Yes, it does cost less to live in Florida

When you spend $100 in Florida, your money goes a whole lot farther than in high-cost areas such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, the District of Columbia and northern Virginia.

That same amount of money will buy you more in Florida — as much as 20 percent more — and less in high-price states. Your $100 will buy $101.21 worth of goods or services in Florida and just $81.83 in the New York-New Jersey area. Generally, you get more bang for your buck in Florida.

That’s a conclusion from a recent state-by-state breakdown produced by the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., based on U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data. The bureau estimates price levels in each state for household consumption. And Florida does better than most states.

Just to be clear, these figures are a statewide average for the entire state of Florida. Prices are lower in Florida on average, compared with other states. But prices can be higher in Florida’s largest cities and popular resorts, and lower in outlying areas.

For example, prices in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region are higher than in rural Florida, but still below northern metropolitan areas around Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston.

So, here we have at least a partial answer to a question that often comes up in conversation among year-round residents, visitors to Florida and their friends and families who live back home in northern climates.

We know that winters are more enjoyable in Florida. The lifestyle is more laid-back and relaxed especially on the west coast of Florida. But what about the cost? Is it really less expensive to live here than in the north?

The answer is yes. When it comes to consumer spending, $100 buys more in Florida than many other states especially those in the northeast.

These are generalities of course. Some things may cost more in Florida and some less. But, as reported previously in this column, housing is dramatically less expensive here than much the northeast, property taxes are much lower and even gasoline currently is lower.

But one additional question still exists. What about salaries in Florida? If people earn less than, say, in New York, are they really better off in Florida?

The answer is still generally yes. Floridians on average are doing better — considering that New Yorkers have much higher taxes taken out of their paychecks, and then have to pay a much higher cost of living.

Per capita income in New York state is about $52,000, roughly 30 percent more than Florida with about $40,000 in per capita income.

Those bigger New York salaries first are reduced by taxes: state income tax, progressively higher federal income taxes and higher city sales taxes. Then remaining disposable income goes to higher prices for everything from rent to child care, food, clothing, utilities and more.

The Tax Foundation has done additional analysis showing that even Kansas residents are doing as well as New York state residents, after accounting for higher taxes and higher consumer prices.

The same can be said of Florida. Overall, it is less expensive to live in Florida than much of the northeast.

Joseph Santangelo is a former reporter for the Bergen Record in New Jersey and writer for magazines in Connecticut and Massachusetts. He has worked in business, government and community service.

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