Is Relocating for Cheaper Rent Worth It?

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Before uprooting your life, consider if the money gained is worth the perks you'll lose.

By Nicole Schreck

If there's one thing all renters worry about, it's how much they're paying for rent. While most financial experts agree that the amount you pay monthly should be less than a third of your monthly income, young renters with entry-level salaries sometimes have a tough time paying less than half of what they make.

This is especially true in big cities. For example, take San Francisco: The median rental rate for a one-bedroom is $3,931 a month, according to data, and the census says the per capita income is $48,846. Let's do some quick math: The cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment for 12 months in San Francisco at the median rate is $47,172 -- or 97 percent of the per capita income for the city.

With rent prices going up across the country, many apartment dwellers are questioning whether paying so much is even worth it. While many people would never give up a great location downtown -- even though they're paying a few thousand more each year -- others may wonder if moving farther away from cities for cheaper rent could help them create a more fulfilling lifestyle. So, what do you think? Is relocating to give yourself a financial break worth it? Here are some tips to help you decide.

Think about the other side of the coin. If you're considering relocating to a smaller city, town, suburb, or a less expensive neighborhood, you're likely considering the benefits. And these advantages are nothing to scoff at, either: Paying less for rent means more money for necessities, entertainment, savings and retirement. In turn, this means less financial stress overall. For most people, that would be a huge weight lifted.

%VIRTUAL-WSSCourseInline-750%However, before taking the plunge and relocating, it's crucial to look at the flip side of the coin. You know what you're gaining, but what might you be giving up? A great location with a lot of things to do nearby? Living in the same city as your friends or family members? Being a quick jaunt away from work on public transit? These factors should be considered.

Give the commute a try. For many, relocating to pay less in rent means lengthening their commute substantially. Some people in this situation opt to find another job, while others choose to commit to the long commute. However, it can be easy to underestimate the toll of this longer trip from home to work.
Tacking on an extra 45 minutes to and from work takes almost two hours out of your day. Before committing to the relocation, give the commute a try and see how long it will realistically take. Will you be able to handle it daily if you decide to move?

Ask friends and relatives. It's never a bad idea to talk to your friends and relatives about whether relocating is right for you. In particular, try to talk to someone who lives in the city or town where you're considering relocating. Does he or she think the move will be worth it? Is it a place he or she could see you flourishing?

Do some exploring. If you do decide to relocate, what will you miss most about where you currently live? If you live in a big city, spend some time exploring your favorite places and neighborhoods, and really think about whether you would miss having easy access to them.

Then, explore areas of the city you don't know as well. Walk around neighborhoods that are less expensive than where you're currently living, and see what they have to offer. Maybe you'll find that relocating to a neighborhood that doesn't cost quite as much is a good compromise.

Don't forget to consider the costs of moving. Moving isn't cheap, so taking all your belongings to a new city or town is probably going to cost you a pretty penny. Whether you hire movers or try to do the whole move yourself, you'll likely drop at least a few hundred dollars on packing and transporting everything, and even more applying for a new apartment and putting down a security deposit.

If the amount of rent you pay drastically decreases, these moving expenses will balance out over the first few months following your move -- but you'll need to make sure you have some money saved to cover the upfront costs.

Consider your quality of life. All the tips outlined above are really just about weighing the pros and cons of relocating. In the end, a move out of a city is right for some people and not for others. Consider what you'll be giving up if you relocate, and decide if paying less in rent each month is worth that loss. If you think moving will give you a better quality of life overall, then what are you waiting for? Take the plunge, and do what you know is right for you.

Niccole Schreck is the rental experience expert for, a free rental site that helps you find an affordable apartment and provides tips on how to move.

Originally published