When I stepped out into the southern California sunshine on the first morning of our recent trip, I exclaimed to Kyle, “How are we not living here?!” I repeated this phrase multiple times throughout our long weekend in Los Angeles. All I wanted to do was spend time outside, which thankfully we were able to do for much of Friday and Saturday. The weather was beyond gorgeous, particularly warm and sunny for February, and a stark contrast to the unusually extreme winter weather we left behind in Durham.
I can’t wait to move back to southern California. Even though Boston and San Francisco have been higher on our list of possible cities for our next move, after this trip I’m really angling for Kyle to concentrate on getting a postdoc in Los Angeles or San Diego. I just felt like I was home during our trip.
I always ask people who used to live in San Diego who have moved away why they left. As I’ve not yet lived there, I want to be prepared for the possible downsides; I know it’s not without flaws. The most common factor adults cite as their reason for moving away is the high cost of living. Additionally, I often see personal finance bloggers discussing when and how to move to lower cost of living areas or lamenting how difficult it is to survive in their current high cost of living areas.
I asked myself, why do people live in high cost of living areas? They are very populous – if they weren’t so popular, their costs would drop (supply and demand).
The answer is obvious: People live in high cost of living areas because they’re awesome. Each one has advantages that are so overt that people put up with their budgetary struggles just for the opportunity to be there all the time!
There are different common reasons for why different cities are awesome, and each individual also has a personal set of reasons for why they love (or put up with) their high cost of living area. The top reason, I would imagine, is job/industry opportunities, with runners up of geography/weather, cultural or recreational events, and proximity to family.
I tried to think of what the best attributes of some of the highest cost-of-living US cities are:
- San Francisco – tech and entrepreneurship opportunities
- New York – cultural center of the US (arguably)
- Washington, DC – government/politics
- Boston – education hub
- Los Angeles – weather, entertainment or manufacturing industries
- Honolulu – duh!
Weather is a big one for us. If you can believe it, I only applied to colleges that were south of where I grew up and in coastal states. Kyle really is a good sport about living on the East Coast now, but the humidity can be quite overwhelming! We are happiest in a warm, dry, season-less climate. (I thought I missed seasons until I moved back to the East Coast. Now I’m sure I can leave them.) But we have friends who are total cold-weather people and love perpetual snow and winter sports. To each her own!
I think another big reason for living in these areas is because you grew up there or because your family is there. My parents both moved to the DC area when they were little kids and have lived there almost continuously since then. Kyle’s parents’ families moved to Los Angeles when they were kids and they have stayed put. I hope that people are voting with their feet and choosing to live where they grew up or where their families are because of more than just that one reason. Certainly with the high cost of living areas it’s a more pressing matter to evaluate why you live there and you likely have a lot more reasons than just familiarity or family!
Why do Kyle and I want to move to San Diego? It’s a mix of general and personal reasons.
- in southern California (weather, culture, ocean)
- large job market for our field (biotech)
- close to family (Kyle’s)
San Diego seems to be our ideal city and we’re not going to let the high cost of living scare us off before we even try it. And I hope that we will determine that its awesomeness, on the factors I’ve listed and others we have yet to discover, is worth the financial sacrifice. We’re going for the best value, not the lowest price!
Of course, your mileage may vary. Perhaps having more money in your pocket is more valuable to you than all of the advantages that people see in high cost-of-living areas. Or perhaps you see great non-monetary advantages to the low cost-of-living area you (aspire to) live in, like proximity to family. But I hope we will all vote with our feet and live in cities that are awesome for our own personal reasons, whether others agree or not!
What is awesome about the city you live in or the city you want to live in? What has been your experience in moving between cities with disparate costs of living?