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

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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.

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