Average Cost of Living by State: Charts, Lists, & Tools
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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. Cost of living includes basic expenses such as housing, food, transportation, clothing, taxes, entertainment, equipment, and education costs.

image with illustration of map and house defining what is cost of living

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 affects:

  • 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 2019. 

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. 

StateAnnual Mean Wage (All Occupations)Median Monthly RentValue of a Dollar
New Hampshire$53,950$1,748$0.94
New Jersey$59,980$2,062$0.88
New Mexico$47,040$1,200$1.07
New York$63,970$2,050$0.87
North Carolina$48,550$1,208$1.10
North Dakota$50,430$1,290$1.09
Rhode Island$57,220$1,725$1.00
South Carolina$44,380$1,209$1.11
South Dakota$42,920$1,213$1.13
West Virginia$43,420$888$1.14

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), according to U.S. News:

  1. Iowa
  2. Ohio
  3. Indiana
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Michigan
  6. Nebraska
  7. Missouri
  8. West Virginia
  9. Kansas
  10. Pennsylvania
  11. North Dakota
  12. Arkansas
  13. Kentucky
  14. South Dakota
  15. Mississippi
  16. Wisconsin
  17. Illinois
  18. Georgia
  19. Alabama
  20. Louisiana
  21. Minnesota
  22. Tennessee
  23. Texas
  24. North Carolina
  25. New Mexico
  26. New Hampshire
  27. South Carolina
  28. Wyoming
  29. Delaware
  30. Arizona
  31. Virginia
  32. Idaho
  33. Maine
  34. New Jersey
  35. Florida
  36. Utah
  37. Vermont
  38. Rhode Island
  39. Montana
  40. Maryland
  41. Connecticut
  42. Nevada
  43. Colorado
  44. Washington
  45. Alaska
  46. Massachusetts
  47. New York
  48. Oregon
  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 $132,243 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 free trial now! 

This article has been updated from its original publication date of September 24, 2019. 

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

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