Cost of Living in Northern New England by County

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Columbia Customers Avoiding New Utility Fee

What is Cost of Living?

Cost of living refers to the necessary expenses that are made by a household to live in a certain geographic location. This includes housing, food, utilities, transportation, health care, etc.

We all know very well that housing costs can vary greatly by location. Less obvious, but just as important, is that everyday items such as ground beef, detergent, a haircut, and a movie can also vary by location.

Taken together, the differences in the cost of these goods by location can be measured and compared through a cost of living index. The most extensive and longest running index is published by The Council for Community and Economic Research known as the C2ER cost of living index.

Cost of Living Calculator

They have a cost of living calculator (available on our website) where you can plug in a given income and make geographic comparisons. Shown below are 3 examples using the largest city in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont versus our nemesis–Fort Myers, Florida.

Chart Showing Fort Myers FL vs Portland ME Cost of Living

This chart shows Portland, Maine vs. Fort Myers, Florida. Overall, the cost of living in Portland is 10 percent above the national average and 11.7 percent higher than Fort Myers.

The double whammy of housing (31.3 percent higher) and health care (22 percent higher) drives the difference. Only utilities are 10.7 percent lower.

Chart Showing Fort Myers FL vs Manchester NH Cost of Living

This chart shows Manchester, New Hampshire vs. Fort Myers, Florida. Overall, the cost of living in Manchester is 19.2 percent above the national average and 21 percent higher than Fort Myers.

The triple whammy of housing (48.4 percent higher), utilities (29.4 percent higher) and health care (18.2 percent higher) drives the difference. However, both groceries (2.9 percent less) and transportation (7.6 percent less) help somewhat in the opposite direction.

Chart Showing Fort Myers FL vs Burlington VT Cost of Living

This chart shows Burlington, Vermont vs. Fort Myers, Florida. Overall, the cost of living in Burlington is 19 percent above the national average and 20.8 percent higher than Fort Myers.

The double whammy of housing (56.3 percent higher) and utilities (33.4 percent higher) drives the difference. Only transportation (0.1 percent less) is lower–and barely at that.

Cost of Living by County

Additionally, the cost of living data is now published at the county level which helps to show the differences that exist within a state.

Maine counties:

  1. Androscoggin: 21.8 percent above the national average.
  2. Aroostook: 18.9 percent above the national average.
  3. Cumberland: 26.6 percent above the national average.
  4. Franklin: 17.2 percent above the national average.
  5. Hancock: 20.6 percent above the national average.
  6. Kennebec: 21.6 percent above the national average.
  7. Knox: 21.2 percent above the national average.
  8. Lincoln: 22.3 percent above the national average.
  9. Oxford: 17.6 percent above the national average.
  10. Penobscot: 20.4 percent above the national average.
  11. Piscataquis: 19.2 percent above the national average.
  12. Sagadahoc: 23 percent above the national average.
  13. Somerset: 17.7 percent above the national average.
  14. Waldo: 18.6 percent above the national average.
  15. Washington: 18.3 percent above the national average.
  16. York: 23.1 percent above the national average.

New Hampshire:

  1. Belknap: 23.8 percent above the national average.
  2. Carroll: 24.7 percent above the national average.
  3. Cheshire: 23.3 percent above the national average.
  4. Coos: 20.5 percent above the national average.
  5. Grafton: 26.1 percent above the national average.
  6. Hillsborough: 26.5 percent above the national average.
  7. Merrimack: 24.4 percent above the national average.
  8. Rockingham: 28 percent above the national average.
  9. Strafford: 21.4 percent above the national average.
  10. Sullivan: 21.8 percent above the national average.

Vermont:

  1. Addison: 21.2 percent above the national average.
  2. Bennington: 24.8 percent above the national average.
  3. Caledonia: 20 percent above the national average.
  4. Chittenden: 26.1 percent above the national average.
  5. Essex: 13 percent above the national average.
  6. Franklin: 23 percent above the national average.
  7. Grand Isle: 22.4 percent above the national average.
  8. Lamoille: 21.7 percent above the national average.
  9. Orange: 20.4 percent above the national average.
  10. Orleans: 19.8 percent above the national average.
  11. Rutland: 23.5 percent above the national average.
  12. Washington: 25.8 percent above the national average.
  13. Windham: 23.2 percent above the national average.
  14. Windsor: 25.3 percent above the national average.

Overall, this is not good news for Northern New England. There is not a single county that is below the national average. Essex County, Vermont has the lowest cost of living in Northern New England at 13 percent above the national average.

Adding insult to injury, a major destination of our snow-birds is Fort Myers, Florida with a cost of living that is 1.5 percent below the national average. We must find other ways to compete . . . one of which is to preserve and restore our historic housing stock which is something Florida sorely lacks. I mean, have you ever been to Fort Myers? Ugly!

Northern New England Villages Ebook

Of course, there is a bigger reason for this blog post. We are embarking on a major project that we are calling the “Northern New England Charming Town Index” that will be published as part of our first ever ebook. Naturally, cost of living will be a key data point in the Index.

A major goal of this index is to give all the towns in Northern New England a chance to shine. Other indexes around tend to only feature a few of the larger towns–such as the “The Ten Best Places to Live in Maine” by Movoto or “Best Cities to Live in New Hampshire” by Credit Donkey. Yet, it is the multitude of small towns that really embody the charm of Northern New England.

We will be featuring other parts of the index in the coming weeks. Although the complete index itself will only be published in the ebook and our goal is to release that around the holidays. The ebook will also prominently feature selections of our historical architecture from each of the towns we have photographed thus far (sans watermark).

If you want to be among the first to receive the ebook just prior to the official release, be sure to leave us your email in the subscription box in the sidebar. We hope you are as excited about this ebook project as we are!

Please add your thoughtful comment . . .