The Ultimate Guide To The Cost Of Living In Various States

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Have you ever heard of the 'cost of living' or a 'cost of living index'? In general terms, the cost of living is how much you need to earn per year for a decent standard of living - and the cost of living by state can vary quite a bit. If you're looking to move away from your current state or you're just curious about where life will be more affordable for your family - keep reading!
Since the cost of living can vary significantly from state to state, it's essential to know where you stand. Whether you're looking for a change in scenery or just trying to save some money, we're listing the cost of living by state, so you can make all the cost of living comparisons you need. 

Cost Of Living By State 

Much like the cost of living by country varies, the cost of living by state will also differ. Usually, when working out the cost of living in an area, the annual mean wage, median monthly rent, and the value of a dollar will all be considered to then make up the average cost of living in that area. States that have a higher mean wage, higher monthly rent, but lower value of a dollar tend to have a higher cost of living.

States With Best Income to Cost of Living Ratio 2021

If you're looking for the best bargain, you'll want to find a house where the cost of living is low, yet the income is high - this way you'll have more income to live a better life. Here are the five best states for income to cost of living ratios as of 2021: 

Texas

Cities like Austin, Cedar Park, and Midland in Texas have some of the best income to cost of living ratios. Cedar Park has the best ratio out of every city in Texas and every state within the US, with an estimated income-to-expense ratio 1.384. The cost of living estimate for Cedar Park is currently $58,497, while the median household income is $80,954!
In Midland and Austin, the cost of living estimates are slightly higher, at $60,894 and $63,855. However, the median household income for these cities is also higher, coming in at $82,650 and $80,954 - this averages out the estimated income-to-expense ratios to 1.357 for Midland and 1.268 for Austin. The average cost of living ratio for Texas is 91.5.

Utah

The state with the second-best income to cost of living ratio is Utah. Ogden and Provo are especially affordable, with ratios of 1.318 and 1.294. In Ogden, the average household income is approximately $79,251 - this is $19,115 more than the estimated cost of living, which means you'll have on average $19,000 extra to play with! 
In Provo, the median household income is set at $79,152, while the cost of living is $61,145, giving you a slightly less amount of $18,007. The overall cost of living to income ratios of Ogden and Provo are 1.318 and 1.294. The average cost of living ratio for Utah is 98.4

North Carolina

North Carolina comes in at third place, with the best income to cost of living ratio of 1.317 in the city of Raleigh. The median household income in Raleigh, North Carolina, is $80,096, which when compared to the cost of living estimate of $60,830 works out at 19,622! The average cost of living ratio for North Carolina is 94.9.

Iowa

Des Moines in Iowa also has a great income to cost of living ratio. In Iowa, specifically Des Moines, you'll see an average household income of $71,164, while the cost of living is only $55,283 - this is the cheapest cost of living on our list! This makes the ratio a very reasonable 1.287 - if you're looking for a cheap cost of living and you don't mind the average pay, Iowa might be an ideal state for you! The average cost of living ratio for Texas is 90.1.

Minnesota

If you're looking for a huge pay rise, Minnesota has the highest household income average, coming in at $83,698. Cities such as Minneapolis and St. Paul have the best ratios, at 1.266 and 1.260. The average cost of living in these Minnesota cities is between $66,125 and $66,440 - this still gives you over $17,000 extra to do with as you see fit! The average cost of living ratio for Texas is 101.6.

States With Worst Income to Cost of Living Ratio 

Hawaii

While Hawaii is a beautiful state to live in, it doesn't come cheap. The cost of living in Hawaii is actually 96.3% higher than the US average, with a cost of living ratio of 196.3%! The average household income is $81,275, yet the cost of living in Hawaii is a massive $141,680. This could be due to Hawaii's extortionate housing prices, as the housing index is 336.3 - the median home value is roughly $660,000, and the groceries are more expensive due to most goods being imported to the island.

Washington DC

With the second-highest cost of living index, Washington DC is second on the list of worst income to cost of living ratio. The living index is 161.1, making the cost of living in Washington DC 61.1% higher than the US average. The annual living wage in DC is $72,761, while the median income is only $73,775 - not so great if you want a lavish life. The housing index for DC isn't the best either, with a rate of 279.2.

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California

It's no surprise, California is expensive to live in. The cost of living index for California is currently 138.5, but it also has one of the highest transportation indexes of all the states, at 132.4 - this is down to super-high gas prices! The cost of living is roughly $97,806, an eye watering price regardless of your household income. The average income for those in California is $75,235, so not horrendous, but that doesn't make up for the high cost of living price!

Oregon

Surprisingly, Oregon has the fourth-highest cost of living index with an index of 134.6. While the housing index in Oregon isn't particularly steep (184.8), many cities within the state are suffering from some of the highest gas prices in the country. The living wage for Oregon is $88,394, which isn't too insane considering.

New York

With a cost of living index of 133.7, New York isn't the best place to move to if you're looking for a bargain. All living costs such as groceries, transportation, and utilities are all above the US national average - but that's not surprising, really, as it is New York! The average living wage in New York is $99,778, while the median salary is only $68,486.

What Is The Cost Of Living?

The cost of living is a way of measuring how much money it would cost to live an average-quality life. As costs and income differ greatly throughout the world, a cost of living index will help you work out roughly how much money it would take to live in a particular area comfortably. The cost of living can be looked at by country, state-by-state, or city-by-city if you're already set on what country you want to live in. 
As of 2020, Hong Kong has the highest cost of living globally, meaning that it costs more money to live an average quality of life in Hong Kong than anywhere else in the world!

How Does The Cost Of Living Index Work?

The cost of living is measured by economists who look at several factors within each city or country. Things like food, transport, housing, taxes, and healthcare are priced up and compared to other destinations to see where it is more expensive. This measurement isn't without its flaws, however. This way of cost of living comparison isn't 100% accurate, as each area has its own buying habits.
Culture can play a huge part in buying habits, so it can be challenging to decide on what prices should be compared. For example, a French essential like baguettes or camembert would never be on the shopping list of an individual in Tokyo. Cost of living indexes are a simple way you can compare average living expenses before you make any life-altering decisions.
You can also use a cost of living index to keep track of the rise and fall of basic expenses over a period of time.

Can The Cost Of Living In Your State Affect You?

In short, yes. The cost of living in your area can significantly affect you in terms of bills and how much money you have left after you get your pay stub. Create your paystubs today with a paystub generator! Your salary might lead you to a comfortable life in the small city of Portland, but if you moved to, say, a bustling city like New York, that same salary could leave you broke.
If you're looking to move, the cost of living can definitely impact your choice of location. You'll need to know the average cost of living of the state you're thinking of moving to so you can work out what type of salary you would need. If your employer won't match your required salary or can't find a new job with the salary you need, a move could be a bad idea.
Using a cost of living index can also help you determine whether your income is enough to cover basic expenses. If you're looking to move, you can check the average wage for your job role in that area and compare it to the cost of living. If your current job looks to be better pay, you could discuss working remotely from a different state.
If you do decide to move states but keep the same job, you might want to read up on the income tax rules.
Once you've worked out wages in relation to the cost of living by state, you can work out how much cash you'll have leftover for other essentials. It's important to have some money left over for things like savings, retirement pensions, or even just paying off debt. 
Without these extra forms of cash, you might struggle to live a decent life.

Cost Of Living Calculator

If you weigh up your moving options, you'll definitely want to compare the cost of living between states. Luckily, you can compare the cost of living indexes of whichever states you choose easily using a cost of living calculator. Cost of living calculators will see how far a dollar will go in whichever areas you're looking at.
You'll need some information to pop into the calculator, like income, current city, and prospective city, for example. So if you weigh up a move from your current state of New York to a new state like Texas, a cost of living calculator will tell you if it's worth the move or if your wage could even cover it. While the government doesn't have its own cost of living calculator, you can find various good calculators that will do the job just fine!
CNN, Bankrate, and Salary.com all have great cost of living calculators.

Conclusion

It's worth considering the cost of living when you're thinking about moving to a new state. For instance, if your salary is higher than average in your current location, but the cost of living is higher as well, it might be better for you financially to stay put and work remotely from there. Your employer may allow this!
If they don't, make sure that you are aware of any differences before making a final decision on where to live or what job offer to take - because at the end of the day, your situation and choices are all that matter. Do you have a need for a paystub? Be sure to check out these fine examples and take your pick.

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The Ultimate Guide To The Cost Of Living In Various States
Samantha Clark

A Warrington College of Business graduate, Samantha handles all client relations with our top-tier partners. Read More

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