Just about anyone who loves the Island & Beach Life has thought about moving to Key West in Florida at one point in their life. However, very few consider the cost of living before actually moving.
Assuming of course you do not already live in Key West, it can seem a bit challenging to get there. Just like any other move, you need to take into consideration your typical moving expenses, housing, and perhaps a new career. But moving to Key West is not really the tough part. Residing there with an unexpected increased of living expenses can be the real challenge.
Unlike any other town in the USA, the mention of "Key West" brings to mind a lazy carefree life.
Relaxing ocean side or bar hopping on Duval Street or visiting The Green Parrot is a daily experience for anyone that wants to live it, right? Suddenly you start to think of selling your house in Massachusetts, quitting your job, piling everything into a U Haul, and taking the trek.
Slow down there!
The reality is the streets of Key West are not lined with gold. Even though Route 1 will bring you right to the island, you are still living on an island. That means everything will start to get more expensive. Gas, food, and housing are much more that on the main land. Because Key West is 3 hours from Maimi, the expense of getting goods and supplies to the island will hit your wallet a bit harder. Living in Key West is also very desirable, thus driving up the costs due to basic supply and demand economics. You need to take all of this into consideration before moving to Key West.
Here are some things top to consider before moving:
Get a job lined up. This is probably the most challenging thing to have ready. Unemployment is high and job competition is fierce. Unless you have a specialized skill that is in demand and limited, you will likely be landing a tourist related job. Food service workers and gift shop cashier positions are going to be the most common and tough to get. You may want to consider going to the island first and meeting potential employers instead of trying to get a job over the phone.
Find Housing. A 1-2 bed room cottage or apartment could easily cost $1200-$1800 a month. In many cases it will be much more. A 2-3 Bedroom home could be in the $300-500k range. That is for something that needs a LOT of TLC. Something decent and ready to move into is much closer to the $1,000,000 mark. Condo's of course will be much cheaper.
Food. You will find a few common big box grocery stores with prices a bit more than on the main land. However, your local restaurants and sub shops are operating on island time too, and have a budget to match. Expect to pay resort prices for your prepared meals and cocktails.
Gas. 87 Octane will run about 10% more than on the main land.
Family. It's a great place to visit, but Key West is not exactly family friendly. An excessive amount of public drunk people and a low rated public schools are common and a turn off.
So how can you justify moving to Key West on a budget? There are a few options.
Prepare. Make a trip to the mainland for visits to your local Costco or BJ's and stock up.
Get a roommate. Two roommates could be even better. Cut your rent and utility bills in half or more.
Get a bike. Driving in Key West can be a nightmare. You will find it much easier to ride a bike as the island is small enough. You will save not only time, but gas.
When you need supplies locally, avoid Duval Street. Duval Street is the main tourist area so everything will be more pricey.
Don't live in Key West. Many people that work in Key West do not live there. They will find a place to stay a few keys up and drive to work. Sure, you may not be living next to Mallory Square, but you are very close and the sunsets are still the same.
If you plan accordingly, there will be little surprises. If visiting Smathers Beach, going snorkeling, people watching, biking, boating, and kayaking (to name a few) are worth it when you are not working, then the decision is easy to make. Move to Key West and be the envy of your friends. Be smart and live the Island & Beach life that many of us want to be a part of.
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