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Transitioning from High Cost of Living to…Middleish

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We’re broke. The budget is TIGHT and it’s going to be that way for at least a couple more weeks until we recoup the money we invested in the remodel to sell our house. I’m moving money around in budget categories and it’s becoming terribly obvious how high the cost of living is in San Diego.

Let’s start with the Utilities. We have one utility company in San Diego. Not a lick of competition. Texas? There are seemingly endless companies willing to sell you power who are willing to find you the best deal possible based on how you consume it. My electric bill this month? $52. And my Texas house is 50% larger with more lights. In San Diego, I counted my blessings if it was under $150 but it was generally over $250, sometimes well over $300. The current bill is $82 for my house in San Diego with nothing plugged in and no one living there. Unfortunately I have to leave the power on until the new owners take possession but I’m still coming out $18 under budget. That’s not even talking about internet (50% less) or water (25% less). We still don’t have cable TV and, even though it’s way cheaper here, we have no plans to get it.

Groceries. I’m consistently $100 – $200 under my average San Diego spend. This is very noticeable in pork prices (heads up Cali…pork is going to be completely unaffordable come March. Stock up now). The crazy part is, because of my recent health crisis, I’ve had to drastically modify my diet to whole foods which are expensive yet, I’m still able to stay under budget.

Gas. Yeah. It’s pretty much half price in Texas. These days, I get very upset if I have to pay over $3 in Texas. In San Diego, as long as it was under $5, I was happy. To make matters even better, I live less than a mile from work. When the weather behaves, I walk. I’ve gone from 26 miles/day driving to less than 2 miles/day. This money I’m letting build in the budget line item. My repairs budget (which is the same budget line as my gas money) got beat up a bit last year so it could use some growth. I love that I don’t have to make any changes to my budget and I’m coming out way ahead in this category.

Vehicle registration. I’ve mentioned this one before. My registration was several hundred dollars in California. It’s $92 in Texas. I’ve been able to cut this budget line item by 60%.

The list goes on and on but I wish someone had told me that moving out of San Diego would be so much more than less expensive housing. The difference financially is HUGE. The future is bright.

The other part I want you to take from this, if you are considering moving to a new area with a higher cost of living, remember it’s so much more than more expensive housing. You will get hit on so many levels. Be prepared.


8 Comments

  • Reply SB |

    Summer electric is much higher, and property tax (once you buy) is also much higher in Texas. You should plan for that.

    • Reply Beks |

      True! I am planning for that. It’s very similar to the way I budget for electric in San Diego.

      Ugh. Property tax is terrible for sure!! But the income tax difference more than makes up for it. California income tax is staggering.

  • Reply Angie |

    I’d be wary on the electric bills. Utilities in Texas are not regulated and can change their prices based on demand. Now don’t get me wrong, you’ll likely have cheaper bills overall. But just saying it’s cheaper without understanding the reason behind it is a little short-sighted. The price gouging and failure of the power grid during the freeze of last February is a brilliant, although extreme, example. I’m not 100% sure that their approach to power is even viable long term. I see it akin to loss-leader promotions to get you to switch companies or buy a certain product.
    Dirt cheap prices gives them less money for grid reliance, emissions reductions, and overall safety inspections. Food for thought.

  • Reply Paris013 |

    So husband and I just moved from San Diego to Austin Suburbs (*freak out wave!) and I have not seen a dramatic difference in expenses. Electric, yes, especially since the house we are in now is 2.5x the size, even in the middle of summer (we moved in July). There is only 1 electric utility here though and I am freaked out about losing power like they did last February.
    Groceries have been the same/more. This could also be inflation related.
    No change in internet, water/trash is maybe 15% less.
    And property taxes are pretty wild. Hoping that our CA state tax this year is minimal (to none) to salvage some of that.
    Car insurance was cheaper, and gas has been a reprieve.

    Anyway, just my analysis of similar circumstances, but man do I still miss home!

    • Reply Beks |

      Austin is the San Diego of Texas. ; )

      We looked into moving there but the cost of living was nearly identical to San Diego so we dropped it from consideration.

      I’m curious as to why you moved. New job? Austin is great.

  • Reply Honey Smith |

    Relocating Californians are driving up the cost of living for folks in the places they’re relocating to. I bought my 3/2 Tucson home (very popular area for fleeing Californians) for $200k less than 2 years ago and the smaller, 3/1 house across the street from me is currently listed at $265k. People from here can no longer afford to buy because CA folks usually make all-cash offers to boot.

So, what do you think ?