Cities with the Highest and Lowest Costs of Living

by Mahogany WaldonMay 28, 2018

Cost of living is defined as the amount of money needed to sustain a certain level of living including basic expenses such as food, housing, taxes, transportation, healthcare, and more. Cities with a high cost of living are usually more difficult to maintain a standard of living and require more income than the U.S. average to enjoy basic necessities. For instance, in a place like Manhattan, a gallon of milk costs about $2.39, whereas in Indianapolis, the cost of a gallon of milk is $1.50. It’s evident based on this data that Manhattan has the higher cost of living.

The cost of milk isn’t the only expense worth exploring, below, we’ve compared the cities with the highest and lowest costs of living to be able to find out how cities across the nation add up. A map highlighting the cities with the highest and lowest costs of living with a green background with a city skyline (McAllen, TX, Conway, AR, Harligen, TX, Kalamazoo, MI, Wichita Falls, TX, Manhattan, NY, San Francisco, CA, Honolulu, HI, Brooklyn, NY, and Washington, D.C.)

Below Average (Lowest Costs of Living)

McAllen, Texas

With a population of just 142,212, McAllen is a small Lone Star State with big savings on costs of living. Located in southern Texas, McAllen is a town made up of rural qualities and a steady economy. Once a major agricultural hub, the city eventually evolved into a railroad center and is now a well-known district for international trade. Just 70 miles west of the Gulf of Mexico, McAllen has the lowest cost of living in the nation.

Conway, Arkansas

If you live in central Arkansas, Conway is a city with a low cost of living. Conway, Arkansas is a city built on manufacturing. Today, the area is a business hub and cultural center in the Little Rock-Conway metro. Conway is fast-growing, despite its growth though, the city remains an area with a relatively low cost of living.

Harlingen, Texas

Located in the central region of the Rio Grande Valley, this historic town is perfect if you’re looking for an affordable place to live. Harlingen, Texas has a diverse population of nearly 75,000. This city was also ranked No. 1 by CBS News as the cheapest places to live.

Kalamazoo, Michigan

This southern Michigan city is well-known throughout the state as well as the nation. Kalamazoo is a college town that boasts affordability. The economic sector of the city’s government focuses on community capitalism, an approach to economics that involves strengthening the well-being of a community as a whole. If you live here, you’d pay less than 20.5 percent of the national average to maintain your livability.

Wichita Falls, Texas

Great news for Texas, three Lone Star cities are deemed to be the most affordable in the country. Wichita Falls, Texas (not to be confused with Wichita, Kansas) is located in northern Texas. The average home price, mortgage payment, and rent in the city is well below the national average. Residents here pay 18.3 percent less on their living expenses.

Above Average (Highest Costs of Living)

Manhattan, New York

If you live in the Big Apple, particularly Manhattan, the cost of living is 138.6 percent above the national average. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the city is just as much as the typical U.S. worker’s monthly earnings. Manhattan also has high property taxes, high construction costs (just think of the cost of having a new home built!) and other factors that lead to most homeowners taking a blow to their finances. If you can afford to live in Manhattan, you’ll be in a highly sought-after, luxury real estate market and fun city.

San Francisco, California

We love San Fran, but it’s another place where the cost of living is extremely high. Housing in San Fransisco is more than three times higher than the national average. Along with housing costs, the city also has high costs for food, transportation, and healthcare. Despite its high costs, this Bay Area city is a major tech hub with growing economic opportunities.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Want to live in paradise? Great! Be mindful though, homeowners in Honolulu pay a pretty penny to live in this beautiful city. To live here, you’d be paying more than two-thirds of what the average American spends on living expenses. Food, gas, toiletries, and housing costs in Honolulu are not just high by American standards, the city has been ranked one of the most expensive places in the world for many years.

Brooklyn, New York

Brooklyn is the largest borough in NYC. The district is just west of Long Island and connected to Manhattan via the historic Brooklyn Bridge. It’s also the second most expensive place to live in the city. Housing expenses play a huge role in the astronomical cost of living in many Brooklyn neighborhoods. If you plan on moving here, the average salary is around $54,000 annually and the average sales price for a home is $788,528, you do the math.

Washington, DC

Although it doesn’t have the highest cost of living, you’d end up paying more than half of what the average American pays for living necessities in the nation’s capital. DC is the epicenter for the government sector of the nation, making it a busy city with high-ranking professionals from all over. Utilities, transportation, food, and even a night out on the town cost more in this Potomac city than in most places in the country.

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About The Author
Mahogany Waldon
Mahogany is a Content Marketing Coordinator for In her spare time, Mahogany enjoys reading, writing poetry, blogging, traveling, and loves a good southern idiom. Mahogany is also a certified Reiki practitioner and enjoys all things supernatural.