We all have a figure in our head when it comes to the ideal amount we'd like to be earning. For almost all of us, that figure is considerably more than we're earning right now! But as well as having a dream wage, we probably have a dream location, too.
Those two dreams may not correlate. If you're looking at your current environment and thinking that you could live very comfortably on $70K per year, you might be right. If you take that wage and move to California though, you may find that your money doesn't go all that far.
For the study, the personal finance website used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the 50/30/20 budgeting rule - which allocates 50 percent of your income to necessities, 30 percent to discretionary expenses and 20 percent to savings - to find out what the average "living wage" is in each state.
Here's the first figure on our list. You don't have anything to compare it to yet, so what do you think of it? Does it seem high for Alabama, which isn't generally considered to be an expensive place to live? If so, you best brace yourself; costs will go much higher than this as we move through our list!
Alabama is one of the very few states in the USA where the estimated annual cost of housing comes in below $10K per year. Feeding yourself is also comparatively cheap, with the estimated cost for one fully grown adult being a little less than $7,000. Perhaps that's not surprising for a state which is loudly and proudly working class, within which the majority of income for both the state and the people who live in it comes from the steel industry.
If you were going to make the trip from Alabama to Alaska, you'd been to consider two things. Firstly, you're going to have to make some serious amendments to your wardrobe. No weather you've ever experienced in Alabama could prepare you for the Alaskan chill! Secondly, you better think about ways to boost your income by almost 50%. Living in Alaska isn't always easy, and it's definitely not cheap.
The average cost of housing in Alaska is north of $15,000, with food weighing in at over $8,000 on top of that. Because of Alaska's climate and terrain, heating and fuel costs are also significantly higher than in a lot of other areas. Having said all that, could you really put a price on the scenery, with all those beautiful fjords and mountains? Alaska's natives certainly wouldn't. Some things are worth more than money.
You would be marginally better off living in Arizona than Alabama - but only marginally. You'd need a slight uplift in your wage to come here, and the cost of living when it comes to food and housing is surprisingly comparable. $11,500 per year will get you somewhere to live, and a further $8,000 should be sufficient to keep you alive when it comes to making sure you have enough food to eat.
There are a couple of things which go in favor of Arizona's economy, and help keep the prices down. Firstly, it's a right-to-work state which, regardless of what you think about the political ramifications, does seem to help keep the cost of living down. Secondly, massive amounts of money flow into the state from elsewhere thanks to Grand Canyon tourism. It tends to help with the costs of keeping a state running when other people are willing to pay just to see it!
Good news if you live in Arkansas (or bad news, depending on how you look at it) - you can live very comfortably here on a relatively low salary. Arkansas has the second-lowest living wage requirement anywhere in the United States of America. The annual cost of housing is barely above $8,500, with food costs coming in just below $7,000. If you could make Alaska money in Arkansas, you'd basically be living like royalty!
As we'll see with other states on this list, you'll find that the cost of living comes down when there are fewer people to look after. Vast areas of Arkansas are either parks or wilderness, and parks and wilderness don't need feeding or clothing. On balance, though, they also don't pay any taxes. If you ever pass through this state, by the way, try to work out where the Dover Lights come from. Scientists have been trying to explain them for years, and so far, they've got nothing!
Do they really call California' The Golden State' because of its association with the Gold Rush of the 1800s, or is it because you almost need to be earning sacks full of real solid gold in order to afford to live there? The cost of just about everything in California is eye-wateringly expensive. You're looking a $20K a year just in housing costs, and then the best part of $10K on top of that for food.
Admittedly, the cost of all this is somewhat skewed by a couple of important facts. For one, Los Angeles is in California, and so the high prices there drag up the state average by quite a margin. Secondly, this is where Hollywood is based. Hollywood dreams don't come cheaply, and neither does being in or around that particular industry. Then there's Disneyland to think about as well. Anywhere there's big money, the cost of living goes up. Rich people need something to spend their salary on!
Compared to California, Colorado looks quite reasonable! The cost of housing here sits somewhere around the $15,000 mark, with food prices sticking at almost exactly $8,000 per year for one person living alone. Right now, it seems food costs around the same in every state, but you'll see that figure change as we get further through our list.
Living in the Centennial State - which got its nickname thanks to achieving statehood exactly one hundred years after the Declaration of Independence was signed - is all about the outdoor life, and the breathtaking scenery. If you don't like the outdoors, then you've come to the wrong state! There are plenty of wealthy residents in Colorado who help to push the average income and cost up - especially those residents who can afford to go skiing in their spare time.
For reasons we've never adequately been able to explain, people like to call Connecticut 'the land of steady habits.' Steady habits, to us, implies erring on the side of caution, and avoiding excesses. That apparently doesn't extend to not paying over the odds for the cost of basic amenities! You need to be bringing in the big bucks if you want to call Connecticut your home. State taxes here don't help; housing costs are roughly $15K, and food costs are below the average $8K. By rights, you should need less money than you actually do.
Among Connecticut's various claims to fame, it's believed to be the first written Constitution in American history, with the Fundamental Orders dating all the way back to 1639. You'll also find Yale University here - which might go some way to explaining where all that money goes. A Yale education, for most people, doesn't come cheaply!
For 90% of the world, the first thing that comes to mind when people mention Delaware is 'Amazon.' Jeff Bezos has a lot to answer for. Delaware is another one of our mid-price states, with housing costing approximately £13,500, and food coming in surprisingly low at less than $7,000. Perhaps the state should start marketing itself on being a cheap place to eat. After all, who doesn't like food?
Given that Delaware is an agricultural state, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that food prices are so low. You don't need to pay to buy your groceries from the store if you're growing them yourself! "The First State" - so named because it was the very first place to ratify the Constitution, and therefore was technically the foundation stone of the United States of America - is fairly self-reliant when it comes to making sure everyone gets fed. You now know where to head in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
Be honest. You were expecting Florida to cost more than this, weren't you? So were we before we looked at the figures. People like to live in places that have warm weather, beautiful scenery, and a laid-back lifestyle. Because of that, the cost of living in such locations tends to be high, because people want to move there. Somehow, Florida has bucked that trend. Now you know this, you might want to consider moving there. It suddenly seems like a bargain.
We don't need to tell you what the Sunshine State is best known for - everybody all around the world knows that it's tourism! Anywhere with beaches like the ones in Florida would be foolish not to capitalize on them. That's likely to be what persuaded both Disney and Universal Studios to take up permanent residence. You could have both of those places on your doorstep for less than it would cost you to live in Alaska. What are you waiting for?
We think most people looking at this will think 'yes, that seems about right.' Georgia is not, by anybody's measure, an expensive state to live in. All of our stated guide prices are higher than you might see elsewhere because we factor in the 20% that we all know we should be saving, so if you take that out of the equation, the cost drops even lower. You can house yourself for a little less than $11,000 per year in George, and feed yourself for less than $7,000.
People like to call Georgia the 'Peach State,' but by rights, it should really be either the 'Onion State' or the 'Peanut State' - both of which we suppose are rather unflattering nicknames to have to live with! The onions produced in Georgia are thought to be among the sweetest in the world, and if you visit the town of Ashburn, you can have your picture taken with the world's biggest peanut.
Calm down, Hawaii, that's just crazy money! The stereotypical images of Hawaii are all about beach life, leis, coconuts, and grass skirts. We guess grass costs considerably more than we always thought it does, because Hawaii is putting almost everywhere else in the shade when it comes to the cost of living. Why does it cost so much? Well, simply put, because it's an island. There's very little in the way of space or resources to produce all of life's essentials in Hawaii, so those essentials have to be imported from elsewhere. That will always make things more expensive.
Also, because it's viewed as a paradise island, plenty of people want to come and live here. That means space is at a premium, prices are high, and inflation of those prices is well above the average. Where there's competition for space, cash becomes king. You'll need close to $25,000 just to cover the cost of your housing in Hawaii for a year.
It's not exactly a closely guarded secret that Idaho isn't among the top states when it comes to where people want to live. No offense to the people of Idaho - there are many great things about the state - but those who are born there often go somewhere else to seek their fortune. The other side of that is that costs are low, because wages also tend to be low.
Idaho is another state which is closely associated with farming - and potatoes in particular - but when you look at its natural resources, you wonder why it isn't doing better for itself. To some, Idaho is known as the 'Gem State' because of the quantity and variety of precious stones which have been found in the earth here. Oil made Texas rich, so why haven't all of those gems done the same thing for Idaho?
Illinois is about smack-bang average when it comes to how much money you need to be bringing in to live there, which has to be considered something of a surprise when you consider that the state contains the powerhouse of Chicago. Food prices are surprisingly low at less than seven thousand dollars per year; apparently, deep dish pizzas don't cost as much in the state that's famous for them as they do everywhere else!
There is plenty that Illinois can be proud of when it comes to its history and landmarks. It was the first state in the USA to abolish slavery - perhaps thanks to the fact that it was Abraham Lincoln who passed the law, and Lincoln was a son of Illinois. You'll also find the 'home' of Superman here; the state has a town called Metropolis, although it may not look much like the super-city you've seen in the movies.
Indiana is one of those blessed states where you'll be paying less than five figures for both the roof over your head, and the food on your table. $9,600 is the going rate within the housing market, and $6,900 on top of that should mean that you're not going hungry. Indiana is where you can head to if you want to live the American Dream on a budget.
While you can feed yourself for a reasonable price here, Indiana is also doing all it can to put food on the table for the rest of the United States, too. Only four states in the country produce more corn for grain purposes than Indiana, which makes sense given that it's located firmly within 'The Corn Belt.' Interestingly, although plenty of people know that Indiana is called the 'Hoosier State,' nobody can actually put their finger on why that is, or when it started.
As well as being very close to Indiana alphabetically, Iowa is almost identical when it comes to the strain - or perhaps that should be a lack thereof - it will put on your financial resources to build a life here. Housing yourself should cost you barely over $9,000, and your annual grocery shop should be less than seven thousand dollars when all is told.
There's a bit of healthy competition between Iowa and Indiana when it comes to producing corn and other agricultural goods. In recent years, Iowa has had the edge when it comes to volume and value. You don't become known as 'the land where tall corn grows' without good reason - even if it isn't a nickname that particularly rolls off the tongue! Also, if you've never been to a state fair in Iowa, you haven't lived. Add it to your list of things to do.
Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz' isn't the only person who's ever said, 'I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.' There are many residents of the state who'll have found themselves expressing similar sentiments when they've moved elsewhere, and realized how much more money the rest of the country has to spend on staying alive. This is another place where housing is south of $10K per year, and the food stays cheap all year round. The reasons are once again similar - much of it is grown or produced from within the state.
While other states might have the edge on corn, nobody produces more wheat than Kansas. Only Texas produces more cattle. Being used as the setting for 'The Wizard of Oz' made Kansas famous across the world, but it's a shame Vincent van Gogh never got to visit. He'd have found plenty of sunflowers to inspire his artwork.
There are many people - especially Europeans - who can't say 'Kentucky' without saying 'Fried Chicken' immediately afterward. While it's great to be known for something, it's a little unfair to the great state of Kentucky that half the world bases their opinion of it on the prevalence of one of the world's largest fast-food companies. It has plenty of other things going for it - including, for example, its low cost of living.
The Bluegrass state is among the lowest living costs anywhere in the USA. By this point you've probably spotted a theme; with a couple of exceptions, it's significantly cheaper to live in the south than it is to live in the north. You probably knew that already, but you may not have realized that the difference was quite this dramatic. Despite being known for its bourbon, there are still counties within Kentucky where prohibition has never ended.
As we head over to Louisiana on our A-Z tour of the United States, we find that housing prices start to creep up a little bit; we're back above $10,000 on average, but only by a couple of hundred dollars. We're still comfortably below the $7,000 mark for food though, so there isn't too much additional strain on our theoretical traveler's wallet.
There are so many things Louisiana is known for that it's hard to know where to start. If you're a Millennial, you might be inclined to say 'Britney Spears!' That would be disregarding years of rich cultural heritage in the state though; this is the home of Mardi Gras, and of Bayou Country, and of all the jazz and voodoo history in New Orleans. People from all races and all walks of life have melded together in Louisiana; it's a melting pot of creed and culture.
Now things are really starting to shoot up again! Maine is known both across the country and across the world for its scenery and its seafood; you're unlikely ever to eat a bad meal in Maine, but you'll likely pay a premium in return for that quality culinary experience. As well as all of its natural resources, Maine actually has more miles of coastline than California. It's just a shame that it's so incredibly cold here in winter; otherwise, it would likely be an even bigger tourist destination.
We generally credit Christopher Columbus with the discovery of the United States, but he wasn't the first European visitor to the nation's shores. Maine can testify to that - it's believed that the land Maine now sits on was first visited by Vikings over a thousand years ago. It also contains York, which became the first-ever chartered city in 1641.
Some of these figures really do seem odd at first glance. Who would have suspected that it would cost so much money to live in Maryland? Real estate agents would have been able to give you a clue - they'd be able to tell you that when it comes to the average cost of housing, you won't have very much change left out of $20,000. Food stays cheap, though. We usually see some correlation between housing prices and food prices, but they must do things a little differently in Maryland.
As we've seen in other places, being able to source food locally does a lot to keep the cost of eating down. The major seaport of Baltimore provides some assistance with that. We can also thank Maryland for being the birthplace of America's national anthem; the song was put together and sung for the first time at Fort McHenry.
Continuing our upward trajectory in the middle of the alphabet, living in Massachusetts will probably cost you a tiny bit more than living in Maryland. This is really all about geography; the northeast of the country is the most expensive area to live in, and you can't get much more northeasterly than Massachusetts. You also better think about finding a partner to share your life with before you move here - the average income for one person in the state is below the living wage we've listed here.
Massachusetts is, of course, where the Mayflower landed, and so you could make a strong argument that it's also where the story of modern America began. It's also where the fight for independence began; the Boston tea party happened here, as did the first ever public Thanksgiving celebration. No wonder they call it the 'State of Firsts.'
Falling back towards the national average, you could lead a comfortable life in Michigan for a reasonable living salary. You'd be paying a smidgen over $10,000 for your accommodation, and a pinch below £7,000 for your food. Whereas other states have one or two cities which drag their figures up artificially, Michigan's most significant city actually drags it down. Everybody knows how badly Detroit has suffered over the past ten or twenty years, and the economy around it has deteriorated badly.
There's obviously much more to Michigan than Detroit, and most of the things to see there aren't in cities at all! We can't talk about Michigan without discussing the famous lake, but the lake is just one of several in the area. There's more fresh water here than there is anywhere else in the United States. Fast-food lovers might be interested to know that this is also where Dominos was founded.
Minnesota and Michigan manage to have the exact same average food cost for a single person down to the dollar - it comes in at $6,979. You'll pay a little bit more to find a place to stay though; roughly $11,500 is the median price within the state's boundaries. Minnesota also has something else in common with Michigan - lakes. The largest freshwater lake in the world is in Minnesota, and so are more than 16,000 more!
Minnesota is a state which has always marched to the beat of its own drum. We're talking about the place that elected professional wrestler Jesse Ventura as a governor, and Al Franklin as a senator. The quirky way of thinking in this state might explain why it's raised musicians like Prince and Bob Dylan. It's a fine state, but if it were any more northern, it would be in Canada.
Now we're talking. It will cost you less than half as much to live in Mississippi than it would to live in Hawaii. The notoriously hard-to-spell state barely costs you $15,000 all-in for both housing and food. Considering some states require significantly more than that just for one or the other, you'd have to call that a bargain! So, what does Mississippi have going for it?
The recent history of Mississippi has caused some to view the state in a negative light - it was one of the states which rebelled against the union, and also a particularly strict enforcer of racial segregation during the time of the civil rights movement. It's also been home to some of America's great thinkers and writers though; Tennessee Williams grew up here, as did John Grisham, and William Faulkner. It still relies on cotton and chicken for much of its industry, but it's trying to diversify into technology.
We're getting the message loud and clear - look to a state that starts with 'Miss' if you want to be able to get by on a comparatively low income. Missouri is barely any different from Mississippi when it comes to projected expenditure, with only a few hundred dollars difference in the price of essentials. That might be down to the pragmatism of the people who live there - if you want to charge a high price to a native of Missouri, they're likely to demand justification for it!
Missouri's reputation as the 'Show Me' state comes from a sentence uttered by its congressman William Duncan Vandiver in 1899, when he dismissed an opponent's complicated argument and said, 'I'm from Missouri, you've got to show me.' The St. Louis World's Fair in 1904 was a pivotal one in terms of food and drink - both iced tea and the ice cream cone were invented during it.
The people in Montana must be eating well. The cost of housing here isn't far from the national average at barely over $10,000, but their $8,154 food cost is more in line with what we'd expect to see from a northeastern state. Residents of the state might just be eating well while the going is good; Yellowstone National Park is in Montana, and when the volcano beneath it finally explodes, we're all doomed. The people sat right on top of it will be the first to go!
If you took a walk right across the state of Montana from one side to the other, you might not see a single living soul for the whole duration. 46 out of the 56 counties in the state are classed as 'frontier counties,' within which there are fewer than six people living in every square mile. That must get a little lonely at times!
Nebraska is another one of those very reasonable states, where you can get an 'all in package' on staying alive for barely more than fifteen thousand dollars. You might have to get somebody to build you a house so you can move into it though; part of the reason it's so cheap is that there just isn't anybody living in most of it. That's why it goes by the nickname of 'The Great American Desert,' You can do wonderful things with all that space though - just ask the US Military, who base their Strategic Air Command here.
When it comes to farming, Nebraska doesn't just have the rest of America beaten; it puts almost all of the rest of the world to shame. The state is one of the largest exporters of agricultural products anywhere on the planet. Just be prepared to deal with some very extreme weather if you decide to make it your home; the whole state is a near-permanent theater of thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Despite mostly being barren, it's surprisingly expensive to live in Nevada. Now, we wonder what could possibly be behind that uplift in prices? We jest, of course. Nevada is famously the home of Las Vegas, where people turn up to gamble and go home accidentally married. To live there, you'll need a chunky bank balance, and a high tolerance for the party lifestyle. The average cost of housing across the state might be lower than you expect though - it's just shy of $12,000.
There was plenty of gold to be found in Nevada long before gambling took hold of Las Vegas; to this day, it remains America's most significant gold-producing state. There's also the richest silver deposit in the US here too; you'll find that at Comstock Lode. The only thing you might struggle for is water - the land is notoriously dry.
New Hampshire manages to take it up a step from Nevada, despite not having a thriving gambling and hotel industry to fall back on. We're talking more than $13,500 for housing, and barely a dollar under $8,000 to make sure you have enough food to last the year. The plethora of quarries and granite rocks here have given New Hampshire the nickname of 'The Granite State,' although the people have fairly granite attitudes too; the state's motto is 'live free or die!'
The state doesn't just talk a good game about freedom - it also lived it. Even before the Declaration of Independence was signed, New Hampshire was the very first to declare itself as being independent of England. As the old saying says, 'as New Hampshire goes, so does the nation.' With its history of leadership, it's a wonder the nation's capital isn't here.
We know that living in New Jersey costs a lot of money, because reality television shows have been drilling that fact into our heads for what now feels like an eternity. Even if you're not one of the state's socialites, you can still expect to pay more than $17,000 on housing costs to live in the state, plus just shy of $8,000 for food.
The Jersey Shore was famous long before the television show of the same name; its glorious beaches are the envy of much of the nation. There's a lot said outside the state about the attitude of New Jersey natives, but for the main part, they're just straight-talking. If they don't like something, they'll let you know about it! Try the seafood, stay out of the traffic jams, and learn to love the accent. Also, complaining about the high state taxes is something of a local sport.
Sometimes, standing in New Mexico, you can forget that you're in the United States of America at all. The Land of Enchantment has a distinctly Spanish vibe, which is deeply ingrained into the culture and the architecture here. If you visit New Mexico, you'll be rubbing shoulders with some of the nation's brightest and best - there are more PhDs per capita here than anywhere else in America. That makes it a little odd that the cost of living is comparatively low. Usually, where there's brains, there's big money.
Scenic New Mexico has been used as the setting - or at least the filming location - for many movies and television shows over the years. The biggest production to come here in recent times was 'Breaking Bad,' the fans of which specifically visit the state to see some of the most iconic spots from the show, and take pictures.
Well, this was always going to be one of the higher figures, wasn't it? New York City drags the average cost of living in New York State up quite a lot, but even being close to the Big Apple doesn't come cheaply. Housing prices come close to $18,000. That's why the cast of "Friends" were all sharing apartments with each other - unless you have a lot of money behind you, living in New York alone is financially impossible.
If we got into a discussion about what New York was famous for, we'd be here all day. The Statue of Liberty is here, and so is Broadway. Times Square and its electronic billboards are considered to be iconic all over the world. It's loud, it's gritty, it's cold in winter, but it's also one of the greatest places in the world.
From the bank-balance-withering heights of New York City, we come back down to the far more reasonable cost of a life in North Carolina, where housing is less than $10,000, and food is among the cheapest anywhere in the USA, with an annual bill of barely over $6,000. Either everybody in North Carolina is very thin, or they know something about shopping for groceries that the rest of us don't!
If you've ever considered moving to the Tar Heel State, you might want to start putting those plans into action. Americans are moving here faster than they are to any other state in the USA, so expect the cost of living to go up as demand continues to accelerate. With its dramatic mountains and rolling coastline, this is the state where the Wright Brothers looked into the sky, and decided they were going to fly there.
North Dakota, while not being far from the national average when it comes to costs, is more expensive to live in than South Dakota. That's largely because far more people live here, paying around $17,000 per year in housing and food to do so. Despite being rich in oil, it's still agriculture that rules the day here in terms of governing people's income. Almost 25% of the state's entire population work within that industry.
Large parts of North Dakota are barren, but if you drive along the lonely highways, it's increasingly likely that you'll spot modern art installations dotted along the way. 'The Enchanted Highway' was the idea of a retired schoolteacher in 1991, who decided that giving drivers something to look at would improve their mood as they traveled. The 75-tonne' geese in flight' sculpture is the largest such construction rendered in metal anywhere in the world.
When we get to Ohio, we're back to needing barely more than $15,000 to cover all of our essential bills. As more and more people start to work remotely, we wonder if these figures will soon change? Otherwise, you could be a remote employee of Google earning $100K per year in Ohio, and you'd be accidentally distorting the local economy! Ohio has particularly strong connections to sport - you can make a case that American football was born here.
Music lovers will tell you that something more important than football happened in Ohio - this is where rock and roll was born, and where it was given its name! Cleveland DJ Alan Freed is believed to have been the first to play rhythm and blues for a white audience on his radio show, and changed the sounds America listened to. You'll find Cedar Point here too - the amusement park voted 'best in the world' for sixteen years in a row.
Boomer Sooner! It doesn't break the bank to live in Oklahoma - quite the opposite. As with most agricultural states, housing is cheap, and food is right on your doorstep, so it costs less. Add this to the list of places you can acquire housing and eating for around $15,000. Ask someone from outside of the US what they know this state best for, and they'll probably tell you it's the musical of the same name. The state presumably agrees - they took their official state song from it.
Whereas there are plenty of places you'll find natural lakes in the USA, all the ones you'll find in Oklahoma are human-made, which is quite a staggering achievement. You won't find a state that takes college football more seriously, and nor will you find one that's quite so frequently visited by tornadoes. There's no 'average' weather in Oklahoma; you're either baking in the dust, or you're in the middle of a storm.
It's a puzzle to many people why it costs quite so much money to live in Oregon - especially when the two most basic amenities - which you'll know by now we're counting as housing and food - are less than $20K between them. That's higher than the national average, but still not high enough to explain why there's so much more money required on top of that.
Perhaps we should blame the hipsters! They've settled in Portland, and turned it into an almost-European haven of coffee shops, real-ale breweries, and counter-culture. It's certainly not lack of space to live that's pushing prices up - this state has more eerie 'ghost towns' than any other American state, and so there should be plenty of cheap options available. Nowhere is the landscape more dramatic than it is here - you get forests and beaches right next to each other.
As if to illustrate the point we just made about Oregon, here's Pennsylvania. The cost of food and housing is barely any different to Oregon, but you can live here for $25,000 per year less. Is it state taxes? Is it something that nobody's picked up on? We don't know - we just collect the statistics!
Pennsylvania has always been a fairly desirable piece of land - the English, the Swedes, and the Dutch fought over it during the 1600s, with the English coming out on top. After independence, the nation's power used to flow through this state, with Philadelphia serving as the country's capital. Part of that legacy can still be seen here, including the famous Liberty Bell. Among its other claims to fame, it can point to having the first motion-picture theater in the world, which opened in Pittsburgh in 1905.
Even just sharing a small border with New York State appears to be enough to drive up prices in your state! Given the comparatively short distance between the two, it's just about possible to commute between New York and Rhode Island, and some people do it. It's a cheaper alternative to living in New York, and you can get housed and fed for just about $20,000 over the course of the year.
The smallest of all the states on the mainland, Rhode Island was the last of the original 13 colonies to declare statehood. Oddly, there's no country Government system within the state at all; each of the 39 municipalities is self-governing, which must make governing the state as a whole somewhat difficult. During the prohibition era, it was a great place to come for a party - Rhode Island never ratified the 18th Amendment!
In the battle of the Carolinas, it's South Carolina that works out as being more expensive to live in, but it's by such a small amount that it's barely even relevant. Housing and food costs together roll in at approximately $17,000, which strikes us as a fair deal. South Carolina is a state best summed up by its optimistic Latin motto 'Dum spiro, spero,' which translates into English as 'while I dream, I hope.'
We know it best today by its nickname of 'The Palmetto State,' but it was very nearly called the much-less attractive 'Iodine State.' The state government was trying to advertise the quantity of iodine to be found there to potential business buyers, but thankfully the initiative never caught on. For all of its amenities, it lacks a little in sport - it's one of the few US states that have no major sporting franchises at all.
On the face of it, you'd expect South Dakota to come in below the national average for cost of living. After all, who actually lives here? OK, we realize some of our readers probably do, but how many neighbors do you have, and how far away are they? South Dakota is the fifth least populated state in the USA, and the people who do live here are fairly spread out. Most of South Dakota just stands empty and undeveloped.
That in itself might explain why prices are a pinch above the average; supplying some essentials to isolated and rural communities costs money; especially when it comes to providing modern essentials like internet and telephone connections. Above anything else, it's best known for being the home of Mount Rushmore. That sculpture, much like the population of the state, is smaller than people tend to imagine it is!
Remember earlier on, when we pointed out that there's a general trend towards the lowing costs of living being found towards the bottom of the map? Step forward, Tennessee, which illustrates that point perfectly. This is another $15,000 state for food and housing, which is about as good as it gets if you're looking to build a life for yourself on the cheap in the US.
Tennessee got its nickname of 'The Volunteer State' due to the high number of voluntary recruits who turned up for service during the War of 1812, but it's better known in modern times as the home of country music. Every country performer dreams of playing in Nashville, Tennessee, where being inducted into the membership of the Grand Ole Opry is considered to be the ultimate honor. The whiskey that comes from here isn't bad, either.
Admit it - you expected this figure to be higher. It would seem that despite the well-known saying, not everything is bigger in Texas. The cost of living certainly isn't. With all of its oil riches, we tend to associate this state with oil barons and the kind of millionaires who made up much of the cast of 'Dallas,' but none of that changes the fact that it's in the south, and so it's cheap!
Housing and food are actually higher than the national average, coming in north of $17,000, but the generally lower cost of other essentials on top of that helps to balance things out a little. The Lone Star State is primarily known for two things - barbecues, and live music! Texas is loud, proud, large, and baking hot. It isn't, however, full of deserts. Despite people constantly making that connection, only 10% of the land in the state can be classed as such.
This is another strange one. Utah has managed to get the cost of its 'other' essential expenses down almost as far as Texas has. It will cost you close to $20,000 to procure dwellings and food to eat in Utah, but it still places less than $70,000 of strain on your bank account in total. That's good economics, and a low price to pay to be within touching distance of all those utterly mystifying canyons and national parks.
It's not the canyons that Utah natives are most proud of when it comes to natural elements though - it's snow! They claim to have the best snow in the world, pointing to the fact that it falls with the perfect balance of 'fluffiness' and wetness. There's a lot of it too - on average, it will snow here 18 times per year. Artists and independent filmmakers flock to the state every year to take part in the Sundance Film Festival.
We're back above $20K per year for the bare essentials when it comes to Vermont. We might be inclined to pinpoint that on the skiing community again - it tends to be rich people who pursue skiing as a hobby, and Vermont is a skiing enthusiast's paradise. Vermont, when translates from French, is a literal description of what the state looks like. 'Vert' means 'green,' and 'mont' means 'mountains.'
Vermont is home to the smallest state capital in the US. Montpelier is home to only nine thousand people; smaller than rural villages in many other parts of the country. It's the only state capital not to have a McDonalds - whether that's a positive or a negative is up to you - and despite its size manages to be the largest producer of maple syrup in the country. Both New Hampshire and New York have tried to absorb the state in the past, but have failed on both occasions.
There's quite a marked difference between the cost of living in Virginia, and West Virginia, as we're about to see. Neither of them pushes through the $70,00 mark, but it's definitely more expensive to stay in the original state than its western neighbor. You're looking at something like $21,000 for food and housing here. Virginia is often referred to as 'the birthplace of the nation' because of the founding of Jamestown here. It was the first English colony in the United States of America.
Virginia is a defiant state, which has a habit of clinging on until the bitter end! The final surrenders in both the American Revolution and the Civil War both occurred here. No less than eight former Presidents of the United States of America have been born in Virginia, hence the state's nickname of 'The Mother of Presidents.'
Again, this was always going to be a high figure, and it's a mild surprise that it isn't even higher. The cost of housing and food will account for quite a lot of your income in the state of Washington, averaging at around $24,000. $16,000 of that is just your accommodation! The Evergreen State works hard for its nickname - it produces more apples, pears, and raspberries than anybody else in the union.
It's hard to think of Washington State without also thinking of Seattle, which has given us two of the world's largest corporations, and also one of the largest ever musical counter-culture movements. Bill Gates - founder of Microsoft - is a Seattle native, and the first-ever Starbucks opened here as well. Musically, it's the home of grunge music, and the place the world was first introduced to both Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
We told you that West Virginia was a little cheaper to live in than Virginia, and here's the proof! There's around $8,000 in it, which is more than enough to cover your entire food budget in West Virginia. Housing is also available for significantly less than $10,000 per year, which is a steal when you consider you might be able to get a view of some of the most beautiful landscapes America has to offer.
West Virginia came into being when the western counties of Virginia refused to accept the state's decision to secede from the union in 1863. It therefore became the only state created by a Presidential Proclamation; Abraham Lincoln declared that it was an independent state, and therefore it was! The mountain ranges within the state have drawn comparisons with those found in Europe, leading it to be described as 'the Switzerland of the United States.'
The living wage required to sustain a life in Wisconsin is all sixes and sevens - literally. It's floating above the national average, perhaps propped up a little by the cost of housing being a touch above $10,000. Over a thousand miles of the coastline of the Great Lakes belong to Wisconsin, and the natural resources are therefore vital to the state's finances because of the tourism they generate.
When it comes to what Wisconsin is really known for though, forget Disneyland. This is Dairyland! 25% of all the cheese consumed in the United States comes from here; more than two billion pounds of it is produced annually. They take it seriously too - this is the only state (and perhaps the only place in the world) that requires cheese production to be overseen by a professional and licensed cheese master.
Rounding off our list, here's Wyoming. It's not only bottom of the list alphabetically, but it's also fairly close to the bottom when it comes to demand on your resources. That's despite the near-$19,000 costs of housing and food. We can only assume that other amenities come at very low expense here. We know what to blame the cost of food on - the massive expanses of space between people. There are only 5.8 people per square mile in Wyoming, and on the I-8, towns are a full one hundred miles apart.
Wyoming shares an interesting problem with Montana - it's sat on top of the volcano under Yellowstone National Park, and therefore it'll be the first place underneath the lava and ash when it eventually blows! Until then, the people there are busy producing wool, and enjoying the fishing at Flaming Gorge.