Where should I live?


I lived in Tucson - it is very spread out, but I think Tris might like it. Public transit was fine for our needs, but we had a car we used for errands. It is a very bikesble city - tons of people bike.

Except for weather, I think you will find more of your criteria in university towns/cities


I live in San Francisco now, but went to graduate school in Tucson and am from New Mexico originally. I think Tucson has a lot going for it. Depending on where you work, I think you would probably need a car, but you could get to the grocery store and basic errands without a car (I had a car, but, for example rode my bike to school). It is a blue city in a red state (but my BIL lives there and he is VERY red). I saw the recommendation for Santa fe – I love New Mexico and all my family lives there. Santa fe definitely has a winter. Albuquerque does, too, but it is not a polar vortex (except for about 10 days a winter, you can get outside). Compared to when I grew up, Santa fe has become very sprawling, and I think you definitely need a car. In Albuquerque, you could get to the store without a car, but would definitely need one. The biggest downside to New Mexico is the poverty – this results in not great healthcare and not good education. Still, it is amazingly beautiful, the weather is great, and the diversity is wonderful. Northern New Mexico is blue, while Southern is Red.
Denver has a lot of similarities to Albuquerque, but Albuquerque is much less expensive, though healthcare and education are both better in the Denver area than in Albuquerque.


Here’s a Q. If COLA needs to be same-or-better – what about cities in Maryland, Virginia, or Delaware? Those are pretty liberal states, and a lot of cities in those areas have comparable or lower COL and are themselves liberal. This would be places like Baltimore, Richmond, Charlottesville, etc. Walkability tends to vary by neighborhood, but there are some seriously walkable parts of those cities (also some very suburb-y unwalkable ones too, ofc). They’ll be warm-to-hot, with limited snow (like, shut-down-the-schools-after-a-few-inches sort of limited), humidity, and a longer growing season.


I know people like to shit on MMM for being judgmental, but he has written about how it’s better to pay more to live in a city center if you can give up your car and decrease commuting time.


Yea, seriously, cost of living is only one part of the equation. I live in a more expensive city (than even Chicago now, whine) but by living in a city I am able to have the following mustachian things:

  1. No car
  2. A 1 block walk to a well-stocked, well-funded library (unlike the 2 day/month one-room library in the rural town I lived in)
  3. Affordable health insurance with nearby specialist options where I can make my required every 6 month appt before and after work, and walk to my appt (rather than having to travel over 3 hours to a specialist, as many other arthritic people in the US have to do to get to a rheumatologist)
  4. Dense housing, allowing my utility bills to be lower
  5. Lots of free cultural events every night of the week
  6. People that share my interests readily accessible! This is the biggest one, for me. And a big driver in where I live currently.
  7. A growing economy where I can make more money


Exactly! I’m currently living in a place like this and it’s soooo nice to be able to walk to the library, walk to a couple different grocery stores, walk to the fancy bar to get a drink with friends, walk to the gym. The public transportation isn’t amazing so I usually hop in the car if I need to go beyond walking distance but that’s relatively rare on the weekends. My city is way more expensive than Chicago though so it’s probably not a good contender for @TrisPrior

Unfortunately, you don’t get that kind of walk-ability in every metro area and it’s why I think Tucson is a much better choice than Phoenix (for example). Phoenix is an urban sprawl so if you really value location you might be able to find something within walking distance of a shopping area with a grocery store/fast food/HomeGoods OR near a bunch of nicer restaurants without any grocery stores nearby. Mostly it’s a city set up for drivers.

Have you thought about the research triangle area in NC? I’d call it MCOL but it’s slightly cheaper than Chicago.


I have a close friend in Richmond. She seems to like it a lot, but bemoans the need for a car. I visited once, briefly, and liked it.

Yes, this is how I live now and the idea of having to go back to one hour plus each way in a car sounds like hell.

@anomalily, all of the things you list are also important to me. The medical care thing didn’t even occur to me - I’m mostly healthy, but I hear friends who live in smaller cities complaining about having to travel hours for care, or not having providers on their insurance anywhere near them.

Thank you for bringing that up. I’m sure that there are lots of little things like that that I don’t even think to consider, because I live in a big city that has everything. Example: when we were on vacation in New Orleans, I developed a terrible headache while we were walking around the Quarter probably around 10 p.m. Of course I hadn’t packed any painkillers. I saw a big chain drugstore down the street - Walgreens or CVS or whatever so went there. It was closed. At 10 p.m. I was shocked - here at minimum they are open til midnight and many are 24 hours. Found another one - also closed. Found a third - yep, closed. That was a miserable sleepless night (the hotel front desk also did not have any, while some hotels here have a stash of minor needs like that).

Or like, how EVERY time I go to St. Louis (at least once a year; Boyfriend is from there and we have close friends there), I am AGAIN shocked that the only places open for dinner after a certain time are the literal all-night diners. And you can’t order pizza at 4 in the morning.

Or like, how I can pretty much assume that any band that I might want to see in concert will pass through Chicago.

Little stuff like that. Not deal-breakers by any means. But stuff that I just don’t consider because it’s not a thing here.


Things close not only at night but also for entire days (Sunday most common, but sometimes all weekend), so that’s worth looking into as you decide.


I should note also that I have absolutely NO idea how to find a job wherever we end up. As I think I mentioned upthread, my industry exists here, in Austin and in Orlando (these are branches of my current company), and in the Northeast. I’m not excited about Austin or Orlando and Northeast is out, my co-workers have sent us pix of their nor’easters, no thank you.

I am likely looking at a career change. But that’s a whole separate question. I have no idea to WHAT. I’m pushing 50. I’m in a creative field where most similar jobs have either gone overseas, or are being given to inexperienced folks so that they can get away with paying in the $20s. This was my experience job hunting 3 years ago when I fell into my current job. VERY little at a sustainable salary and even those jobs demanded skills I didn’t have - like, they wanted you to know print production (my current job) and also web design, and also know a few programming languages, and have demonstrated experience in social media and SEO, and oh yeah, $25k and no benefits. WHAT.

Things that interest me seem hard to monetize. So, that’s a larger question.


Exactly - that doesn’t happen here!

Oh no, I just realized that some places don’t let you buy booze on Sundays! LOL!


Or at all, though if you’re talking city, they are vanishingly unlikely to be dry.


Texas does have pros and cons.

In Texas you can’t buy beer/wine on Sundays before noon and (I believe but could be wrong) can’t buy liquor at all. Blue laws are common in the South.

Down here it’s news the handful of times a year the weather drops below freezing and the cities shut down for ice/snow because we lack infrastructure to handle it. No one can drive well anyway so it’s a safer choice.

There are areas in Austin that aren’t car dependent. I’ve known one person in Dallas that lived very strategically without a car. Those strategic areas are probably cheaper than their Austin equivalent since Austin is cooler. San Antonio and Houson would be much harder to live sans car.

Library system in Dallas is fabulous (can’t comment on Austin’s) and Dallas has been building lovely bike/running trails in some areas versus Austin cars being more used to bikers as a cultural thing. Both cities get a great selection of bands, indie and larger, since most stop in Austin and throw Houston/Dallas stops in to justify the trip.

No state income tax is lovely but does lead to higher property tax rates. Texas also doesn’t have expanded Medicaid and the state politics can be frustrating. Any city in Texas is solidly blue and somewhat diverse. Outside of the cities (suburbs and rural) are very red.


Yeah, that’s actually why I’m not that jazzed about the idea of moving to Austin and getting transferred to the Round Rock office, which would probably be the most painless way financially to get the hell away from winter. Because, Round Rock. I’ve been told by an ex-coworker who used to live here and moved there, that the suburbs are super red. So I would have no desire to live near the office. But most on my team in the Austin office live in the city proper and bitch about the commute, which is apparently awful. They were PISSED when the office moved a couple years ago.

That being said, I’d like to at least visit and see for myself.

Boyfriend has been to Dallas and HATED it. Hated hated hated. So that is likely off the table.


I also have been thinking about moving somewhere warmer for a few years now; but what I really want is every single thing I love about Minneapolis with less winter. If I could somehow swing an 8 week sabbatical every January and February that would be my ideal living situation. I’m guessing your job wouldn’t let you telecommute while you sublet your apartment for four months every year, so, no brilliant ideas for you, just commiseration.


I would do this in a heartbeat if I could make it work. I never consider moving during 6 months out of the year. The other 6 months is all OMG get me OUUUUUUUUUUT

I really do love Chicago, other than this one thing that makes me absolutely bloody miserable and causes me physical and mental pain. (Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? :wink: )


For a gardener, it’s really hard to beat the Wilamette valley. We can grow year round here with a cold frame, and our standard season is pretty long. Great soil too. Just mosquitoes as far as biting insects go (gardening in the south was not fun for me). So from a gardening perspective, I’d definitely say look at Portland or Eugene or something.


Fellow Chicagoan here! I’m also very over our weather after this winter!

Having lived in New Orleans for several years, here’s my thoughts comparing the two:

  1. COL is similar to Chicago. While some things may be cheaper, salaries and wages are noticeably less. Also housing (both buying and renting) has gotten significantly more expensive in the last few years. Based on feedback from friends and my own research, I’d expect my housing to be the about the same % of income in NOLA as it is in Chicago. I live in Bucktown if that helps as a reference point.

  2. Transit in NOLA is a definite downgrade compared to Chicago. While there are buses, the routes are limited and mostly feed into downtown. Otherwise, most trips will require multiple transfers. They also don’t run as often or regularly.

  3. NOLA weather is no joke. The humidity is brutal and long lasting. Chicago’s humidity is nothing compared to NOLA’s.

  4. A lot of what I take for granted in Chicago doesn’t exist in NOLA. For instance, I broke my ankle a few weeks ago (again, very done with winter!) and being able to get necessities delivered w/out issue has been such a relief! I wouldn’t be able to do that as easily or at all in NOLA.

Little things like chain stores and stores with extended hours aren’t as common. Grocery store access is highly neighborhood dependent.

All that being said, I’d 100% move back if it made sense for me and think about it often. It’s an amazing city with amazing people!


Hi, @Nola212! How long have you been in Chicago? Why in hell did you move to Hoth?!? :wink: If you don’t mind me asking, what made you decide to leave?

So sorry about your ankle. That must be hard in this weather.

I so appreciate your thoughts! I had the impression that it was not much, if at all, cheaper to live there than here. I’m in Edgewater and I feel like I have a STEAL with my $1,500 2-bedroom. I also saw while there that the public transport was nothing at all like at home, which did not surprise me.

The first time I went, it was for a week in the middle of June and the temp was 97 degrees every single day with high humidity. I look like a sweaty limp rag in all of my photos. I STILL would take that any day over snow and ice and polar vortex. Lesser of two evils in my opinion, by far.

You raise a valid point re being able to get stuff delivered. That does not surprise me, and as I mentioned upthread, I about fell over in shock when I could not buy Advil at 10 p.m. on a Saturday anywhere. I take it they haven’t yet gotten Instacart or Grubhub or similar? Honestly, we don’t get stuff delivered that often. Did Instacart a couple times during the polar vortex for obvious reasons. I feel like we get stuff delivered because it’s too cold or snowy to go out, which would not be a thing there.

I also think that there are a million “oh… they don’t have that here?” things that will come up anywhere we move to, because we are certain to be heading to a smaller city. I don’t see how I’m going to avoid that unless we moved to, like, NYC, which, nope, snow! :smiley:

Another data point: I asked Boyfriend last night “if money and ability to get a job were not concerns, what warm place would you want to move to?” He immediately said New Orleans. But, of course, money and job ARE concerns. Sigh. Stupid reality.


Re: careers you could transition to, have you considered academic administration? Lots of research units and departments have their own newsletters and other media and often want people with experience with desktop publishing.

It isn’t cheap housing wise but I LOVED San Diego when we visited recently. Can’t beat the weather. And since you can be outside much of the year maybe a smaller living space is doable


Hmm, no, I can’t say that I have! I think I assumed all of those publications would be handled by freelancers rather than staff. That’s how my alma mater’s alumni magazine is done (I used to freelance for it for a while after I graduated). But, certainly something to look into.