Save and Invest

People who live in the suburbs have almost 4 times as much in savings as city dwellers


The best thing for your savings account might be leaving city life behind.

Those living in the suburbs have $3,600 in savings on average, compared to an average of $1,000 for city-dwellers, according to a recent survey from Credit Karma. On top of that, less than 30% of people in cities report having a 401(k), compared with 40% of suburbanites.

The two main reasons why city dwellers are able to put away less are likely wage stagnation and high costs of living, Credit Karma reports. Even accounting for inflation, today's typical wages have about the same purchasing power they did four decades ago, according to the Pew Research Center, and over 20% of people in cities report that their income is "very low" for where they live. Only 13% of suburbanites say the same thing.

A higher percentage of people in cities have student loan debt compared to their suburban counterparts as well, Credit Karma found, which is likely "hindering their ability to save," Dana Marineau, VP and financial advocate at Credit Karma, tells CNBC Make It.

The cost of housing is another major reason people living in cities have a harder time saving, according to Credit Karma. City residents say they put 28.6% of their monthly pay toward housing, compared with 24.2% for suburbanites. That can make a big difference: Housing is routinely the most expensive item in the average American's budget.

Searching for cheaper rent can be hard when housing inventory is low, and many people need to live in certain places for work. But even if you live in a city, it's still possible to build up your emergency fund.

How to save in a high-cost-of-living city

One starting point for saving in a high-cost-of-living area is to live with a few roommates to split costs. Housing should comprise no more than 30% of your budget, says Marineau, which means potentially living in a less desirable part of town or making other sacrifices to save on housing costs.

But it's not just life's bigger expenses, like housing, that can make it difficult to save. There are just more opportunities to spend in cities, Marineau says. Happy hours, entertainment, ride shares and other costs, such as delivery apps, need to be regulated.

Especially if you can't find an affordable place to live, you should consider making these sacrifices in other parts of your budget. "When considering a purchase, big or small, ask yourself, 'Could I afford this twice? Can I comfortably buy this once now and then once again with the money left over?'" suggests Marineau. "If not, it may be worth reconsidering, and saving up your funds until you can pay for the item or experience twice."

Beyond that, having a savings plan is key. Set up a reasonable, automatic withdrawal from your checking into to your savings account every week or month.

No matter where you live, most financial experts recommend having an easily accessible emergency fund of at least three to six months' worth of expenses.

The best place to stash your money? A high-yield online savings account with an interest rate above 2%. You can earn 20 times or more the amount of interest you'd get from a traditional savings account at a bank. 

These tips and tricks can help you save even more: 

Don't miss: Here's what to know before signing up for a high-yield savings account at a robo-advisor

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How to grow your emergency savings account without thinking about it
How to grow your emergency savings account without thinking about it