We really want to make relocating a reality at some point, so I'm trying to get a "real" idea of the cost of living in the MB area. I live near Boston, generally considered one of the most expensive areas in the country, especially for housing. I ordered the information a while back from the MB Chamber of Commerce that gave an idea of the difference in cost of living, but I have a feeling on paper cost of living might be lower than what it actually costs to get by day in day out. So when I read we could get by on 40% less than what we need to live up here, I'm skeptical.
The myth is that even though cost of living is higher in the Boston area, salaries are higher too. Not true, especially in these economic times. And I know, I know, MB is heavily driven by tourism and there aren't a lot of "professional" jobs (although I tend to think that there have to be some, or at least in better economic times there were and might be again). I work from home, so my job is currently portable, and I know my husband would happily take a hit on his current salary for the benefit of living somewhere without winter blizzards :) Of course we know we can't move right away, and the current job market is the biggest factor.
The biggest expense in most people's lives is housing, and there MB is considerably lower. We met with a realtor in the area last time we were down, and couldn't believe what we were seeing. Houses that the realtor was describing as "expensive" at $350,000 would cost upwards of $750,000 in our area! And those are much bigger houses than we would even need. We looked at some beautiful 2 - 3 bedroom homes in nice neighborhoods that were under $200,000 - absolutely unheard of where we live. If you go to the worst parts of the city of Boston, overrun with gangs and crime, you can't buy a 3 room shack for less than $200,000, still, even after the real estate market crumbled. And we were stunned to see that in MB we could rent a condo as big or bigger than the townhouse we currently own up here for under $1000 in some cases. And our HOA fee up here only covers insurance, trash removal and some pretty limited landscaping. Some of the places we saw down there, for only a little bit more per month, covered all that and also utilities, which I think is great. A few even covered cable TV and phone.
I perused the grocery store last time I was in MB, and there are a lot of items that are slightly or even a lot cheaper, many that are around the same, but nothing more expensive than in Boston. And I think I read that some utilities such as electricity are much less than in Boston, but you can never be sure if the information is accurate.
Other expenses don't seem to be as low as one would think. I read a post on these boards recently with links to the top 5 hair salons in the area, and to be honest the prices were even higher than what I pay at my salon here in the Boston area, which is one of the top rated salons. Clothing, shoes, things like that seem to be in the same ballpark. Except at the nicer, more upscale restaurants, eating out is definitely a lot cheaper in MB, that's for sure. And the cost to golf on the nicest courses there is still far less than up here.
So while I know we'd save on the biggest expense, our mortgage (or rent, which we decide), I'm wondering if any locals can give an idea (just ballpark is fine) on the living expenses that add up. What do you pay on average for things like water, electricity, gas, homeowners insurance, car insurance?
We don't need much. We don't need a massive house and all kinds of material things. We don't go out a lot or buy lots of things. Just trying to decide how much we need to live a comfortable, quiet existence.