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The Average Cost of Living by State, and Why Ignoring it Could Sink Your Business

You hear about it all the time in the news—Cost of living rising! Maybe you think about it on a daily basis—Do I earn enough to cover my standard of living?

But, how often have you thought about the relationship between the cost of living and your business?

If it’s crossed your mind before, then you’ve probably also wondered about the average cost of living by state. Well, wonder no more—your cost of living by state guide has arrived.

What is cost of living?

The cost of living is the amount of money an individual needs to maintain their standard of living. Housing, food, transportation, clothing, taxes, entertainment, equipment, and education costs are just some of the basic expenses included in the cost of living.

cost of living definition with cartoon house photograph

Cost of living indexes let you compare basic expenses in different regions. There are cost of living indexes that compare cities, states, and countries.

Major cities, like New York City, have a higher cost of living than smaller cities, like Albany. To offset these higher costs (e.g., rent), wages are generally higher.

You can use cost of living information to determine how expensive it is to live and set up shop in an area.

Why the cost of living matters to your business

Cost of living matters to workers. It probably matters to your employees. But why should your business be concerned with it?

Let’s name a few big reasons why the cost of living is important to your business bottom line. The cost of living effects:

  • Office space expenses
  • Business budgets
  • Salary expectations
  • Product and service prices
  • Owner’s draw or salary
  • Raise determinations (e.g., cost of living adjustment)

Don’t care about a locality’s cost of living? If that’s the case, you may struggle to create accurate budgets, set reasonable employee salaries, and establish a fair pricing model that customers want to buy from.

Businesses that don’t put in the time to research all possible expenses may find themselves dipping into negative cash flow territory.

Not to mention, knowing a city’s cost of living can help you decide where to start your business. Cost of labor is an important factor that goes into our best states to start a business list.

Average cost of living by state

Cost of living data can vary depending on what factors are analyzed (e.g., housing) and who conducts the study.

Our chart below lists the following critical cost of living information:

The mean wages represent the average wages employees working in the state earn per year. This data is from May 2018.

Median monthly rent shows the middle value of rent in the state. This data was compiled by GoBankingRates in June 2019.

The value of a dollar captures how much your dollar is worth in the state. If the value of a dollar drops below $1, then it does not go as far in that state. This data is from May 2019.

As you’re looking at the chart, keep in mind that states with a higher mean wage, higher monthly rent, and lower value of a dollar tend to have a higher cost of living.

State Annual Mean Wage (All Occupations) Median Monthly Rent Value of a Dollar
Alabama $43,790 $998 $1.15
Alaska $58,710 $1,748 $0.95
Arizona $49,290 $1,356 $1.04
Arkansas $41,540 $953 $1.15
California $59,150 $2,518 $0.87
Colorado $55,820 $1,927 $0.97
Connecticut $60,780 $1,803 $0.92
Delaware $53,320 $1,435 $1.00
Florida $46,010 $1,590 $1.00
Georgia $48,280 $1,262 $1.09
Hawaii $52,900 $2,481 $0.84
Idaho $43,480 $1,238 $1.08
Illinois $53,790 $1,463 $1.01
Indiana $45,290 $1,113 $1.11
Iowa $46,150 $1,057 $1.11
Kansas $45,280 $1,051 $1.10
Kentucky $43,210 $1,084 $1.14
Louisiana $42,660 $1,245 $1.11
Maine $46,810 $1,466 $1.02
Maryland $58,770 $1,807 $0.91
Massachusetts $63,910 $2,252 $0.93
Michigan $49,510 $1,110 $1.07
Minnesota $54,200 $1,449 $1.03
Mississippi $39,420 $1,055 $1.16
Missouri $46,460 $1,047 $1.12
Montana $43,860 $1,234 $1.06
Nebraska $46,710 $1,253 $1.10
Nevada $46,170 $1,423 $1.03
New Hampshire $52,350 $1,748 $0.94
New Jersey $58,210 $2,062 $0.88
New Mexico $45,400 $1,200 $1.07
New York $61,870 $2,050 $0.87
North Carolina $47,200 $1,208 $1.10
North Dakota $49,620 $1,290 $1.09
Ohio $48,220 $1,113 $1.12
Oklahoma $44,220 $950 $1.12
Oregon $52,000 $1,707 $1.00
Pennsylvania $50,030 $1,242 $1.02
Rhode Island $54,810 $1,725 $1.00
South Carolina $43,210 $1,209 $1.11
South Dakota $41,800 $1,213 $1.13
Tennessee $44,660 $1,153 $1.11
Texas $49,720 $1,455 $1.03
Utah $47,920 $1,526 $1.03
Vermont $50,150 $1,599 $0.98
Virginia $55,310 $1,452 $0.98
Washington $59,410 $1,838 $0.95
West Virginia $42,370 $888 $1.14
Wisconsin $47,350 $1,141 $1.08
Wyoming $48,630 $1,149 $1.03

States ranked by cost of living list

If you just want the scoop on which states have the lowest and highest cost of living, we’ve got you covered.

Take a look at the states ranked by cost of living (from lowest to highest) for 2018, according to U.S. News:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Arkansas
  4. Missouri
  5. Michigan
  6. Alabama
  7. Tennessee
  8. Kansas
  9. Indiana
  10. Wyoming
  11. Georgia
  12. Texas
  13. Iowa
  14. Kentucky
  15. New Mexico
  16. Ohio
  17. Louisiana
  18. Idaho
  19. North Carolina
  20. West Virginia
  21. Nebraska
  22. Wisconsin
  23. Illinois
  24. Utah
  25. South Carolina
  26. Arizona
  27. North Dakota
  28. Florida
  29. South Dakota
  30. Pennsylvania
  31. Minnesota
  32. Virginia
  33. Montana
  34. Colorado
  35. Delaware
  36. New Hampshire
  37. Washington
  38. Nevada
  39. Maine
  40. Vermont
  41. New Jersey
  42. Rhode Island
  43. Massachusetts
  44. Alaska
  45. Oregon
  46. Maryland
  47. Connecticut
  48. New York
  49. California
  50. Hawaii

Cost of living calculator

You might be wondering if there are any tools you can use to readily calculate the cost of living in one state versus another. And if you are wondering it, you’re in luck—there are a number of tools you can use.

Here’s a list of websites that have a cost of living calculator:

You can use cost of living calculators to see how far a dollar will go in two different cities. These calculators allow users to enter information like income, current city, and prospective city. Keep in mind that the calculators have a limited selection of cities.

For example, someone who makes $50,000 per year in Cleveland, Ohio would need to make $117,854 in New York City (Manhattan), New York to keep up with the cost of living.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also has a thorough consumer price index (CPI). The CPI details average prices for items such as food, shelter, transportation, and clothing.

Once you start your business, you need a reliable way to manage your accounting books. With Patriot’s accounting software, you can seamlessly enter balances, receive and record payments, send payment reminders, and more. Start your demo now! 

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This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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