25 4 / 2012
Cost of living comparisons
Although I think the overall cost of living will be less in New Hampshire than it is in Los Angeles, it’s been hard to predict just how much. I have a feeling the comparisons are quite different depending on the spending category, so here are my best guesses based on the information I’ve gathered so far, and please feel free to correct me!
We’re renting here and we’ll be renting there, so I’m just going to compare rentals for now. In the city of Los Angeles, there’s really no such thing as rentable single-family homes for normal people, as far as I can tell. In Manchester, two or three-bedroom single-family homes seem to run about $1200-2000/month. In Los Angeles, a two-bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood will be at least $1400, up to about $3000 for premium buildings or areas. From what I can tell online, you can get a similarly decent two-bedroom in Manchester for about $800/month, and the nicer, newer places will be $1000-1400/month.
So I would say Manchester rent is just a little more than half of LA rent for an equivalent home. Those who are moving from Los Angeles or other major California metros can count on a savings of hundreds of dollars a month for a lateral move, or they can take their existing budget and move into someplace much nicer. We haven’t quite decided which we’ll do yet, and it will depend on what’s available when we get there.
I’ve heard about how much cheaper car insurance is in NH than CA, which is great because it is ridiculous here. I’m sure the lower rates are due, in part, to insurance not being required in NH. I am expecting to pay ⅓ to ½ of what I’m currently paying for equivalent car insurance when we get to NH.
Registering one’s car, however, seems to be significantly more expensive in NH than in CA. That seems surprising, but maybe this is one of those places they try to make up for the lack of other taxes? It’s hard to find information online, and the cost of car registration varies from city to city, but I did manage to locate a convoluted formula for Manchester’s fees. It involves the original list price of your car and your car’s year to come up with a number, then tacks on a bunch of bitty fees that do add up. If I’m reading it correctly, I’ll probably give the government about $250 to register my 2009 Forester when I get there (but that will drop significantly each year). My former 2005 Corolla cost about $120 to register in California last year.
The average gas price in Los Angeles right now is $4.20/gallon according to gasbuddy.com. The statewide average for New Hampshire is $3.84/gallon. It’s less, but not drastically less like in Texas or Oklahoma. The savings would add up over time, though. And while I think we’ll spend less time on the road in NH, we will not necessarily drive fewer miles. Many Angelenos commute 20 miles each way (which would generally take at least an hour) to work, but Adam and I have a lifestyle here that allows for a lot of walking and short drives for errands. Renting in a walkable neighborhood and vowing not to take jobs that are too far away are choices that have allowed us to enjoy LA rather than get frustrated living here. We do drive quite a bit on the weekends to visit family.
Overall I’m thinking “car stuff” will cost noticeably less, if the insurance savings are as big as I’m hoping.
Pay is super inflated in San Francisco, where I lived for three years before LA, since their minimum wage is one of the highest in the country at $10.24/hour. Ever been paid a starting rate of $22.50/hour to nanny two school-age kids? I have. Minimum wage there is so high, in fact, that San Francisco Subway restaurants can’t even afford to sell $5 footlongs! Moving from SF to LA, I had to accept that I would take less pay for similar work, and when I move to NH I’ll probably need to do so again.
California’s minimum wage per hour is $8.00 and New Hampshire’s is $7.25, which is not too big of a difference. But looking at Craigslist and other job websites, I’m pretty sure that a $20/hour position in LA is a $12-14/hour position in Manchester. Does this seem about right?
Groceries and entertainment
Based on some quick searches, movie tickets in NH appear to be $9-10 for a weeknight show versus LA’s $12-13. A mid-week evening of bowling is going to cost $2/game in Manchester, $3.75/game in Los Angeles, and $6.25/game at the place I had my birthday party a few years ago in San Francisco. Entertainment comes cheaper in New Hampshire! I will probably go bowling more often.
The couple times I went into a grocery store in New Hampshire, prices seemed similar to those at my local supermarket, but I wasn’t really buying cooking staples so it’s hard to be sure. Meals in NH restaurants seem comparable in cost to those in smaller California cities, but a little lower than in LA.
I’m not really sure what else I can compare before I get there. I know the cost of goods and services will be lower, but is it in proportion to the likely decrease in pay? Luckily, Adam is keeping his remote job, and I know that amount of money will stretch farther in New Hampshire than it does now.