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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Charting lower costs: Helpful table provides city comparisons

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    There are plenty of ways people can reduce their costs of living.  The simplest but toughest is to stop spending as much.  But changing your lifestyle is difficult and depressing, no matter how daunting the economy.  You could start the "clipping coupons" approach by shopping around for bargains, making one trip to Costco, BJ's or one of the other giant hypermarkets, buying in bulk, cutting down on the expensive gas fill-ups.  All that research, though, can consume your life and limit further what little discretionary time you have for fun.
    Retirees and others contemplating a relocation have another, perhaps more viable option worth considering - move to a cheaper place to live.  An organization called C2ER, formerly the Council for Community and
In Dothan, AL, my cost of living would decrease by 28%.

Economic Research, provides a range of data for metro areas across the U.S.  At their web site, you can plug in your current city's name and compare it to one you are thinking of moving to; or you can compare two cities you might be considering to see which is cheaper, and by how much.  Your first detailed comparison will cost you $7.95; each successive one is $4.95.  That may seem a little pricey for a printout of dry data, but if you have narrowed your search down to two or three cities, good COLI (cost of living index) data could be a tipping point for you.
    The latest Where to Live magazine ($4.95) features a chart comparing costs between 100 different cities.  You won't have access to the "granular" stuff, such as the specific costs of housing, taxes and the like, but you will get an overall number that shows the percentage differences in cost of living between cities.
    For example, I live just outside Hartford, CT, which is one of the cities in the table.  If I were to move to say, Dothan, AL, my cost of living would decrease by 28%, according to the COLI table.  Such a change could certainly tip the scales in favor of Dothan over, say, Flagstaff, AZ (-3%).  Of course, I have never been to Dothan, and the low cost of living could be a signal that the schools are bad, the economy is in the dumper, or there is nothing to do there.  Data doesn't lie, but it never gives the entire picture.
    There is great news for me in the COLI chart.  Only three cities on the list would increase my costs if I were to move to them - Ft. Lauderdale, FL (2%), Palm Springs, CA (4%) and Honolulu (35%).  These are all
My cost of living would increase 35% if I moved to Honolulu.

nice places to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there; the first has too much traffic, the second will run out of drinking water someday (unless they steal more from Arizona) and the last is over-the-top expensive.
    I am not a big fan of Where to Retire magazine whose editorial material - if you can call it that - focuses almost exclusively on communities that advertise in the magazine.  And the editors overrely on local residents more than independent observations, yielding an "everything is beautiful" patina to all the articles.  That said, the COLI chart and some other unadulterated information the magazine offers can be helpful to people who are just starting the process of retirement and relocation.  The magazine offers a free trial copy of the publication at the Where to Retire web site; make sure you specify that you would like the January/February 2008 which includes the latest chart.

Read 2892 times Last modified on Thursday, 17 January 2008 05:49
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Larry Gavrich

This blog was conceived and is published by me, Larry Gavrich, a former corporate communications executive who founded HomeOnTheCourse, LLC, in 2005.  Our firm advises baby boomers and others seeking a lifestyle in which golf is a major component.  My wife Connie and I own a home in Connecticut (not on a golf course) and a condo at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, on a Jack Nicklaus layout.  We began our search for our home on the course more than 15 years ago, and the challenges of the search inspired me to research golf communities and write objective reviews of them.

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