If you want to stretch your paycheck further, you might be thinking you need to get a pay increase or cut back on frivolous spending. Although that might be true, there’s another factor to consider: the cost of living in your city.
You might have a better chance of stretching your paycheck in some cities instead of others. To help you find those cities where your money goes further, GOBankingRates looked at the three largest cities in every state and figured out exactly where you can get the most bang for your buck based on the area’s median household income, monthly homeowner costs, gross rent and cost of living.
Click on through for a nationwide tour of 50 U.S. cities where your paycheck goes far.
Last updated: Feb. 13, 2019
Cost of Living: 80.80
Median Household Income: $43,440
If you’re looking to make your paycheck go further, you could do worse than Montgomery. The capital city’s cost of living is scored at 80.80, which means it’s 19.2% cheaper to live here than the average U.S. city.
Cost of Living: 135.20
Median Household Income: $80,862
Though it is more than 35% more expensive to live in Anchorage than elsewhere in the United States, you’ve got a lot of paycheck to stretch. At $80,862, Anchorage has the highest median income on GOBankingRates’ list.
Cost of Living: 95.20
Median Household Income: $37,973
According to a 2018 GOBankingRates study on food costs, Tucson is one of the most affordable cities for foodies. If that’s not enough, residents enjoy a breezy median gross rent of $756.
Arkansas: Fort Smith
Cost of Living: 82.10
Median Household Income: $35,956
With a mortgage, your median monthly homeowner costs in Fort Smith clock in at a comfy $950. This city of 88,194 is the second-largest in the state, behind the capital, Little Rock.
California: San Diego
Cost of Living: 166.00
Median Household Income: $68,117
With median monthly owner costs and gross rent clocking in at $2,315 and $1,377, San Diego has the highest rent, ownership and cost-of-living rates on GOBankingRates’ list. But, it’s still cheaper to own here than in San Jose or Los Angeles.
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Colorado: Colorado Springs
Cost of Living: 105.00
Median Household Income: $62,520
Though the cost of living is above average, residents of Colorado Springs make $6,262 more than their neighbors in Denver and $7,217 more than those in Aurora annually, based on median household income.
Cost of Living: 109.00
Median Household Income: $43,137
If you’d rather skip the 160.10 cost-of-living index and $2,813 median monthly owner costs in Stamford, enjoy a cost of living that’s about 50% less and median owner costs that are $839 cheaper in Bridgeport.
Cost of Living: 95.60
Median Household Income: $40,065
Compared to Newark or Dover, you’ll save whether you rent or own in Wilmington. Per the most recent data, Wilmington has about 22,345 more housing units than Newark and roughly 17,800 more than Dover.
Cost of Living: 92.00
Median Household Income: $48,256
Median monthly ownership costs in Jacksonville are $1,344, which explains why this populous city has an impressive owner-occupied housing unit rate of 59%. In comparison, that rate’s only 31% in Miami.
Cost of Living: 81.50
Median Household Income: $42,661
The combo of a respectable median household income and a cost of living that’s 18.5% more affordable than the average U.S. city might explain why Columbus has a substantially lower poverty rate than both Savannah and Atlanta.
Cost of Living: 145.60
Median Household Income: $55,815
Hilo is an expensive place to live compared to other U.S. cities, but for Hawaii, it’s a bargain. The median gross rent is $925 per month in Hilo, but it’s $1,569 in Honolulu and $1,796 in Pearl City.
Cost of Living: 91.40
Median Household Income: $41,210
While households that pay more than 30% of their earnings toward rent are considered rent-burdened, citizens of Nampa don’t have that problem. With median rents of $802, only 23.4% of income typically goes toward rent.
Cost of Living: 79.70
Median Household Income: $40,143
One trend GOBankingRates identified in the study is that the biggest city in the state is rarely the most affordable because of high housing prices and costs of living. Just compare Rockford’s 79.70 cost-of-living score to Chicago’s 110.90.
Indiana: Fort Wayne
Cost of Living: 81.20
Median Household Income: $44,449
Fort Wayne is one of only five cities featured on our study that has a median monthly owner cost that falls below $1,000. In Fort Wayne, the median owner cost with a mortgage is $938.
Cost of Living: 89.50
Median Household Income: $48,191
With a median gross rent of $707, a relatively tiny slice of your monthly paycheck goes toward renting a place in this Mississippi River town — just 17.6%.
Cost of Living: 84.60
Median Household Income: $46,775
In Wichita, the living is easy. Residents spend a little over 26% of their annual household income on housing and utilities, according to 2017 data from U.S. News and World Report.
Cost of Living: 87.90
Median Household Income: $46,881
Louisville ranked among GOBankingRates’ 2017 list of the cheapest places to rent in the U.S.
Cost of Living: 82.50
Median Household Income: $38,056
In addition to an easygoing cost-of-living and median gross rent of $757, Shreveport has an interesting distinction: It’s one of the few cities surveyed where you can commute to work in less than 20 minutes, based on mean travel time.
Cost of Living: 94.70
Median Household Income: $38,199
Bring the kids to Lewiston and you won’t just pay super-affordable gross median rent of $683, your family will have access to a K-12 public and private school system that educates more than 7,000 local students.
Cost of Living: 90.00
Median Household Income: $44,262
With more than $11.3 billion in total annual healthcare receipts and revenue, Baltimore is a solid choice for health workers. An unemployment rate of 4.6%, according to U.S. News and World Report, makes the metropolitan city even better.
Cost of Living: 102.20
Median Household Income: $35,742
If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, moving to Springfield could make homeownership a little easier. While homes in Boston have a median value of $393,600, Springfield homes have a median value of just $144,700.
Michigan: Grand Rapids
Cost of Living: 87.20
Median Household Income: $42,019
A booming job market and impressive college readiness ratings land Grand Rapids on U.S. News and World Report’s top 20 overall Best Places to Live, and the city ranks No. 4 on the magazine’s 2017 list of most affordable locales in the United States.
Cost of Living: 101.10
Median Household Income: $65,195
Though homes have an approachable median value of $164,900 in Rochester, don’t discount renting. With the city’s generous median household income, only about 15% of your paycheck would go toward the median gross rent of $823.
Cost of Living: 73.60
Median Household Income: $32,866
Looking for the lowest cost of living on our study? Go to Jackson, where it costs a whopping 26.4% less to get by compared to the average U.S. city.
Cost of Living: 84.30
Median Household Income: $33,769
Another GOBankingRates study estimated that it takes $40,834 per year to live comfortably in Springfield based on the 50-30-20 budgeting rule, where 50% of your income covers necessities, 30% covers discretionary items and 20% goes to savings.
Montana: Great Falls
Cost of Living: 95.40
Median Household Income: $43,497
Home on the range is an affordable prospect in Great Falls. The $613 median gross rent falls way below the $763 median in Missoula or the $762 you might pay in Billings.
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Cost of Living: 92.30
Median Household Income: $51,126
For renters considering Nebraska, Lincoln is a no-brainer. While median gross rent is $852 in Bellevue and $799 in Omaha, Lincoln’s gross median rent of $729 puts more spending money in your pocket.
Nevada: Las Vegas
Cost of Living: 104.50
Median Household Income: $50,882
In Vegas, opportunity abounds. The city’s nearly $3 billion in annual food and accommodation revenue, $4 billion in healthcare and $8.5 billion in retail blow away both Reno and Henderson.
New Hampshire: Concord
Cost of Living: 112.60
Median Household Income: $57,566
Want to rent in New Hampshire and pay under $1,000 a month — $961, to be exact? Then skip Nashua and Manchester for the capital city of Concord.
New Jersey: Newark
Cost of Living: 111.70
Median Household Income: $33,025
In 2017, The New York Post called Newark “the New Brooklyn,” with $1.7 billion invested in commercial, residential and industrial projects in recent years, including the $150-million Teacher’s Village mixed-use project.
New Mexico: Las Cruces
Cost of Living: 90.10
Median Household Income: $41,215
The City of Crosses comes in at nearly 10% more affordable to live in than the typical U.S. town, and the cheap median rent of $743 means you’re likely to only put 21.6% of your monthly earnings toward housing.
New York: Buffalo
Cost of Living: 83.70
Median Household Income: $33,119
Forget the Big Apple. In 2018, GOBankingRates ranked Buffalo as one of the best cities for minimum wage workers, based on the metrics of housing, groceries, utilities, transportation and livability.
North Carolina: Greensboro
Cost of Living: 89.60
Median Household Income: $42,802
There are lots of reasons Greensboro was named one of Livability’s Top 10 College Towns in 2016, including the University of North Carolina, N.C. Agricultural and Technical State University and its proximity to Raleigh’s “Research Triangle.”
North Dakota: Bismarck
Cost of Living: 116.60
Median Household Income: $60,320
Forbes recommends putting no more than 28% of your monthly budget toward your mortgage. Why not slide under that at just over 26% with Bismarck’s hefty median income and low median owner cost of $1,326?
Cost of Living: 78.80
Median Household Income: $26,583
With a median household income of over $26,500, Clevelanders are the lowest earners on GOBankingRates’ list, but the exceptionally low cost of living makes Cleveland 21.2% more affordable than the average American town.
Cost of Living: 87.70
Median Household Income: $52,484
In 2017, Livability named Norman one of the Best Cities for Entrepreneurs in America, citing its fast growth in high-wage jobs and reputation as an up-and-coming college town.
Cost of Living: 108.20
Median Household Income: $49,126
Ditch the hipsters if you want to buy an affordable house in Oregon. While the median home price in Portland is $295,100, it’s only $182,800 in the sleepier Salem.
Cost of Living: 88.00
Median Household Income: $42,450
For middle-income earners, Demographia’s 2018 International Housing Affordability Survey ranked Pittsburgh in the top five alongside locations such as Cleveland, Oklahoma City and Rochester, New York.
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Rhode Island: Warwick
Cost of Living: 113.20
Median Household Income: $66,602
In Warwick, it’s all about the income. While residents of Providence only make a median household income of $37,366, Warwick residents add more than $29,000 to that figure.
South Carolina: Columbia
Cost of Living: 90.90
Median Household Income: $42,875
For a Charleston alternative, look no further than Columbia, where median monthly homeownership costs $422 less while median rent is $186 cheaper.
South Dakota: Aberdeen
Cost of Living: 94.70
Median Household Income: $46,330
With a median gross rent of only $602 — the lowest of any city in our study — renters in this quiet, park-filled city only put 15.6% of their monthly earnings toward housing.
Cost of Living: 81.40
Median Household Income: $34,556
A median income of $34,556 doesn’t sound like much, but neither does a median rent of $752. The low cost of living in Knoxville could help you break free of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
Texas: San Antonio
Cost of Living: 93.20
Median Household Income: $48,183
If you prefer a little bustle but don’t want the crazy rent and higher cost of living that comes with Dallas and Houston, head to San Antonio, where the population of 1,469,845 makes it the most populous city in GOBankingRates’ study. And the Tex-Mex doesn’t hurt.
Utah: West Valley City
Cost of Living: 96.50
Median Household Income: $55,933
Only 48 percent of residents in Salt Lake City and 41.1% of those in Provo live in homes they own. In West Valley City, that percentage jumps to 68.1%.
Cost of Living: 120.60
Median Household Income: $67,413
At only 16,986 residents, you won’t find a quieter town on our list than Colchester. Known for its variety of parks and picturesque views, Colchester was named the best place to live in Vermont by Money magazine in 2018.
Cost of Living: 97.60
Median Household Income: $45,268
In Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, median home value easily rockets past $250,000. Make life easier for yourself in Norfolk, where that median number is just $193,400.
Cost of Living: 94.20
Median Household Income: $43,274
A rented slice of the Pacific Northwest only costs a median amount of $747 in Spokane, meaning rent will eat up only about 20.7% of your paycheck.
West Virginia: Parkersburg
Cost of Living: 80.20
Median Household Income: $34,296
If you’re looking to settle down, look no further than the historic river town of Parkersburg. This tiny town has the lowest median monthly owner costs on the list at $838.
Wisconsin: Green Bay
Cost of Living: 87.30
Median Household Income: $43,473
Based on rent, mortgage, income and cost of living, GOBankingRates assigned each city a score, where lower is better. While Parkersburg got the lowest score at 0.95, Green Bay isn’t far behind at 1.0876. Plus, Green Bay has the Packers.
Cost of Living: 104.40
Median Household Income: $75,894
Not only will Gillette’s nearly $76,000 median income keep you cozy, a 2017 survey from GOBankingRates finds that Wyoming is among the least-taxed states in the union.
Keep reading to see what a $100K salary looks like after taxes in your state.
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Methodology: GOBankingRates identified the three largest cities in each state. To determine the city in each state where paychecks go the furthest, cities were evaluated on four factors: 1) median household income, sourced from Census.gov; 2) median monthly homeowner costs (with a mortgage), sourced from Census.gov; 3) median gross rent, sourced from Census.gov; and 4) cost of living, sourced from Sperling’s Best Places.
Due to photo availability, some photos are for representational purposes only.
About the Author
Dan is an honors graduate of western Kentucky’s Murray State University and has been a freelance writer and full-time creative since 2009, in addition to co-founding and co-owning two active media production businesses – one for the west coast in Los Angeles, California, and one for the east in Cincinnati, Ohio. As an independent creative professional with a scroll-like resume of both blue collar and white collar experience and a longtime business writer, Dan has been fortunate enough to publish with the likes of Chron.com, Fortune, The Motley Fool, Career Trends, Bizfluent, MSN Money, Legal Beagle, San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate, USA Today, Builder’s Capital, Salon.com and Zacks.com, among others. He’s also offered his words to such diverse brands as ASUS, Kellog’s, Discover, Sony Pictures, Samsung, Linksys, LIVESTRONG, Office Depot, Canon Inc., Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation and Verizon, as well as frequently writing in the fields of entertainment, travel, fitness, lifestyle and fashion.