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How much you spend on major expenses such as housing, groceries and insurance all impact your cost of living – and prices for goods and services can vary widely by location.

That means a state’s cost of living can make the difference between being financially comfortable or living paycheck to paycheck.

To compare the cost of living in various places, ranked each of the 50 states using data from the Center for Regional Competitiveness, a management organization that oversees the Council for Community and Economic Research. 

The data track regional differences in the cost of consumer goods and services, allowing to evaluate factors such as:

  • Housing
  • Groceries
  • Transportation
  • Utilities
  • The cost of home and auto insurance
  • Health care

Our base cost of living is represented by a reading of 100. In this case, 100 represents the national average. Locations are then indexed against this number. 

For example, a state with a cost of living of 110 would be 10% higher than the national average.

Based on our cost-of-living assessment, Hawaii is the most expensive state at 176.12 while Mississippi is the least expensive at 87.94.

If you are considering moving or simply want to know how your state stacks up, read on for more information about the cost of living by state.

What is cost of living? 

Cost of living refers to the amount of money you need to cover basic living expenses in a certain location. That can include the average cost of:

  • Rent/mortgage payments
  • Utilities
  • Food and groceries
  • Health care
  • Home and auto insurance
  • Transportation 
  • Other goods and services

Cost of living can tell you how expensive it is to live in one area versus another.

Average cost of living by state

Here’s how each state ranks when it comes to cost of living: Hawaii has a cost-of-living index of 176.12, making it 76% more expensive than the national average.

StateAverage Cost of Living IndexCompared to Average index of 100
New Hampshire111.1311.13
New Jersey111.6511.65
New Mexico93.35-6.65
New York132.4132.41
North Carolina95.86-4.14
North Dakota94.53-5.47
Rhode Island109.779.77
South Carolina93.72-6.28
South Dakota92.85-7.15
Washington, D.C.145.1245.12
West Virginia90.54-9.46

Mississippi ranks lowest, with an index value of 87.94. That is a 12% savings over the national average.

States such as California and Hawaii have a much higher cost of living than places such as Iowa and Oklahoma. 

The cost of living varies within each state, too. Rural areas usually have a lower cost of living than suburban and urban areas. Even one metro area within a state can have a very different cost of living than another metro in the same state.

For example, cities such as Houston, Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Amarillo, and Beaumont are all proudly Texan. However, the cost to live in each varies.

The more congested Northeast isn’t immune to substantial cost of living variations, either.

New York has the New York City area, Long Island and Westchester County, which all have high costs. However, the Empire State also includes more affordable areas such as Albany, Rochester, Utica and Buffalo.

So, don’t write off an entire state if it has a high cost of living overall. Instead, dig deeper into the numbers to gauge specific regional costs.

Cost of living comparison calculator

Whether you’re moving to start a job or relocating in retirement,’s cost of living calculator can help you evaluate how much it will cost you to live in your new destination.

For instance, compare costs related to major budget categories such as:

  • Housing
  • Groceries
  • Utilities
  • Health care
  • Other goods and services
  • Home and auto insurance

You can also compare any two factors side-by-side.

Our cost of living calculator provides information about the salary you’ll need to maintain your current standard of living. 

Knowing what you’ll need to earn to maintain your lifestyle gives you critical information that can help you decide whether moving to that area is worth it.

Cost of living index comparison tool

Please enter valid city/zip
Please enter valid city/zip
Please enter salary Value must be less than 10 digit
New York, NY Boise City, ID
Cost of living in Boise City, ID, after-tax
Cost of Living
54.48% lower
in Boise City, ID, than New York, NY
50% lower
in Boise City, ID, than New York, NY
31% lower
in Boise City, ID, than New York, NY

Compare cost of living: Boise City, ID, vs New York, NY

Cost in
Boise City, ID
------- vs -------
Cost in
New York, NY
Misc. Goods & Services
Auto Insurance
  • New York, NY: $4,345
  • Boise City, ID: $2,155
  • % Change: 50% lower
Home Insurance
  • New York, NY: $2,283
  • Boise City, ID:
  • % Change: 31% lower
Get this report NOW!

How to use cost of living comparison calculator

To use the tool, enter the Zip code to get the most accurate result. Cities can have multiple Zip codes, so by entering the city name, you'll get the average for all Zip codes in that city. We may not have cost-of-living data for some non-metropolitan areas. In those cases, we provide the cost-of-living information for the nearest Zip code with available information.
  • The cost of living index lets you compare one area’s costs with another.
  • Enter where you live and the information about another community. Provide your income and calculate the cost of living.
  • Our tool shows what you’ll need to earn to maintain the same standard of living. The tool also highlights the cost differences for each category: housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, health care, auto insurance, and home insurance.
  • The cost of living tool additionally includes how much you’d save on home and auto insurance.
  • Enter your information below and compare the cost of living between two places.

Cheapest states to live in 

According to our data, the Midwest and South are the parts of the U.S. with the lowest cost of living. Here are the 10 states with the lowest cost of living and how they compare to the national average:

StateAverage cost of living indexCompared to national average of 100
West Virginia90.54-9.46

Most expensive states to live in 

As far as the most expensive states to live in, they tend to fall along the two coasts. Here are the 10 most expensive states to live in and how their cost of living compares to the national average:

StateAverage Cost of Living IndexCompared to Average index of 100
Washington, D.C.145.1245.12
New York132.4132.41
New Jersey111.6511.65

Why cost of living matters 

A state’s cost of living significantly impacts your ability to save money and build wealth. If you live in an area with a high cost of living and don’t have a strong income to support it, you could end up living paycheck to paycheck.

On the other hand, a lower cost of living means expenses are relatively low. So, you might have more room in your budget to save, invest or spend on items you need – or want.

However, keep in mind that wages often mirror the cost of living. If you live in an expensive area such as San Francisco or Washington, D.C., your salary will likely be higher to account for that fact.

If you live in Kalamazoo, Michigan, or Jackson, Mississippi, your expenses and salary will likely be lower.

What is a cost of living adjustment (COLA)? 

In order to ensure that retiree incomes keep up with inflation, an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) is typically applied to both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

The first COLA occurred in 1975. The adjustment is based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), which is calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Social Security and SSI benefits will increase by 3.2% in 2024.

How to use cost of living comparison calculator 

To use the cost of living comparison tool, take the ZIP code of the place where you now live and the ZIP code of the place you are thinking of moving and type those numbers into the tool. Also, type in your current income. Then, hit the “Re-Calculate” button. 

The calculator will instantly compare the two locations based on: 

  • Cost of living
  • Auto insurance cost
  • Home insurance cost

You also will get comparisons for other expenses, such as housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services.


A cost of living index evaluates several factors, which are weighted in terms of importance. Below are the eight main expense categories we used to gauge cost of living, from most to least important:

  • Miscellaneous goods and services (29%)
  • Housing (28%)
  • Groceries (16%)
  • Transportation (9%)
  • Utilities (9%)
  • Health care (5%)
  • Auto insurance (2%)
  • Home insurance (2%)

We then ranked the states by those results. The base cost of living is always represented by 100; in this case, 100 represents the national average. Locations are then indexed against this number. For example, a state with a 110 on the cost of living index would be 10% higher than the national average.

Frequently asked questions

What is the cheapest state to live in? 

Mississippi is the cheapest state in terms of cost of living. 

However, Mississippi has high home insurance costs. Home insurers base rates on risk. Weather-related claims — such as hurricanes, fires and break-ins — lead to higher costs.

Part of Mississippi sits on the Gulf Coast and is vulnerable to hurricanes.

What is the best state to live in financially? 

Just because it’s cheap to live in a certain state doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best place to live for your finances. You’ll also want to consider factors like the unemployment rate, average wages, tax rates, and more.

That means states with more expensive costs of living could still be financially comfortable if there’s a strong job market, high salaries, low taxes, etc. And these factors can shift over time, meaning the best state to live in financially isn’t always the same.

If you’re thinking about moving for financial reasons, you can use the cost of living calculator to see how different states will impact your bottom line. Then do some research to find out the health of the local economy.

How much has the cost of living increased?

Over the past couple of years, the cost of living has been increasing at its fastest pace in decades. 

As of January 2024, the Consumer Price Index increased 3.1% from a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is the most recent update to the Consumer Price Index.

Which state has the best income to cost of living ratio?

If you are looking for the best income-to-cost-of-living ratio, head down south to Mississippi. The ratio in the Magnolia State is 87.94.

What is the easiest state to live in financially?

In general, states with the lowest cost of living are likely to be the easiest ones to live in from a money perspective. That means Mississippi, Iowa and Oklahoma are especially likely to be easy on your wallet. 

However, there might be situations where living in a more expensive state is actually easier financially. Perhaps moving to expensive states such as Hawaii, California or New York provide you with job opportunities that allow you to earn far in excess of what you could make living in a more affordable state. 

Under those circumstances, you might find it financially easier to live in California than in Mississippi.  

author image
Chris Kissell
Contributing Researcher


Chris Kissell is a Denver-based writer and editor with work featured on U.S. News & World Report, MSN Money, Fox Business, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Money Talks News and more.