Balancing cost of living with quality of life

Feb 24, 2022

Balancing Cost of Living with Quality of Life

By MakeMyMove Staff

If you’re thinking about moving to a new state, or at least to a new town or city, chances are that you’re looking for a better quality of life for yourself and your family if you have one. But what are the characteristics of a place that helps create and support a good quality of life?


Cost of living plays a big part, yet there are other quality of life factors to consider as well. Let’s take a closer look at the balance of cost of living with quality of life. Remote working can open opportunities to help you find the best of both worlds.


Is Low Cost of Living the Most Important Factor?


One of the top considerations for choosing a place to live is the cost of living in that area. A cost of living state comparison shows that this varies considerably throughout the nation and between urban and rural areas.


Lower cost of living is not always synonymous with a better quality of life. Some research has found people who accept paying higher prices for their homes and take lower-wage jobs if they believe the place where they want to live would give a good quality of life. Yet, a low cost of living can support a better life. This was one of the reasons a person’s welfare was found to be higher in Minnesota than in the four richest states of the nation.


One of the top considerations for choosing a place to live is the cost of living in that area.


Places with a lower cost of living may have challenges like fewer job opportunities or lower wages. Some places, such as Midwest factory towns, have declined economically over time and now offer incentives and other methods to support their economies. In one of these areas, quality local jobs may be sparse.


But when you're a remote worker, it's possible to make an income that's not dependent on where you live. This situation creates the potential to help you make more money online while keeping your cost of living low, creating a better quality of life overall. Increased internet access in rural areas helps connect people to remote work, while they can also enjoy the lower costs of these areas.


Other Quality of Life Considerations


Cost of living is not the only thing to consider. There are other factors that are important in the place where you live. Look for aspects of an area that would make your life better on a day-by-day basis and that would enrich your life and that of your family. Many areas are putting efforts into these aspects to provide greater quality of life for their citizens, rather than only focusing on business and economic incentives.


Here are some quality of life factors to keep in mind:

  • Community and people in the new community

  • Good schools, including high-quality public schools and early childhood education

  • Transportation, including good roadways and public transportation options

  • Recreation, including restaurants and activities

  • Family aspects, such as access to child care and children’s activities

  • Cultural activities, such as museums and theaters

  • Natural areas, such as bodies of water or parks

  • Community events, such as festivals


Many small cities, towns, and rural areas are providing these kinds of benefits along with a lower cost of living compared with major cities. Also, living near a smaller population can equate to improved air quality, less congestion, and more favorable crime rates.

Where Can You Find Low Cost of Living?


There are many small areas in the Midwest that offer a low cost of living along with a range of characteristics that contribute to a good quality of life, so they give the best of both worlds.


Take the example of Jen Hense, who moved with her family from Chicago to Muncie, IN. The idea was sparked when the family vacationed in Muncie with another family. During their visit, they were lured in by country homes and the beautiful area. They jokingly wondered what it would cost to send their kids to college in Indiana. This joke led to the realization that Indiana’s in-state tuition is very affordable. Jen said they asked each other, “If you could make some of those big investments in your life more affordable, would you?—your kids’ college education, your housing costs, your property taxes—what does this change about the way we live, or how we could live?”


Laura Hammer Hill, a member of the other family on the trip, added that they were overlaying the cost of living with the calmer way of life and other characteristics that could contribute to a better life. They noticed “the slower pace, shorter lines, less traffic.” Overall, they summed up Muncie as having “affordability, a sense of community, and a cute little downtown.” Suddenly, they were wondering what was stopping them from moving. When they were able to create a combination of flexibility and remote work with their jobs, they realized a move was possible, and both families did it together to share in the adventure and provide mutual support.


For Jen Hense and Laura Hammer Hill, a community like Muncie, IN, with its slower pace and affordability, struck the perfect balance.


Ravi Bhatt made a similar move when he went from Chicago to Bloomington, IN. His family with kids were living in a condo in Lincoln Park, which was limited and difficult. They were thinking of opening an office in Bloomington, saw good opportunities for software companies in the area and thought about living there temporarily and working remotely. He said, “As soon as I got here, I’m like, oh, no, no, no, we should just move here. This is so much better.”


Ravi realized that remote work meant the location of the company didn’t necessarily matter. He plans to hire a small group to work locally in Bloomington, yet is able to work with remote workers, including those still in Chicago. The move made sense for his business and home life.


A big part of what helped make the decision for him and his family were quality of life factors. He said “the cost of living is affordable, schools are fantastic… it’s a university town, there are basically no needed private schools; the public schools are like private schools… it’s good for kids to do things; there’s the right blend of indoors and outdoors.”


Ravi compared Bloomington to Seattle when it was just starting to look good to Microsoft, Amazon, and other companies. He explained that Seattle and other places no longer have the balance of good cost of living with high quality of life, while places like Bloomington now do.


If you’re looking for a better quality of life, start with a cost of living index by state, which can help you narrow down states that may be a better option for you. Since the costs tend to vary between urban and rural areas, you may want to also compare cities' cost of living.


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