How to Afford a High Cost of Living Area

Managing money is hard enough, but tie it to trying to afford a high cost of living area and you’re destined for another layer of stress.

Not to mention all those who dream of moving to cut costs.

Many places like Boise, Austin, and Phoenix have seen massive jumps in their home and rental prices because of those relocating to relatively lower cost-of-living areas. Over the past two years, home prices in bubbly markets like Austin and Phoenix have jumped a staggering 61% and 59%, respectively.

But there’s no reason to let your dreams be crushed.

Follow these tips to afford living in a high cost-of-living area.

First, assess the actual cost of living.

Whether you’re currently in a high cost-of-living market or thinking of moving there, you need to assess how much it actually costs. Factors can vary greatly from one place to another, so it’s important to do your research before making the move.

There are a few different factors that go into calculating the cost of living in an area. The first is the cost of housing. This includes both rent and mortgage payments. The second is the cost of food and groceries. The third is the cost of transportation. And the fourth is the cost of utilities, such as electricity, gas, and water.

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To get an accurate estimate of the cost of living in an area, you can use a cost of living calculator. This is an online tool that takes into account all of the above factors and more. Simply enter your current location and the location you’re considering moving to, and the calculator will do the rest.

Once you know the cost of living in an area, you can start to compare it to your current situation. If the cost of living is significantly higher in the new area, you may need to make some adjustments to your budget. But if it’s only slightly higher, or even lower, than where you’re currently living, then the move may be a good financial decision.

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In order to live in a high cost of living area, assess your own finances.

1. Start by making a list of all the expenses you have on a monthly basis. This could include rent or mortgage payments, cell phone bills, utility bills, credit card payments, phone bills, car and car insurance payments, etc.

2. Once you have your list, add up all of the payments to get an idea of your total monthly expenses.

3. Now, take a look at your income and see how much money you have coming in each month.

4. Finally, compare your total monthly expenses to your monthly income. This will give you an idea of how much money you have left over each month after all of your bills are paid.

One thing to consider if you’re moving is whether or not your salary will change. Will your income in the new location cover your new cost of living?

5. If you find that you’re not bringing in enough money to cover all of your expenses, it’s time to start making some changes. You may need to find a cheaper place to live, get rid of some unnecessary bills, or find a way to make more money.

Pro-tip: connect your account to a money tracking app like so you can automate your budget and track your bills.


Though many families aim to exercise better money habits and cut back on costs, they’re actually spending more.

“Families say they want to spend less but are actually spending more. Just over a third (37%) plan to spend less in the next few months. However, about the same percentage (36%) report having spent more money in the past year, up six percentage points since March and 10 since December.”

Time to open those books again and think about your financial priorities so you can afford a high cost-of-living area. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

1. What are your goals?

Do you want to save up for a rainy day? Or are you looking to retire early? Maybe you want to travel the world or buy a new car. Whatever your goals are, make sure they’re realistic and that you have a plan for how to achieve them.

2. What are your values?

Do you value experiences more than material things? Or do you prefer to save your money so you can enjoy a comfortable retirement? Your values will influence how you spend and save your money. It will also influence whether or not you choose to stay in a high cost-of-living area or move.

3. What are your risks?

Are you the type of person who likes to take risks or play it safe? When it comes to money, there’s no right or wrong answer. But it’s important to understand your own risk tolerance so you can make the best decisions for your financial future.

4. What do you need?

Do you need a new car? A bigger house? A relocation? Or are you happy with what you have? It’s important to assess your needs so you don’t end up spending money on things you don’t really need.

5. What do you want?

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This is different from needs. Needs are things you can’t live without, while wants are things that would be nice to have. For example, you might need a new car because your old one is falling apart, but you might want a new car because you saw a cool one on TV.

6. How much can you afford?

No matter how much you want something, you shouldn’t spend more than you can afford. Sticking to a spending plan will help you cover the expenses of a high cost-of-living area.

Values-Based Spending

Prioritizing values-based spending may feel daunting but it we can break it down pretty simply. What are you willing to sacrifice in order to afford a higher cost of living? This can be as simple as switching from brand names at your local grocery store to store brands. But it could get a little more complicated and harder. You may have to skip the Uber rides and eating out just to afford living in the neighborhood you want.

If things are really tight, your spending plan should get tighter. Try to cut out as many non-essentials as possible. Yes, that might mean cutting back on streaming services or downgrading your cable package, but having that money back in your wallet means not having to worry about rent, food, or gas for the car as much.

Sharing costs to afford high costs of living

We all know that costs can add up quickly. Whether it’s your weekly groceries or your monthly rent, every penny counts. But what if there was a way to cut costs without making any major changes to your lifestyle?

Enter: sharing expenses.

By sharing expenses with friends, family, or even roommates, you can significantly reduce your monthly costs. And while it may take some coordination to get everyone on the same page, the savings can be well worth it.

Here are a few ways to get started:

1. Share a Netflix subscription: If you’re like most people, you probably have a Netflix subscription. But did you know that you can actually share your account with up to five people? That means each person only has to pay $8 per month, instead of the full $10.

My mom watches Netflix. I watch Netflix. I figure, why have two accounts when I can just pay for the one? That’s an extra $15/month for my mom to spend on more important things. It may be a small thing but little things mean a lot. 

2. Use that same concept with housing. Have a friend with a guest room? See if you can rent it from them. Better to pay a friend or family member than a stranger, right? You take a bit of the weight of their mortgage/rent off their shoulders and you get a more affordable living space.

3. Better yet, house hack your way to savings. If you’re a homeowner, there’s a good chance you’re spending more than you need to on your mortgage. But what if you could rent out part of your home and use the extra income to offset your costs? This is called house hacking, and it’s a great way to save money.

4. Go in on groceries together: Groceries can be one of the biggest expenses, so it makes sense to go in on them with someone else. You can either take turns cooking for each other or simply split the cost of groceries evenly to save on groceries.

5. Join a carpool: If you have a long commute, carpooling is a great way to save money on gas. Not to mention, it’s also better for the environment.

Financial teamwork to cover higher costs of living

Normally, they say “it takes a village to raise a child” but these days it might be better to develop your own village for financial survival. From a relationship standpoint, there’s actually research that says pooling funds can strengthen your partnership. CNBC reports:

“We did see that couples who pool their finances are less likely to break up than couples who keep their finances separate,” said Emily Garbinsky, an associate professor of marketing and management communication at Cornell University, who co-authored the study.”

 Teamwork makes the dream work. Now, I know a lot of us have a fair share of pride, but would you rather be prideful or would you like to live more comfortably? The choice, of course, is yours.

Earning more

One silver lining to this very expensive cloud – is that it’s easier to earn more money in higher cost-of-living areas.

This is because employers in these areas are often willing to pay higher salaries in order to attract top talent. So, if you’re looking to earn more money, don’t be afraid to relocate to a higher cost-of-living area.

With the way the job market is shifting, you wouldn’t be alone in that move. Primerica’s report states:

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“Strong job market has Americans looking to switch employers. More than a quarter (28%) of those employed say they are at least somewhat likely to change jobs in the next year. In addition, one in five plan to find a higher paying job (22%).” 

Of course, this isn’t the only way to earn more money. Another option is to simply ask for a raise from your current employer. If you’re doing great work and contributing to your company’s bottom line, then there’s a good chance they’ll be open to giving you a raise.

Switch jobs to earn more

Let go of not only brand loyalty but job loyalty. In this era, the idea of staying in one place for 30 years isn’t logical or reality. Refresh your resume, update your LinkedIn, and dip a toe in the job market. Again, it wouldn’t be just you. The Pew Research Center via CNBC notes:

“Many workers who changed jobs recently saw raises from their new paychecks outpace inflation by a wide margin — by nearly 10% or more, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.”

With inflation being the major financial factor that it is, this can be a way to stay ahead of it. Don’t be afraid to do what’s best for you and yours.

Affording a high cost-of-living area

Of course, these are just a few ideas. There are endless ways to afford a high cost-of-living area.

This is a challenge for us all. Exercising money mindfulness in the face of financial stress is more difficult than at any other time, but this is the time when you have to really stay on it. This is when the difficult decisions need to be made and this is when the game plans need to be executed to a T. I know none of that sounds fun but you will feel much better on the other end of that tunnel. Put together that plan, keep your head up, and I’ll see you on the other side happier and closer to your goals!

The important thing is to be creative and resourceful. With a little effort, you can find a way to afford even the most expensive areas!

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