Packing up your life to move to a new location is a big adventure! And every adventure starts somewhere. This particular adventure starts with the question, “Where should I move?”
Chances are you already have a few locations in mind. So, how do you pick the right one? Take a quiz? Flip a coin? Ask your mom? Sure, those could work. But the smartest way to choose a new place to live is to know what it’d be like to live there before you move.
Where Should I Live?
If you’re familiar with what we teach at Ramsey, you probably can guess the first thing we want you to think about when deciding where you should live: your budget. After all, imagine how sweet it would be to pick a place to move to that actually drives your financial goals forward! To make sure that’s possible, use a cost of living calculator to look at places where you want to live. Then compare those costs to your current budget.
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If the cost of living there looks more expensive than where you currently live, moving there might leave you living paycheck to paycheck—unless you change your budget or salary, which is certainly an option. If living costs are comparable or even cheaper than where you currently live then—bingo!—you found a good candidate.
Once you’ve lined up the best candidates for where you should live, make a confident decision by considering these top factors that will impact your quality of life.
Now, we just touched on affording the cost of living in a new city, but don’t go thinking that only includes life’s basic necessities like shelter, transportation, food, and clothing. All the topics we cover here need to be factored in when deciding where you should move and if it fits your budget.
You’ll also want to make sure you can afford the cost to actually move. Moving companies, U-Hauls, storage containers, the obscene amount of pizza your friends will require as payment for helping pack boxes—these expenses can easily add up to thousands of dollars. Spend a few months putting away money before you move so that you don’t dry up your savings.
2. Job Opportunities
Speaking of your budget, it’s smart to line up a new source of income before you move. So look for a place that has a healthy job market—especially one related to your field of work. That way, you’ll have a better chance of finding work you love.
As bestselling author and career expert Ken Coleman puts it, finding your dream job is all about getting around the right people and being in the right places. So be sure to research companies in your new area and check if ones that interest you have job opportunities. Or find open positions by using job-search websites. If you need help securing a career you love in your new city, pick up a copy of The Proximity Principle.
If you feel like your current housing costs (rent or mortgage) are busting your budget, moving somewhere new is a perfect time to change that. To make sure your new housing is affordable, keep monthly costs (including property taxes and insurances) down to no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay.
If the neighborhoods you’re looking at don’t have any housing available below that 25% range, consider splitting costs with a roommate or move to a less expensive part of town. Choosing affordable housing will play a huge role in setting your move up for success.
Here’s another big one. If you move to a state like California where they tax you for breathing, you’ll probably feel the impact every April—if not every paycheck. Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to stop you from an otherwise perfect place to live. Just make sure you prepare for it in your budget. If your new state charges significantly lower taxes than your current one, it’ll feel like you got a raise. Cha-ching!
Plan to have kids? Maybe you already have little ones scampering around—or a teenager. As a parent asking “Where should I live?”, it’d be a good idea to research your potential city’s education system. There are a bunch of school-rating websites you can use to find ones that have high success rates.
Also, keep in mind that costs for a caregiver or day care center might shoot up in your new location, which would affect your budget. But if you or your spouse is a stay-at-home parent, then don’t sweat it.
Alright, suppose you’ve spent most of your days soaking up the sun in 75-degree weather. Could you handle moving to a climate that freezes your face off for most of the year? Do you shiver at the thought of trading your sunny beaches for icy roads? On the other hand, let’s say you have a passion for tobogganing. Could you bear to live in a town where the hills are always green? Or where the weather is so consistently the same that your calendar has to convince you the seasons have actually changed?
Climate alone doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. But it’s definitely something to think about when deciding where to live—even if it simply means stocking up on wool socks or sunscreen.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced road rage. If you didn’t raise your hand, maybe you never lived in a city with bumper-to-bumper traffic on your daily commute. It can make anyone bonkers. Moving somewhere with heavier traffic could also force you to spend more money on gas—which could bust your budget if you’re not prepared.
When choosing where you should live, find out what your commute will be like in the locations you’re considering. Who knows, you might be able to save on gas if you choose a city with good public transportation. Or you could find housing in a neighborhood with a shorter commute. Then again, traffic jams might not be so bad if you stock up on music and podcasts to stay inspired.
Sure, it’d be great to find a place to live that’s safe enough for you to leave your doors unlocked and wander around alone. But crime happens. So when comparing neighborhoods, be sure to research crime rates. There are plenty of online tools you can use to review crime stats and get an idea of how safe one place is compared to another. Choose a neighborhood that gives you confidence you and your family will be safe.
Now think about the things you and your family like to do for fun. Maybe your household is so obsessed with boating that you’ve all started to grow gills. In that case, move near a body of water. If you’re outdoorsy and secretly think sleeping under a roof is for dweebs, pick a location surrounded by the wild. For you sports fanatics and art junkies, you’ll probably want to choose a city packed with stadiums and museums.
To make this easier, gather the family together for a fireside chat. Let everyone share what they enjoy doing most to help you decide on the best location.
10. Social Life
Remember when Tom Hanks got stranded on an island? He started talking to a volleyball—yikes! Do life alone for long enough and you’ll crave social interaction. Don’t move to a place where you’ll feel alone. Find a city where you can get plugged into a community that shares your interests. Maybe for you that means finding a location that has plenty of neighborhood cookouts, work events, church gatherings or meetup groups.
Let’s say you’ve decided to move closer to family—are you sure your spouse is on board? Sure, moving next door to your folks might sound like a perfect plan to gain babysitters for Junior. But what if the increased exposure to the in-laws turns your sweetheart sour?
On the other hand, suppose your move adds a few thousand miles between you and your family. Are you okay with spending hundreds of dollars on flights or taking epic road trips to get home for the holidays? Maybe a healthy distance between you and your family would “make the heart grow fonder,” but make sure you think through the ways your move could affect family dynamics.
While health care is a big deal for anyone to consider when moving, it’s even more important if you have kiddos or are nearing retirement age. However, where you live doesn’t influence health care as much as how you live. Factors like age and lifestyle habits are what really impact things like health care costs. So, try to move somewhere that’s within close proximity to whatever motivates you to live a healthy lifestyle—like fitness centers, bike paths and health-conscious eateries.
Can Red Lobster satisfy your seafood obsession or is this move your chance to make fresh-caught lobsters off the coast of Maine a regular part of your week? Do you crave Chicago’s deep-dish style pizza or the thin and crispy crusts of New York? If smearing your face in barbecue sauce is your love language, head for the South. If you only eat local, move near a farmers market. Or maybe you need a city where it’s easy to find organic, gluten-free and vegan-styled cuisines.
For some folks, cultural experiences are a must-have. This might mean getting dressed to the nines to hear an Italian belting out “Pagliacci" at the top of his lungs at the opera. Or maybe it’s joining diehard sports fans in face-painting and waving a giant foam finger at every home game. Or it might mean twirling the night away with other dance enthusiasts at local ballrooms. Can you find a city that offers the culture you care about?
Even if your new city only has a small pocket of people who share your values and beliefs, it’ll give you something comforting to look forward to when you move.
15. City Size
Do you want to see city lights or stars at night? Moving to a small town in the countryside gives you plenty of room for kids and pets to run around like crazy. But a metropolis offers a world of activities to enjoy—right outside your door. Sure, having taxicabs honk at you the millisecond a traffic light turns green can make your blood boil. Yet, trying to pick up a box of nails at the local mom-and-pop shop where the owner retells his life story—Forrest Gump style—might make your eyes roll to the back of your head.
There are plenty of pros and cons to go around whether you’re considering moving to a big city or a small town. So, choosing where you should live really depends on your personality and what you want for your family.
Get a Jumpstart on Your Move
After you consider those factors, you’ll have a clear idea about where you should move. To take the next step toward making a smooth transition, check out our Ramsey Relocation Guide. It will walk you through everything you need to know to reach your destination with confidence.
If you want to learn about housing options in the location you’re interested in, talk to a real estate agent. To find an agent who actually cares about your financial goals, try our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program. We only recommend the best-performing agents in the country.