Pay or Stay is an idea I came up with as a quick and easy app to help me brush up on my development skills after returning from a one-month backpacking trip across Europe.

The idea was to create a salary intelligence app to help empower those who are considering moving to another city. It will be a tool to find out what you need to earn in the city you want to live in to maintain the same standard of living + more.

I just recently moved from New York to San Francisco. Before my move, I have spent countless hours researching cost of living, average salary, taxes and other things in multiple cities when I was deciding where to move. So I thought, why not build something beautiful that does it all for me with one click and share it with others?

There are already salary calculators out there, but I wanted to do more than just spitting out a number. I wanted to provide related salary information that can be helpful as well. I wanted to create a beautiful and visual one-page “report” that is both informative and easy to understand (kind of like those credit score trackers or Mint.com reports); something people can use to do research on different cities or for their negotiations.

This app was originally called “Needle in a Haystack”. After sharing my initial idea with a few friends, they came up with the name “Pay or Stay”.

I spent three days working on this app, including research, backend development, frontend design, deployment, and bug fixes. The final outcome was not as feature-ful as I had envisioned due to the lack of public data available. I was discouraged by the lack of data at first, but I ended up letting go of some of my ideas and pivoted the app (multiple times).

With some creative workarounds, Pay or Stay ended up being pretty close to what I envisioned. Using the Cost of Living Index, Pay or Stay calculates what salary you need to earn in the city you want to live in to maintain the same standard of living you currently have. I’ve also implemented some additional features and laid it out in simple and beautiful mobile-responsive dashboard.

Check it out here: payorstay.tonymai.net

If I ever come back to this app in the future, some of my desired improvements will be:

  • Compare your salary to average salaries for specific job title and locations
  • Where you stand in the salary distribution for your job title and location
  • Historical salary data for specific job title and locations
  • How your salary compares to minimum wage for all locations
  • Refine calculations based on state and city taxes
  • More current Cost of Living index
  • More data points to cover more locations (both in the US and internationally)
  • Display sample pre-filled budgeting templates for both locations and calculate how much average disposable vs. discretionary income you will have