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

Reuters

By Tim McLaughlin

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

Now if only we Bostonians could also adopt St. Louis-stylefamily budgets. I've been here for about a dozen years, but Istill root for the Cardinals and I still miss the easy commutesand 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. Louisanearning about $65,000 after tax, according to Bankrate.com'scost of living calculator.

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

In St. Louis, just about everything is cheaper, according tothe Council for Community and Economic Research. Groceries cost21 percent less, housing 58 percent less, utilities 26 percentless 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 crushesSt. Louis on shampoo prices, 98 cents on average versus $1.15,according to Bankrate.

The calculator must not be taking into account supply anddemand trends around beard shampoo as most Red Sox players looklike 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 Bayneighborhood - $560,000!

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

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

To be sure, money isn't everything. Bostonians like to boastabout their proximity to the mountains of northern New Englandand beaches of Cape Cod. The cost of living calculator cannotaccount for those intangibles, like a baseball team's clubhousechemistry.

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

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

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

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

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

And cheaper shampoo.

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