US Cities with the Lowest Cost of Living in 2021

Joe Roberts
Researcher & Writer
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Published on September 30, 2021
3 min read
Living costs across the US

Whether you’re balancing your budget or you’re planning a big move, you should be aware of living costs in your city. Expenses like groceries, utilities, rent, and gas all depend on where you live, so some cities are just more affordable than others. This is especially true since the median income in many cities doesn’t quite keep up with living costs.

To help you budget effectively or find an affordable new town to call home, we looked at the US’s 74 most populous cities and ranked them based on how high their monthly living costs are. We also checked each city’s median income to give you an idea of what you might make if you lived there.

Keep reading to learn which US cities are the most (and least) affordable.


Interesting findings

  • 7 out of the 10 US cities with the highest living costs are in California. Irvine’s high median rent gives it the highest total cost of living, so it beats both San Francisco and San Jose for the number one spot.
  • Honolulu, Hawaii has the fifth-highest cost of living, but it has the lowest median income of the 10 most expensive cities.
  • The median individual income in Santa Ana, California is $26,272 while the monthly cost of living is $2,244. This makes it basically impossible to live alone in the city while making the median income.
  • Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, and Newark are the four cities where it’s most difficult to live on either a median individual income or a median household income. In both Miami and Newark, more than half of income goes to living costs.
  • The average median individual income in the 74 cities we analyzed is $33,749, and the median household income is $64,246.

Cities with the lowest and highest living costs

10 cities with the lowest cost of living

1. Wichita, KS

  • Monthly cost of living: $1,219
  • Median yearly income: $30,563

2. Cincinnati, OH

  • Monthly cost of living: $1,226
  • Median yearly income: $46,260

3. Tulsa, OK

  • Monthly cost of living: $1,249
  • Median yearly income: $29,429

4. St. Louis, MO

  • Monthly cost of living: $1,265
  • Median yearly income: $31,415

5. Memphis, TN

  • Monthly cost of living: $1,267
  • Median yearly income: $25,790

6. El Paso, TX

  • Monthly cost of living: $1,276
  • Median yearly income: $23,217

7. Louisville, KY

  • Monthly cost of living: $1,312
  • Median yearly income: $31,220

8. Indianapolis, IN

  • Monthly cost of living: $1,315
  • Median yearly income: $30,666

9. Oklahoma, OK

  • Monthly cost of living: $1,320
  • Median yearly income: $31,626

10. Tucson, AZ

  • Monthly cost of living: $1,330
  • Median yearly income: $25,341

10 cities with the highest cost of living

1. Irvine, CA

  • Monthly cost of living: $3,062
  • Median yearly income: $55,484

2. San Jose, CA

  • Monthly cost of living: $2,812
  • Median yearly income: $44,890

3. San Francisco, CA

  • Monthly cost of living: $2,775
  • Median yearly income: $58,156

4. Honolulu, HI

  • Monthly cost of living: $2,462
  • Median yearly income: $31,415

5. Seattle, WA

  • Monthly cost of living: $2,438
  • Median yearly income: $52,132

6. Oakland, CA

  • Monthly cost of living: $2,416
  • Median yearly income: $41,956

7. San Diego, CA

  • Monthly cost of living: $2,390
  • Median yearly income: $39,947

8. Boston, MA

  • Monthly cost of living: $2,371
  • Median yearly income: $39,438

9. Anaheim, CA

  • Monthly cost of living: $2,333
  • Median yearly income: $31,526

10. Santa Ana, CA

  • Monthly cost of living: $2,244
  • Median yearly income: $26,272
Megaphone
Want to see how the rankings have changed?

At Move.org, we analyze monthly living costs in the US every year, so we’ve seen some cities become more affordable over time while others have only gotten more expensive. Check out our living cost reports for 2020 and 2019 to see how the rankings have changed over the last few years.


Methodology

For our rankings, we analyzed living costs in the 74 most populous cities in the United States. We sourced population numbers from the U.S Census Bureau.1 To get a complete picture of each city’s living costs, we recorded how much rent,2 food,3 gas,4 and utilities5 cost on average in every city.

For the gas numbers in our data, we started with how much a gallon of gas costs in each city, then factored in how many miles the average person drives every month (1,123) and how many miles per gallon the average passenger vehicle gets.6

We didn’t factor median individual income7 or household income8 into our rankings, but we included them in our tables for easy comparison.

Sources

  1. United States Census Bureau, “Quick Facts.” Accessed September 14, 2021.
  2. United States Census Bureau, “Median Contract Rent (Dollars).” Accessed September 14, 2021.
  3. Numbeo, “Food Prices in United States.” Accessed September 14, 2021.
  4. Numbeo, “Cost of Living in United States.” Accessed September 14, 2021.
  5. Numbeo, “Cost of Living in United States.” Accessed September 14, 2021.
  6. U.S. Department of Transportation, “Average Annual Miles per Driver by Age Group.” Accessed September 14, 2021.
  7. United States Census Buerau, “Median Income in the Past 12 Months.” Accessed September 14, 2021.
  8. United States Census Buerau, “Income in the Past 12 Months.” Accessed September 14, 2021.

Living costs in the US’s most populous cities

Rank
City
Total cost of living
Median contract rent
Food cost per person
Utility costs
Gas costs
Median individual income
Median household income
1Irvine, CA$3,062$2,364$372$139$187$55,484$111,574
2San Jose, CA$2,812$2,131$358$143$180$44,890$115,893
3San Francisco, CA$2,775$1,889$490$188$208$58,156$123,859
4Honolulu, HI$2,462$1,412$591$275$184$36,632$72,943
5Seattle, WA$2,438$1,648$418$198$174$52,132$102,486
6Oakland, CA$2,416$1,499$499$234$184$41,956$82,018
7San Diego, CA$2,390$1,707$352$139$192$39,947$85,507
8Boston, Ma$2,371$1,641$411$193$127$39,438$79,018
9Anaheim, CA$2,333$1,602$412$147$172$31,526$76,075
10Santa Ana, CA$2,244$1,541$385$144$173$26,272$70,084
11Washington D.C.$2,217$1,514$403$159$140$52,758$92,266
12New York, NY$2,176$1,385$486$158$147$35,663$69,407
13Los Angeles, CA$2,171$1,436$370$164$200$30,804$67,418
14Anchorage, AK$2,078$1,156$483$289$149$38,723$82,716
15Jersey City, NJ$2,032$1,414$399$89$130$46,142$81,693
16Long Beach, CA$2,021$1,384$356$101$180$31,728$67,804
17Riverside, CA$2,020$1,316$341$192$170$29,778$71,967
18Plano, TX$2,007$1,292$397$200$118$48,349$93,321
19Sacramento, CA$1,960$1,225$386$167$182$33,942$69,134
20Denver, CO$1,957$1,352$336$125$143$43,376$75,646
21Portland, OR$1,946$1,214$375$195$162$40,109$76,231
22Aurora, CO$1,921$1,311$326$157$128$36,710$69,235
23Miami, FL$1,835$1,174$386$141$134$23,154$42,966
24Henderson, NV$1,832$1,241$291$156$144$39,588$81,505
25Atlanta, GA$1,828$1,127$398$176$128$40,494$66,657
26Newark, NJ$1,802$1,008$346$326$121$22,654$40,235
27Orlando, FL$1,779$1,148$329$172$129$31,258$58,819
28Virginia Beach, VA$1,772$1,195$298$167$112$38,477$79,054
29Austin, TX$1,759$1,189$310$142$118$41,482$75,413
30Tampa, FL$1,746$1,039$415$160$132$31,144$57,709
31Stockton, CA$1,736$996$367$201$172$27,932$59,504
32Bakersfield, CA$1,722$935$388$222$177$30,471$62,402
33Colorado Springs, CO$1,697$1,093$335$136$134$34,171$70,527
34Nashville, TN$1,690$1,040$351$180$119$36,092$63,462
35Minneapolis, MN$1,658$981$407$152$118$36,554$65,889
36Arlington, TX$1,646$977$420$124$125$31,761$61,716
37Chicago, IL$1,635$992$328$156$159$34,489$61,811
38Raleigh, NC$1,627$1,019$343$142$122$36,910$69,333
39Charlotte, NC$1,627$1,030$341$139$117$35,935$63,483
40Pittsburgh, PA$1,618$863$415$198$142$30,974$53,799
41Saint Paul, MN$1,613$928$357$205$124$32,390$63,174
42Las Vegas, NV$1,601$995$287$157$162$31,457$58,713
43Philadelphia, PA$1,586$906$396$142$142$26,937$47,474
44Phoenix, AZ$1,569$943$305$180$141$31,503$60,931
45Jacksonville, FL$1,566$936$368$142$120$30,940$56,975
46Mesa, AZ$1,565$971$277$175$141$33,404$63,836
47Fresno, CA$1,563$874$295$220$175$26,242$53,161
48Fort Worth, TX$1,544$924$317$192$111$32,058$65,356
49Dallas, TX$1,543$979$294$153$117$31,877$55,332
50Baltimore, MD$1,527$923$336$141$126$30,740$50,177
51Houston, TX$1,502$946$283$150$122$30,625$52,450
52New Orleans, LA$1,480$851$323$198$108$27,263$45,615
53Columbus, OH$1,471$827$332$183$130$31,831$57,118
54Omaha, NE$1,449$792$363$183$112$34,876$61,305
55San Antonio, TX$1,429$876$281$170$103$27,359$53,751
56Corpus Christi, TX$1,403$868$286$142$107$27,882$55,564
57Lincoln, NE$1,395$753$395$131$117$31,678$59,228
58Greensboro, NC$1,392$768$349$151$123$27,076$49,748
59Milwaukee, WI$1,382$740$371$155$116$26,995$44,192
60Albuquerque, NM$1,378$819$303$133$123$30,499$55,567
61Lexington, KY$1,359$789$299$161$110$31,405$58,356
62Kansas City, MO$1,358$767$307$174$111$32,233$55,259
63Detroit, MI$1,341$657$332$221$131$22,379$33,965
64Cleveland, OH$1,332$603$400$204$125$21,186$32,053
65Tucson, AZ$1,330$722$287$201$120$25,341$44,365
66Oklahoma City, OK$1,320$721$345$148$106$31,626$55,492
67Indianapolis, IN$1,315$731$318$149$117$30,666$49,661
68Louisville, KY$1,312$728$309$147$128$31,220$54,853
69El Paso, TX$1,276$724$246$191$115$23,217$48,542
70Memphis, TN$1,267$703$276$176$112$25,790$43,794
71St. Louis, MO$1,265$655$317$180$113$31,415$47,176
72Tulsa, OK$1,249$674$266$197$112$29,429$49,158
73Cincinnati, OH$1,226$660$311$134$120$29,282$46,260
74Wichita, KS$1,219$650$259$201$108$30,563$55,056
Joe Roberts
Written by
Joe Roberts
Joe Roberts is a professional writer with a degree in writing studies and over four years of copywriting experience. He previously worked at Overstock.com, where he wrote about furniture, home decor, and moving. Joe has moved all over Utah, so he knows his way around a moving truck—and he spends his time (and money) expanding his personal library so it will be even heavier next time he moves.