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The most and least expensive cities to live

Family uses a cost of living comparison to find a home in a new city.
December 18, 2018

By Katie Pins

We’ve all visited a city before and enjoyed our trip so much that we started to wonder: Could I move here? How can I make this work? How much would it cost to live here? Around this time is when I pull out my phone and start looking at some of my favorite real estate apps just to see what is out there. The cost of living can vary so much that a significant salary boost might be needed just to get by in a new town. We took a look at some data and came up with a cost of living comparison. Whether you’re just curious, or serious about a move, it’s good and fun to know just how much it can cost to live in your dream city.

How does the cost of living comparison work?

When the Council for Community and Economic Research calculates their quarterly cost of living index, the organization looks at six components: housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services. The prices of these categories tend to accurately reflect our monthly and daily spending.

When groceries are singled out specifically, we find that Honolulu, Juneau, AK, and New York (Manhattan) are where your dollar won’t go as far as you’d like. If you want to really save on groceries, Texas is your state! Four of their cities are among the least expensive places to shop for those everyday items.

Where is the cost of living the highest?

The list of the most expensive cities is no surprise. At the top of the list is Manhattan, where the median home will put you back nearly $1.3 million, according to Zillow.com. If you’re renting in Manhattan instead, your median rent is $3,400 a month with a cozy square footage. No. 2 on the list is San Francisco, where the median home price is nearly $1.4 million, or $4,500 in monthly rent.

Here are the top 10 most expensive cities to live:

  • New York (Manhattan), NY
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Honolulu, HI
  • New York (Brooklyn), NY
  • Washington D.C.
  • Seattle, WA
  • Oakland, CA
  • Arlington, VA
  • New York (Queens), NY
  • Boston, MA

Where is the cost of living the lowest?

If you’re not on the east or west coast, you’re more likely to find yourself living in a less expensive city or town. So, if you do decide to call one of these places home, where exactly would you be? Texas is home to the top two cheapest places to live in the U.S. Harlingen, TX and McAllen, TX are located near the Gulf Coast very close to the border of Mexico. The median home value in Harlingen is $88,300, according to Zillow. That number is a big difference compared to the most expensive cities listed above!

Here are the top 10 least expensive cities:

  • Harlingen, TX
  • McAllen, TX
  • Richmond, IN
  • Kalamazoo, MI
  • Muskogee, OK
  • Memphis, TN
  • Pryor Creek, OK
  • Joplin, MO
  • Martinsville-Henry County, VA
  • Conway, AR

 

If this post has inspired you to pack up your bags and move, you’ll want to check out our best real estate apps and sites or our tips for home buyers. Happy moving!


Katie Pins is a marketer fascinated with finance. Whether the topic is about the psychology of money, investment strategies or simply how to spend better, Katie enjoys diving in and sharing all the details with family, friends and Money Mentor readers. Money management needs to be simplified and Katie hopes she accomplishes that for our readers. The saying goes, "Knowledge is Power", and she hopes you feel empowered after reading Money Mentor.