In the simplest terms, a Cost of Living index is the estimated amount that represents the cost of the basic necessities required for an individual to live. A cost of living or COL estimate may typically include estimates for housing, food, energy, medical care, transportation, taxes, and other necessities. Mercer’s 23 rd annual Cost of Living Survey finds that factors like instability of housing markets and inflation for goods and services contribute to the overall cost of doing business in today’s global environment. A cost of living index allows you to compare what it costs to live in one place against another, helping you get a glimpse of how far your money will go before you move. For example the cost of living in New York City is almost twice that of Portland, Oregon.