5 Cities With High Salaries, Low Costs of Living

Here’s a common myth: If you live in a city that has typically high wages, you’ll probably have a fair amount of expendable savings. Actually, even if a city has a high average salary, residents could still struggle financially due to an equally high cost of living.

The Huffington Post points out that New York City boasts far above-average pay rates — $6 more per hour than the average national rate of $22.71; however, New York’s cost of living is 216 percent higher than the national average. Whether a city provides higher salaries, market forces that determine daily expenses give the truest cost of living for a particular area.

We’ve compiled a list of cities that offer their residents the most expendable cash possible — that is, the greatest difference in salaries and cost of living, where residents will have a nice chunk of change to spend on whatever they want.

Locations With the Greatest Income-to-Cost Gaps

Houston, Texas

According to Forbes, Houston ranks No. 1 for the biggest gap in income and cost of living. Thanks to affordable housing, electricity, transportation and consumer goods prices, residents of Houston can take advantage of the most cost-efficient city in the United States.

Omaha, Neb.

According to municipal records, residents of Nebraska’s largest city are able to enjoy the best of both economic worlds. Individuals working in Nebraska are able to earn an average $24.75 per hour, according to The Fiscal Times, which is $2 more than the national hourly wage. They’re also able to enjoy a cheaper-than-average standard of living (12 percent less) and a less expensive housing cost compared to the national average (21 percent less).

Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

Don’t let the low salaries fool you. According to LoanSafe.org, Texas’ cost of living enables low salary brackets to maintain a comfortable lifestyle and still have money to save. Based on the low cost of everyday items, the citywide average annual salary of $53,453 was adjusted 4 percent higher to $55,564, when compared to the nationwide cost of living.

Austin, Texas

According to PayScale.com, Austin has the best of both economic worlds. Its housing prices are 15 percent below the national average and its cost of living trails the nationwide average by 3 percent. Bolstered by its large tech community, Austin gives its residents a good chance at socking away some cash along with a comfortable standard of living.

Charlotte, N.C.

PayScale.com found that Charlotte has one of the highest average salaries and lowest costs of living. With housing prices resting at 23 percent less and utilities 14 percent less than the national average, residents would be hard-pressed not to find money available to save or invest. Charlotte’s cost of living is 15 percent cheaper than Miami, 37 percent cheaper than Anchorage, Alaska, and a whopping 138 percent cheaper than New York.

Photo credit: telwink

  • Gregg

    PayScale, you need to move to Austin before you write things like this. Austin is very expensive, the traffic is the worst ever and the cost for housing is unreal. Please, stay away and go back to where ever you came from. Austin is closed to anyone new coming in.

    • James Seidel

      Do we have to pay a high toll to the troll to enter? You talk like you own the town.

      • Ralph Smith

        Yes, you do. The state has ringed Austin with toll roads.

  • Wensome1

    Uh HELLO! The real estate market in Austin has exploded. It is a total sellers market and the prices are insane. The cost of living is not inexpensive. The pay here is not that great either. I’m sorry, but in my industry, I would be making $20,000 to $40,000 more in my industry in Houston. Good grief, where did you get resources for this article. Totally inaccurate!

    • Venkataramanan Thiru

      still it is one of the cheapest…for housing you can buy a reasonably good accommodation for $ 100,000/=.In CA it costs $ 400,000/=Food articles compared to CA it 33% less.costly.

    • Ralph Smith

      I Moved here from NYC in July, 2013. Unless you were rent stabilized in NYC, ( which I was) housing is much cheaper in Austin. Very tough to find an actual house to buy in Austin for less than $125k and even then it will simply be substandard construction. No doubt there are a lot of nice older (pre-WWII) homes here, but a lot of what was built after 1945 until very recently couldn’t meet code in most places. Traffic is terrible. Groceries are cheap but their cost is climbing.Other than the tech sector, salaries aren’t great. With the influx of people, property taxes are rising. Austin is good for the people who’ve moved here, but the locals are getting priced out.

      • Steve Sueoka

        welcome to gentrification

      • Seriously?

        You are complaining about $125k for a house? haha That’s a joke, right? Why don’t you check out the housing prices for a tiny, two bedroom home in the greater Boston area (even the worst neighborhoods) and then try to complain about not being able to find a house for $125k. Want to talk about bad traffic and high costs of goods and services – lets talk about NYC and Boston – NOT Austin.

  • 5th generation

    Yea I’m not sure why Austin keeps making these b.s. list about quality of life and income vs cost of living. Why is a small central texas town on a list with New York, Houston, and Dallas? Cities that have almost 10x our population. We don’t care what you think about us we don’t want you to move here. There are plenty of small towns across America with affordable housing, lakes, rivers and streams. Please feel free to visit but when you move here your taking someone’s small town life style and making it just like your L.A., San Fran., Houston’s, & New York’s that your running from. Guess what we don’t want it! I was lucky enough to grow up in a city where I could see bands like Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughn,& the Toddies as a child. But now have to fight crowds of people to even get a freakin burger at Hop Doddy. We get it you saw a kick ass concert here & read about us on the inter-webs go home well see ya next year. You’ll have to take this city from my cold dead hands.

    P.s. it’s not cheap to live here unless your over 100k and live a modest life style it’s an everyday struggle. Just like the cities you live in.

    • Angelo_Frank

      It’s too late. You are living in the past. Austin will keep growing and more tech companies will draw even more employees there. It will be one big sprawl along the I-35 corridor from San Antonio to Austin to Dallas.

      • Ralph Smith

        Wrong! Unless they plan to build a pipeline that can empty the Great Lakes. There is practically no water here. And a government that thinks electric capacity and roads grow on trees.

        • SongDog

          Now calm down, Ray, it will rain every few years.

          Kidding aside, water = big problem west of IH 45. Solve it and be rich.

        • Lucky Star

          actually according the nerds at A&M, the population of Texas will double by 2025 making the corridor triangle between San Antonio-Austin, Houston and DFW one of the largest mega monster metro areas in the nation, thats the future,,,,now figure out the water and other stuff, Its already happening.

    • James Seidel

      Another toll troll…

    • Ralph Smith

      I agree completely, but the people in Texas have no one to blame but themselves. They consistently elect ‘pro-growth’ politicians who pay companies from other states to relocate. However, relocating high tech companies in Austin doesn’t instantly fill Austin natives with high-tech skills. Workers must be imported. Look at the growth of the East Asian and South Asian communities in Austin, as well as native-born Americans from other states. Austin is a product of Texas hubris.

  • Margaret Hu

    Does this mean high-pay for everyone across the board or just for jobs that pay high regardless of the location? A doctor is going to make is going to make 6 or 7 figures somewhere in California just as they would in the Charlotte but the cost of living in California is higher.

    But does that mean that Charlotte offers higher than average pay for everyone coupled with a lower cost of living? Doesn’t the high pay apply only to certain fields just as it does anywhere? Does this mean only white collar jobs?

    Gas, driving, commuting might be higher in Cali too do to all the traffic and uninsured drivers. Also, look at car insurance costs – in Charlotte, you can probably get it for like $25/month from 4AutoInsuranceQuote or another similar site. In California, it will be much more.

    For example, a bus driver working for CTA in Chicago makes $29 an hour versus $13 an hour for a bus driver working for MARTA in Charlotte; and the COL (at least for housing) in the nice areas in Chartotte proper and its suburbs are about the same as Chicago’s these days (or is getting there fast). So exactly what occupations does this high pay/low COL in Charlotte apply to?

  • Erika I

    I am from Houston and have worked in my field for 14 yrs and still moly make $14.00 an hour doing billing and insurance collections this COL to income ratio is pure CRAP! This is what the wealthy tell themselves so they don’t feel bad about paying people crap. I have 2 certifications and can’t even find a job let alone afford the COL or educating my daughter. Don’t believe this nonsense people desperate enough to make that kind of money would risk the little they have to move here and be just as bad as they were before or worse!

    • FinanceGuru

      You’ve been there for 14 years and only make $14 an hour – whose fault is that? You could have had a masters and doctorate degree by now, if you’d wanted them. You clearly don’t understand how today’s market works and your lack of negotiation skills demonstrates a pretty clear reason why you are still only making a lousy wage. Don’t point fingers at “the wealthy” for your lack of ambition. Also, if you hate it all so much, why do you continue working on certifications for a job market that, according to you, doesn’t exist in your location?

    • SongDog

      Get out of what you are doing, Dear, and get into real estate development, or better still, the “All” business. It’s what we do here.

    • victoria

      im with you…national average $22.00 an hour my ass….this article is def not pointed at the majority middle/lower class…and guaranted any one making more than 6 figures doesn’t give two hoots about “the gap”

  • Quambert

    Written by companies trying to make money. Yes, this is completely believable and I will go with it immediately. Most of my friends that live in Houston are on welfare just for the fun of it anyway. *blink,blink*

  • Claire Schexnayder

    Housing prices in Houston are going up, but still affordable compared to rest of country.

  • Phillip Henley

    Wow really I’m from Omaha Nebraska its boring as hell!

    • Lucky Star

      Thats why people are moving to Texas because of the cultural mix, this place really is becoming the real melting pot with people from all over the world coming here now. Its not boring…its actually quite fun with Asian, South Asian, European, South American, Canadian, and you name it, communities living and moving here

  • Reddog

    I live in Des Moines and I’ve had 3 different jobs out here, and bettering myself as I move up the latter money wise. What’s odd is those 3 jobs all had sister jobs (branches) in Omaha, in which on 3 different occasions I’ve met people from Omaha and always on every job they got payed less than all the states around them. Kc,Mo,Sd,Minn, Io,Co,I’m not taking shots at ,Ne but I would be pissed if I lived there. Each one of those jobs would say if you live in such in such your pay is such in such, unless you live in Omaha then your pay is…well significantly lower by almost $4.00 an hour.
    Why is that? Anyone else see the same thing? It can’t be because population or taxes because we are pretty competitive ,at least most of the mid-west.

  • Amybeth Hurst

    Wish I could move there!

  • EsqWired

    Compared to Houston, Austin is more expensive. Compared to Silicon Valley, Austin is a bargain basement sale with prices slashed! Housing is pricier in Austin than other parts of the country because the city has a tough regulatory environment for permit approvals. Commercial permits for shopping centers take longer to procure as well resulting in higher rents compared to Houston and other Texas cities. A very basic starter home in Silicon Valley is about 700K and going up. It is all relative. If you can keep your Silicon Valley pay and move to Austin, its a no brainer. Just hope you don’t get laid off because you won’t be able to replace the salary. Also, if you own a home in Silicon Valley and move away, you won’t be moving back. Once you leave Silicon Valley, it is a one way trip. Too expensive to re-establish yourself in SV.

  • John Titley

    I like the finance Guru

  • C. Edward Kemp-Cummings

    A lot of the hike in the cost of living is due to greed plain and simple. You have people paying $500,000 for a 1200 sf bungalow in Los Angeles or $400,000 for a 800 sf apartment in Chicago. You have companies increasing the cost of their products while reducing the amount of product in each unit made. We are paying $ 4.00 per gallon for gas meanwhile oil rich counties are constructing man made islands that can be viewed from space.

    I believe Cleveland, Ohio has a lot to offer. There is a wide range of nice houses in every price range. You can purchase a attractive 1800 sf in a inner ring suburb for $125,000. The COL is reasonable and it is a up and coming area. Don’t worry about the hype come visit and make your own decision.

  • bevus

    I lived in Houston, Dallas, and Texas in general, Texas has no inheritance tax, no income tax, but it does have a relative high property tax, But salaries are high, very high compared to many places in the country. Anyone in the oil, gas, chemicals engineering and constrution down there makes more than even same jobs in NYC! But , living in Houston from June-oct is hard given the humidity and traffic! Austin is great, but it has become like San Fran, nuts.

  • S. G. Mohammad

    Not always a city determines your financial activities – earnings,spendings and savings, if any. Of course a place or city matters a lot for living expenses and other related costs and the general inflation. But an individual’s lifestyle, standard of living, habits and other ancillary costs have an impact on the cost of living at a particular place or city.

  • Name

    Plus who wants to live in these locations?

  • SamyyCiao

    Nothing but the actual cost of buying a home lower in Houston lower due to cheap illegal labor – propety tax in the inner loop is as high as anywhere in NJ, gas prices – yes are higher than NJ due to higher gax taxes, food prices are higher than NJ, no public transportantion execpt one light rail line built by the former NJ CEO who Houston gave they boot becasue she wanted to build more rail vs more freeways – who did this study – some Houston native – everyone I know can ot wait to get out of Houston and I am sure the orgianial Houstoians can not wait for us to leave there will be crash here like the 80’s within 3 years – stupid article full of holes at least as far as Houston goes!