As you might remember, last summer I moved from Hoboken, NJ to Rochester, NY to close the gap in my long distance relationship. I was able to work out a remote work situation with my employer, so I’ve been doing the whole work from home thing for 9 months now.
Now that it’s been a while, I figured it was as good time to do a cost of living comparison and look at how my expenses have changed since moving from a high cost of living area to a relatively low cost of living area.
Of course, as with everything, not all of the differences that I found were cut and dry. My lifestyle in the last 9 months has changed, which makes the overall cost of living of the two locations only a portion of the picture. Lifestyle changes that have impacted my expenses include:
- I work remotely in Rochester; I commuted from Hoboken to New York while living in Hoboken
- I lived by myself in a small one bedroom apartment in Hoboken; now I live in a two bedroom house with a roommate (Richard)
- In general, I have been cooking at home more and reducing my restaurant outings since moving to Rochester
- I did not own a car while living in Hoboken; I purchased a car after about three months of living in Rochester
Cost of Living Comparison: The Numbers
To conduct my cost of living comparison between Rochester and the Greater New York area, I looked at my spending on Mint for August 2013 to April 2014 for my time in Rochester and looked at August 2012 to April 2013 for my time in Rochester. I felt that this helped account for any seasonal variation in utility bills and the like. This isn’t a scientific comparison by any means and they don’t cover all of my expenses, but by looking at these big broad categories I’m able to see some general trends.
The winner is Rochester! There should be no surprise here, but Rochester has been much cheaper for me in terms of rent. In Hoboken, I was paying $1,300 for a one-bedroom apartment by myself. In Rochester, I pay $130 per month to live in a two-bedroom house with Richard plus splitting the cost of the various DIY projects we do around the house.
Here’s a breakdown of my rent/home expenses:
- Hoboken/New York: $11,890
- Rochester: $3,805
Not reflected in these numbers are the broker’s fees and security deposits that were required in Hoboken. A full month’s rent for a broker’s fee and a month and a half of rent for my security deposit were required when I moved to NJ. Depending on your monthly rent and how often you move, this can become an extremely large added expense when living in the Greater New York area.
The winner is New York! Utilities includes gas, water and electricity. I was living in a 600-700 sq. ft. apartment flanked on both sides by more apartments and my heat was included in my rent. My monthly electricity bills were usually around $30 – $50. Now, in Rochester, my expenses have nearly tripled and I’m splitting the cost with someone else!
- Hoboken/New York: $290
- Rochester: $825
There are a number of reasons utilities are so much higher in Rochester. We’re in a 1000 sq ft, standalone house that has a basement and poor insulation around the outside walls. I’m also home all day working and sucking up the electricity and heat. While Rochester would definitely be more expensive regardless, I think being home all day plays a key role in the cost difference.
The winner is New York! Absolutely no surprise here, since I did not have a car while living in Hoboken and I do now that I live in Rochester. Greater New York’s excellent and relatively affordable public transportation system is what makes New York the clear winner in terms of transportation. For better or worse, Rochester is a driving-oriented city. There are definitely places that we can walk to from our house, but the majority of the surrounding area needs to be accessed by car or the (not so great) public transportation.
- Hoboken/New York: $1,230
- Rochester: $4,210
Of course, the question that may come to your mind: is a car really necessary in Rochester? There are certainly plenty of people who do not have a car in Rochester and they get along fine. However, for me, it became a question about needing to have an independent way to get to and from the house without having to rely on someone else’s schedule. Having saved so much in other areas, I felt that the added expense of a car was one that was worth it to me.
Food & Dining
The winner is Rochester! But only by a slight margin. Food costs, I would argue, are about the same in Rochester as they were in New York. A couple of things have changed to balance out the costs. Overall, I’m eating out at restaurants a lot less in Rochester. Where I was going out to eat one or two times a week on average in New York, I’m going out to eat maybe one or two times per month in Rochester. This makes a big difference! However, while I’m saving on restaurants, I’m spending more at the grocery store in Rochester (WEGMANS 4 LIFE!!1!1!).
- Hoboken/New York: $4,400
- Rochester: $4,040
It will be interesting to see how this category pans out in the long run. My hunch is that there really isn’t that much difference for food costs across the two areas. Time shall tell!
The winner is Rochester! Another big change in cost of living is my clothing expense. Now that I’m working remotely, I have been spending a lot less on clothing. I shop at the same stores that I did when I lived in Hoboken and I occasionally buy things online, so I think this change is really due to the fact that I don’t really need to buy clothes specifically for work as often.
- Hoboken/New York: $1,960
- Rochester: $930
Overall, I think the difference in clothing expense is due to my remote work situation more than it is due to a difference in cost in living. If I were to start working in an office again, I would expect that my clothing expenses would increase at that point.
Cost of Living Winner: Rochester
Obviously, the above categories don’t reflect my overall spending. In general, they are what I spend the most on and they are relatively easy expenses to identify and compare. If you were tallying things up as I went along, you would have noticed the above New York / Hoboken expenses were $19,770 for about 9 months of living. In Rochester, the same expenses add up to $13,810 over about 9 months. That’s quite a difference!
There are good things and bad things to every city you might live in. In Rochester, what you miss out in the hustle and bustle, you make up for in being able to get to most places quickly and easily. In New York, you have the world at your fingertips, but green, open space is few and far between. Rochester will only be a temporary stop for me, but in the meantime, I’m going to relish in the fact that my expenses are much lower and that every dollar that I’m not spending to live in the New York area is able to go towards my student loans, retirement or savings.
Have you ever compared the cost of living of two places that you’ve lived? Did you find your experience similar to or different from mine?