3 Tips for Moving to a City With a Higher Cost of Living

by Jessica Sommerfield · 2 comments

I recently moved from a rural area in Michigan to a suburb of Seattle. The most frequently asked follow-up question, from relatives and family members who didn’t want us to leave, was: But what about the cost of living? It’s a lot higher there.”  

I have to admit, this concerned us at first, especially considering we lived in rural areas all our lives and had no basis for understanding what it was like to live near a big city. I had vague fears of finding out, once we moved, that we just couldn’t afford to live here — at least comfortably.

The good news is that the worries are mostly overrated if you’re on top of your finances. The following tips are a few things we did and plan to do to offset the higher cost of living.

Shop Around for the Best Housing Rates

Rent in our current city is significantly higher than the area we lived previously — it’s more than twice as expensive! Of course, our income also increased with the job my husband accepted, so it wasn’t as big of a concern as I initially thought.

By shopping around, and doing some research before moving, we were able to determine a median range that fit well in our budget (somewhere in between dirt-cheap/questionable areas and more upscale locations). Then we compared all the apartment communities that fell within our must-haves.

Ultimately, our rent payment falls within the recommended levels — less than 1/3 our total income. Granted, I still feel a little uneasy about the amount we fork out for our two-bedroom apartment (although we like it), but I’m sure in time our budget will get used to it.

Find a Location that Feels Like Home

It was news to me that many people uproot their entire family to move to a city without first preparing a place to live. We didn’t do this, and I would personally never feel comfortable with the uncertainties or potential pitfalls of this impulsive, fly-with-the-wind approach. Although that’s not to say it doesn’t work out very well for others.

Since we’ve never been to this area before, we reached out to friends to help. When comparing apartments within our price range, it came down to two — one that was nicer but more secluded and further from my husband’s job, and one that was across the road from most of the amenities with a shorter commute to work.

Although I think I might have liked the other apartment better (still getting used to hearing the busy highway), the trade-off would have been paying more for transportation to shop and go to work. As newcomers, it’s easier for us to have everything we need within a mile radius.

What’s more, the city we live in reminds me of a nice area back home, and makes me feel safe. There are also plenty of nature trails and well-kept sidewalks for me to run on.

Make the Best Decision for Your Family

While there are many other aspects of the cost of living I’ll be covering in future posts, having a place to live is, at the same time, the most expensive and most vital. When moving to a new city, and increasing your cost of living, it’s important to:

  • Ignore the naysayers and uninformed opinions
  • Listen to the advise of others who have transitioned to a higher cost of living situation
  • Determine to pay no more than 1/3 of your income in rent
  • Make your final decision based on features relating to the accessibility and affordability of other vital commodities such as schools, transportation, and groceries.

Moving to an area with a higher cost of living doesn’t have to be intimidating or overwhelming. Do what’s best for your finances and personal situation, and you’ll be just fine. Your budget will be able to handle the extra expenses if you make smart choices beforehand.

Have you moved to a city with higher costs of living? How did you go about spending your money wisely during this process?

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  • Michael R says:

    Thanks for the advice, moving to a much higher COL area. Denver from Fort Worth, TX…. A little intimidating, but looking forward to the challenge! Thanks again!

  • Jordan says:

    I’m actually looking into moving to a place with a MUCH higher cost of living – but more jobs in the industry I want to work in. These are some great tips. Definitely going to bookmark this article for later. Thanks!

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