Finances can play a crucial role in the decision-making process for students considering where they want to study or settle down after graduation. Cost of living was the characterizing factor of a recent study by GoBankingRates, which named Springfield as one of the 50 “Best cities for Gen Z to live well on a budget.”
According to GoBankingRates, the ratings were calculated by adding up the cost of necessities like rent, utilities, groceries, healthcare and transportation, then subtracting that amount from $29,920, which they said is the average after-tax income of Americans ages 25 and younger. This calculation yields the amount of income leftover after all necessities paid for. You can see more about these ratings here.
“Each factor was scored, with average rent weighted triple, population and percentage of population ages 18 to 24 weighted double, leftover income weighted double and livability weighted double,” the study said. “The higher the score, the less affordable and desirable a city was.”
Springfield was ranked 13 and received a rating of 65 out of 100 for “livability,” which considers the population of 18 to 24 year olds in the city to determine whether it would be desirable for Gen Zers to live. Springfield, along with other cities in the South and Midwest, filled up the top of the list after GoBankingRates analyzed 200 of the largest U.S. cities.
According to RentJungle, the average rent in Springfield is around $799. Missouri State University graduate Amaris Clay rents an apartment near campus with utilities included for $600 a month. She says she considers herself to be frugal, spending about $120 a month on groceries. Clay was born in St. Louis, and says she prefers living in Springfield at this period in her life over her hometown.
“When looking at a new city to live I consider the cost of living, climate, career opportunities, social scene, restaurants and dining and distance from my hometown,” Clay said. “I graduated from MSU in May with my bachelor’s, and I chose to stay in Springfield to pursue my master's degree because I still felt too young and honestly unprepared to make a big move.”
Reasons behind Springfield’s economic prosperity could arguably be rooted in the Springfield Chamber of Commerce’s dedication to business retention and expansion. According to the COC website, the Business Retention and Expansion Program “helps local businesses that employ our residents and strengthen Springfield’s regional economy” and provides “companies with a single point of entry to a variety of business assistance resources.”
Clay said she has noticed Springfield’s growth, and it is one of the reasons she decided to stay here.
“Springfield is growing, and with that growth comes more career opportunities,” Clay said. “I think Springfield is a good place for people our age because we are in a transitional stage in our lives. We are trying to ‘adult’ and that comes with a lot of trial and error. Springfield is much less intimidating than cities like St. Louis or Kansas City, so it’s a great practice run for bigger places.”
Students moving out of the dorms have options for off-campus student apartments through properties such as MORe Student Living, which owns three different apartments near campus. Each lease includes utilities, Wi-Fi and furniture in the rent which can range from around $500 to over $800 a month. Students can also lease other apartments and houses near the university and downtown area for similar prices.
Many apartments near campus are tailored to college students and offer special amenities. Many include utilities, furniture, appliances, and some offer workout centers, swimming pools and dog parks.
Aspen Heights is an off-campus student apartment complex which features an outdoor pool as well as a fully-equipped gym. Bear Village, another off-campus complex, includes a tea and coffee bar, a dog park and grilling patios.
Springfield’s cost of living was also rated based on the cost of transportation. GoBankingRates estimated the annual cost for transportation in Springfield to be around $2,700, compared to the national average of $9,004, according to ValuePenguin. Other than paying for gas, Gen Zers have options for other forms of inexpensive transportation around Springfield .
Sophomore theater major Simon Osler rents a house across the street from MSU and walks to class every day, so he never spends money getting to and from class. The university also offers the Bear Line, a free shuttle service which takes students around campus, to nearby apartments and downtown.
According to the City of Springfield website, “Downtown Springfield is emerging as a walkable community with urban living close to shopping, work and transit.”
Students living on or near campus are a few blocks away from the downtown area, making walking and biking viable options for transportation. The city offers the Ozark Greenways, a collection of trails for walking and biking, as well as the LINK, a bus route that follows low-traffic streets and crosses several bus stops and bike routes.
Clay said downsides of living in Springfield include a lack of diversity, limited nightlife, the need of a degree to make a decent wage, high crime rate, and the risk of getting taken advantage of by landlords. She said the advantages are affordable housing, the abundance of bars, the close proximity of everything and having a lot to explore. She said the city is “picturesque at times.” Overall, Clay said she is comfortable in Springfield but plans to move after graduation.
“I believe Springfield is a great place for Gen Zers to live,” Clay said. “There are not many cities where living alone, and comfortably at that, at our age is possible.”