Cost of Living Forum

AlpenaLifer @alpenalifer
Joined: 5 months ago

Cost of Living in Alpena – Resident Looking for Insights

Hi everyone, I’m a long-time resident of Alpena and have been wondering how our cost of living compares to other cities. I’m a single parent with two school-aged kids, and we live modestly but comfortably. We own a modest 3-bedroom home and have one car.

I’d love to hear from others who live in Alpena about what they’re paying for major expenses like housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and entertainment. I’m looking for real-world examples and insights into both the pros and cons of Alpena’s cost of living.

A little about my situation – my take-home pay is around $3,500 per month after taxes. My mortgage is about $900, plus utilities around $250 per month. Groceries for the three of us run $500-600 monthly. We have a car payment of $300 and budget $150 for gas. Health insurance through my employer is $400 per month for our family plan.

So those are the major recurring costs in my budget. I’d love to hear how others’ expenses compare and get a sense of where Alpena falls on the affordability spectrum. What has been your experience with the cost of living here? Thanks in advance for sharing your perspectives!

Posts: 9


BudgetBenny @budgetbenny
Joined: 11 months ago

From what you’ve shared AlpenaLifer, your expenses seem pretty typical for a modest family lifestyle in Alpena. Housing is definitely one of the more affordable aspects – your $900 mortgage for a 3-bedroom is a great deal that you’d be hard-pressed to find in most other parts of the country. Rental rates look reasonable too based on the data, with 3-bedrooms outside downtown renting for around $1,100.

Groceries at $500-600 for a family of 3 also tracks with what I’d expect to pay here. Meat and produce are decently priced, and you can find good deals on staples like bread, rice and dairy at the local supermarkets.

Utilities like electric and heating may be one area where costs run a tad high due to the colder winters we get. But your $250 budget seems manageable.

On the recreation side, Alpena offers solid value for outdoor activities – parks, beaches, trails, etc. are very affordable ways to spend quality family time. But some amenities like fitness clubs or kids’ sports leagues can start to add up.

Overall, I’d say Alpena provides a relatively low cost of living, especially for home ownership and essentials like groceries. Just have to be mindful of heating/utility costs and budget thoughtfully for recreation expenses beyond the free/low-cost options. It’s allowed me to live pretty comfortably here on a tight budget.

Posts: 9
PremiumPam @premiumpam
Joined: 2 years ago

I agree that housing is one of the most affordable aspects of living in Alpena if you’re a homeowner. But unfortunately, the rental market is extremely tight and rates have been skyrocketing over the past couple of years. We pay $1400 for a modest 2-bedroom apartment downtown, which is a serious drain on our budget.

Groceries aren’t too bad if you stick to the basics and shop the sales. But eating out or enjoying some of the nicer amenities in town can get pricey pretty quickly. A decent dinner for two with drinks at one of the mid-range restaurants is at least $70-80 after tax/tip.

Utilities are outrageous in my opinion – our electricity/heating bills were over $300 per month during winter and summer due to the old building and poor insulation. Internet/cable is another $100+ if you want decent speeds.

Transportation is a mixed bag. Gas is relatively cheap, but vehicle costs like maintenance, insurance, registration fees, etc. add up. We don’t have good public transit, so you pretty much need a car to get around.

On the plus side, there are some affordable entertainment options with parks, libraries, community events. But costs can escalate quickly if you want a gym membership, premium TV/streaming packages, frequent nights out, etc.

Alpena is relatively affordable for basics like housing and groceries if you’re a homeowner. But rising rental costs, utilites, transportation, and “extras” can make it tough for those on a tighter budget like us. We’re actively looking to move due to the high overall cost of living here given our income level.

Posts: 9
OutdoorsGuy42 @outdoorsguy42
Joined: 2 years ago

As someone who lives a pretty active, outdoorsy lifestyle, I find Alpena to be very affordable for my needs and hobbies. The abundance of parks, trails, beaches and public lands means I can get out and enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking and other activities without spending much at all.

Housing is extremely reasonable, especially if you’re OK living a little outside the city center. My mortgage on a modest 3-bed ranch is only around $600 in a nice residential area. Groceries and utilities are manageable too.

Where costs can add up for me is with gear/equipment for all my outdoor pursuits – bikes, kayaks, fishing gear, camping supplies, etc. ButI try to buy used when possible and spread out those bigger purchases over time.

I don’t have kids, so no experience with childcare costs. But I imagine that’s one major expense for families that could strain a budget in Alpena.

My truck is another area I splurge on – trucks/SUVs with 4WD tend to be more expensive up front and for gas compared to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. But it’s a necessity for me to access many trails and outdoor areas.

All in all, Alpena has been very affordable to maintain my active, outdoorsy lifestyle focused on inexpensive activities and recreation. Just have to be smart about bigger ticket items like vehicles and gear. I feel like I get great value and access here for a relatively low cost of living.

Posts: 19
CityChick28 @citychick28
Joined: 8 months ago

I moved to Alpena fairly recently from a larger metro area, and I’ve been pretty shocked by how high some costs are despite the area’s overall lower cost of living compared to bigger cities.

As others mentioned, housing is very reasonable if you’re a homeowner. But good luck finding a decent rental that doesn’t eat up a huge chunk of your paycheck. We pay over $1200 for a dated 2-bed apartment that’s nothing special.

Utilities seem to run quite high too – our heating and electricity bills were through the roof last winter even though we tried to conserve energy.

Groceries are hit or miss. You can find good deals on basics, but anything more specialty or higher-end gets marked up like crazy at the local supermarkets.

Dining out and entertainment is where costs can really add up quickly in Alpena. There aren’t a ton of options, so restaurants and venues don’t have much competition. A decent meal at a sit-down place can easily cost $60+ for two people after drinks/apps/tip.

On the plus side, insurance rates are lower than I was paying in my previous city, and there’s no need for an expensive monthly public transit pass since most people drive. Outdoors recreation is very affordable too.

But overall, I’m pretty underwhelmed by the “low cost of living” in Alpena so far. Housing is reasonable if you own, but many other costs like utilities, food, entertainment seem inflated given the area’s smaller size and economy. It’s been an adjustment coming from a bigger city where you at least had more competition and options.

Posts: 14
LocalLarry @locallarry
Joined: 2 years ago

As a lifelong Alpena resident and recent retiree, I’ve been pretty pleased with how affordable it is to live here on a fixed income. My housing costs are very manageable – I own my 3-bedroom ranch outright after paying off the mortgage, and property taxes are just $1800 per year.

Utilities like electricity, gas and water maybe run $150-200 per month even with conservative usage habits. And I save a bundle on transportation by mostly walking or biking for local trips – gas and insurance are about my only vehicle costs these days.

Groceries are reasonable if you stick to the staples and shop deals – meat and produce can definitely get expensive, but basics like dairy, bread, rice and beans are all quite affordable. I probably spend $300 per month tops for just me.

Entertainment is where I can splurge a bit while still staying frugal. A round of golf with a cart runs about $35 at the local municipal course. Movie tickets are $9 for seniors. And us Alpena locals get great deals on fishing/hunting licenses and park passes.

Healthcare costs can be a big burden, even with Medicare and supplemental insurance. My out-of-pocket costs for premiums, prescriptions and copays still run $400+ monthly. And there aren’t many high-quality medical facilities or specialists in the immediate area either.

But all in all, Alpena has been a very affordable place that’s allowed me to live comfortably on a relatively modest retirement income of around $2700 per month. The low housing and transportation costs have been huge for my budget. Just have to be cost-conscious on things like healthcare, dining out frequently, and any major home repairs or renovations down the line.

Posts: 1
FamilyMan83 @familyman83
Joined: 2 years ago

Living in Alpena with a family has been both affordable and challenging from a cost perspective. On the plus side, we were able to buy a nice 4-bedroom house just a couple miles outside downtown for only $220,000. With our 20% down payment, the monthly mortgage is only $1,100 including taxes and insurance – definitely hard to beat that for a family home in most parts of the country.

Groceries and gas are relatively cheap as well. We budget around $750 monthly for food, and fuel for our two vehicles runs about $300 per month combined.

Utilities are manageable too – $275 covers electricity, gas, water, sewer and garbage for our 2,200 sq ft house on average each month. Basic cable/internet package is another $100.

Where the costs get challenging is in areas like childcare, youth activities and entertainment to keep our three kids engaged and active. Daycare for our toddler is $850 per month at a decent facility. Sports leagues, summer camps and other after-school activities average $200 per kid each season. And there aren’t a ton of free recreation options besides parks and libraries.

Dining out is another area that stings more than I expected in a smaller city. Decent casual restaurants tend to be pricey, so even a family night out at an Applebees-type place can run $60-80 after tip for our crew.

Healthcare costs are significant as well – over $500 monthly for a family health insurance plan plus co-pays and prescriptions.

So while housing, gas, utilities and basic living costs are very affordable in Alpena, all the peripheral expenses for keeping a busy family engaged and entertained really do add up. For our situation with three kids and both parents working, we still feel stretched pretty thin at times despite bringing home around $7,000 combined monthly income after taxes.

Posts: 19
MillennialMike @millennialmike
Joined: 13 months ago

As a young professional in my late 20s, I’ve found Alpena to be pretty affordable overall, but it definitely has its pros and cons from a cost perspective:

– Housing is stupid cheap if you’re OK renting an older apartment. I pay $625 for a decent 1-bed downtown, though selection is very limited.
– Gas, groceries, restaurants and bars are all quite inexpensive compared to bigger cities I’ve lived in.
– No need to budget for public transit or excessive vehicle costs beyond gas since it’s so drivable.
– Outdoor activities, parks, beaches, etc. provide plenty of free/low-cost entertainment options.

– Utilities seem to run very high in the older housing stock – $150+ for a small 1-bed is tough.
– Cell/internet plans are overpriced for the limited competition – I pay $80 for decent speeds.
– Very few “cheap” entertainment options besides the outdoors – movies, gyms, bars get pricey fast.
– Airfare is very expensive if traveling outside the region for work or pleasure.
– Dining scene is pretty limited – upscale date night can easily cost $80-100 for two with drinks/apps.
– Not many jobs available for career growth beyond a certain stage – may need to relocate.

At my current income level of around $55k, I can live pretty comfortably in Alpena while still maxing retirement contributions and banking decent savings. But I do have to be more cost-conscious on things like travel, going out frequently, and housing upgrade paths as my lifestyle/family situation evolves in the coming years.

Posts: 21
MamaFrugal @mamafrugal
Joined: 3 months ago

We moved to Alpena a couple years ago as a one-income family looking to drastically reduce our cost of living and prioritize a slower-paced lifestyle for our kids. And so far, it’s been a great decision financially even with me not working outside the home.

On just my husband’s $65k salary, we’re able to cover our core expenses while still saving over $1k per month:

– Mortgage on our 4-bed, 2-bath house in a nice neighborhood is $1,200 including taxes/insurance. We bought for $255k.
– Utilities (electric, gas, water, sewer) are very reasonable at around $250/month.
– Grocery bill is $550-600 monthly. Fresh produce is affordable here.
– Gas for two used cars is $250 max unless we’re taking longer trips.
– Internet/streaming services around $100.
– 2 cellphone plans for $80 total.
– Health insurance premiums $550 through hubby’s work.
– Allow $300 for other essentials, home maintenance, gas, etc.

So that leaves us with comfortable discretionary income leftover each month for things like occasional restaurant meals, kids’ activities/summer camps, etc. We definitely have to budget carefully and make tradeoffs, but it’s doable.

Private school tuition, pricey daycare costs and high property taxes in our former city were just unsustainable on one income. Now we have more breathing room by downshifting to the affordable Alpena market. There are fewer activities for kids, but we can use savings for travel or splurges occasionally.

Posts: 12
PreppyPatti @preppypatti
Joined: 2 years ago

While Alpena may be relatively affordable for basic housing and necessities, I’ve found that maintaining my preferred upscale lifestyle here requires some serious income. Many discretionary costs like dining, entertainment, travel and leisure activities are not cheap!

On the plus side, my husband and I did score a great deal on our house – a beautiful 4-bed colonial on a acre lot for $425k. With our high incomes, we were able to put 30% down, so our mortgage is very manageable at $2,100 per month. Property taxes are also very reasonable compared to most suburbs of major cities.

But many other aspects of our upper-middle class lifestyle add up quickly in Alpena:

– Utilities for our sizable 3,000 sq ft home run $400+ monthly on average
– Grocery bills are easily $1,000+ per month for high-quality meats, organic produce, etc. Even Costco isn’t huge bargain.
– Gas for our trucks/SUVs is $500+ with current prices.
– Childcare for two kids in a good private preschool is over $1,400 per month.
– Kids’ extracurriculars like travel sports, dance, music lessons, etc. total $800 monthly.
– Healthcare is pricey too – $1,100 for family medical/dental/vision coverage.
– Dining out for a nice experience is $100+ per person after drinks, tip and shared apps.
– Domestic travel adds up with high local airfares and transport.

On the plus side, entertainment like movies is reasonable. And outdoors recreation is great with the beaches, trails, lakes and parks. We also save on lack of commuting costs.

But to maintain our desired standard of living in Alpena, we need a very healthy household income of over $250k to cover housing, childcare, healthcare, leisure/travel and still save aggressively. It’s definitely doable for high-earners, but I was surprised by the costs for premier amenities and services in this small city.

Posts: 4

Detailed Price Insights of Abilene, TX

  • Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course – 70.00 $
  • Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught) – 4.00 $
  • Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) – 6.00 $
  • Cappuccino (regular) – 4.00 $
  • Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter bottle) – 2.00 $
  • Milk (regular), (1 liter) – 1.01 $
  • Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g) – 2.41 $
  • Rice (white), (1kg) – 6.61 $
  • Local Cheese (1kg) – 11.02 $
  • Chicken Fillets (1kg) – 5.51 $
  • Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat) – 9.91 $
  • Apples (1kg) – 5.51 $
  • Banana (1kg) – 1.32 $
  • Oranges (1kg) – 3.86 $
  • Tomato (1kg) – 3.31 $
  • Potato (1kg) – 3.31 $
  • Onion (1kg) – 4.41 $
  • Lettuce (1 head) – 1.49 $
  • Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) – 14.00 $
  • Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle) – 3.50 $
  • Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro) – 8.00 $
  • Gasoline (1 liter) – 1.12 $
  • Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat – 9.00 $
  • 1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar) – 40.00 $
  • 1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, H&M, …) – 25.00 $
  • 1 Pair of Men Leather Business Shoes – 55.00 $
  • Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre – 1,050.00 $
  • Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre – 950.00 $
  • Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre – 2,000.00 $
  • Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre – 1,100.00 $
  • Mortgage Interest Rate in Percentages (%), Yearly, for 20 Years Fixed-Rate – 6.80
Please Login or Register to reply to this topic.
Join Us!