Cost of Living Calculator 2022CASAPLORERTrusted & Transparent
Interactive Map For Minimum Cost of Living of One Person
About the Cost of Living Calculator
This cost of living calculator uses 2021 data to calculate the minimum cost of living in specific U.S. cities. This includes average housing, transportation, food, and childcare costs. You can also use it as a cost of living comparison by city to see how costs differ between cities. This allows you to find out how much it would cost to live in another city compared to your current location, which can be helpful if you’re planning on moving.
What is the Cost of Living?
Cost of living is used as a measure of how much money you will need to pay in order to live in a certain area or city. The cost of living varies based on location, but it is also generally in line with average incomes in the area. For example, housing costs in an urban city such as New York can be expected to be higher than housing costs in a rural town. At the same time, you can also expect average incomes in New York to be higher.
You can compare the cost of living between cities to see how much money you will need to make to keep up your current standard of living. If you are moving from an area with a low cost of living to an area with a high cost of living, you will need to make sure that your income will be proportionally higher. If not, you may find it difficult to afford essentials and everyday costs. The same thing can occur if wages don’t keep up with the cost of living in an area.
Cost of Living Breakdown
There are four major expenses that are included in the cost of living calculator that help you to determine how much income you will need to maintain your standard of living. These four factors that make up the cost of living are:
- Cost of Housing
Housing for most Americans is the largest monthly expense and varies the most depending on what city you live in, and even on where in that city you live. For example, someone living in San Francisco, California will have much higher monthly rent expenses and utility costs than someone living in Dayton, Ohio. This is because San Francisco has higher-paying jobs that pushes up average wages, and along with a lack of housing in the city, it makes rent much more expensive in San Francisco when compared to Dayton.Last updated in 2021
Type of Home San Francisco Dayton Price Difference Bachelor $$2,115 $606 ↑249% 1 Bedroom $2,631 $680 ↑287% 2 Bedroom $3,198 $872 ↑267% 3 Bedroom $4,111 $1,164 ↑253% 4 Bedroom $4,473 $1,248 ↑258%
The cost of housing in each city is provided by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Market Rents survey for the year 2021, which includes the average cost of rent and utilities. Housing costs will also be different depending on the number of people you are living with, considering you will need more or less space. For example, a family of 3 with 1 child may need a 2 bedroom apartment, while 1 person living alone will likely only need a bachelor apartment. To determine whether housing costs are affordable, a good benchmark approach would be to see if your total housing expenses are below 30% of your total income. The reason this is recommended is so that you can maintain enough flexibility in your budget to cover other expenses and to save for an emergency.
- Cost of Food
Although your specific diet and eating habits are a big factor in your overall food costs, so is where you are located. Cities with a higher overall cost of living will have higher food prices versus lower-cost cities. The food cost estimate for each city given in the cost of living calculator shows how much it will cost to purchase the USDA’s low-cost food plan for adults and children. Restaurant and takeout food costs will also vary significantly depending on where you live because of the cost of commercial rent, the minimum wage, and transportation costs. This is shown with the pre-pandemic average menu price in bigger and more expensive cities like New York, Boston, and Washington being much higher when compared to cheaper cities Albuquerque, Rochester, and Tucson:
Cost to Eat A Meal in US Cities 2021
However, the cost of eating out is not included in the food estimate given in the calculator. This means that if you like to eat out you will need to budget for this additional food expense, especially in a higher-cost city like Boston.
- Cost of Childcare
- Cost of Transportation
Depending on where in the city you are located, how you commute will be different. For those on the outskirts of the city and in the suburbs, a car is usually necessary with the distance being too far for public transit. The cost of owning a car will vary depending on the price of gas, cost of maintenance and repairs, monthly insurance premiums, and the price of parking in the city. Depending on the distance you commute and the number of cars you may own, driving could be your second biggest living expense. For those living in the city core, commuting by bus, train, or subway can be just as efficient as a car without the hassle of finding parking. Public transit is also much cheaper than a car no matter what city you live in, with the highest monthly transit cost of all major cities being in Washington DC, at just $144 per month:
Monthly Transit Pass Cost in US Cities 2021
The cost of living calculator above includes the market cost of childcare based on the rates that local daycare offerings charge in each city. How much you pay for childcare in certain cities generally depends on the cost of rent, the minimum wage, and the overall cost of living in that city. Costs can differ depending on where in the city a childcare provider is located, the size of the childcare provider, or if you choose to have someone come and care for your child individually at your home. For example, in the city of Los Angeles, the cost of childcare in the west end of the city is ~$1185 per month, while in the east end of the city it is ~$1040 per month.
If you are a dual-parent household with only one parent working, you may also save on childcare, however you will miss out on a potential extra source of income.
Other Costs to Consider
Although housing, food, childcare, and transportation are four of the biggest expenses, there are other costs that you may need to consider, and which will vary the most depending on your circumstances.
With different state income tax rates throughout the US, the city and state you move to will impact what your after-tax income will be. This could mean that even if the cost of living in a certain city is higher than the place you're moving from, the potential income tax savings that come with living in that city may mean you will have a higher standard of living. This makes states without any state income tax such as Washington, Texas, Nevada, Florida, and Tennessee very attractive for high-income earners.
The other tax to consider is sales tax. Sales tax will make your everyday purchases more expensive, which will leave you with higher prices on many goods and services. Below shows the sales tax rate among 10 of America’s biggest cities:
Sales Tax Rate in 10 US Cities 2021
With the per capita cost of healthcare being over $10,000 per year, healthcare is something you will need to budget for if your employer does not cover it. Even with an employer or government-covered option, you may need to pay copayments and deductibles to use your insurance and still pay out-of-pocket for other health related expenses such as for drugs, physiotherapy, and other non-covered healthcare expenses. This means that when you are looking for a job in a city, it will be crucial to find one with good health coverage. If you do not have employer sponsored coverage, shopping around for the best value and most affordable coverage through websites like Healthcare.gov can help you get covered. Since healthcare costs may vary depending on where you live, being aware of the average cost to go to a doctor, for common prescriptions, and for a hospital stay will be important especially if you have a high deductible or have no coverage.
In Nevada, the minimum wage that applies to workers depends on whether their employer offers health benefits. If health benefits are offered by their employer, then the minimum wage that applies for 2021 is $8.75 per hour. If health benefits are not offered, then the minimum wage that applies is $1 per hour higher, at $9.75 per hour. In 2022, Nevada will vote on whether this two-tiered minimum wage system will be abolished and if it will merge into a single $12 per hour minimum wage by July 2024.
The Issue of Inflation
As the economy and daily life are now back to normal from the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain shortages around the world, large government spending, and high levels of demand for products and services mean that overall prices may rise. Inflation will raise your overall cost of living no matter what city you live in, however certain cities may be hit harder by the effects of inflation. This is increasingly a large issue in higher-cost cities, where you will likely already be spending more of your after-tax income on basic living costs. This will cause your budget to get squeezed even further. Some of the expenses likely to rise the most with inflation are childcare costs, the price of gas, and the cost of dining and eating out. Having some savings as a buffer can be helpful if prices are to creep up, by buying yourself some extra breathing room from any temporary budget shortfalls. This can also be important as prices rise and you are waiting for your wage to increase as well. You can use an inflation calculator to see how much prices have increased in the United States, and compare it to different asset classes to see how you can beat inflation by investing or saving.
As many Americans have a goal of purchasing a home, your housing affordability in a city is a factor that will influence if this goal will be attainable or not. Many large and high-cost cities along the east & west coast have some of the highest home prices in the whole country, which means that a large mortgage amount and large mortgage down payment may be necessary. This will mean that you will likely need to have a high-income to have a chance at buying in cities such as San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Honolulu, and San Jose with the following prices:
|City||Average Home Price (May 2021)|
|New York City||$657,000|
This compares to lower-cost cities such as Phoenix, Orlando, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and Charlotte, which have much lower average home prices:
|City||Average Home Price (May 2021)|
High-cost cities also make it harder to save for a downpayment on a home, considering that more of your income is going towards basic everyday living expenses versus lower cost cities.
Does Inflation Measure Housing Prices or Rent?
Inflation causes cost of living to increase, but how is inflation measured when looking at housing affordability? CPI, the most common measure of inflation in the US, measures price changes for homes through implied rent. This means that for homes being rented, the measure is the rent paid. For homes that are owned and occupied by the owners, the measure is the implicit rent of the property, which is the rent that would be paid if the home was being rented.
The house price-to-rent ratio, which looks at annual rent compared to home prices, gives us a look at whether it is better to buy or rent a home. According to SmartAsset, it’s better to rent a home in most U.S. major cities, which also happen to be the most expensive cities to buy a home. The national average house price-to-rent ratio is 18.27 for 2021, while cities such as San Francisco have a ratio as high as 51.79 and New York at 38.26. Someone living in an expensive major city would find it difficult to afford to buy a home, and would rent instead.
More About Cost of Living
Federal Minimum Wage as of January 2022
The federal minimum wage as of January 2022 is $7.25 per hour.
The last time that the federal minimum wage was raised was in July 2009, when it was raised from $6.55 per hour to the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Living Wages and Cost of Living
Cost of living is based on the costs to maintain a minimum, or basic, standard of living. The idea of a living wage is the minimum income required in order to maintain an acceptable standard of living. Oftentimes, minimum wage is not enough to cover the cost of living in many areas of the country. That’s why the living wage is used to measure the amount that a person needs to make in order to afford costs of living and stay above the poverty line.
MIT has a living wage calculator that finds out what the required living wage is for counties and states, and compares it to the state’s minimum wage. For example, the living wage for a single adult in Los Angeles County, California is $19.35 per hour, while the minimum wage in California is $12.00 per hour. As of November 2021, no state had a minimum wage that is higher than the state’s required living wage for a single-person household.
Minimum Wage vs. Living Wage by State
|State||Minimum Wage||Living Wage|
|District of Columbia||$15.20||$20.12|
Are there any states without a minimum wage law?
There are five states without a state minimum wage law. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, these states are:
- South Carolina
Even though these five states have no state minimum wage law, federal law still applies. This means that the $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage applies for these states.
Comparison of State Minimum Wages vs. Federal Minimum Wage
|Greater than Federal Minimum Wage||Equals Federal Minimum Wage||No Minimum Wage |
(Federal Minimum Wage Applies)
|30 States||15 States ||5 States|
Federal Poverty Level and Cost of Living
The federal poverty level (FPL) is based on the minimum income needed for necessities, such as food and shelter. If a household has an income below the federal poverty line, then they would qualify for welfare benefits, such as Medicaid.
While the federal poverty level is based on the basic costs of living, the Department of Health and Human Services calculates the annual federal poverty level on a national basis. This means that it is not adjusted for local or regional cost of living differences. Low-income households living in high cost-of-living states, such as California or New York, might be making more than the federal poverty level and not qualify for welfare benefits, but might not be making enough to cover basic necessities and are living in poverty.
The exception to this is Alaska and Hawaii, which have higher poverty levels to account for the higher cost of living in these two states.
2021 Poverty Guidelines and Federal Poverty Levels
|Persons in Household||Contiguous United States||Hawaii||Alaska|
|Per additional person over 8||+$4,540||+$5,220||+$5,680|
Federal Poverty Level vs Poverty Threshold
While the poverty guidelines published by the Department of Health and Human Services are used to form the basis of welfare benefit eligibility, the US Census Bureau is the one that calculates poverty income thresholds. The poverty income threshold from the prior year is then used to calculate the federal poverty levels, based on a weighted average of age and children in a household. For example, the 2021 poverty guidelines are based on the 2019 poverty thresholds published by the US Census Bureau in September 2020. An inflation factor of 1.012 is then used, which accounts for a 1.2% increase in the CPI-U from 2019 to 2020.
2020 Poverty Threshold vs. 2021 Poverty Guidelines
|Persons in Household||Poverty Threshold|
Source: US Census Bureau
Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)
Inflation increases the cost of living through higher prices, including higher food prices and housing costs. Inflation can have a large impact on those with fixed incomes, such as those that rely on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. That's why the Social Security Administration has automatic cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for Social Security and SSI benefits. This makes sure that these benefits keep up with rising cost of living in the United States on a national basis.
These Social Security benefits are tied to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), which is published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If the CPI-W increases, then the cost-of-living adjustment will increase Social Security and SSI benefits proportionally.
For 2022, Social Security and SSI benefits will increase by 5.9%. This reflects the 5.9% increase in the CPI-W from September 2020 to September 2021.
Cost-of-Living Adjustments and Wages
You may have negotiated for your wages or salary to increase in line with inflation. Some unions may also have a COLA.
For example, USPS workers represented by the National Association of Letter Carriers have cost-of-living adjustments based on the CPI-W. The COLA is accumulated before it is payable in January of each year. For 2021, the January COLA was $416. There was also a second COLA in July that paid out $1,934. While letter carriers will receive the cost-of-living-adjustment, city carrier assistants will receive a wage increase instead. For example, Instead of the $166 January 2020 COLA and the $188 July COLA payments, city carrier assistants will receive an additional 1.0% wage increase.
USPS Cost-of-Living Adjustments for Letter Carriers
|2020||$166 (January COLA)||1.1% (November 2020)|
|$188 (July COLA)|
|2021||$416 (January COLA)||1.3% (November 2021)|
|$1,934 (July COLA)|
Overseas Cost of Living Allowances (COLA)
For overseas service members that are located in an area with a higher cost of living than the cost of living in the United States, the overseas cost of living allowance (COLA) is meant to offset this cost of living difference. The Department of Defence pays out $2 billion every year to 250,000 service members stationed in a higher cost of living area overseas. That comes out to $8,000 per service member annually.
Cost of Living by Country
Numbeo is a crowd-sourced database for the cost of living for countries around the world. For 2021, the United States was the 18th most expensive country based on their cost of living plus rent index. The country with the highest cost of living in 2021 was Bermuda followed by Switzerland, while the country with the lowest cost of living was Pakistan, followed by Libya.
Countries With The Highest And Lowest Cost Of Living
|Highest Cost of Living Plus Rent||Lowest Cost of Living Plus Rent|