good as Oregon, though), low-cost housing, no personal income tax, and overall lower cost of living.
    Oh, and yes, Austin was wonderful!
    Go Longhorns!

  14. The big question is what’s the job situation? Just because you can get by on less doesn’t mean you can get by with no job.

    I just recently had a friend move near Nashville because of the lower cost of living, only to find out that jobs are like diamonds down there. It’s true in a high price area you won’t pay down your mortgage as early, and might work a few more years. But, in all likelihood, you will find a job when you need one and won’t have to worry about starving. The more expensive areas also seem to have better safety nets, in terms of how much you get for unemployment, and other assistance.

    And having family and friends around, IMO, offsets the value of having a larger, newer, nicer home. And retiring early in an area without family may not be as fun either. I guess you can always make new friends, though.

  15. I have always wondered about the Cost of Living Index.
    Shouldn’t it have the same number of population above 100 as below 100? It seems like most of the country is above 100. Which if 100 is the average, this does not make sense.

  16. I’m biased. I was born and raised in Texas. I’ve lived in Dallas, Houston, Austin, Lubbock and College Station. I’m very partial to Austin and Dallas.

    I think it’s very easy to live in Texas. Housing is cheap, taxes are low, weather is manageable. It’s HOT in the summer and most of the fall, but air conditioning takes care of that. Spring is really nice and winter is very mild.

    Housing prices have not fluctuated much in Texas either during the boom, or now during the bust. On average, you can expect a 3-4% yearly increase in housing prices in many areas.

    Unemployment is low here relative to the rest of the country. ABCnews will be in Texas all this week trying to get to the bottom of why Texas hasn’t been hit as hard during this downturn.

    There are large national parks and forests like Big Bend and Big Thicket. State parks like Enchanted Rock and Ft. Davis. Houston and Ft.Worth have very good museums. There are 5 distinct geographic regions in Texas including the gulf coast, hill country and desert. And plenty of lakes. World-class shopping in Dallas and Houston. Austin is of course known for music, eclectic lifestyles, outdoor activities and events, and the tech industry. There are of course many exceptions to this, but on the whole, Texas public education is weak. We are lucky to have a great elementary school in our neighborhood, however. But there are many public and private colleges and universities. Some very strong, like UT Austin, Texas A&M, and Rice.

    And many people do have a very incorrect perception of Texas and Texans. We don’t have only two kinds of music here (country AND western). We don’t all have trucks, horses, cattle or oil wells. We aren’t all right-wing religious rednecks. We don’t all wear boots and pack heat. Are there people like this in Texas? Definitely, but they will be harder to find in the large cities. And honestly, most states have this or a similar demographic outside of larger cities.

    I find Texas to be a great place to live and raise a family.

  17. Saver in the City says

    I live in Austin now and love it but I definitely had a misperception before moving here. I was thinking tumbleweeds and cowboy boots but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s grown even more cosmopolitan since I’ve moved here (i.e. wine bars, downtown condos, a new Performing Arts Center, etc.), but fortunately the city still maintains a small-town Texas charm.

    Having moved here directly from California, I’ve said before (and I believe this), it’s like someone took the best parts of California and combined them all into one city…for a heck of a lot less!

  18. When my then-fiance and I moved to Fort Worth after graduating from college in VA, I had only been there for a total of 2 days, but with a single $50k job offer in hand during the .com bust in 2002, we took the risk and never looked back. It was an emotional move from the standpoint of moving “far” from family/friends, but it is so easy to visit them flying out of DFW airport that it has turned out to not be an issue at all. As soon as my fiance/wife also found an engineering job, it has all been gravy for 6+ years.

    Moving is “risky” and can be emotional, but when you consider how your quality of life will improve, there’s no question it will be worth it, particularly moving somewhere like Austin. In your article you point out that most people like where they live, so there’s no reason to think this wouldn’t be the case, particularly when you’re talking about somewhere like Austin. But in any large metro area you shouldn’t have any problem finding people who share your hobbies or interests, so the move might be easier than you think.

    As an example of what a low cost of living can do for you, my wife and I, both engineers, are 28 and have accumulated well over $500k net worth in <7 years (this is just from cash, stocks/bonds/401ks, nothing crazy). We started off in 2002 with about $7k cash and $22k owed in student loans, so a NW of $-15k. Neither of us makes or have made a six-figure income, but who cares? Living on less than one salary in a low COL area gives us an unbelievable amount of freedom. We have a house, and we do travel all the time for vacation and pleasure, but we are also responsible with our money and have followed the same patters you illustrate in this blog.

    With someone like Jonathan and his wife who will be relatively high earners no matter where they live, they will find themselves in a situation of complete freedom. As a great example of a benefit, you could choose to start a family, your wife could be a stay-at-home mom if she wanted, and you would have zero consequences to your finances whatsoever. The ability to know you can say “I quit” without any consequences is a huge benefit. Retirement is an option at any time.

    So, perhaps you should consider it? Make the move, and don’t look back. You won’t regret it.

  19. Meh. I moved from Texas to Portland, OR 2 years ago. I’ll never look back. Never lived in Austin but have visited enough to know about it. 35 is a traffic nightmare and while the city is the more progressive than the other cities in Texas, it’s still way too car-centric for my liking.

  20. I must be the only person on the planet who finds Austin boring. I only visited once but it was during SXSW.

    I’ll stick with Oakland. Diverse, near SF, lots of Green stuff happening around here, undeservedly bad reputation so the rent is cheap. 😉

  21. I live in the DFW area, and I love it. It’s a slightly slower way of life here and yet everything I need including work is less that 2 miles away. The weather is great and I save a lot of money on utilities by being able to open the windows most of the time. I am able to make less and save on federal taxes, and yet live a comfortable life. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

  22. @ Brian,

    Your’re right, Austin and Texas in general are very car-centric. This can’t be surprising though. Texas is very large with hundreds of miles between most of the major cities. And unlike the northeast or west coast. there isn’t as much population between the major cities. You can only move away from being car-centric when very dense population thresholds have been reached. Texas isn’t there, yet. It’s too easy still to just find more land to build on. And people here like having even a small piece of land, even if it’s a 1/3 of an acre.

    And we don’t have decent train service in this state. The airline industry, particularly Southwest Airlines lobbied hard to stop a high-speed rail triangle between Houston, Dallas and San Antonio which would have served a large part of the population of Texas. And within the cities, light rail is in its infancy in Dallas and Houston. It’s expensive to have light rail when the population is so dispersed.

    Put some people prefer to have some land over the convenience of walking everywhere. Different strokes for different folks…

  23. I’ll just add that while there are many great things about texas and austin particularly, the very very bad things are truly disturbing: some of the highest rates of poverty and uninsured children in the US, leads the US in capital punishment, extreme conservatism (austin kind of excluded), overt racism, wildly varying school district performance (funded by local property taxes, hmmm).

    If you lean towards the left end of the political spectrum, you will be constantly infuriated, which depending on how you look at things can be constantly entertaining or just maddening.

  24. I’m doing EXACTLY what you’re talking about in this post. My boyfriend and I currently live in Santa Clara, CA, and we’re moving to Austin, TX in June. I’m originally from the south (MS), so I can’t wait to be closer to my family. On top of that, our cost of living is going to go down drastically and we both get to keep our current jobs AND salaries. Needless to say, our Silicon Valley salaries will mean astronomically more discretionary income in Austin.

    Even if one of us ends up losing our job a year or two down the road, Austin also has an amazing emerging tech market, so I’m sure we’d be able to find a job quite quickly. And lastly, the Austin housing market is one of the few that is actually still appreciating in our economy right now. If I remember the data correctly, Austin’s housing prices went up by 4% in 2008. I can’t wait for June!

  25. Buy property in Texas now, rent it out and move when you feel the time is right. That’s one place where the (rental) property actually pays for itself, and you’re likely to be rewarded with positive after-tax cash flow from your rents.
    I have a sister considering a move from NY to Austin, and it’s definitely something i would be strongly considering were i not in a shared custody arrangement here in Cali with my first child’s mother.

  26. I live in Austin, TX and have for 10 years.

    The reasons were all those Jonathan mentioned. I’m constantly amazed at how much people on the coast pay for homes and in taxes. My goal was to live somewhere cheap (Austin) but work in a field (investments) where the salaries are set for those living in much more expensive areas. I bank the difference.

    That said, I would NEVER live anywhere else in Texas. Austin, is like its own little country and very different from the rest of the state.

    It is a car centric town, although light rail is starting this month. Traffic can be bad at times as people moved to this city during the tech boom much faster than the infrastructure could be built to support it. That said, it is really the only drawback I’ve found with this city. It is fantastic on so many levels.

    One interesting note, Austin is working hard to become the “Entrepreneurial capital” in addition to the “Live Music Capital”. Based on the number of events, seminars, conventions, etc. catering to entrepreneurs in the last month alone, I would say they are making a good case. Check out this link for example

    1600 entrepreneurs and 122 FREE educational sessions. You have to love the energy in this town.

  27. what if your career is only based in 1 metro area like NYC? I worked in the fashion industry, and while I did try a move to relatively lower priced LA, that didn’t work because their industry is very small and you need a car for work. So I ended up back in high priced NYC so I could find a decent job.

    Now I’m sick & tired of NYC, and have to re-start a whole new career by going back to school just so I can live in a low-priced area.

    Tell your kids to choose careers wisely, so they aren’t tethered to 1-2 cities for work. Publishing is another one to be cautious of.

  28. Just wanted to say that I spent six months in Austin 2 years ago and absolutely LOVED it. I, too, had misperceptions about Austin. I am in Oklahoma City now on a 3 month long project – another city that came out of nowhere for me. Nice place. The thing with Austin is its music scene — incredible. Nice post.

  29. Shhhhh! last thing we need is California people here jacking up our home prices and imposing all kinds of new taxes on us Texans!!

    Some say it is the strong republican government that has kept the state safe from recession and low taxes/cost of living.


  30. My property value is UP since 2004 according to the appraisal done with my refinance two weeks ago.
    When you have nothing to begin with, its hard to lose anything.
    The mid-west isnt so bad after all.

  31. auntie_green says

    Mike, (first commentor), with all due respect, I beg to differ that Albany is 2 hours from Manhattan. Maybe if you leave Albany at 1 AM on Sat night/Sunday morning and go above the speed limit, you will get to Manhattan in 2 hours, but that tretch of road, you are sure to get a ticket. Bottom lime, if you want to be within 2 hours commuting time each way of NYC, you are looking at no farther north than Poughkeepsie. No way you live in Albany and commute to Manhattan.
    But you could live in Albany and work in Albany. Nothing wrong with that. Just don’t be thinking you’re in Manhattan. Manhattanites think Brooklyn is upstate. Albany might as well be in Canada

  32. I have often considered this myself – living in expensive Washington, DC. We can move to Raleigh, NC or a similar city and live like kings! And frankly, we can get enough culture there – there are plenty of museums, parks, activities, etc. And with the extra money we would have – just by cashing in on our house we could travel more, too. My husband’s job is too good now to make a change, but if it goes south, we might, too!


    BTW – Austin Traffic is pretty brutal. I lived in LA area off and on for over 5 years and experienced the traffic there….it’s terrible but traffic is different in Austin, not as bad as LA but still pretty damn bad! Dallas traffic is pretty f’n bad too, but not as bad as Austin.

    All the Californians need to get out of Austin though – they keep jacking up the housing market with their McMansions and bringing their terrible traffic with them! (Making housing more expensive to acquire!) Doh!

  34. Yeah Austin is Cool, wait, it’s Hot and Humid! 6 months out of a year it’s on average 95-100 degrees. You get lucky, you will see a hot month where nearly all 30 days were around 100 and above. And it actually feels like 113 because of all the humidity. Yes, Austin (and Texas in general) were relatively unaffected by this housing crisis, but it was also unaffected by the boom. So don’t expect to make much money on your home if you don’t want to see you house losing money.

  35. The single most important thing is the QUALITY of life.In smaller cities there is literally no commute (barely 10-15 minutes) whereas in San Jose,well you guess is as good as mine.
    Every single morning the dreaded traffic takes it toll on your life.Where ever you want to go you need to first check the traffic maps.

  36. Great post! I grew up in Houston, TX. Not too far away from Austin. I visited Austin on several occasions and loved it there. One of the trips I went on was to the University of Texas campus. My friend was being recruited for the football team, and was on a recruiting trip. We were treated like royalty on the visit (as a potential player), and got to go to a game against TCU. I currently live in Florida. Would I move back to Texas? Sure. The housing and living expenses are less than were I am now.

    – Jes

  37. Please don’t move out of California, because you’re one of those 144,000 few residents in the state who actually pay taxes and carry the entire state on their backs. True fact, search report. Pelosi and BO needs you to subsidize those extra 20 million immigrants they’re planning to bring in to get more votes.
    I lived in LA for 10 years, but then I saw the light and decided to move to another state with no personal income tax and better quality of life. Best decision I made!

  38. “I think a lot of people who haven’t lived in Texas (and most other areas) may have a misconception or stereotype of what it’s like to live there, and that is especially true of Austin.”

    I don’t think so. Texas voted for Bush twice and McCain in this last election. It is a very Republican place and as a result there is no public planning (terrible zoning) and it is just not a very livable place. As Maury says, though, Austin is an exception.

  39. Like Maury, I’ve also lived in Austin for 10 years.

    It’s a town with an urban but also small-town feel. If you’re used to bigger cities, you’ll find that everything in Austin is just a short drive away. However, we’ve also had our share of urban sprawl, and combined with poor traffic planning we do have a lot of road congestion.

    You’ll find that Austin’s population overall is highly educated and even many people working lower wage jobs have college degrees (or are university students). Many jobs are in technology fields as has been pointed out, so the city gets particularly crowded when the tech economy is in an upswing (and felt very empty during 2001-2002 for example!). Since Austin is the Capital of Texas, there are also a lot of state government jobs.

    You’ll also find that Austin is very liberal/progressive while most of the rest of Texas is conservative. (Look at the election results in Travis County!) Round Rock, just north of Austin, is somewhat more conservative and suburban. Most of the surrounding communities are expanding and in many places they have grown to become seamless with Austin over the last 10 years or so.

    As others have mentioned, property taxes might cause you to consider renting (I’m renting, also).

    I’d be interested where Houston would be in the cost comparison. There are many good paying jobs in the petro-chemical industry there and house prices are lower than Austin. However, the traffic in Houston is pretty horrible and everything seems very spread out.

    One more aspect I should probably add is that Austin to the west and east of I-35 is very different. There are many poor neighborhoods east of I-35.

    @ Maury, I hope you won’t be disappointed to find out that commuter rail has been delayed again for a couple of months (so don’t bother looking for the grand opening festivities this weekend!).

  40. Austin is very cool. Several of my friends from LA made the move, but I caution your commenter Ellen about moving and telecommuting. That’s also one reason to cut her quickly in a lay-off. (It happened to someone I know who left DC for OH and then was in the first round of cuts.)

    Also some of my friends who went to Austin struggled in the job market even before things were bad for the whole country. So people need realistic expectations about what the market is like.

    However, I love Austin. It’s the source of the best Tres Leches cake I’ve ever had in my life.

  41. I love playing with COL calculators – so I enjoyed this post.
    However, tax burden per capita is a VERY misleading statistic. I prefer to see tax burden per $ of income.

  42. I second the above posters that makes the point that people from CA with socialistic views should just stay home in their high cost of living cesspool. Texas has a higher quality of life because of lower taxes overall.

    Most Texans believe in property rights and the second amendment, so if these are not your views and like government central planning, please don’t come here to stay.

  43. I’ve already commented before (other posts) that we moved for the LCOL.

    I can’t think of anything else so “simple” that would increase our financial standing near as much. Life is FAR simpler than I imagined it would be. We were ones who were bitter when we moved (just too logical to pay $500k+ for a starter home). The bitterness gave way pretty quick as we adjusted to our new life. We would never move back. We’ve been in a position to buy a house back home (tons of equity) and we’ve discussed it. We no longer see the draw.

    We were able to move 2 hours away so are still close to family (though a nice distance away, all the same, which can be important). My total compensation actually increased with the move. That was unexpected.

    Anyway, most of our friends and relatives think we are crazy. I think mostly they are scared of change – that really nails it on the head. It goes both ways – we will never understand why they stick it out. It’s easier to see how insane it is from the outside looking in. The long list of reasons to live in the Bay? – we get the perks quite easily visiting on the weekends.

    I suppose we are lucky that we didn’t have to move as far to get a substantial savings. The cost of housing here has always been about 33% of the Bay Area. Though we have a house twice as big, the mortgage, utilities, insurance, HOA, maintenance and property taxes are about equal what we used to pay for a modest condo back home. That’s just the housing related costs. Quite simply, everything is cheaper here.

    We thought we’d have kids at 30. We had them at 25 instead (we lived here less than a year before we moved that timeline up 5 years). We thought we’d both have to work forever to pay a mortgage. Instead my spouse never found a job here and it didn’t matter. We’ll still be able to retire early, having moved here.

  44. Compare what 350k will buy you in desirable areas of CA vs desirable areas of TX. Case closed. I like the comments so far as to TX people asking CA people to stay out of TX. I’m seeing that as well – so many moving here that we are losing some of that Texas hospitality! It seems like everyone and their sister is starting to figure out that we don’t have a recession here for a reason.

  45. Seneschal says

    I think you meant “relatively temperate weather”

  46. Tyrone Biggums says

    I grew up in Boston, moved to Ann Arbor for college, and then moved back to Boston for 5 years after graduation. When it came time to apply to grad school, I knew I wanted to get out of Boston. Fantastic city, but the HCOL was a huge turn-off. The fact that a hypothetical young professional couple with two good jobs could barely afford to a buy a tiny home was insane to me.

    I decided to look in LCOL cities, and ended up attending school in Atlanta. I didn’t know anyone there but figured I would check it out for two years. I’ve now been here for 5 years and really enjoyed it- even met my future wife here. Though this city doesn’t have as much character as, say, Boston or San Francisco, it is a fun place to live. We were able to afford a brand new 2600 sq foot townhouse in the city limits for what it would cost for a 1000 sq ft old condo in the Boston suburbs. When my friends from NYC/San Fran/Boston visit me, they are shocked how nice our place is.

    Moving to a LCOL area is a definite leap of faith, but it can work out very well. It also helps that Atlanta is mostly transplants, so I don’t feel out of place as a Northerner. I know Texas is even cheaper than Atlanta, but the limited amount of transplants in TX would probably be a turn-off for me.

    I have been laid off as of April 30th and live in NY/NJ high cost Metro area paying $1700 a month to rent a 3 family home basement with 2 BR. No we are not rich-thats what it costs in this God forsaken suburban area and I refuse to try and get lower rent to only $1500 so we can live in a suburban ghetto.
    I am moving to Buffalo NY to escape this insanity and be able to pay $675 a month for alot more and have no job ( an not worried about it either). The unemployment alone will cover the cost of housing whereas should my family remain here we will drown and be drop kicked out in 6 months or less and my severence will have been eaten up.
    I have done plenty of research about the area and the finances and can live a better life filling donuts with creme up there than on our combined income of $85K in a high cost of living area where I now am laid off and my wife will leave her job so that we as a family can actually LIVE.
    You just have to have faith and confidence in yourself!

  48. Gary,

    Buffalo has a notorious unemployment rate. I wouldn’t even count on getting a donut making job there. I’d be concerned about employers preferring upstate natives too.

  49. Hello,

    Just wanted to let you know that your link for the Austin Chamber of Commerce is outdated. The new website is while this link provides cost of living information

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