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According to NerdWallet, a website which offers free tools to find deals on things such as credit cards and airlines, Los Alamos is number five in a list of 10 least expensive cities in the United States.
Inspired by The Economist’s Big Mac Index, which measures the purchasing power of currencies around the world by answering the question “How many burgers can you get for $50 USD?” for each country, the leaders of NerdWallet have developed a similar index which focuses on bthe value of a dollar in different cities across the U.S.
The Quarter Pounder Index, or QPI measures the cost of living in different cities across the country based on the price of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder Burger with cheese.
Los Alamos ranks in the least expensive cities list, with the Quarter Pounder valued at $2.81. Prices around the country range from $2.24, in Conway, Ark., to $4.82, in Juneau, Alaska. The median price for a Quarter Pounder is $3.52.
Data from the least expensive list suggest that North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee are all smart location choices, each containing two cities in the top 20 “Least expensive places in the United States, according to the QPI” list.
On the other side of the spectrum, there is the “Most expensive places in the United States, according to the QPI” list, with obvious contenders such as Alaska, New York, Hawaii and California.
Within the top 10 list, Alaska and Hawaii occupy 40 percent. This is most likely due to the isolated nature of these states, which leads to higher shipping costs.
All of the data used in compiling the QPI lists comes from the ACCRA Cost of Living Index.
When locals were asked about the accuracy of this list, nobody seemed to find the QPI as an accurate indicator of life in Los Alamos.
“It’s not cheap up here — most of the time you have to go off the hill to get things for very low prices. But the things you find up here — even if they are more expensive — are often quirkier and more cool than the things you find at chain stores,” Katie Haynes, a student at Los Alamos High School said.
When asked where in Los Alamos she shops, Haynes listed CB Fox, Casa Mesita, the various arts and craft stores, the farmers market and the Co-Op as go-to shops in the area.
“You can buy cheap property in Los Alamos, but I would say living expenses are around average with other cities in New Mexico, like Santa Fe and Albuquerque, especially given the fact that many people have to commute given the lack of stores in Los Alamos,” Andrew Bradbury, an employee of Los Alamos National Laboratory said.
Margo Batha, an employee of Los Alamos Public Schools, agrees with both aforementioned opinions to some extent.
“Our family has lived in New York, New Jersey and California, and we’ve found that housing is expensive in Los Alamos, but our tax rate is lower than any other community with comparable schools and services. Goods and services are more expensive here in Los Alamos than they are in Albuquerque, but our schools and county services are much better,” she said.
The Quarter Pounder Index seems to be disappointingly inaccurate when it comes to prices, residents within the community are satisfied with the standard of living in Los Alamos.