Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Cheapest Place to Live

This blog started as an exploration of the Cheapest Places to Live in the world and I'm still continuing that quest but the blog has evolved into much more than just that. We're also looking at the Best Places to Live based on a variety of criteria - not just whether they are cheap. After all, would you agree the term 'cheap' is pretty subjective and relative to each individuals circumstances. From one perspective cheap may simply mean the least expensive place to live - lowest rent, lowest real estate cost - literally THE cheapest place but for most people that is an unrealistic measure and one that isn't very useful. When I write about and we as a community discuss the concept of living cheaply what we are really trying to look at is that whole bundle of objective and subject qualities that when taken together result in value. For me it's about a lifestyle that represents the best value. How can I get the most out of life and living for the least amount of money.

What is the Cheapest Place to Live?

To answer that question you first need to figure out what your true costs of living are. Sure some of those are pretty easy to figure out. Things like the cost of housing, the cost of food, the cost of utilities, etc. Now it's important to really develop a comprehensive list of your costs of living. Don't forget to look at insurance, fuel, transportation, education - you really want to brainstorm every single thing you purchase to maintain your quality of life. Pull out bank statements and credit card statements. Examine what you purchase daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and occasionally. It's a pretty straight forward project to accomplish.

How do you measure Quality of Life?

The second part of the analysis is a lot trickier and a lot more individual - it's the subjective measures of quality and of cost. But these subjective items often become the most important. I believe they actually are the most important things of all. So, what am I really talking about here? It's probably easiest to explain the concept by way of example. Let's say I want to find the Cheapest Place to Live in the United States. If I look solely at objective criteria I'm likely to end up somewhere north, somewhere cold, somewhere that not many people want to live. So, my rent may be cheap but what are the other non-monetary costs I'm paying for having that cheap rent? My health may suffer. I have to pay more for heating. My car will wear out faster, These are some of the subjective costs of living I need to take into consideration.

So, as you read this Blog and particularly as we examine the Quality of Life Index for 2011 I'm hopeful your mind and our discussion broadens and gets into some of these more interesting aspects of determining the best place to live - for you and for me.

For those who are following the discussion around our leading countries for quality of life tomorrow I'll get back on the trail and give you more information about our 4th best place for quality of Life, France.

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