smart spending

Calculators show cities' cost differences

When is a salary increase not really a salary increase?

When it requires you to move to a more expensive city.

Relocating for a new job or accepting a job transfer can be a wise career move, especially if it involves a pay raise. But before you start packing your bags and filling out change-of-address forms, you might want to take a few moments to enter some basic information into a cost of living calculator. As its name implies, this easy-to-use tool will allow you to compare the cost of living in your current location to that of your potential destination -- and it may even save you from making a huge financial blunder.

An increase in pay can be a big draw -- especially in today's rocky economy. But not if it involves moving to a city where housing, utilities, transportation, groceries, health care and other expenses run higher. These costs can vary greatly from one city to the next. Just ask anyone who lives in a pricey location, such as the New York City borough Manhattan, to compare their monthly expenses to someone who resides in a more affordable suburb.

As with all career decisions, it's very important to do your homework when considering relocating for a job -- especially if a bump in salary is your prime (or only) motivation for moving. By simply entering your current city, future city and potential salary into a cost of living calculator, you'll get a good idea of the differences in the cost of goods and services in the two locales. This, in turn, will help you decide if you'll be able to maintain or improve your current standard of living in the new city -- and whether you should take the job.

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