COLUMN-Boston vs St. Louis: World Series cities with lopsided costs of living


By Tim McLaughlin

BOSTON, Oct 22 (Reuters) - The Boston Red Sox are favored to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2013 World Series which starts on Wednesday, but only after the team lowered its New York Yankees-inspired payroll and started spending like, well, the more frugal Cardinals.

Now if only we Bostonians could also adopt St. Louis-style family budgets. I've been here for about a dozen years, but I still root for the Cardinals and I still miss the easy commutes and low cost of living that St. Louis enjoys.

To get some perspective, consider that someone earning $100,000 after taxes in Boston is comparable to a St. Louisan earning about $65,000 after tax, according to Bankrate.com's cost of living calculator.

The four-bedroom brick colonial I used to own on the edge of St. Louis recently sold for $415,000. In greater Boston, that same house would cost more than $800,000.

In St. Louis, just about everything is cheaper, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. Groceries cost 21 percent less, housing 58 percent less, utilities 26 percent less and healthcare about 20 percent less than Beantown.

In an average price comparison of more than 50 items, everything from a T-bone steak to the cholesterol drug Lipitor cost more in Boston. One exception: Boston apparently crushes St. Louis on shampoo prices, 98 cents on average versus $1.15, according to Bankrate.

The calculator must not be taking into account supply and demand trends around beard shampoo as most Red Sox players look like a squirrel is attached to their faces.

And St. Louisans would probably laugh at the woman who paid $560,000 this year for two parking spots in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood - $560,000!

That is the baseball equivalent of the Cardinals considering whether to pay $250 million to keep slugger Albert Pujols on the team for several more years. But they did not.

Even St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is putting up a frugal front. He said on Twitter that he does not want to make a friendly World Series bet with Boston Mayor Tom Menino because it would tie up staff resources.

To be sure, money isn't everything. Bostonians like to boast about their proximity to the mountains of northern New England and beaches of Cape Cod. The cost of living calculator cannot account for those intangibles, like a baseball team's clubhouse chemistry.

And what about the core of Boston versus the core of St. Louis? Boston is compact, vibrant and full of historical sites and $30 parking lots. Downtown St. Louis is a typical Midwestern city: it empties out after 5 p.m. and early bird parking can be had for $6.

But living in and around Boston isn't easy. On Friday evenings, it sometimes takes 90 minutes or more to drive the 25 miles home from my job downtown.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have embraced spending sanity, too.

Boston managed to dump some serious payroll in a big trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers before the 2013 campaign began. That brought down their opening day payroll to about $150 million. The Cardinals started the year with a payroll of about $115 million.

But in this rematch of the 2004 World Series, in which the Red Sox steamrolled the Cardinals in a four-game sweep, Las Vegas oddsmakers are picking the Red Sox to win it again. In the best-of-seven series, Boston also has the home field advantage.

And cheaper shampoo.