The constant thrill of city life tends to come at a cost. In some cities—particularly the more expensive ones like New York and Los Angeles—you could easily pay $2,000 for a tiny studio apartment and well over $3,000 for a not-so-sizeable one-bedroom. It’s for this reason that so many city dwellers jump ship and move to the suburbs once they get older, married, or just plain sick of paying a premium to live in a box. The allure of extra living space is more than enough to compensate for trading in theater and fine dining for bowling alleys and chain restaurants. But while it’s true that housing is often cheaper outside of cities, suburban living often comes with enough hidden costs to render it practically as expensive as city life. Let’s explore.
Housing itself is, by and large, unquestionably cheaper in the suburbs as far as rents go. Even the cost of a monthly mortgage payment plus real estate taxes can come in lower than the price tag of a city rental. But consider the maintenance factor. If you rent or buy a larger space out in the ‘burbs, you’ll need to invest either dollars or man hours into keeping it livable. Owning or renting a house, for example, often means being responsible for things like lawn care and snow removal—maintenance items that can really add up if you need to pay someone else to do them for you.
Many people who live in cities tend to use public transportation in lieu of owning vehicles. Depending on where you live, commuting and transportation costs could come in well under $200 a month if you’re able to rely on buses and trains to get around. Suburban life, on the other hand, usually requires a vehicle. If you don’t own one already, that means adding a car payment to your expenses, often to the tune of $250-$500 a month. In addition, there’s auto insurance and maintenance which, if you’re lucky, will cost you another $2,000 a year, assuming nothing major goes wrong—and that doesn’t even include your monthly spend on gas and tolls.
You’d think living in the suburbs would save you money since, in theory, there’s less to do and entertainment is cheaper. Instead, you may find yourself spending even more money because rather than submit to an endless stream of Saturday night movie screenings in your living room, you’re paying good money to trek into the city and get a taste of the action. In fact, whereas you can often access your plans in a city on foot, in the suburbs, you usually need to drive everywhere, which means spending money before you’ve even reached your destination. Over time, this can add up.
There’s a good chance you’ll cut your housing costs by moving out to the suburbs, but when you add in your increase in transportation, home maintenance, and entertainment costs, you may find those savings mostly wiped out. If suburban life appeals to you, by all means give it a try—but don’t expect to save a ton of money by doing so.