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.
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.
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.
- Is It Really Cheaper Moving to the Suburbs?
- Living in the Suburbs: The Commute
- The Unexpected Costs of Moving to a New Home
Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.