People keep mentioning that life is a lot cheaper in a small town in the Midwest than in a big city on the East Coast. As somebody who has lived in the Midwest, on the East Coast, in small towns, in big cities, and in really tiny towns, I can say that the issue is a lot more complicated than it seems at a first glance.
The housing (I’m only talking about renting since I’m ideologically opposed to mortgages of any kind) is, indeed cheaper in the Midwest. The choices, however, are quite limited. In Baltimore, we paid $1o0 less for our apartment than we pay for the one we have here in the Midwest. It was significantly smaller, but it was absolutely beautiful. It had a huge antique mirror on the wall and a real fireplace. Imagine having a real fireplace right in downtown Baltimore.
The utilities were cheaper on the East Coast and their quality was significantly better (I’m talking about the Internet, television, and telephone.)
Public transportation is cheaper in our tiny Midwestern town.
The food, though, is a lot more expensive in the Midwest. Of course, I don’t eat junk. I eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables and fresh meats and fish. The prices for this stuff are ruinous in a small Midwestern town. In a town in Oklahoma where I was offered a job, you needed to drive for 75 miles to get to the closest grocery store. Mind you, not an organic grocery store, or anything fancy like that. Just a regular grocery store. Within the town itself, there were convenience stores that sell the kind of junk I could not imagine eating. TV dinners and frozen pizzas, chips and chocolate bars. Bleh. So I refused the job.
In a big city (or even in a small town) on the East Coast, you can easily live without a car. And a car is a total money-guzzler. Here, you even need a car to go to a dollar store, which, of course, makes the entire concept of a dollar store moot.
And how about clothes? In New York, Montreal, Baltimore, etc. you can buy absolutely amazing clothes in all sizes very cheaply at Century 21 or its equivalent. I just bought two pairs of pants for something like $20 and $25 in Montreal and they look amazing. Here, however, clothes are supremely ugly and expensive. I have scoured the Metro St. Louis area for stores with passable clothes and have found nothing. This means that you have to travel far away to buy good clothes if you live where I do.
And books? Big cities (and even small towns) on the East Coast are teeming with used book stores. Here, there are none.
Now let’s think about people who have children. In a big city, there is a bizillion activities you can do with a child absolutely for free. Santa Claus parades, festivals, museums, galleries. Here, there is nothing. I have no idea what is it that people do with their kids in order to have a good time and help them develop intellectually. They can’t even go for walks because there is nowhere to walk.
This brings us to yet another added expense of life in a small Midwestern town. If there is nowhere to walk, you’ve either got to join a gym (expensive) or start frequenting doctors (insanely expensive).
Any kind of entertainment is located far away and is expensive in our area. In a big city on the East Coast, though, you could spend hours each day enriching yourself culturally for no money at all.
So I have to conclude that life in the Midwest is only cheaper if you are willing to eat garbage, wear horrible ugly clothes, read no books, drive everywhere, only exercise in the horrible perversion of humanity called the gym, and spend all your free time vegging out in front of the TV.
The healthy, cultured, intellectual lifestyles that even poor people can enjoy in a big city on the East Coast, however, are only accessible to quite wealthy folks in small Midwestern towns.