What It Actually Costs to Live in America’s Most Expensive Cities

September 13, 2019 by Mike Sauter

Living in a large city has many advantages over a more rural lifestyle. Cities provide access to more entertainment and dining options, vibrant culture, and high-paying jobs. But urban centers also have drawbacks, perhaps most notably what is often a sky-high cost of living.

Budgets and spending priorities can vary widely from person to person — especially when comparing single adults to parents. Parents need to feed, clothe, and otherwise care for their children, all expenses which dramatically increase the budget of a family in a major city. Often, individuals go without some basic necessities to make ends meet.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed estimates from financial think tank the Economic Policy Institute on what it would cost a single adult or a family of four (two parents and two children) to have a “modest yet adequate standard of living.” We used the data to determine what it actually costs to live comfortably in America’s most expensive cities. In the majority of cases in these expensive metro areas, the typical income for a single adult or a family is lower than EPI’s estimated cost. It is important to note that EPI’s estimate is not the standard of what people need to survive in a city, but what they would need to live an adequate and comfortable life. The estimate figures also represent how much money households of different sizes would need to afford all of the components determined to represent this adequate standard of living. For example, while EPI’s child care cost figures are included for the estimated monthly costs for a family of four, many families receive free childcare from family or friends, or have their expenses subsidized through needs-based reduced-cost care or public assistance programs such as Medicaid.

Many young people will move to these large cities after completing college, undeterred by the cost, allured by the possibility of experiencing the local culture, nightlife, and meeting new people. But getting there is not easy. Simply moving to these cities can cost thousands of dollars. These are the most expensive cities to move to.

America’s most expensive cities are not evenly distributed across the country. Many are clustered in especially pricey states. Of the 35 costliest places to live, 11 are in California, six are in New York, and three are in Massachusetts. While some states are relatively inexpensive overall, they all have at least one major population center where goods and services are more expensive than the rest of the state. These are the most expensive cities in every state.

Click here to see what it actually costs to live in America’s most expensive cities.
Click here to read our methodology.

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35. Glens Falls, NY
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,249
> Monthly median family income (all types): $6,010
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,184
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $622
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $304
> Monthly median individual income: $2,749

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34. Worcester, MA-CT
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,031
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,480
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,324
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $841
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $287
> Monthly median individual income: $3,358

Source: Potomac Sun Photography / Wikimedia Commons

33. California-Lexington Park, MD
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $7,628
> Monthly median family income (all types): $8,127
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,565
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $938
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $278
> Monthly median individual income: $3,714

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32. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $7,840
> Monthly median family income (all types): $8,386
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,487
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,031
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $290
> Monthly median individual income: $3,685

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31. Norwich-New London, CT
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $7,859
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,298
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,491
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $845
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $306
> Monthly median individual income: $3,253

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30. Flagstaff, AZ
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $7,973
> Monthly median family income (all types): $5,898
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,462
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $782
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $268
> Monthly median individual income: $2,091

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29. Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,513
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,785
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,223
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $702
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $300
> Monthly median individual income: $3,269

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28. Gettysburg, PA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,322
> Monthly median family income (all types): $6,730
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,417
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $634
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $303
> Monthly median individual income: $2,789

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27. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,272
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,850
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,482
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $963
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $279
> Monthly median individual income: $3,397

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26. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,009
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,231
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,611
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,026
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $274
> Monthly median individual income: $3,150

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25. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $7,907
> Monthly median family income (all types): $6,539
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,702
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,121
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $289
> Monthly median individual income: $2,787

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24. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, CA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,070
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,634
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,849
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $971
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $317
> Monthly median individual income: $2,636

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23. Salinas, CA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,083
> Monthly median family income (all types): $6,405
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,880
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $986
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $278
> Monthly median individual income: $2,365

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22. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,129
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,273
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,903
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,164
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $293
> Monthly median individual income: $3,034

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21. Kingston, NY
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $9,146
> Monthly median family income (all types): $6,569
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,465
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $737
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $287
> Monthly median individual income: $2,696

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20. Boulder, CO
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,465
> Monthly median family income (all types): $9,032
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,793
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,084
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $309
> Monthly median individual income: $3,019

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19. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,034
> Monthly median family income (all types): $6,886
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,986
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,104
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $283
> Monthly median individual income: $2,517

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18. Burlington-South Burlington, VT
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,807
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,039
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,705
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $912
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $308
> Monthly median individual income: $2,782

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17. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,987
> Monthly median family income (all types): $8,943
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,757
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,139
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $301
> Monthly median individual income: $3,738

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16. Napa, CA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,565
> Monthly median family income (all types): $8,569
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,947
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,005
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $340
> Monthly median individual income: $3,231

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15. Barnstable Town, MA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $9,281
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,584
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,704
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $956
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $336
> Monthly median individual income: $2,989

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14. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $9,125
> Monthly median family income (all types): $9,381
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,814
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,052
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $306
> Monthly median individual income: $3,480

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13. Ithaca, NY
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $9,332
> Monthly median family income (all types): $6,714
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,725
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $935
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $289
> Monthly median individual income: $2,093

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12. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,772
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,672
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $4,053
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,109
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $298
> Monthly median individual income: $2,969

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11. Anchorage, AK
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $9,555
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,519
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,779
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $878
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $238
> Monthly median individual income: $3,366

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10. Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $9,817
> Monthly median family income (all types): $00
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,741
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $916
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $287
> Monthly median individual income: N/A

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9. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $8,823
> Monthly median family income (all types): $9,801
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $4,267
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,412
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $297
> Monthly median individual income: $4,171

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8. Fairbanks, AK
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $9,952
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,310
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $3,832
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $873
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $248
> Monthly median individual income: $3,289

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7. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $9,194
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,647
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $4,269
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,124
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $414
> Monthly median individual income: $3,225

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6. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $9,283
> Monthly median family income (all types): $8,628
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $4,238
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,125
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $322
> Monthly median individual income: $2,587

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5. Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $9,165
> Monthly median family income (all types): $8,062
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $4,311
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,224
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $316
> Monthly median individual income: $3,084

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4. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $9,846
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,569
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $4,012
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,299
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $304
> Monthly median individual income: $3,432

Source: Art Wager / Getty Images

3. Urban Honolulu, HI
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $9,632
> Monthly median family income (all types): $7,975
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $4,296
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,261
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $381
> Monthly median individual income: $3,215

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2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $10,720
> Monthly median family income (all types): $10,971
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $5,117
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,703
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $312
> Monthly median individual income: $4,274

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1. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA
> Monthly cost of living, family of 4: $11,165
> Monthly median family income (all types): $10,039
> Monthly cost of living, single adult: $5,194
> Monthly housing costs, single adult: $1,742
> Monthly food costs, single adult: $325
> Monthly median individual income: $4,206

Methodology

To determine what it actually costs to live in America’s most expensive cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed estimates from the Economic Policy Institute on what it would cost for a single adult or a family of four (two parents and two children) to have a “modest yet adequate standard of living” in those places. All cost figures came from the EPI. Median family income and median individual income figures came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. They represent 1-year estimates for 2017. Notably, EPI’s expense figures are based primarily on average cost figures, but both the family income and individual income figures are median values. The monthly median individual income figure listed is for employed workers only.