Is it more affordable to live in a city, where you can often walk to stores, work, and public transportation but pay more for housing, or outside the city, where you might need to rely more on cars? For many people, city living often seems to be the pricier choice.
Patricia Bolgiano, who's in her early fifties and a production coordinator near Baltimore, says she has saved money—and improved her quality of life—since moving outside the city itself. She says her city tax rates were higher, food cost more, and homeowners and car insurance payments cost more.
Since she moved outside the city, she feels safer and farther away from violence, as well. She also says she pays less for gas—along with insurance, taxes, and food. "Yes, living in the city is fun and convenient, but there are costs and trade-offs," she says. She presumably pays less for her Internet connection, too, since she now uses a dial-up connection.
Research by the Urban Land Institute's Terwilliger Center for Housing finds that in many urban areas, including Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Boston, working families often struggle to find affordable housing. Indeed, the price of housing often gets the most attention when it comes to measuring the cost of city living. Rent and housing prices tend to be significantly higher in urban locations. But city dwellers face other extra costs, too. Here are seven less-obvious costs of city living:
[See The 10 Strangest State Taxes.]
Entertainment: When you live close to the movie theaters and live entertainment such as plays and concerts, it's more tempting to pay to see them. In some cases, you can access the performing arts for free, but many city events require paid tickets.
Clothes: People who live in cities often feel more pressure to stay stylish. That means spending more on clothes, as well as shoes, which can get worn down more quickly with all of the city walking and public transportation use.
Schools and daycare: This one only applies to families with children, but paying for child care is often much more expensive in urban areas than suburban and rural ones. Families who choose to send their children to private school because they don't like their urban school districts also face expensive tuitions.
Food: In addition to the fact that produce and other fresh food can cost more at urban grocery stores, there are also more temptations for lots of daily food expenditures, from coffee to take-out to midday snacks. When you pass five cafes on your way to work, in can be hard to keep walking without stopping in for a treat.
Exercise: This cost can go both ways, because suburban and rural dwellers might spend so much time in their cars that they feel the need to buy an at-home gym or DVDs in order to squeeze in exercise time. Urbanites, on the other hand, might walk enough to stay in shape, but they also usually have easy access to gyms, and might want to join so they can exercise free from the city smog and traffic.
Parking: Only in cities do you need to rent parking spaces for $200 a month (or higher). Of course, you might be able to avoid driving altogether, but if not, you'll be forced to pay a higher price for the luxury.
Taxes and insurance: Cities often charge higher tax rates and insurance companies charge more to cover the additional risk of living in a high-population area, where your car might be more likely to be stolen and your home more likely to be broken into.
Do you have other hidden costs of city-living to add to the list?