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Cost of Living

The cost of living is the cost of maintaining a certain standard of living. If you are a graduating senior contemplating a job offer, or a recent graduate thinking of moving to a new city, it is important to research the cost of living, as it varies from city to city. Understanding the cost of living in any given city helps you make an informed decision about the salary you will need to sustain yourself.

When preparing to move to a different city, or comparing the cost of living between cities, consider analyzing the salary versus location. For example, a $50,000 salary in Houston, TX may not go as far in San Francisco, CA. By researching the cost of living between two cities, you can better prepare yourself for cost of living expenses when considering a job offer. This allows you to create a budget to determine how much you need for housing, food, and other everyday expenses.

By using a cost of living calculator, you can compare living expenses between cities to help prepare you for financial success. Bankrate provides a Cost of Living Calculator to help you compare costs between cities.

Some other costs you may want to consider as part of your budget when looking at your cost of living include:

  • Student loan payments
  • Moving costs
  • Entertainment
  • Emergencies

Reducing Your Cost of Living

Most students envision starting their career right after they graduate college. However, you may need to plan for the possibility of being unemployed or underemployed after graduation. If you find yourself without a job, in a temporary/part-time job, or having a hard time makings ends meet after you graduate, you may have to explore ways to reduce your cost of living. In many cases, you will probably be unsure of the duration of your un-/under-employment. To avoid quickly depleting your savings or building up debt, it is important to reduce or eliminate as many expenses as you can.

For example, you may be able to reduce your cost of living expenses in one or more of the following ways:

Defer your student loans – Putting a student loan in deferment or forbearance means to suspend payments temporarily. Most student loans generally have a grace period of six months after graduation before entering repayment. If you have student loans, and find yourself unable to make payments after the grace period, contact your loan servicer. Remaining in good standing with your student loans is an opportunity to build good credit for the future. You should always pay what you can, as interest accrues during deferment/forbearance.

You can find your federal student loan servicer contact information by logging in to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). If you borrowed private loans, contact your lender directly for information about options for suspending payments.

Live at home with your parents – Housing is usually the largest expense in a person's budget. Moving in with your parents is one way to save the most money. Your parents may not charge you for rent, utilities, or food, or they may charge substantially less than a typical property owner. If you are able to cut these costs, it can vastly reduce your cost of living. If living at home with your parents or other family is not an option, you may want to consider living with a roommate(s), so you can reduce your costs by sharing expenses with others.

Create a budget and stick to it – Implementing a personal budget is one of the best ways to plan expenses and conserve money. After you leave school, develop strategies such as using a “spending journal” to track your spending. Most importantly, you should create a monthly budget. To do this, determine the amount of money you have versus how much you can spend each month. Limit yourself to a certain amount of money allowed to spend per month.