Everyone wants to live comfortably but it can be difficult when you are in a high-cost area. If living well within your means is important for you (and why wouldn't it be) then Florida may be a good place to settle down thanks to our favorable taxes and lower-than-average costs of living. Florida is ranked third cheapest state for grocery items and our average cost of living is 16% below the national average, plus we don't have an income tax. While those are all great starting points already in your favor, there are many other things you can do to make your dollar go farther in the Sunshine State. Here are some ways to live better for less in Florida.
Buy, don't rent
It's no secret that the rental market is unfavorable for those looking to make the most of their monthly income. Don't get me wrong, renting has its upsides especially when things in your rental unit break - but with all the money you could be saving per month by owning a house of the same caliber, you could probably afford to fix most minor breaks in your own home. For example, if I rented a house similar to mine and in the same area, it would cost roughly $1,200 per month -- nearly double what my current mortgage is. Another huge bonus of buying is that you can homestead your house and save even more money every year on taxes.
Equally worth a mention, the real estate market is very favorable right now, with interest rates as low as 2.1% for those with good credit. It would be a shame not to take advantage of this while you can - if you can. Having a good credit score and consistent income is absolutely necessary for scoring the most favorable loan options.
Lastly, Florida is a very real estate-friendly place, but if you are in the market for a house that's not to say that buying here can't be done in a frugal fashion. There are many mansions out there on large plots of land getting foreclosed on by banks and scooped up for prices you wouldn't believe. If you want something more modest but still want to own, you can get a lot in Florida for not a lot of cash, and if you do some fix-up work on the house you can get it looking great without breaking the bank.
Moving on from real estate, there are lots of discount retailers out there to purchase great stuff at far below the MSRP! Many people will throw out perfectly good furnishing and clothes due to minor defects or just because they are out of style. With so many thrift shops, flea markets and garage sales, there's no reason why you can't pick up goods, electronics and so much more for a fraction of the price (sometimes even free) - and so what if that they need a lick of paint? Shabby chic is in style!
Be sure to often check in the local paper classifieds and online marketplaces for free and cheap things looking for a new home near you.
Shop sales & use coupons
If thrift shopping is just totally out of your comfort zone and you want to buy things new, you may want to consider shopping only during times of sales or when you have active coupons. This also holds true with grocery shopping; and getting familiar with which stores in your area offer your favorite products for the lowest price is smart too. For example, one thing I have noticed in my area is that Publix and Winn-Dixie are generally more expensive to shop at than Wal-Mart for the same products --unless there's a sale or coupon currently running.
Additionally, if you're really crafty, you can find "sales" on events and things to do near you. A prime example is that Florida residents can take advantage of exclusive theme park deals, meanwhile anyone with the Groupon app can search for cheap offers on things to do in any given area.
Live within your means
Cheap housing is among one of the many reasons why people choose to move to Florida. The average home value in 2013 was $160,000 with an average mortgage payment of around $1,080, which is much cheaper than most places around the country--including Washington D.C., New York City, and even San Francisco.
Because housing is cheap, it allows people to save more money and live better for less, but no matter how affordable the house is, affordable living means nothing if you aren't able to exist comfortably inside your home. That means you need to have enough money at the end of every month to cover all of your bills and then some.
Don't try to buy the property or car that's at the very top of your budget, stay somewhere in a comfortable medium so you aren't always struggling to make ends meet and always consider after costs of maintenance, insurance rates and taxes for those more expensive purchases - I learned this the hard way!
Avoid unnecessary spending
While it may be tempting to purchase those Ultra Music Festival tickets, maybe saving the extra $300 to get your AC inspected and repaired before summer is a wiser financial decision so you won't have to take out a line of credit to pay for necessary expenses. There are other unnecessary expenses that can be super easily avoided, particularly for drivers, that add up quickly. During your commutes, you should make a point to avoid such as toll roads, parking fees and driving during high-traffic times. Rent a scooter to get around town, or ride a bike.
And when all else fails... Have a savings account
If the pandemic has taught us anything it's that life is full of uncertainties, and that's why it's super important to invest in some stability in your life with a savings account (bonus points for savings accounts that accrue interest!) You can start small by adding $20 per paycheck - or a smaller amount that you won't miss - and eventually, over time it will grow to a considerable amount of money that you can dip into should the time come.
To sum all of that up, if you want to live better for less in Florida, you can do so without the need to downsize on your standards or settle for just the basics. There are plenty of things you can do to live within your means without too much compromising!