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- Vanessa Hughes recently moved to West Lafayette, Indiana, a city of 45,000 and a major university.
- She and her husband left LA after 22 years there in order to pay down debt and save money.
- Hughes said the move, which saves them more than $3000 a month, has been worth it.
After 22 years in Los Angeles, Vanessa Hughes, 44, picked up and moved to West Lafayette, Indiana this fall.
Relocating to the Midwestern city of 45,000 people, home to Purdue University and located about 68 miles northwest of Indianapolis, has saved Hughes and her husband about $3,210 a month.
“After the pandemic, people are challenging their way of thinking when it comes to where they live,” Hughes told Insider. “LA is glitz and glamour, but when you take that aside, are you actually enjoying your life?”
One key motivation was financial. In California, Hughes, a freelance television editor who can work from anywhere, was renting a small three-bedroom home for $3,000 a month — a price that she called a “steal” for the area. In West Lafayette, she’s paying half the amount for a significantly bigger space with a yard for their two dogs.
The cash she is saving on rent, car insurance, and other expenses is helping her family pay down credit card debt and better prepare for life’s hurdles.
“Credit card debt is a huge reason for relocating,” said Hughes, adding that she can finally build an emergency fund. “Some people are better at saving than others, but I have not done a great job. My partner and I have aging parents. If I stayed in LA, I feel like if anything ever happened, I wouldn’t be able to help.”
Vanessa Hughes and her husband, Ian Golding.
Courtesy of Vanessa Hughes.
With remote work flourishing, still-high home prices, and higher inflation — a trend that will likely carry over into 2023 — California’s expensive cost of living pushes many residents to move away to more affordable US cities that offer them better and larger living spaces. According to a September 2022 report from moving company MoveBuddha, California saw the nation’s biggest outflow of migration in 2022, with only 51 moves in for every 100 people who move out.
In 2023, the search for affordable housing could pull more homebuyers towards Midwestern spots like West Lafayette.
Orphe Divounguy, a senior economist at Zillow, told Insider in December that the region’s relative affordability will entice many remote workers next year.
Hughes’ dog plays in their backyard, which is bigger than in LA.
Courtesy of Vanessa Hughes.
“The Midwest has some of the most affordable housing markets in the country even for locals,” Divounguy told Insider. “It provides a great opportunity for those living in expensive markets like New York to get more bang for their buck.”
Money isn’t everything: Hughes said she was also lured by her new neighborhood’s comfortable lifestyle.
“Affordability was definitely a lure to West Lafayette, but not the highest priority,” Hughes said. “West Lafayette specifically appealed to my husband and I because of the quality of living, wonderful people, lots of parks and bike paths, a sense of community, Purdue’s amazing campus, and high speed internet — which we can’t do our jobs without.”
West Lafayette also gives people $5,000 plus perks to move there
Hughes and her husband, who is originally from Indiana, attended the Indianapolis 500 car race in May. After their trip, Hughes saw an ad on Instagram that piqued her interest.
MakeMyMove — an Indianapolis-based group that partners with cities to offer financial incentives and perks to people who move to them — was touting a relocation stipend of up to $5,000 for the greater Lafayette area.
“MakeMyMove came up on Instagram for exactly what I was looking for,” she said. “We were already thinking about moving. It more or less just gave us a timeline and picture of what it would look like to be here.”
Besides the stipend, movers to the area who are vetted by MakeMyMove can receive a long list of perks, including Purdue library membership and free food and drink on campus. With the stipend, that’s a total value of about $10,000.
The Purdue campus.
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
By the end of November, they had made the move to West Lafayette. So far, Hughes said, she has claimed a $2,500 stipend, access to the university library and its alumni association, and a free Care.com membership. She plans to take the company up on other money or perks down the line, she added.
West Lafayette is just one place that offers people incentives to move there. At least 25 other cities have similar programs, ranging from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Morgantown, West Virginia, and perks doled out range from a bike to a coworking membership to money toward a down payment for a house.
And while the biggest pain point of the move was setting up new healthcare services and driving cross country with their dogs, Hughes said the benefits outweigh the hassle.
“I feel less stressed living in West Lafayette,” she said. “The price at the pump, the grocery store, gym, car insurance, and even eating out at Westside Diner are a welcome change to my budget. I am still struggling to pay down high interest credit cards, and it will take time. But now, it feels possible.”