The Real Cost Of Living In These Major U.S. Cities

Photo: Getty Images
While the high cost of urban living isn't exactly news, a new study from GOBankingRates is changing how we think of it by ranking the 50 biggest U.S. cities by how easy it is to live comfortably in each.

How did the study define “living comfortably?” It’s the minimum you’d have to make to be able to budget your money according to the 50-30-20 rule. In other words, you’d spend only half of your salary on fixed expenses, like rent and utilities; 30% on discretionary spending, items like food and clothing; and commit 20% to savings.

The study then looked at what a resident of those cities could actually expect to spend on food or rent and built it out from there. In NYC, you’d need to make at least $87,446 to be able to afford that budget. In reality, the median income in NYC is $52,737. Other major U.S. cities like L.A. and Chicago don’t fare well, either.

Not even cities with high median incomes, like San Jose, CA, are exempt from the cost-of-living deficit. In San Jose, where the median income is a relatively high $83,787, you’re still falling $5,947 short.

But there’s some good news. If you’re committed to urban life, there are some cities where the median income is higher than the the income you’d need to make to live comfortably. The most affordable city is Virginia Beach, where the median income — $67,000 — is not only higher than most large cities, it puts residents at a $17,000 surplus.

Of course, as many people can attest, it’s perfectly possible to live in cities like NYC below the median income — and certainly below the income needed to live "comfortably." Still, it’s an interesting reminder of how your salary can mean very different things in different cities, which is good to keep in mind if you're pondering a big move.

Check out the full rankings here.
Advertisement

More from Work & Money

Four years ago, my life was exactly where I wanted it: I was working as a senior editor at a major glossy magazine. My first young adult novel had just ...
After months of waiting and countless discussions about what the future holds for our favorite television characters, Shondaland shows are finally back. ...
Just after my son’s first birthday, I was on the phone with my mom, grappling over a gut-wrenching decision. I was scheduled to go on a business trip but...
Refinery29 joined the Clinton Foundation for a tour of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to get a firsthand look at the experiences of the women and girls who live ...
I get so nervous before job interviews — sweaty palms, dry mouth, butterflies in my stomach. It’s really not fun. But once I’m sitting down with the ...
Fifty percent off your purchase here. 1,000 free miles there. When it comes to credit cards, the benefits are easy to see — while the downsides are often ...
As the host of RIOT's Woke Bae, we already know comedian Phoebe Robinson is funny AF while getting serious about major issues like feminism and ...
You know what's easy? Spending money. It's the best way to get what you want right now. Except...this is not sustainable. Those little luxuries add up ...
If the new phrase for the office BFF is the "work wife," then is a good boss or mentor your "work mom" or "work dad"? Part authority figure, part dispenser...
12:45 p.m. — I have a dryer, rare in Shanghai, so my friend runs home to get his laundry and then does a load at my place
Ah, the job interview. Getting one always feels like a win — your résumé passed the test, and you've moved on to the next round. Writing the cover letter...
Working in the service industry is an easy way to get an (often unwanted!) glimpse into other people's personal lives. Whether you waited tables at a ...
Recently, I was reminiscing about my financial education. Or maybe I should put that in quotes: “financial education.” In 10th grade, we created a budget ...
11 p.m. — Make some more bad decisions and send a text for delivery of some illicit substances but he misses my text, which is probably a good thing ...