The best cities to live in typically have two things in common: a low cost of living and high salaries. GOBankingRates analyzed and ranked 270 cities in the U.S. based on their livability, taking into account the median home rent, groceries, utilities and transportation to ultimately determine the average monthly living expense for that area. That number then was subtracted from the average yearly income for each city so residents know exactly how much they stand to pocket after the expenses.
If you want to relocate to a place where you can get the most bang for your buck, let this be your guide. Keep reading to see where your paycheck will stretch the furthest.
12. Raleigh, N.C.
Average household income: $92,275
Total necessities: $23,331
Anytime an organization compiles a salary comparison by city, Raleigh always ranks very high. In fact, CNN Money named it the best city for jobs since major tech companies such as IBM, Cisco, Wells Fargo and SAS all have operations there. A number of world-class universities and healthcare facilities also call the area home, making it an especially attractive place to live. Transportation costs are lower than average, as are monthly utilities, so you’ll definitely make more than enough to cover the bills.
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Average household income: $77,312
Total necessities: $23,296
Despite being on our list of places where the majority of Americans can’t afford a home, the cost of living in Houston is trending downward. In fact, Houston experienced one of the biggest cost of living decreases in 2017 and was the only city to experience decreases in all three major categories: cost of living, rent and home prices, giving it a place on our list of the best cost of living cities.
10. Charlotte, N.C.
Average household income: $86,922
Total necessities: $23,249
The second North Carolina hub on our list, Charlotte also fares well in terms of salary comparison between cities. It’s one of the best places for aspiring millennial homeowners, thanks to relatively affordable homes and mortgages, and it sees lower than average utilities and rent.
Average household income: $76,726
Total necessities: $23,057
Dallas ranked No. 9 on our list of cities where income is rising the fastest. Realtor.com predicted it would become the No. 2 housing market in the country in 2018, proving the age-old saying is true: “Everything really is bigger in Texas.” Monthly groceries are lower than average at $264, as are utilities at $132.
8. Tampa, Fla.
Average household income: $80,121
Total necessities: $23,035
Tampa home values are expected to continue rising at a high rate, which has contributed to the large cost of living increase in western Florida. Another GoBankingRates study found Tampa to be one of the best cities in the country to own investment property, despite the expenses basically being a wash. Higher than average groceries, $380, cancel out the low cost of utilities, $130.
7. Bakersfield, Calif.
Average household income: $76,673
Total necessities: $22,632
California is one of the states where you’re most likely to live paycheck to paycheck, but Bakersfield is the exception. Utilities are high, but the median rent is $96 cheaper than the national median. Transportation is one area you’ll save money with residents spending just $40 per month on average.
6. Omaha, Neb.
Average household income: $74,125
Total necessities: $21,779
Omaha residents pocket a good amount of money each month thanks to lower than average grocery, transportation and utility costs. The hometown of famous investor Warren Buffett, the area really knows the value of a dollar, with a cost of living that’s about 6.5 percent below the national average.
5. Durham, N.C.
Average household income: $74,401
Total necessities: $21,625
When analyzing the cost of living index by city, Durham is one of the few cities to experience a cost of living decrease, which makes it an appealing place to set down roots. Groceries cost on average $291 a month, while transportation will set you back just $36, both numbers among the lowest on our survey. As such, it is one of our top up-and-coming housing markets.
Average household income: $73,135
Total necessities: $21,412
The cost of living in Phoenix is on the rise but it remains 3 percent lower than the national average. In general, locals pull in a good amount of money, with minimum-wage earners making more than $20,000 a year.
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3. Lexington, Ky.
Average household income: $77,827
Total necessities: $20,535
If you’re looking for a place that has a high salary by a city with minimal living expenses, give Lexington a look. Monthly transportation costs are among the lowest anywhere at $30, while monthly rent averages just $1,215. Lexington is on our list of cheapest cities to rent, and you can find a one-bedroom apartment downtown for just $725 on average. Its affordability also makes it an attractive place to retire.
2. Kansas City, Mo.
Average household income: $69,301
Total necessities: $19,756
Earning the No. 2 spot on our cost of living by city list is Kansas City. It’s one of the cities where your paycheck will stretch the furthest, according to a separate GOBankingRates study. And among the cities on this list, Kansas City has one of the lowest monthly rents ($1,092).
1. Oklahoma City
Average household income: $72,385
Total necessities: $18,701
Oklahoma City also is on our list of places you can live comfortably for less than $50,000 a year, and the average household income exceeds that by almost 50 percent. You’ll find great deals on both rental apartments and single-family homes. Oklahoma City ranks high on our list of the low cost of living cities for its affordable groceries ($293), transportation ($40) and monthly rent ($1,070).
Click through to see the places where 50 percent of Americans can’t afford a home.
More on Economy
- 35 Cities Where You Can Afford to Live Off Less Than $50,000
- Best and Worst States for the Middle Class
- Most Affordable Neighborhoods to Live in 22 Expensive Cities
- Watch: Planning Where to Retire? This State Could Be the Worst Option
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Methodology: All numbers were sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau, Zillow and Numbeo
About the Author
Lauren Monitz is a travel writer and social media influencer specializing in approachable adventures and offbeat explorations. With a BS in Advertising from the University of Colorado and an MS in E-business from Depaul, she has over 10 years of experience in content and social strategy for leading tourism destinations, publications, and hospitality clients. She has bylines around the web from Fodor’s and Huffington Post to MSN and AOL, has done Snapchat diaries for the Food Network, and Instagram takeovers for Forbes. From becoming a certified Viking in Iceland to blackwater rafting in New Zealand, she is on a perpetual mission to seek out the most insane adventures she can find and introduce you to things you never even knew you wanted — or needed — on your bucket list. With a goal of visiting all 50 states and at least 50 countries by 50, she is an expert at experiential travel across the globe and close to home. A Chicago native, a Denverite by choice, and perpetually on the go, her mantra is, “Life is short and the world is Wide, Eat, sleep, travel, repeat.” You can follow her (mis)adventures on http://thedownlo.com or on Instagram (@lmonitz @anadventurestory and @onetastytrip).