The Cost of Living Diaries: South Bend, IN
Explore life in South Bend through the eyes of a local.
South Bend — or “The Bend,” as the locals call it — is a midsize Midwestern city in Northern Indiana that’s steeped in tradition yet full of surprises. While home to the University of Notre Dame, The Bend isn’t your typical college town. Its enviable recreational opportunities, popular restaurants and breweries, flourishing arts and culture scene, beautiful scenery and successful industries, such as education, health care, professional services, warehousing and logistics, and advanced manufacturing combine to create a unique, attractive community.
Plus, the cost of living in South Bend can’t be beat. Taking into consideration the price of things like food, housing, utilities, transportation, health care and more, South Bend’s Cost of Living Index is 86.3, compared to 118.2 for nearby Chicago (Q2 2022; 100 is the benchmark). And residents are met with an attractive median home value of $165,000 in the city and $198,000 county-wide (Source: Zillow), as well as median rents that are just over $800 (Source: U.S. Census 2020). When compared to the national median values — $356,000 to buy and $1,096 to rent — it feels like you’re almost “bending” the rules when you score great housing here.
To find out more about what it’s like to live and work in this attractive region, we sat down with Meghan Huff, who grew up in Bremen, a town about 30 minutes south of South Bend, and moved to the region with her husband in 2012. Today, she serves as the program and events manager for the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business graduate programs. She and her husband have two daughters.
Why did you decide to move to South Bend?
We just wanted something that didn’t close down at 8 p.m. or that was open on Sundays, and just the accessibility to other grocery stores (like Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme and Trader Joe’s) and restaurants and just more of a variety than the smaller town living. We wanted to live someplace that wasn’t too, too big, like a Chicago, and we wanted to be close to our families.
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What is the atmosphere like in South Bend?
It’s a great variety of people, and I think having the university here helps keep some of those students here that aren’t originally from the area. I would say it’s a pretty friendly city. It’s small enough that when you go out, you run into people that you know, but there are times where you can go out and not run into anyone you know — it’s always new faces you’re seeing in town, too.
What are your favorite things about living in the region?
I love our parks system. I think having the (St. Joseph) River that runs through South Bend is a fun feature of the city that provides adventure. There’s a lot of great walking trails and biking trails, playgrounds — just a lot of fun outdoor spaces.
What are your thoughts on the affordability of the area?
I think it’s very affordable. Like with working for Mendoza, we have a satellite campus in Chicago, so I was actually at our satellite campus and just thinking, “Man, I need to park downtown.” The cost to park downtown is a lot more expensive, whereas if you go downtown in South Bend, there’s plenty of options for parking that don’t cost you anything.
What is your favorite coffee shop in South Bend, and about how much is your go-to drink?
I am a huge coffee person and cannot pick just one. I really enjoy Chicory Café in downtown South Bend because it’s in a good location, and it’s a great space to work, grab lunch or catch up with friends. I typically get one of their specialty coffees, and those cost around $5 for a medium.
My second favorite coffee shop is The General Deli & Café, as they have unique flavors of coffee. I have tried and enjoyed their lavender honey latte, and their medium would be around $6.
What are your favorite restaurants in South Bend, and about how much would you spend on dinner at those locations?
There’s an Asian fusion restaurant that has really good sushi and traditional Asian dishes, and it’s called Woochi Japanese Fusion, and we really enjoy going there. If my husband and I go, it would probably be between $50 and $60, and that would be getting an entrée, a drink and maybe an appetizer to share.
Evil Czech Brewery (in Mishawaka) is another restaurant that offers a great variety of food and delicious drinks. They offer daily deals, such as Burger Box Mondays, where you get a burger and a pint of beer for $17. They also offer a brunch on the weekends where you can sample small plates of items from their menu, and it’s served buffet style.
Describe the perfect Saturday for you and your family in South Bend.
Our perfect Saturday with my family in South Bend depends on the season, but it would have to start with breakfast at PEGGS downtown. PEGGS offers traditional breakfast food that is loved by everyone in my family and the community, as it is typically a 30-minute wait on the weekends. From there, visiting the farmers market is a fun stop to pick out produce, spices, a beautiful floral bouquet, and, of course, Ben’s Soft Pretzels.
From there, our family enjoys going to one of the many parks in South Bend. Having two girls (ages 3 and 6), a playground is where we can spend hours, especially if it has a splash pad.
Another fun activity that our family enjoys is visiting the Potawatomi Zoo. We can typically get around the entire zoo in two to three hours.
Our family loves pizza so we would have to stop by Barnaby’s in South Bend to share a pizza and breadsticks.
Later in the year when the sun goes down by 8:30, the South Bend River Lights are neat to see. It’s a fun and peaceful way to end the day.
This article was sponsored by the South Bend Regional Chamber.