What’s the Cost of Your American Dream?

Tax Planning

I love where I live in North Carolina – the mountains and the beach are only a couple of hours away, depending on which direction you go. To have different landscapes and cities around definitely is a plus in my book. Sometimes though I wonder what it would be like if we moved back to the beach or if we tried out mountain living. I’m still trying to figure out where would be the ideal place.

What about you? What’s your dream place to live in the United States? Are you a laid back person that enjoys the mountains or do you prefer the hustle of the city? Are you more of a beach bum or do you much rather hang out at the ski slopes?

Before you just pack up and move, it’s good to see how your day to day living will be in your dream spot and that means running the numbers. I thought it would be fun to see what the cost of living would be in different parts of the country. I was curious to see what are the most and least expensive cities in America.

Most and Least Expensive U.S. Cities to Live In

High Cost of Living

According to Kiplinger, here are the 10 most expensive US cities to live in:

  1. New York City, NY
  2. Honolulu, HI
  3. San Francisco, CA
  4. Santa Ana, CA
  5. Stamford, CT
  6. Fairbanks, AK
  7. Washington, D.C.
  8. Oakland, CA
  9. Los Angeles, CA
  10. San Diego, CA

Looks like the West Coast and all its beautiful weather comes at a steep price.

Low Cost of Living

According to Kiplinger, here are the 10 least expensive US cities to live in:

  1. Fort Smith, AR
  2. Pueblo, CO
  3. Harlingen, TX
  4. McAllen, TX
  5. Johnson City, TN
  6. Conway, AR
  7. Springfield, IL
  8. Covington, KY
  9. Louisville, KY
  10. Omaha, NE

Kiplinger notes that a New Yorker would have to make $127,935 a year to have the same standard of living as someone earning $50,000 in Fort Smith, Ark.

Home Sweet Home

Renting a place is a great option for those looking to try a new place to live. The average rent can vary place to place and depending on the size of the city, you can even notice a difference in neighborhoods.

What if you’re looking for something more permanent, like buying a home? Purchasing a house can make the gap even more noticeable. How big is the difference? If you wanted to get a home outside of Atlanta, GA you can find a family sized four bedroom house for just under $100,000.  Looking for something a bit more Mid-Atlantic? Chapel Hill, NC has a four bedroom house for about $380,000.

I find it interesting to see what you can get around the country for certain amount of money, so I try to keep up with the NY Times Real Estate page for when they run the series.

Bills, Bills, Bills

No matter where you live in the United States (or anywhere really), you’ll have to made due on your monthly expenses. However your location can play a huge role on how expensive or inexpensive your bills will be.

That was the case for us when we deciding whether or not to move from Virginia to North Carolina a few years back. We found housing to be much more reasonable, but the gas prices to be a bit more expensive. after running the numbers, we saw that it was cheaper for us to move than to stay.

Using the handy cost of living calculator gave  us a chance to get an idea of what areas to consider and what area to take off our list. Asking friends and family who lived around also helped us get a realistic perspective as well.

Deciding on the Right Location

So how do you decide on where your American Dream location is? I’d start by narrowing down what part of the country you enjoy the most and ask yourself why you love it. If you’re more of an urban cat and love having a diversity of culture, music, art, and entertainment, then looking into the big metropolitan areas like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. However, you should also look at some good sized college towns and cities that may offer you the same perks without the hefty price tag.

The good news is that you can always move :)

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