From New York to Arkansas: Dan's Story
Welcome to Saving Money with Andrew!
Dan is a great friend with a story to tell. During the pandemic, he and his family moved from New York all the way to Northwest Arkansas. We caught up recently, and Dan shared his fascinating story and some great tips for those considering moving to a completely different part of the country:
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family
My wife and I both grew up in suburbs in the Northeast. We're professionals and have three children. Our family is pretty focused on two things: our careers and our childrens’ education. Both were huge factors in determining whether and where we were going to move.
Tell us about your move
During the pandemic, my wife's job became fully remote. My job was not, and even worse, it rapidly became clear to me that I was at a dead end.
For the seven years before our move, we lived just outside of New York City, but surprisingly given my line of work, there weren't that many opportunities in the NY metro area. Also, while NY was familiar to both of us the cost of living, traffic, and some other things weren’t very appealing to us. So we decided we had to move, but weren’t sure where.
After several months, I found an opportunity in Northwest Arkansas. It took some time for us to get used to it, but after researching the area, we decided to take the plunge and make our move.
How did you research the new area?
First, we looked at primary school rankings. We also made sure there were adequate grocery stores and restaurants in the area, as well as plenty of fun activities for our young children.
Also, we researched housing on Zillow and through a friend from school who lived in the area who was a great resource.
We also did some basic research on the difference in cost of living. We started with the calculator at NerdWallet, though it really only gives you a rough idea of costs--your mileage is going to vary.
How did the cost of living differ in the new area versus where you were coming from?
We knew from our Zillow research that housing costs would be much lower than in New York, where home prices are very high and property taxes often run as much as 2% of home value. Ultimately, we found a house 2.5x bigger than our NY house, for a price 30% lower than our house in New York, and with a monthly payment less than half what we were paying in New York.
Another big difference was childcare. We are willing to spend a lot for quality childcare, which cost nearly $60,000 a year in New York for our kids. In Arkansas? About $15,000 for roughly the same quality.
More affordable housing and childcare substantially improved our family's finances. I don't think I appreciated how much stress our New York-sized costs put on me until I saw the alternative.
Also, gas (and therefore energy) is also less expensive here. Food is more difficult to measure. We spend less, but the quality is worse (especially produce). I'd say it's probably a wash, though it's tough to tell.
That's not to say that everything is cheaper. Services can sometimes be substantially more expensive; we were quoted the same amount to paint two rooms in Arkansas as we were quoted to paint our entire house in New York. Oddly, dry cleaning is more expensive in Arkansas than New York—about 2-3 times as much. I guess there's more competition in New York?
Did anything surprise you about Arkansas? Were you happy with the move?
Far and away the biggest surprise was the difference in everyday interactions. Strangers here are very friendly and happy to talk and chat. People in New York? A lot less so. I'm certainly used to people in the Northeast, so I don't really mind either way. But it takes some getting used to for sure.
Do you read Saving Money with Andrew? Have you successfully implemented any other Saving Money with Andrew tips? Do you have a favorite post?
My wife and I both read Saving Money with Andrew religiously. We've successfully implemented several of your tips. Far and away the most valuable was choosing a higher deductible on our home insurance, which saved us several hundreds of dollars each month, totaling thousands of dollars in the months since we've moved.
I also have made sure to negotiate our yearly subscriptions (for us, the Wall Street Journal, SiriusXM for two cars). Most recently, I saved money on Christmas presents by checking for online coupons on RetailMeNot.
Asking me to pick a favorite SMwA would be like asking me to pick a favorite child, but those were among the more helpful posts.
Are there any words of wisdom or other money-saving tips you'd like to share with the Saving Money with Andrew readership?
Learn how to cook! Too many Millennials don't cook or hardly cook. And who can blame them? With UberEats and other similar apps, getting restaurant food has never been easier.
Sometimes when my wife and I are busy, we'll succumb to the temptations of easy ordering, and the cost is exorbitant—4-5 times more than if we'd just gotten simple food at the grocery store. Start with easy-to-learn recipes and go from there!
And now, Andrew’s pick(s) of the week:
I’m in awe of Renee, the subject of Like The Show “48 Hours” Except A Lot More Hours (24 minute listen from This American Life). Renee has her food stamp benefits stolen by thieves who hack her info to buy baby formula for resale on the black market. The government and police are mostly unhelpful, so Renee decides to investigate it herself. Her tenacity is incredible.
Also, I’ve previously recommended The Durrells (free on Prime Video), which is terrific and fun—we’re rewatching it right now. And last week, I read My Family and Other Animals, the first book of the Corfu Trilogy from which the series was adapted. It’s a great, funny, and relaxing read, and I highly recommend it.
Everyone Wants Your Email Address. Think Twice Before Sharing It.
Who Goes First on Your Joint Tax Return? Probably Not the Woman.
I hope this has been helpful. If you liked it, please share it on social media! Also, please send me your feedback, requests, and success stories.