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Old 07-28-2014, 03:52 AM
3 posts, read 6,275 times
Reputation: 10


Hello everyone!

I am a Finnish woman, my husband is American and we have 3 kids (6, 10 and 12). We currently live in Northern Finland (2 hours south of the Arctic Circle near Oulu, weather-wise even colder and darker than Missoula) and have been thinking about moving to Montana, where some of my husband's family lives. I have read a lot of the conversations on this forum and am a little concerned about everyone's warnings about the cost of living. However, you must remember that we live in Finland, where the taxes are high and _everything_ is expensive, unemployment in our area is about 15-16% etc. Maybe someone could be so kind as to give me (again...) some feedback on the cost of living and some other questions that I have concerning living in Missoula.

1. In some old thread someone said that one must make min. 70K (I assume as a family?) just to get by. Does this assume that you have a lot of debt or pay a big rent? I sure hope so, because that sounds pretty crazy to me. I am hoping our case might be a bit different, because after selling our place in Finland we would most likely be able to buy a condo/townhouse (which is what we are looking for) with a small mortgage of 20K or so. That way we would only have a mortgage payment of, say, $350 a month, and no other debts to pay.

2. How much do utilities and "must-haves" cost in Missoula, if you live in a condo/townhouse? Property tax (for a 170K condo)? Gas+electricity? Water + sewage? Home+car insurance? Phone + internet? What else is there? According to my guestimation I could be faced with a sum of about $1050/month, am I far off?

3. Given that health care is more or less free here in Finland, the expensive system in the States seems at first like a kick in the (husband's) nuts. However, it seems like many of the employers offer health insurance as a benefit. Do you have to buy your own to compliment that or is that often enough? After having read all of those warnings in this forum, and therefore assuming that we will be dirt poor there, I checked the Obamacare websites for health care. Say you only make 40K as a family (!!), according to their calculator you could get pretty good coverage (health and dental) for your family for about $250/ month. So I guess if you end up with a low paying job, or one without a health insurance benefit, you don't have to pay "thousands" a month. I am trying to think in terms of "worst case scenario"... "A pessimist won't be disappointed" as we say in this happy place that is Finland. Haha

4. We spend about $900/month here on miscallaneous things, such as groceries, "household stuff", eating out, clothes etc. so I really, REALLY want to assume that will be enough for us in Missoula as well, considering that we are talking about Finland (with a sales tax of 24%....)... We don't "shop" for fun, nor do we "splurge", we are used to a simple life, I guess...

5. Stuff to do: we don't have to spend money on a boat or anything big, we would like to do hiking, biking, snowboarding/skiing (I checked that a family season pass is about $700), which don't cost that much "per month". We currently spend about $350 in gas per month, which should get us to the mountains quite a few times each month.

6. We are looking for a condo/townhouse close to the center, for it would be awesome not to be so dependent on a car and to be able to walk or ride a bike to work/school. In an old thread someone was asking about the best neighborhoods and was advised not to look in Northside. Why is Northside bad? Any more suggestions as to where to go near the center, if not Northside?

7. We are looking to move to MT in June of 2015. Therefore we don't have jobs lined up (yet), and it may be that at least I won't be able to get a job before our move, since the residency permit bureaucracy takes so long and I won't be able to apply for jobs until maybe next May or so. With my Master's degree I can probably get some kind of a $10/hr job, and my husband, who is an architect/builder, might find something to do as well, either in design or construction. He would probably also be able to get some $10/hr job, if it comes to that. Well, I guess this point wasn't a question after all.

Anyway, I apologize for the wall-of-text and hope that maybe someone would be kind enough to comment on my post, I would really greatly appreciate it! Thank you!
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Old 07-29-2014, 12:28 PM
Location: Dillon, Montana
586 posts, read 1,804,865 times
Reputation: 602
Hello Johanna!

You will do just fine in montana!

The $70,000/yr just to "get by," yeah, that's a little ridiculous. That would depend on your lifestyle and your debt load. There are many people in Montana that get by with only $20,000/yr or less!

You may have some trouble with housing though. Check out this website for examples:

Missoula MT Condos & Apartments for Sale - 62 Listings - Zillow

You are likely to see more snow in Montana than you do in Oulu, and the mountains . . . You have to see them to understand!

Compared to Oulu, Missoula is a small town, but has all the amenities you'll need. The cold and wind of winter should feel just like home! However, it can get hot in the summer. Evenings are always cool though.

It's true that employment is still a challenge in the States, but with a Masters, I think you can do better than $10/hr! Our minimum wage is getting ready to be nearly that! Even though you can't apply for work yet, start the process by talking to major employers in the area. I'm hoping you've already looked at //www.city-data.com/city/Missoula-Montana.html.

To get in the swing of things socially, I recommend finding a church to be part of. You don't have to be religious or a believer to be part of a church!! Honestly, the larger the church, the better. There are "church people" (hyper-religious, judgemental, etc) in every church, but there are also genuine Christians that will befriend you and help you get settled. There are more churchgoers in that region than not, and if you don't attend a church you'll feel isolated for a longer period. Making new friends is important for all of you!! Your new friends will help you get through the times when you feel really beaten down and homesick. I have the wisdom of experience!

There will be some culture shock, and a period of adjustment, but give it some time and you'll be just fine!

Keep us posted! I'm looking forward to reading about your journey!

Montana Bound in September!

Last edited by hymnsinger; 07-29-2014 at 12:42 PM..
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Old 07-30-2014, 02:32 AM
3 posts, read 6,275 times
Reputation: 10
Hi Tracey!

Thank you so much for your response! I was relieved to hear that one can get by with less than 70k a year! Thank you also for the great links you included, they were very helpful.

I am not worried about the winters at all, I think they will be much nicer there! Where we live, we usually have snow from October through April, but the worst is the darkness. We are so far up North that we only get 3 hrs of sunlight (=dusk) in the middle of winter. It sucks!! I have heard that winters in Missoula are often grey, but it is not pitch dark, right? As for driving on snow or ice, it's a norm here, we use studded winter tires Nov-Apr, how about you? I am also used to riding my bike in snow, but if it gets below 0F, I prefer to walk or drive! Oulu is know as a great bicycle town, most of the time the bike paths have been cleared for the morning bike-commute.

I understand that church has a bigger role in an average American's life than it has here in Finland. My family is not religious, nor do we have anything against (non-radical) religious people, in fact we have many friends who are church-goers. Is it really okay to go to church if you are a non-believer? I was raised in a Lutheran family, who went to church for weddings and funerals... I will have to see if I can muster up the courage to go to church to socialize and not to feel like a big fake liar!

We are lucky to have family pretty close by (1,5 hrs away), so at least we will not be all alone. My husband and I have lived in the US together before we had kids, so the country and culture aren't completely foreign to me. We will be coming with open minds, ready to embrace a new life with new challenges and experiences!

- Johanna
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Old 07-30-2014, 07:01 PM
Location: Dillon, Montana
586 posts, read 1,804,865 times
Reputation: 602
Yes, it is really OK to go to church if you're a non-believer! Just tell people you still have questions. There are MANY people in every church that are not believers, and that's OK. I have worked as a pastor, and everyone was welcome in my church! There are unfortunately churches that are exclusive, but they are easy to spot. There will always be people who will actively try to "get you saved," but understand that they mean well. Be firm with your boundaries and you will find that church is great way to get to know people and even learn about our Christian roots.

You should have heard some of the comments when I hired a "non-christian" as an accompanist. She was a very special young lady who worked her way into our hearts! I learned a LOT from Summer and I will always remember her fondly. Whether she is a Christian or not is between her and God.

You're going to love Montana!

Pastor Tracey
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Old 07-31-2014, 02:24 AM
Location: Missoula, Montana
17 posts, read 34,189 times
Reputation: 29
I was born in Missoula, have visited on and off all my life, and am currently in the process of relocating here now. You definitely do NOT need to make 70k a year to live here, most people do fine on much much less.

This is a very outdoorsy town, so find a sport you like and see if you can sign up. Do you play hockey? I am told hockey is the best way to network here, and I can connect you with a women's team that is looking for players. You could also try volunteering, a great way to meet people.

We are a multi-cultural family too (I'm American, my husband is Argentine), so I know it's tough. At least you've got the language down and are already acclimated to the cold, two of the biggest challenges.

Good luck in your move and hope we can meet!
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Old 07-31-2014, 07:46 AM
9 posts, read 13,695 times
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Hi Johanna

One thing I've read over and over is that to move to Missoula someone must have a job already lined up.

Healthcare in the US can be very expensive, depending on several factors, two of which are the type of insurance and how much of the cost the employer is willing to offset. The larger the company the better odds of having affordable healthcare. You've probably read that the US has recently rolled out care that has more federal fingers involved, and for some, that has meant the ability to HAVE healthcare and for others it has meant much higher expenses.

I, too, am looking to move to Missoula from the East coast of the US. You make a GREAT point about debt. I, too, would be buying a home outright or close to, so that certainly frees up some of the lower salaries offered for the higher expenses of food.

I wish I could remember exactly what I spent on milk and eggs in Missoula but I can tell you that here in Baltimore I shop at Whole Foods, whose nickname is "Whole Paycheck" and I spent far more in Missoula's grocery stores than I do at home. I looked at the prices in Albertsons and The Good Food store and both were higher by $1-$2 dollars than back East.

For my husband and I, we have recently decided to find several areas in which we would like to live and when the time comes we will throw our resumes at all opportunities. The place that makes the best offer will be where we move.

I do believe The Most Important piece of advice is to move where the job is, not to move and look for the job.

Best of luck! Thanks for the great questions...I'm really hoping that more of them are addressed by folks who live in Missoula.
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Old 08-04-2014, 12:08 PM
3 posts, read 6,275 times
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Hey Tracey, Biking Momma and Pam!

Thank you all for your replies! Biking Momma - I haven't played ice hockey since high school, so I think I may have to pass on that offer, haha! I do like ice skating though, we'll have to do some with the kids. We are also looking forward to hiking, skiing and snowboarding and most importantly, spending time with our American relatives, sailing, water skiing etc. I think it would be wonderful to meet you guys when we get there, let's keep in touch!

I think Pam's advice to move to the city with the job is a good one for someone looking for a good career choice, or anyone with logic (haha), but our main incentive is to live close(r) to my husband's family. We have lived in Finland for 13 plus years and see the American side of the family only every 2-3 years. As we (nor them) are not getting any younger, we want to see them more before it is too late. Initially we were looking to move to Bozeman, but it is too far away from them. If we lived there, we'd see them only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and maybe spring break. So we figured we'd better try our luck with Missoula. I think we made the right choice. Also, if things go teeerrrribly wrong, we can pack our bags and ship our butts back to Finland... Not that there are any more opportunities here...

Yes, I've heard of "Whole Paycheck" and their $3 apples! I wish I could shop there but I guess I'll have to make compromises and really study the labels! You know, buying food in a foreign country is one of the most difficult things at first, I think. You don't know what brands are ok, is generic ok or complete waste of $, what all the weird ingredients mean...!!! At least the produce section is often easy to navigate Anyway, I thought I'd share some info on Finnish prices, just to give you an idea of how ridiculous they can be here, mainly thanks to heavy taxation:

1,5 liters of milk (that's 50 ounces, we can't buy milk by the gallons): $1,75
Bread, rye/oat, 18 slices: $2,40
Peanut butter, small jar: $4,76
Iceberg lettuce, 1 small head: $1,55
Chicken filees, 1 pound: $6,55
Coke 16 ounces: $2,70
Eggs, package of 6: $1,30
And now, ladies and gentlemen, my personal favourite (drumroll, please!):
Gasoline: $8,52 per gallon

Talk about an expensive commute here! I pay about $400 for gas just to get to work and back. That is one of the reasons that we would like to live close to town.

Well, I'd better start getting ready for tomorrow's work day! I hope you all are having a great day!
- Johanna
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Old 08-04-2014, 12:48 PM
Location: Missoula, Montana
17 posts, read 34,189 times
Reputation: 29
Missoula is a great town, I think you'll love it. We didn't move here with jobs either! Keep in touch and message me when you get here. We'll be traveling for the next 6 months for a project.

[Mod cut]

Get in touch with me through Facebook, whatever works!

Good luck!

Last edited by ElkHunter; 08-04-2014 at 10:47 PM.. Reason: Please send link via direct message.
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Old 08-06-2014, 02:17 AM
Location: Dillon, Montana
586 posts, read 1,804,865 times
Reputation: 602
Johanna, I think that you will be VERY happy with gas prices in Montana! LOL
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