Sometimes decisions are made for you, even big decisions like choosing a place to live.
You move to the city where you can find work or spend time with family. In fact, more than 47 percent of Americans who moved between 2015 and 2016 did so for those reasons, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
But what if it worked the other way? What if the world — or at least the U.S. — was truly your oyster?
Picking one of America’s approximately 20,000 cities to live in might seem like an intimidating task. It might also seem like an expensive one. But it’s more manageable and completely free if you break it into these three steps.
Step 1: Figure out your priorities
Before you start brainstorming places to live, think about how you can zoom in on particular kinds of places. Going through a process of elimination can help you weed out whole regions.
If you want to live in the West, for example, you could immediately limit your search to a handful of states. If you already know the state you want to live in, your job becomes even easier. You can start to focus on cities before studying up on towns and neighborhoods.
If, after that exercise, you’re still left with all 50 states plus Washington D.C. as potential options, start to ask yourself questions about your priorities.
For instance, you could ask yourself how much house you can afford, crossing off cities with extremely high home prices. On the other hand, you could look deeper into attractive cities that you might have previously thought of as beyond your means.
You might also ask yourself:
- Do I need to be somewhere where I can land a certain kind of job?
- Do I need to be near high-quality schools?
- Do I want to live close to people that share my political leanings or religious beliefs?
- Do I want to be a specific distance from family and friends?
- Do I want something my current city doesn’t offer?
No matter what you ask yourself, the point is to come up with answers that can help you eliminate possibilities. If you’re moving away from home for the first time but want to be a short flight from nephews and nieces, for example, you can focus your search on a smaller radius.
Of course, you’ll need to weigh what you want with what’s objectively better for you. Consider these factors when choosing where to live:
- Job fields
- School quality
- Cost of living
- Commute time
- Crime statistics
- Cultural events
- Income, property taxes
- Racial diversity
- Proximity to state, national parks
- Access to an international airport
Step 2: Do your research
When considering a big move, you won’t have to go far on the internet to be bombarded with “best cities” lists. They aim to take factors we all care about — from safety to climate — and pump out rankings. You might even stumble upon the most affordable cities to live or the best states to pay off your student loans.
Although they might serve as a jumping off point for your research, don’t treat these sorts of lists as a be-all, end-all. Even when they use good data, they’re built for a mass audience. And this process should be about your individual priorities.
Instead, take on the role of researcher. Use your previously built list of priorities and find a good source of data or information for each state or city you’re considering.
Instead of relying on a widely circulated best-cities list that quotes a broad cost of living index, narrow your focus to the prices of products you use most. Numbeo, for example, allows you to compare the prices of milk, a loaf of bread, and eggs in American cities.
Like going from cost of living to grocery costs, you can specify other big-picture priorities into something more real. Here are three examples:
- Weather: Zero in on cities that never get colder than 30 degrees or warmer than 100.
- Commute: Find out how long it takes an average commuter to get from home to work.
- Income: Focus on the average salary by city.
If you have specific information you’re seeking, become an expert Google searcher. That will help you land on websites like Walk Score (if a city’s walkability is important to you) or PaycheckCity (if you want to see how far your salary would go in another state).
Try to be organized, collecting your research in a way that fits your style. A spreadsheet, for example, will allow you to compare states and cities side by side. But using a Trello board, for example, might be better if you’re a visual person collaborating with your significant other.
Step 3: Make virtual and in-person visits
You can wade through all the data in the world, but it will only get you so far. You’ll need to balance out what you think you know about a place with how you feel about it.
Reading through guidebooks and asking friends can help. But nothing beats seeing the place for yourself, even if you make a virtual visit.
Ideally, you’ll take weekend trips to the cities, towns, and neighborhoods you’re most excited about. But that can get pricey fast. Before you fill up the gas tank or reserve a flight, consider free ways to cut down your list of contending cities.
Don’t discount the idea of typing in addresses on Google Earth, for example. You can see a lot from your computer or smartphone.
You might also browse StreetAdvisor, which logs user reviews of specific places, and NeighborhoodScout, which gives a holistic view of a specific street address. Reading up on a small town might rule it out and save you the expense of visiting it in person.
If you’re not sure about the value of these virtual strategies, type in and research your current address. See if what you find online matches up with reality.
Your online research could also send you packing for the car or the airport. When you actually visit your top choices, make sure you acquaint yourself before going on a costly tour or talking to a sales-driven real estate agent.
You might be tempted to sign on with a company that facilitates your move for you, but ask what they can do for you that you can’t do on your own without opening your wallet.
During your eventual visits, treat the town as if you’re a local, observing your potential neighbors along the way. Go to the coffee shop on Sunday morning. Walk through the closest downtown area on Friday night. Shop the grocery store like you’re preparing a homecooked meal.
At the end of the trip, look at how much money you spent to see if the cost of living really is within your range.
Work toward your decision
Hopefully, these three steps will lead you to where you want to go. At any point, though, it’s healthy to question your decision, or even go back to the beginning. Ask yourself if your priorities have changed. Find and fill holes in your research. Heck, make a list of pros and cons after each city visit.
The knowledge and experience you gather during the process should lead you to a decision. If it doesn’t, remember that making a big move also requires a leap of faith. Trusting in a process like this one only gets you so far. You’ll also need to trust yourself.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 8 lenders of 2020!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.20% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of December 13, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 12/13/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
3 Important Disclosures for Figure.
Figure’s Student Refinance Loan is a private loan. If you refinance federal loans, you forfeit certain flexible repayment options associated with those loans. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would impact your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation alternatives.
4 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Disclosures
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.
2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.
4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
Information advertised valid as of 1/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE (“APR”)
There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.
For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
ELIGIBILITY & ELIGIBLE LOANS
Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).
Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.
All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.
For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.
The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.
The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.
POSTPONING OR REDUCING PAYMENTS
After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.
If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.
6 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.76% effective November 10, 2019.
8 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 12/019/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.59% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
|1.99% – 6.89%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.31% – 7.36%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.06% – 6.81%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.62% – 6.12%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.29% – 6.65%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 7.06%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.85% – 6.13%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.90% – 8.59%8||Undergrad & Graduate|