Jun 06 2011

Some cost of living observations

We aren’t really settled into our new budget in Indianapolis yet, but I have noticed some cost differences so far.

Our gas usage. Gas prices are up everywhere and I’m sure they ‘re high in Pittsburgh, too. But our own gas usage is way up. We’ve put 1,000 miles on our car just in the time we’ve been here, which is about 2.5 weeks. Previously, it could have taken a couple of months to hit that with our driving habits. We’ve taken two trips to Lafayette and two to Bloomington and that’s like 450 miles right there, and then there have been house-hunting miles and whatnot.

I imagine our mileage will settle down once we find our second vehicle and find our house, but we will be putting miles on two cars then and we will probably need to keep an eye on our fuel spending.

On the plus side, I’m getting at least 8-10 mpg better in Indiana than I did in Pittsburgh. Here it’s flat and there’s lots of interstate driving, whereas Pittsburgh’s hills had hills and there was a bit more stop-and-go.

A second car in general. We haven’t bought another car yet, but we are actively looking for an Odyssey or Sienna and I hope we can find something soon. Living with one car was easy back in the ‘Burgh because Shane took the train downtown to work, and he could walk to the train stop. That isn’t going to work here, so our bank account will take a hit when we do buy a van and then of course the extra expense to insure it (the quote I got with Geico was $31 more/month, not bad), registration fees, gas, maintenance, etc.

Groceries. Absolutely cheaper here. Milk is cheaper by at least $1.50/gallon. I’ve seen some non-perishables that I usually get (things like crackers, etc.) are cheaper by $1 or so. Some items are the same or closer in price, but I don’t think I’ve encountered a grocery item that costs more here than it did there.

Health insurance. I think we were spoiled with our previous health insurance. Actually, I know we were. It was relatively cheap per month and covered a lot. Our health insurance went up by something like $120/month and it will be much more expensive if we have anything beyond a well-baby visit. Pfft.

Housing. Our apartment here is $780, and if we stayed in Pgh, our July rent would be $780. But, our apartment here is on a month-to-month lease and we’re paying an extra $100/month for that flexibility, so really housing here is cheaper. We can absolutely buy more house for our buck here, with house prices and property taxes taken into consideration. Hope we can find something soon.

Pay. Shane took a 5-6% pay cut in accepting his job here. He tried hard to negotiate at least the same salary, especially taking our higher health costs into consideration but they just wouldn’t budge. We figured we could make it work anyway, but it’s still less money coming in. The HR department justified it by saying the cost of living is cheaper here, and in their mind it’s an equivalent salary. That has yet to be seen, but maybe?

When I look at online calculators, I’m seeing their data match with what I’m seeing here, for the most part. They agree that food, housing and overall expenses are cheaper in Indy, and that health care is cheaper in Pittsburgh.

I think it’s going to take a few pay periods to get used to our new budget. Previously Shane got paid once per month, and now we’re on a bi-weekly schedule and it feels kinda weird.

7 Responses to “Some cost of living observations”

  1. It’s funny you say milk is cheaper here, since, when I bought milk at Aldi yesterday I was like, “$2.50! Gah!” I normally balk and just get a half-gallon until I can find it for $2/gallon, but it seems prices are up everywhere.

    And, yes, owning a second vehicle, which is practically required in this city with limited public transit, will absolutely be more expensive. Gas prices aren’t helping.
    joanna´s last post ..Five Years

  2. Higher mileage/fuel consumption is an expense we noticed after the move, too, not just because we bought a second vehicle. I didn’t think about this, but now that we’re closer to family, it’s expected that we visit more. We used to make one trip a year, but now we’re visiting one or both of our families once a month. We’re closer, but driving 200-400 miles round trip once or twice a month adds up like whoa! Especially at $4 a gallon. We’re going to have to cut back to get our fuel consumption under control for sure.
    Karen´s last post ..Homemade baby food 101

  3. Hopefully once you get a house and settled in a little more permanently the family will come visit you more often, which should help level out the gas consumption!

    On switching from monthly to bi-weekly paychecks: I assume you’ve already heard this, but if you can at all, using the bi-weekly paychecks for a monthly budget can be a fantastic way to get two nice “bonuses” each year. We’ve done this for years, and have used the “extra” paychecks for anything from holidays, paying off loans, beefing up the emergency fund (or replenishing when we’d gone over budget!). I assume since you took a pay cut with the new job, that this may be tough to work out, but if you can at all, I highly recommend it!

  4. @ Sarah — I am thankful our parents have also come up to Indy, and they have actually seen us here more frequently than we have been there, so far! It’s just lots of gas for everyone.

    Also, yeah I know some people use their extra paycheck as a bonus. I love that idea! I think we can make it work to live as if we only get 2 paychecks per month (because that’s how it is most months). We will have 3 checks in July, yay! I think we will need to think through how we use the extra, but it might go toward things like car insurance/life insurance and maybe general savings. I dunno.

  5. Yep, we’ve used ours for car insurance also. In general, it’s just made a really nice “life buffer” that sometimes we’ve used wisely and other times to cover “mistakes” (like when I got pregnant and we realized we were eating out/convenience /more expensive foods WAY too much due to lack of energy and severe morning sickness). :)

  6. For your house hunting, have you looked at Zillow.com?

  7. Yeah, I like Zillow! I’m also using our realtor’s site and she has me on some update list where I get notified if anything pops on the market or drops in price or whatnot.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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