misc. stuff

Us Midwestern Folks Are Living The Good (Cheap?) Life

I always knew that living in the Midwest was cheap, but ever since I started lurking the Personal Finance blogosphere, I’ve realized just how good I have it.

On my post about frugal & healthy food items, several of you commented that you could never find the prices that I listed where YOU live.

So, this got me to thinking…just how good do I have it here in Kansas City?

So I wanna know: how do our expenses compare from coast to coast?

Here are some of my normal fixed expenses along with a few “fun” expenses thrown in for good measure:

  • Rent for 2 bedroom/2 bath 1300 sq. foot apartment: $764/month
  • Gym Membership: $130/year
  • Unleaded Gas: $2.53/gallon
  • 1 Tall Caramel Latte at Starbucks: $3.50
  • Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: ~$30.00
  • 1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $9.00
  • 1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $5.00

**READERS: Please leave a comment with YOUR financial stats!  Don’t forget to include the city/region that you live in!  You don’t have to include prices for everything I listed – feel free to pick and choose.

I can’t wait to see how much each of you pay for different things!  I can do a follow-up post with the most expensive and cheapest areas of the country (I’ll be sure to include any readers from other countries, I could never forget you 🙂 ).

UPDATE:  Kansas City folks, feel free to chime in as well!

P.S. What is this called?  I know there’s a name for the price fluctuations across the country…regional inflation?

Photo credit: Free World Maps


  • Cool idea! I live in the DC area (Alexandria, VA), and here’s what I pay:
    Rent (500 sq. ft. studio, no dishwasher, disposal, etc.) – $959
    Gym membership – The cheapest I could ever find was $40 per month
    Unleaded gas – $2.71/gallon
    One adult movie ticket – $11.00

    Housing is just outrageous here. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I paid $850/month for a two bedroom place with CENTRAL AIR in the nicest neighborhood in the city. Another thing that’s killer in this area is car insurance rates; VA isn’t too bad, but people in Maryland pay some of the highest rates in the country. Also, they tax unprepared food and clothes here. Coming from PA, that was a huge shock when I moved here.

  • Hoooo boy! You DO have it cheap! I need to move to Kansas!

    Here’s my breakout for Toronto, Ontario:

    Rent (2 bedroom apt in an old Victorian house, hydro, water, heat included): $1300/mo
    Gym membership: $68/month is what I pay :S ($816/yr)
    Gas is about $1.02/litre. Not sure what that is in gallons
    Latte: I have no idea. Probably closer to $4-5 though
    1 Adult movie ticket (anytime): $12.50

    You have to keep in mind though that I live in a major metropolitan city, so things are much more expensive here than if I lived even just an hour away.

    I also live in a really nice neighbourhood. We’re actually getting a steal on our apartment, and my roomie and I split the rent 50/50, so I actually only pay $650/mo.

  • I live in Indiana (bleh)

    Rent for 1 bedroom/1 bath 750 sq. foot apartment: $695/month (2bd/2ba 1100 sq foot for $850)
    Gym Membership: $240/year
    Unleaded Gas: $2.64/gallon
    1 Venti Chai at Starbucks: $3.80
    Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: ~$30.00
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $10.00
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $8.00

    All in all, my living expenses are actually the same in Indiana as they were when I lived in San Diego – WITH THE EXCEPTION that my rent was $675/month to SHARE a 2 bedroom apartment (so $1350/month for an 900 sq foot 2 bed/2ba apartment). But everything else (at least in the city I live in) is comparable to what I paid in San Diego. However, the city up the road (about 20 miles) has gas for 15cents cheaper. So I usually get gas there on my way out of town. =)

    (For you Canadians/Americans needing the conversion: there are roughly 3.79 litres in 1 gallon, so if you multiply your price by 3.79, that is how much you’re paying per gallon – so Ginger is paying $3.86/gallon – granted that is Canadian dollars… if we put that into American dollars at the conversion rate of 1.06 Canadian dollars to 1 American dollar (this is the rate for Nov 4th)… it is really $3.63 american dollars per gallon – WOW, I AM a HUGE nerd!)

  • I lived in the midwest for most of my life, but now I live in Los Angeles

    * Rent for 1 bedroom/1 bath 700 sq. foot apartment: $1600/mo (granted we are EXTREMELY close to the beach in a great area, could probably find something for $1000 inland a bit.)
    * Gym Membership: Too expensive! Apparently a decent gym is at least $70/mo. The 25/mo gyms are very crowded/overused
    * Unleaded Gas: 3.09/gallon (or so)
    * 1 Tall Caramel Latte at Starbucks: ?
    * Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: Included in rent.
    * 1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $12?
    * 1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): ?

    Uh, yeah, we don’t go to the movies anymore. 🙂 But..

    Trip to the ocean: $0 😉

  • I live in Chico, California…

    * Rent for 3 bedroom/2.5 bath 1100 sq. foot apartment: $1,099/month
    * Unleaded Gas: $2.85/gallon
    * Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: included in rent
    * 1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $8.50
    * 1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $8.00

    Very interesting post!

  • I am in awe of your rent.

    Sometimes I wonder how much living in California is really worth it to me. Is it worth paying almost $1,000 a month for a (lovely, admittedly) studio when I can get a place for half the price somewhere in the Midwest?

    The weird thing is, I think I’d prefer growing up in a high cost of living area because then everything else will be a “good” kind of price shock.

    When I went to Texas, I was STUNNED at how cheap a gorgeous 1-bedroom downtown apartment was. When I went to NYC, I was appalled at what constituted a “room”. It would be very difficult for me to move to NYC because of the living costs, but I think going to Texas, at least in terms of costs, would be a much better transition.

    I asked my boyfriend if he would ever consider living in Texas, and while I’ve always been a California gal, I think the super low cost of living (compared to CA) will make me consider living in Texas for at least a few years.

    And, I think one of the benefits of living in a major metropolitan area is the amazing diversity in terms of people, food, entertainment options, industry, etc. I really take it for granted sometimes.

    Sorry for this super long comment!

    • My entire extended family is from Texas and I love it there. I love HOT weather, so I would LOVE to live there. And yeah, you’re right, the cost of living is still pretty cheap, too. I’m still trying to convince Lloyd that we should move there eventually….he doesn’t seem interested yet. 🙂

  • This kind of depresses me… I want to live somewhere cheap! I’m in Washington DC like TeacHer. Here are he stats where I live:

    Rent: $1350 for 2 bed/1 bath and no dishwasher or laundry (boo)
    Gym Membership: $30/month after a $200 start-up fee
    Unleaded Gas: $2.65 I found the other day
    Adult movie ticket: $10.50

    I guess that’s the cost of living in a big city though. I will probably move back South eventually where the prices are much more reasonable!

  • Wow.

    Rent: $790 — Studio apartment in a really pricey area of Montreal
    Gym: Free. Included in rent
    Gas: $1.19/L x 2.2 for gallons conversion it’s $2.61/Gallon
    Water/Sewage: Free (not incl. in rent, is free for residents)
    Starbucks: $4.50 I guess? We’re Canadian.
    Movie ticket: I have no clue, I hate going to the cinema

  • Oh I am in Canada. Quebec.

    Gas change from 3.79 conversion as per SS4BC = $4.51/Gallon

    Other indicators for meat and produce are good ways to see what life costs in different areas

    We pay $3.99/lb for tomatoes (not me, but “we” collectively), which is that 2.2 conversion (oops!)

    $3.99 x 2.2 = $8.78 / kilogram

    Food is better & cheaper in Ontario.

  • Ok well i live in ontario canada, so mine are in Canadian dollars:

    Rent: I pay rent to my parents but for your apartment in my city it would probably be atleast $1000 or more a month
    Gym membership: about $400 a year
    Unleaded Gas: about 95 cents per liter
    1 Tall Caramel Latte at Starbucks: $3.50 (about the same)
    Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: I live with parents so no idea, probably more than that though.
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $9.50
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $9.50 (you dont get a discount for weekdays, only on tues it is half price).

  • I live in rural Ontario Canada

    Rent for 3bedroom/1 bath $1200 (splitting with two roomates so only $400/mon)
    Gym Membership: $$378/year
    Unleaded Gas: $3.63/gallon
    1 Venti Chai at Starbucks: $not sure don’t drink coffee
    Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: inculded in rent
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $9.95
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $9.95 (except for tuesday $4.20)

    Rent is so high for the rural area because there is a University and College in the town.

  • Rent for 2 bedroom/2 bath 1300 sq. foot apartment: $1980/month (EEK!)
    Gym Membership: $360/year (for a cheapo gym)
    Unleaded Gas: $2.95/gallon (I paid that yesterday. it’s usually higher)
    Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: ~$60.00
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $14.00
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $14.00

  • No New Yorkers yet? Well, I guess I’ll speak up for us then:

    Mind you, I live at home with my parents, so I’m actually pulling these numbers from friends that live on their own.

    Rent for 2 bedroom/2 bath 1300 sq. foot apartment: $1500/month (I’m not sure if the square footage is the same, but I’m going to go with not.)

    Gym Membership: It depends where you go, but in the city you could pay like $65-$80/month so, $720-960/year!

    Unleaded Gas: $2.70/gallon (same)

    1 Tall Caramel Latte at Starbucks: $3.50 (same)

    Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: …(not sure)

    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $13.00

    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $13.00 (very few places have matinees/deals…)

    • Wow, Investing Newbie–your friend’s rent is super cheap. Have they been in their apartment for a while?

      My cost of living in Astoria, Queens:

      Rent: 500 sq ft 1BR/1Bath apartment $1375 (and this is a great deal–elevator building, laundry in the basement, live-in super, 20 minutes to midtown)
      Gym Membership: cheapest I’ve seen is $60 a month
      Unleaded Gas: $3.49 a gallon when I filled up a rental car a few weeks ago (monthly unlimited subway/bus pass is $89)
      Starbucks tall caramel latte: $4.50
      Water & Sewage: Included in rent. Electricity/Gas is around $85.
      Adult Movie Ticket: $12.50, no matinee prices. That’s why we get our tickets from Costco for $14.99/pair.

      My boyfriend’s previous apartment was 2 BR/2Bath 800 sq ft was $1800 and was a twenty minute walk from the train.

  • Houston, TX

    3 bedroom/2 bath 1800 sq. foot home: $900/month
    Gym Membership: $360/year
    Unleaded Gas: $2.45/gallon
    Starbucks: $4.50
    Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: $30.00 – $45.00 (depending on season)
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $9.00

    Living in the best state ever: Priceless! 🙂

  • Am I the only person that read that and wondered why you were using an Adult Movie ticket as an example. The term adult movie in the UK brings about all sorts of imagining!! Interesting post!!

  • This a great post idea! I live in Atlanta, GA (in Buckhead). The prices are really reasonable here- I used to live in Philadelphia. The prices were similar, but everything was much older. I lived in an outdated row home and the rent was similar to what I’m paying now for a newer, updated apartment.

    Rent for updated 2 bedroom/2 bath, 1150 sq. foot apartment: $1180/mth
    Gym Membership: $480/year
    Unleaded Gas: $2.59/gallon
    1 Tall Caramel Latte at Starbucks: $3.50
    Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: ~$55.00 (Water prices in Atlanta have gotten really high! THey still blame the drought, but that is long over.)
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $10.00
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $6.00 (some theatres are $10.00)

  • I live in St. Louis and I pay $465/month for a nice-size, beautiful circa 1950s one-bedroom, with laundry facilities in basement. (Not sure about the square footage.) Gas is about $2.53/gallon right now. Beers can be had (at cool places, even) for as little as $2, and mixed drinks at the bar BF and I frequent the most are a mere $3.50 each (for a large glass, too). 1 Adult Movie Ticket: $9. Gym membership: $0 (too self-conscious to work out in front of others; I either walk outside or do workout DVDs at home). Utilities, even in winter, are always $100 a month or less.

    When I was in college in the South (where I grew up), my college BF and I rented a 2bdrm HOUSE, with backyard and upstairs, for $190/month. I still can’t believe that. Granted, that was 11 years ago, but still…even then, that was crazy cheap. If only I could find a similar situation now!

    BF and I are seriously thinking of moving to CA at some point, but we will need some time to get used to paying over 1K a month in rent! Although, it seems that if you share the costs, it wouldn’t be as bad.

  • I would love to live somewhere cheaper! My stats for San Diego, CA:

    Rent for a 3bed/2.5 bath townhouse w/ dishwasher/laundry/2-car garage in unit: $2,600/month (My share is $815. We live in one of the nicest/safest/most walkable areas of the city.)

    Gym Membership: $30/month (I pay $12/month because I got my 24 Hour Fitness membership from Costco & paid $300 up-front for 2 years.)

    Starbucks: $3.90

    Unleaded Gas: $2.93/gal (at the cheap gas station)

    Monthly Water/Sewage: Included in rent

    1 Adult Movie Ticket (after 4pm): $10.50

    1 Adult Movie Ticket (matinee): $8.50

  • I live in Coastal GA currently but previously live in Omaha, NE. I miss Midwest living!

    1 bedroom 770 sq ft apartment is $800-1000
    Gym Membership: 41.00/month
    Starbucks: about 4.00 depends on what latte combination you get.
    Unleaded gas: 2.60/gal
    1 Movie ticket: 10.00

    The thing that amazes me here is the cost of electricity! It’s also ridiculous to get a deal on a flight here.

  • Hi Carrie–I’ve been reading your blog for a little while, but I’ve never commented before. I like your site!

    Anyway, I had to chime in with some San Francisco figures:

    Rent for 1 bedroom/1 bath 700 sq. foot apartment: $1900/month, plus $200 additional for a parking space
    Gym Membership: $65/month
    Unleaded Gas: $3.20/gallon
    Monthly Electricity and Gas: ~$30.00
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $10.25
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $10.25
    Parking at parking meter in a busy area: $0.25 gives you 5 minutes
    Bridge toll for the Golden Gate Bridge: $6

    • Hi Cris! Thanks for commenting! That’s interesting about your parking prices…I guess that’s something I’ve never really thought about since I don’t pay for parking. I’ll have to stop complaining about not having a garage in the winter since I’m not shelling out any money for my parking spot. 🙂

  • I live in Boston, MA – of all these metrics, the price of gas in various areas surprised me the most!

    Rent for 2 bedroom/1 bath: $1700/month (split with roommate, so $850/month for me)
    Gym Membership: $80/month (all-women’s really really nice gym with lots of amenities – the cheapest gym I’ve seen around is $10/month)
    Unleaded Gas: $2.59/gallon
    Monthly Electricity and Gas: ~$60.00 (also split 50/50)
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): ~$10
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): ?

    I’d say Boston is not cheap, but having grown up in NYC, it is definitely much more affordable, while still offering the comforts of city living (public transit, parks, entertainment, etc.)

  • Hmmm. I pay $90 a week rent so that’s 360 a month (I share with BF; $180 for a couple per week is still cheap though). We are in a shared house. A onebedroom in Auckland would probably not be found for under $200 a week at the very lowest ($800 a month) and that would be grotty as! For something decent you’d be looking at more like $300 (so $1200). Gas is about $1.60 a litre at the mo, tall latte at Starbucks well over $5, movie tickets $15.

  • I live in Summerville, SC, a town about 20 miles from historic Charleston.

    My rent is $580 for a nice 1B/1Bath 779 Sq. ft apt in a big neighborhood 20 miles from downtown and 30 miles from the beach. It was normally $730, but they were running a special when I signed my lease.

    Just filled my tank up this morning @ $2.49/gal.

    Movie tickets are usually about $9.50.

  • I live in Calgary, Alberta so these are Canadian prices…

    Rent for 2 bedroom/2 bath 931 sq. ft condo at the edge of our city: $1350 (this includes condo fees, one parking stall, and all utilities except phone, cable and Internet)
    Gym Membership: When I had one it was $68 a month so that works out to $816 a year.. no wonder I quit.
    Unleaded Gas: Last I checked it was 94.9/litre which works out to $3.59 a gallon.
    1 Tall Caramel Latte at Starbucks: Around $3.75
    Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: Not too sure, it’s included in my rent.
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $12.50
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $12.50

  • Chicago stats since I didn’t see a Chicago response on there:

    * 2 bedroom apt; $2,100/month
    * Gym Membership: included in rent
    * Unleaded Gas: $2.65/gal
    * 1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $11
    * 1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $9.50-10

  • Here is another Chicago. I paid $1300 for a two bedroom… not $2200? I used to see rent from $1300-2100 for two bedrooms, depends on size, quality and area. Lakeview area was $1300-1500 for 2 bed, 1 bath, although before I bought my place we had a steal at $1000 per month. I think if you live downtown or in Streeterville you pay $2200 but not in the nice areas like Old Town, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, etc.

    Yeah. You have it good in Kansas.

    My mortgage for a 650 sq. foot place is $1000 now. Gym is between $50-90 per month, depending on how nice you want it to be. Gas? Who knows? My bus/train pass is $80 per month (no car= no worries about gas prices fluctuating or car insurance) and haven’t been to the movies since prices are over $10 in my area.
    SO we can all agree movies are expensive everywhere!!!

  • Another for Los Angeles!

    * Rent for 1 bedroom/1 bath 700 sq. foot apt: $1200/mo
    * Gym Membership: $38/mo for 24 hr fitness
    * Unleaded Gas: 3ish/gallon
    * 1 Tall Caramel Latte at Starbucks: Don’t drink caramel lattes, but I think my chais are around $3.50
    * Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: Included in rent.
    * 1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $12ish?
    * 1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $10ish?

  • Las Vegas, Nevada Baby!

    Rent For a 1 Bdrm/1 Bthrm 720 Sq Feet In Nice Area $860 a mth
    Gym Membership=31 a mth
    Unleaded Gas= 2.61 a gallon (if you hunt for it)
    1 Peppermint White Mocha= 4.49( Grande Size)
    Monthly Water/ Sewage Bill= Included in rent
    1 Adult Movie Ticket(weekend)=9.50
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday)=8.50

  • Representing Seattle, WA!

    Rent for 1 bedroom/1 bath 600 sq. ft apt: $840/month
    Gym- Included with apt
    Unleaded Gas: $2.89/gallon
    1 Caramel Macchiato Starbucks: around $3.80
    Monthly Water Bill: $40.00
    1 Adult Movie Ticket: $10.00

    The cost of living here is pretty expensive but if you are smart with your money then it can last awhile.

  • I’m just west on I70 from Carrie, so my prices are similar EXCEPT rent. You can rent a nice single family house with a garage for that here. Small city, but within easy driving distance from KC.

    I think that the further away from the urban center you get, the cheaper the rent.

    One thing I HATE about Kansas, though, is that basic foodstuffs and medication is subject to sales tax. And our vehicle property tax is high, too.

  • i’m in mid-michigan, and prices are pretty close.

    Rent for 4 bedroom/4 bath college apartment: $405/mo, plus utilities
    Gym Membership: for me it’s free since i’m a college student, but it’s $350/year for non-students
    Unleaded Gas: $2.64/gallon (but there’s a .20 cent difference from where i live to where i go to school!)
    1 Tall Caramel Latte at Starbucks: today i got a gingerbread latte and it was ~$3.20? pitched the receipt so i’m not sure.
    Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: okay this one, i have no idea. fail.
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $8.00
    1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $5.50

  • This kind of makes me want to cry. I live in the dc metro area too.

    * Mortgage for 3 bedroom/2 bath townhouse: $2600/month
    * Gym Membership: $59 month (this is actually cheap…)
    * Daily Bus and metro to work: $5.60 (5 days a week)
    * Small coffee at B&N with B&N Book Club card discount: $1.63
    * 4x year Water & Sewage Bill: ~$270
    * 1 Adult Movie Ticket (regular price): $10.50
    * 1 Adult Movie Ticket (matinee price): $8.50

  • I’m in Los Angeles, about 15 miles from Hollywood. I pay way too much in rent.

    * Rent for Studio 450 sq. foot apartment: $1,112/month (+$195 a month for parking)
    * Gym Membership: $30/month $360/year (24hr Fitness)
    * Unleaded Gas: $3.30/gallon
    * 1 Tall Caramel Latte at Starbucks: $3.80
    * Monthly Water & Sewage Bill: ~$36.00
    * 1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekend price): $13.00
    * 1 Adult Movie Ticket (weekday price): $11.00

  • I live in Kansas City too!

    Rent for 400 square foot studio apartment: $350.
    Gym Membership: $36 per month (please share, Carrie: what is your gym??)
    Unleaded Gas: has fallen to around $2.40 a gallon here recently
    Monthly Water/Sewage: included in rent, as is heat
    1 adult movie ticket: $6 (Cinemark in Merriam)
    1 adult movie matinee ticket (before 6 pm): $4

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