NYC tops U.S. list of most expensive cities

It’s not exactly shocking to see that New York City is the most expensive city in the United States. Groceries, gasoline and other items tend to run a tad more than twice the national average. Whether you rent or buy, you’ll spend a fortune in this city, where the average price for a home is $1.1 million and an apartment, on average, will cost $3,400 a month.

So, how can so many bloggers live here? Remember: these are averages. That means someone has to be on the underside of them.

Housing prices were also among the reasons why San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. worked their way into top spots on the list. Average home prices shot past $600,000 in all four of these cities. In Austin, the average home price is a much more modest $226,998, and it’s even more comfortable in Nashville, at $201,020.

The measure used to determine the cost of leaving in each of the cities is based on expenses in six categories: groceries, housing (rent/mortgage), healthcare, utilities, transportation and miscellaneous items. The prices of 57 goods in these categories were used.Six of the most expensive cities in the country are in California, with four of them among the top 10. Texas has four – Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. Most of the costliest cities are on the two coasts, though Chicago (14), Las Vegas (18), Phoenix (25) and St. Louis (35) made the top 40.

The most surprising appearance on the list of most expensive places to live is Detroit. Even though it’s plagued by unemployment of 16.7 percent, utilities are expensive. Electricity costs an average of $243.56 a month, compared to a mere $141.64 in Atlanta.

The ten most expensive cities on the list are:

  1. New York City
  2. San Francisco
  3. San Jose
  4. Los Angeles
  5. Washington DC
  6. San Diego
  7. Boston
  8. Philadeplhia
  9. Seattle
  10. Baltimore

Check out the full list here.



[Photo via MigrantBlogger]

New “most expensive” cities list names Tokyo in top spot

The results for Mercer’s 2009 Cost of Living survey are out, and while there are some changes, most of the rankings for the most expensive cities are just about what you would expect. Moscow, Geneva, Zurich and Hong Kong are expensive (duh), as are Copenhagen, New York, Beijing and Singapore, which all took spots in the top ten. Japan took top (dis)honors with Tokyo and Osaka taking the number one and two spots, respectively. London dropped a whopping 13 spots to number 16.

Some big moves were made by Caracas, which shot up to number 15 from 89 last year, and Dubai, which jumped from the number 52 to number 20 spot. Several U.S. cities became significantly more expensive – at least, according to the rankings. Los Angeles moved from 55 to 23, White Plaines jumped from 89 to 31, San Francisco went from 78 to 34, Honolulu climbed from 77 to 41, and Miami rose from 75 to 45. My home city of Chicago rounded out the top 50 list (which has more than 50 cities on it because some are tied) as it moved up from being number 84 last year.

The survey takes into account the average cost of over 200 items in each city including food, housing, clothing, transportation, and entertainment. The survey compares 143 cities and uses New York, with a base score of 100, as the measuring stick. In the top spot with 143.7 points, Tokyo is nearly 1.5 times more expensive than New York.

The cheapest city? Johannesburg, South Africa, which replaced Asuncion in Paraguay.

Former costly cities like London and Seoul are now cheaper

Is there a good side to the world’s economic woes? Not if you are a stock trader or banker. But if you are an expat, living in one of the world’s major cities, there is an upside to the sad state of the global market. Example: London and Seoul, formerly two of the world’s costliest places for expats to reside, have become quite reasonably priced.

A year ago, Seoul was on par with Tokyo in terms of expense. If you needed imported goods (“gotta have my Corn Flakes”), Seoul was actually a more expensive place to live. A mere year later, expats in Korea have seen a 40% drop in prices. This is according to ECA International, a UK-based consulting firm that specializes in helping companies with the planning and logistics of sending employees to overseas offices.

London, once in ECA’s top ten most expensive cities list, has dropped to #72 because of Britain’s poor economic performance.

Who’s on top of the most expensive list? Japanese cities still dominate. Surprisingly, some African cities are expensive for expats because of the high price of imported goods. In fact, Luanda, Angola is the world’s most expensive place for expats, according to ECA.

[more about the ECA survey]

Mexico Named Best Place To Retire

Been to Mexico? I have a few times and I love it. It’s not just the hot weather and the gorgeous beaches — Mexico is a really friendly, vibrant place with a lot of energy and culture. At least what I’ve seen of it. Anyway, I digress. The point of this post is to write about how Mexico was named the best place to retire by an annual retirement index in International Living magazine. It used to be that Panama held this coveted title, but housing prices have since sky-rocketed — I hope this doesn’t happen to Mexico too!

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Check out our Travel Guide for Mexico. Not interested in Mexico? Learn more about Australia or South Africa.

What are some other great places to retire? Ecuador, Italy, Australia, Malta, Spain, South Africa, Malaysia, France and Thailand all made the list. The US came in at #19, while the UK ranked at the very bottom.

I couldn’t find a copy of the whole list — I wonder if my native Canada made the cut? There are definitely some retirement-worthy places here too. But given the choice between Mexico and the prairie winters, you know which one I’m going with.

(Of course, there are plenty of great places in the U.S. to retire. Check out Money & Finance’s great retirement spots in the U.S. and decide if any of them are for you.)


Big in Japan: The Myth About Money (Part II)

So, two days ago I wrote about the Myth of Money, namely that Japan was surprisingly more affordable than you’d imagine. Needless to say, it’s hard to convince people that Japan is actually a budget-friendly destination, especially since most of us have heard crazy stories of excessive displays of wealth, such as those infamous $500 fruit boxes.

(Truth be told, they do exist – I snapped this photo of perfect melons at a luxury grocery store in Ginza, the most exclusive shopping district in Tokyo).

Of course, unless you have a pressing business engagement, or you’re trying to impress a girl with some serious bling (melons are a girl’s best friend), you shop at the local hundred yen shop (百円屋; hyaku-en-ya) like the rest of us poor working stiffs. The rough equivalent of dollar stores in North America, your local ¥100 shop carries everything from seasonal produce and budget cuts of meat to cleaning products and pet food. They’re found in virtually every neighborhood in Tokyo including Ginza (even rich people love a good bargain), and help lower the price of urban living.

Still not convinced that Japan is affordable? You guys are one tough audience!

Well, the most important thing for foreigners to know about before considering a move to Japan is what is known as a Gaijin House (外人ハウス; gaijin-hausu). Funny thing about that word gaijin – it’s actually a derogatory word used for foreigners (literally it means outsider). Of course, that hasn’t stopped us gaijin from claiming the word for ourselves, and much to the amusement of the Japanese, the word gaijin is tossed around with an air of pride, regardless of how offensive it may be.

Essentially, a gaijin house is a shared house or apartment, similar perhaps to your college dormitory, where internationals (and a few in the know Japanese people) can rent a cheap room by the month. Gaijin houses run the gamut from hundred-year old traditional Japanese buildings with tatami mats and sliding rice-paper doors to institutional concrete prisons with flickering fluorescent lights and sheet rock walls. But, they’re nearly always affordable, great places to socialize and a quintessential part of the Japanese ex-pat experience.

(Next week, I’ll be writing a piece on apartment hunting in Tokyo, which should hopefully illuminate the process of finding a room in the world’s largest megalopolis).

Finally, Japan is affordable in that it arguably has the world’s most efficient and comprehensive public transportation system. To be fair, intercity travel in Japan is very expensive, and you can expect to pay upwards of around $250 for a two-hour roundtrip bullet train between Tokyo and Kyoto. But, it costs no more than $2-3 dollars to cross the whole of Tokyo on the subway, and you’re never more than a few minutes from a station. With that said, making head and tails of the insanely complex train system is something of a rite of passage for new arrivals.

Cheap it may be, but even Japanese get lost in grid sometimes!

Well, after two columns of raving and ranting about the myth of money, I hope that I’ve at least won a few converts out there. However, if you still don’t believe me that Japan is an affordable destination, enjoy your trip to London, and let me know how those $18 Happy Meals taste!