7 Surprising Costs of Living in the Suburbs

The Surprising Costs of Living in the Suburbs

Life changes dramatically when you move to the suburbs. After having been a city-dweller for the past decade, I finally made the move this past year. Although I loved the proximity to the downtown area and all its shopping and dining options, it was time. The rising cost of rent and real estate, increasing safety concerns, quality of the school districts, and space, in general, made the suburbs the clear winner. Several factors come into play when choosing the best place to raise your family. One of the most important is where you will get the most value for your money. However, before you decide to relocate, you should consider some of the surprising costs of living in the suburbs.

The Surprising and Unexpected Costs of Living in the Suburbs

Cost of Commuting from the Suburbs

Although there are many advantages of living in the suburbs, you will have a significant increase in your drive time every day. While you gain space for your family, you are probably sacrificing convenience when commuting to work. You will be spending more time in your car, which translates to more money in transportation costs. This includes gas, tolls, parking, and monthly maintenance of your vehicle. If your spouse is also commuting to work daily, you can count on doubling these expenses. Vehicles are an essential expense for any family choosing to move away from urban areas.

Higher Shopping Prices

Since there are fewer suppliers in the suburbs, prices are not as competitive as in the city. This means you will spend more each month on groceries and other necessities for your family. To find the best discounts on food and clothing, you will need to drive further distances or start searching for discounts and special deals. The good news is that many suburbs have discount shopping clubs to help your family balance the surprising costs of living in the suburbs.

Increased Energy Costs

A larger home will require more energy to keep you comfortable through extreme weather. Heating and cooling units will work overtime in the summers and winters to keep the temperature in your home regulated. You can drastically reduce your bills by ensuring air isn’t escaping your house through doors and windows. Teach your family simple ways to conserve energy and inspect the home before you sign anything. However, if you do notice leaks, you will need to get them taken care of right away. Replacing windows, seals, and HVAC units presents another unexpected cost of living in the suburbs.

Property Maintenance

If you are a homeowner, it’s wise to keep an emergency fund in case you encounter unexpected home repairs. Unfortunately, these expenses are unavoidable and usually come at the worst possible time. However, the longer you wait, the bigger the problem becomes. Whether it’s a fallen tree, hail damage, a broken water main, or the HVAC systems, property damage requires immediate action. Furthermore, these headaches are usually accompanied by huge repair bills. Disaster can strike unannounced, so it’s best to plan ahead so these costs don’t blindside you.

Service Fees for Living in the Suburbs

Many suburbanites are surprised by how many services were included in their apartment’s monthly rent. Most building fees include water, cable, and trash removal. In addition, many apartment complexes also include free access to health clubs, pools, and laundry facilities. However, when you live in the suburbs, you will be responsible for the additional service fees. Not only will you need to pay for these services out of pocket, but you may also be subject to a homeowner’s association fee. If you don’t read the fine print of your neighborhood’s housing association rules, you could wind up with huge membership dues while you settle into your new home.

Property Taxes

The increase in taxes is another huge expense that gives many first-time homeowners severe sticker shock. But…as they say…only death and taxes are certain in this life. While property taxes vary even between cities, you can expect to receive a bill every year. And, the property taxes are subject to increase when the value of your home increases as well. Although you can contest your home’s valuation through the County Assessor’s office, you have a very limited window to appeal. Owning your home significantly increases the value of your assets. However, if you are unable to cover the cost of rising property taxes or repairs, you could find yourself facing serious financial difficulties.

Home Decor and Renovations

While you have more control over these expenses, it should make sense that your home decor and renovation budget would increase when you add more space. Part of the attraction of living in the suburbs is that extra space you gain. But, it’s easy to fill your online shopping cart when you get a new idea. Before you know it, you could be spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on upgrades and new home decor. However, ask yourself how necessary the items are, and if you could find something cheaper through a competitor or second-hand store. It’s possible to add personal touches to make empty spaces feel more inviting without breaking your budget.

The Final Decision

There is more to consider than just the cost of housing when deciding between the city and the suburbs. At the end of the day, your final decision comes down to your priorities and preferences. What benefits would you be gaining versus what you would be giving up? There are many surprising costs of living in the suburbs that you may never have even considered. Before you make this tough decision, get as much information as possible. Read up on homes in the area and talk to friends and family members who have already made the same decision. The better informed you are, the less likely you will make a costly mistake.

Read More

Cost-Effective Solutions for Managing Common Menopause Symptoms

By definition, menopause occurs twelve months after a woman’s last menstrual cycle, marking the end of her child-bearing years. The entire menopausal transition, however, lasts an average of 7 to ten years. During this time, the production of hormones decreases, resulting in many uncomfortable symptoms that may continue for years.

The experience of menopause can vary greatly. Some women may only have mild discomfort, while others have more problematic and long-term symptoms.

The only treatments for menopause are those that seek to reduce its symptoms. Doctors may use hormone replacement therapy to achieve this.

But before starting any medications such as those used in hormone replacement therapy, try making a few lifestyle changes to manage your symptoms. Doctors recommend making changes like these for at least three months before committing to hormone replacement, which has risks of its own.

Fortunately, there are many safe and affordable menopause symptom relief options. Here are four of the most common symptoms of menopause and some tactics to combat them.

Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause. Caused by a hormonal imbalance, they can make you distressingly hot for no apparent reason. They cause flushing of the face, sweating, a rapid heartbeat, and chills. If hot flashes happen in the middle of the night, they are called night sweats. Night sweats interrupt your sleeping pattern, which will add to daytime stress and fatigue.

Although hot flashes are an uncomfortable disruption, you can minimize their impact if you:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Carry a portable fan and water mister spray bottle.
  • Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine.
  • Dress in layers so you’ll have more control over your body temperature.
  • Keep your bedding layered so you can easily remove blankets when hot flashes strike.
  • Use bamboo bed linens and pajamas.
  • Keep yourself hydrated.
  • Try natural supplements such as Black Cohosh, Red Clover, Soy, or Vitamin E.

Sleep Problems

It isn’t only night sweats that keep women from sleeping well. The production of progesterone, a calming hormone that induces sleep, declines drastically during menopause. Here are some strategies to help you get the sleep you need:

  • Follow a sleep schedule by waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day.
  • Establish a bedtime routine. Read a book, listen to calming music, meditate or soak in a bath.
  • Turn off your television, computer, and phone because blue light waves suppress melatonin production.
  • Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
  • Avoid caffeine for six hours before bedtime.
  • Don’t nap in the late afternoon or evening. Even a short power nap can disrupt your sleep schedule.
  • Try using melatonin supplements.

Weight Gain

Many women unexpectedly gain weight during and after menopause because metabolism slows. You will need to eat less and exercise more to maintain your current weight. A common reaction is to go on an overly restrictive diet plan that will ultimately fail. A better approach is to gradually introduce a diet filled with an abundance of healthy foods.

Foods to include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Calcium-rich foods such as milk and low-fat yogurt
  • Lean meat, poultry, fish, and eggs
  • Nuts and beans
  • Whole-grain bread, cereal, and pasta

Mood Instability

Some chemicals made by the body, such as dopamine and serotonin, help to regulate mood. Unfortunately, the production of these chemicals slows down when estrogen levels decline, leading to anxiety and depression.

Getting restful sleep and eating a healthy diet will help regulate mood swings, and relaxation techniques will also help. Here are a few to try:

  • Meditation
  • Guided Imagery
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Aromatherapy using essential oils such as lavender or chamomile
  • Yoga
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Tai chi
  • Massage

Should Mobile Location Data Become Public?

Should We Be Using Mobile Location Data for COVID-19 Containment?

The collection and sharing of mobile location data has become a hot topic of debate. And rightly so since there have been several large-scale data breaches and serious questions of privacy. It’s no wonder why many people do not want this information publicly accessible. However, some governments have effectively been using this data for contact tracing and containment of COVID-19. In my mind, this begs the question…are there times when mobile location data should become public? And furthermore, don’t we already willingly provide this information through apps on our phones?

What Is Mobile Location Data?

When someone wants to use your mobile location data, it means they access your geolocation information from your cell phone. When you use your cell phone, it ‘pings’ your location through nearby cell towers. The Telecommunications operators (Telcos) then store this information in a secure location. Using GPS signals, Bluetooth beacons, and triangulation, anyone with access can track movement of a specific individual or an entire population in real time.

What Concerns Are There over Mobile Location Data?

There are dozens of ethical concerns about the collection and use of this data. However, the biggest points of contention for me come down to privacy and security. Collecting this type of information exposes sensitive information about you and everyone around you. It shows your exact location at any time and the routes you take every day. The data also reveals locations where you spend the most time.

While this may be unnerving to you, we freely and willing provide this information every day. Each time you click ‘OK’ when an app asks to access you location data, you give it permission to use and sell your mobile location data. Although millions of us consent to sharing this information through phone apps every day, little is known about how the information is collected or being used.

When governing bodies can freely access and use big data analytics as they see fit, it isn’t hard to imagine scenarios where it could be abused and used against its own citizens. What starts out as programs to support public health initiatives can quickly turn into more restrictive policies akin to a military state. While many governments in Southeast Asia have been effectively using apps for contact tracing and enforcing quarantine measures, how far will they go to ‘keep people safe’?

How is Mobile Location Data Used for COVID-19 Containment Measures?

During the pandemic, technology has been a critical tool in the fight to protect public health. Many governments have been using mobile location data to contain the spread of COVID-19. They conduct contact tracing and hot spot mapping to determine who is at risk. The data makes it easy to determine who attended “super-spreader” events or visited locations where there are higher chances for community transmission.

Local authorities use this data to see who has been in close proximity to confirmed cases of COVID-19. If you have been exposed, then health officials will contact you with health directives. They inform you of the exact time and location of exposure, how to monitor your health, and where the nearest hospitals and testing locations are if you have symptoms.

However, some governments have also been using this information to enforce quarantine and social distancing restrictions. They are able to track your location to ensure you are following official protocols. Some airports require you to install tracking apps on your phone when you enter the country, and deny access if you refuse to comply. In some instances, local governments even dispatch police officers or levy huge fines if you break quarantine without permission.

Their justification is that people cannot be trusted to adhere to the prescribed guidelines which puts the public at risk. However, international watchdogs worry that it could also be used to further discriminate against marginalized groups who already have limited freedoms and restricted movement.

Should We Be Using Mobile Location Data to Combat COVID-19?

Knowing both sides of the argument, that brings us back to the main question: should we allow authorities to use mobile location data to combat COVID-19?

After reviewing several case studies and personal testimonies, I would have to say yes. However, there are several asterisks following this statement. First and foremost, all health initiatives need to be in compliance with international laws. This means any restrictive measures should be “lawful, necessary, and proportionate” to the severity of the problem. It also requires both transparency and defined time limits to reduce the long-term impacts on people’s livelihoods.

Then, of course, there is the issue of security. Private citizens have a right to know how their information is being used and secured. Health authorities should specify what data it is collecting and sharing. Additionally, they should also outline how they will maintain anonymity and protect against unlawful surveillance.

For these reasons, self-reporting initiatives will likely have greater success. By creating platforms where people can disclose information, it puts more power in the hands of individuals. It also invites free and active participate in the national programs to fight COVID-19. If people feel as if they have a choice in the matter, they will be more likely to comply with public health measures.

How Can You Secure Personal Data?

However, if you disagree, what can you do to secure your personal data? Unless you are going to give up your devices that track your location, you will never be able to completely mask your personal information. But, there are steps you can take to protect your personal information from hackers, scammers, and cyber-attacks.

  1. Don’t store personally identifiable information on your cell phone. Delete passwords, social security number, credit card, and other sensitive financial information from your mobile devices.
  2. Regularly delete your browsing history and cookies. Your internet activity is constantly monitored and stored by the browser. Deleting it makes it harder to track your web activity.
  3. Clean up emails and messages that contain personal information. If it fell in the wrong hands, it could leave you vulnerable, especially if they have access to sensitive financial information. Review and delete sensitive information so it is not remotely accessible.
  4. Use secure payment methods for online purchases. Some scammers direct you to payment portals then skim your credit card number and steal your information. Using secure portals protects you from unauthorized transactions, identity theft, and cloning of your information.

In the digital age, personal privacy will continue to come into question. As more entities have access to information like your mobile location data, we have an individual responsibility to ensure our rights our not violated. Therefore, make sure you know what you’re agreeing to before you click ‘OK’ and grant access to sensitive data.

Read More