It’s Cheaper to Raise a Family in the Suburbs… Right? Not So Fast

City vs Suburbs
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Life in the city can be electric. The hum of the energy. Being mesmerized by all the lights, sounds and smells.

Well, maybe not the smells, unless you’re talking about haute cuisine from celebrity-chef-run restaurants where you have to book reservations months in advance.

But what do I know? I may adore visiting the city, but I’m a suburban girl all the way. Personally, I don’t know if I can deal with the fast pace and congestion 24/7.

When you’re a parent deciding where to raise your family, personal preferences definitely come into play — but so does cost of living, which includes factoring in child care expenses.

Focusing exclusively on the financial burdens of child care and housing, and Zillow teamed up to release their 2017 Cost of Living Report. They found out it’s about $9,073 more expensive each year, on average, for a U.S. family to live in the city as opposed to the suburbs.

Here’s the caveat: The study factored in only mortgages and property taxes for the housing expenses component and based the child care cost component on full-time care for two children. So, if your family rents and has only one child, or has school-aged children attending public school all day, your financial situation might not ring true with these results.

Picket Fences and Fuller Pocketbooks

The study found the cost of city living in some metro areas is drastically more expensive, like New Yorkers who pay $71,237 a year more to live in the heart of the action. Chicagoans in the urban core pay $18,472 more than their suburban dwellers.

Here are 13 other metro areas where suburban living is more affordable, and how much families save each year by living on the outskirts:

  • Dallas — $14,128
  • Washington, D.C. — $12,832
  • San Francisco — $12,560
  • Atlanta — $12,557
  • Austin — $11,522
  • Seattle — $11,376
  • Sacramento — $10,822
  • Boston — $8,076
  • Portland (Oregon) — $7,998
  • Houston — $5,368
  • Minneapolis — $3,930
  • Miami — $1,943
  • Birmingham — $696

The study also looked at the median square footage of homes, and it comes as no surprise that homeowners in the suburbs have more space than their urban counterparts — a nationwide average of 279 square feet more.

Don’t Pack Up for the ‘Burbs Just Yet

Though urban living is generally more costly, that doesn’t mean all cities are more expensive than the suburbs.

In Philadelphia, the study found it is $13,849 cheaper each year to live in the city than the ‘burbs. Families living in Baltimore save $10,790 a year on housing and child care costs by living in the city versus the suburbs.

Here are 13 additional locations where cost of living is more favorable in the city, and how much urban dwellers save each year over their suburban counterparts:

  • Cleveland — $9,034
  • Milwaukee — $8,227
  • Las Vegas — $7,318
  • Providence (Rhode Island) — $6,974
  • Phoenix — $6,567
  • Cincinnati — $5,514
  • San Diego — $4,555
  • Pittsburgh — $4,258
  • Denver — $3,635
  • San Antonio — $2,474
  • San Jose (California) — $1,628
  • New Orleans — $836
  • Los Angeles — $407

Ways to Save

While housing and child care typically take out a big chunk of families’ budgets, there are always ways to lower those costs.

You might consider unique housing options, like this family of four who lives in a tiny home. Instead of living in or around a major metropolitan area, you may find a lower cost of living in a small town.

It’s hard to avoid child care costs for working parents, but there may be more affordable options than full-time enrollment at a child care center — which is what this survey used to calculate that expense. I’m fortunate enough — and extremely grateful — to have my mother watch my daughter for free while I work.

Some jobs will even help to subsidize the cost of child care. These 11 companies make it a little easier for employees needing care for their little ones during the workday.

Your Turn: Is it more cost-efficient for your family to live in the city or the suburbs?

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She is shamelessly Team Suburbs, though she enjoys visiting big cities.