"When I was your age, a movie ticket cost 25¢. And for that, I got a cartoon, a movie, popcorn, and a one-legged midget to drive me home. How do you crazy kids afford anything these days?"
Get out of the Stone Age (a.k.a. "1980"), Gramps - life is growing more and more expensive. The cost of living in a big city is rising, thanks to a booming economy and the NASDAQ's tip-top rise. Most of these cost-of-living increases are manageable, but there are 10 U.S. cities that have grown wildly expensive. Our list below is of the ten most expensive cities to live in. If you don't see your hometown on the list but still see yourself paying $10 for a hot dog, don't get too confused. Various criteria go into compiling a list like this (including rent prices, the cost of food, the cost of keeping a car, gas prices, and whether the local economy is doing well).
By the way, if you're into that whole "All you need is a dollar and a dream" bit, you'll be fine in any of these cities. Just plan on a whole lotta rice and beans.
Note: These rankings are taken from the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association. Each city is followed by a number that indicates how much more expensive the cost-of-living is in that city as compared to the national average. So if you make, say, $100,000 per year in the average U.S. city, you'd need to make $116,000 in Seattle (indicated as 1 - 1.16) and $142,000 in Boston (1 - 1.42) to live the same lifestyle.
1. Cities 10 - 810. Seattle, WA
1 - 1.16
The city of Microsoft. Why is the city so expensive? Did everyone jack up their prices, figuring that Bill Gates would foot the bill? (Save his barber, that is.) The reason is that Seattle is the headquarters of many other companies, including Starbucks and Boeing.
This is all fine and dandy for the folks who get to enjoy the city Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan made famous. Seattle has a booming culture, is the center of new music sounds (remember grunge?), gorgeous scenery, and tons of rain. Open-air markets, coffee shops, and a laid-back attitude are key.
The super-expensive coffee chain idea started in Seattle's own Pike Market (where you can catch a free bus ride home). Good thing, since you may spend $15 on lunch before arriving at your $900/month downtown apartment.
9. Ann Arbor, MI
1 - 1.21
Just west of Detroit, Ann Arbor's small-town charm wraps around the historic streets and country roads that give way to ample museums, stores, and changing venues to satisfy any cultural aficionado's taste for the finest.
All roads in Ann Arbor lead to the world-renowned University of Michigan. One-third of the city's adults work for UMich, and the school gives the town its unique flavor (not to mention its money and its population). Save some money before you soak up some school spirit, though; UMich apparel even comes in a Tommy Hilfiger line, with sweatshirts at $60 each.
While the cost of most items are way about above the national average (food, clothing, knick knacks), over 25% of the city does earn at least $50K, and housing costs here are lower than the national average.
8. Fairbanks, AK
1 - 1.27
Fairbanks holds an annual Felix Pedro look-alike contest. Who? In 1902, Pedro struck gold in Alaska. Lucky for him, a supplier named E.T. Barnette had a little boat mishap, and was stuck onshore with nothing to do but finance Pedro. By 1904 there was a gold rush stampede to Fairbanks, and E.T.'s trading post grew into a small town, and then a bustling city. Starting in the 1920s, prospectors found a whole lotta gold in Fairbanks. And the current residents are paying for it.
The Gold Rush days may have ended, but the city still searches in modern mines. And, it honors the good ol' days with museums, parades and tours dedicated to that which glitters. You can even visit the state's largest public display of gold at the U of AK Fairbanks Museum, for a bargain at a $5 entrance fee. The rest of the city is pretty pricey, though. It's tough to ship a lot of "necessities" up to Alaska, making the prices higher.