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City vs. Suburbs: 5 Tradeoffs to Think About When Starting a Family

02/04/2015 10:42 am ET | Updated Apr 06, 2015
Denise Panyik-Dale via Getty Images

When deciding between city or suburban living, there are many factors to consider, including cost of living, proximity to work and lifestyle. There is no one, right answer as to which decision is better for raising children, since everyone's situation is different. Here are few things to consider:

1. Life priorities
Define yours. Are they mostly financial? Are you looking to become homeowners instead of renters? Do the quality of school districts matter or are you okay to shell out money for private schools? What's non-negotiable and what has flexibility? Also, where do you think you can best grow and thrive as individuals and collectively as a family? Like anything else in life, there are almost always tradeoffs.

2. Living space
There's lots to do in the city in terms of art, culture and events. In New York City, for instance, there are many great parks with playgrounds and museums with children's programs to keep kids entertained. If you're lucky enough, they're just a walk or subway away from your place. You also don't have to worry about home repairs so much, just call the landlord or maintenance personnel on site.

The downside is your quarters are cramped and you'll constantly be decluttering, which can be time consuming. And you're expected to tip the staff that helps you out throughout the year during the holiday season.

The benefits of the suburbs is you get more bang for your buck in terms of living space. Your kids will have room for toys and play dates. Plus you can have your own back yard with a garden and plenty of space to entertain. The cost of living is lower as well.

The only problem is, if you have a lot of space, you may end up becoming a hoarder and bringing in more stuff than needed just to fill a space. Depending on how much square footage you have, you may end up wasting electricity for rooms you rarely use.

Do you take pride in DIY and home improvement projects? Because you may very well spend many weekends working on your house and making frequent trips to the home improvement store. Can you see yourself doing lawn care, shoveling snow or taking care of leaks? You either will need to outsource or do most of the home maintenance and repairs yourself.

3. Schools
What's the quality of the school districts in the city versus the suburb you're considering? Will you need to enroll your child or children in private school if the public schools aren't so great? How's the competition for admission to private schools? What are the costs and are they worth it for your family?

4. Getting around
Cities are great because your kids are encouraged to walk, get exercise and you don't have to worry about driving everywhere. You could stop and take in the window displays or get a bite at a street fair or farmer's market. And if you want to leave the city, you could take a train or bus or rent a car for the weekend.

In the suburbs, however you drive everywhere. Can you imagine yourself carpooling your kids in a minivan? On the other hand it is more convenient to be able to buy groceries and easily transport them to your car versus walking the city streets with a bag on wheels (or suitcase) and possibly have to hail a cab during a busy time when everyone else is hailing a cab.

In the suburbs, you may not have an opportunity to walk as much so may need to come up with your own fitness routine. Would you work out in your home or get a gym membership?

5. Cultural fit
Cities generally have more cultural diversity, museums, festive events and more restaurants to choose from. You're able to people watch and experience being around people from all over the world. You will hear different languages. In the suburbs dining options are limited to chain restaurants and shopping malls.

Whatever situation you imagine yourself in, you can make it work for you. It just depends on what tradeoffs you're willing to live with. For our family, it made sense to leave the city for the suburbs so we could have an actual house and a yard that was affordable. But your reality may be different. There's no perfect answer except the one that you consider after weighing all your options and talking to people in the situation you want to eventually be in.

And just because you choose one living option over the other does not mean you are entirely bound to that particular decision. You could always relocate again, or decide to work in the city, move to the suburbs and vice-versa.