All About the Cost of Living in California

Evelyn Long

May 20, 2021


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Whether you’re already living in California or you’re considering moving to the sunny golden coast, you’re probably wondering what the cost of living is like, and how it compares to living elsewhere.

While the cost of living depends on your specific lifestyle, and the comparison will be different based on where you come from, you can still get a general idea of what the move will be like for you should you choose to move out west.

Whether you’re asking yourself about the exact cost of living, the price of rent, the housing market, the local minimum wage, or what “cost of living” even means, we’re here to help you out.

California is a large state with varied cities and communities, and there are plenty of practical places to create the life you want. Here are some answers you might be searching for about the cost of living in the state of California.

What Is the Cost of Living?

Before you learn about the cost of living in a specific place, it can be helpful to decipher what “cost of living” actually means.

Cost of living refers to the amount of money it requires to live an average quality of life wherever you are. This includes things like rent, food, and other expenses. Essentially, any cost that might come up in a person’s life.

What Is a Good Salary in California?

While a good salary can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, we can take a look at the data to see what people tend to make across the state.

While Los Angeles boasts an average household income of around $51,000 per year, San Diego’s is a bit higher at around $68,000. San Francisco is among the highest at around $87,000. These averages tend to correspond with the average cost of things like housing and food in each area.

What Is California’s Minimum Wage?

Another factor in the cost of living is the minimum wage. You’ve probably heard about places where you can buy a house for bottom-of-the-barrel prices and everything is cheap, but those places are usually areas where the minimum wage is lower. With a higher minimum wage and higher salaries, people can afford a higher cost of living.

While the statewide minimum wage in California is $14 per hour, many individual cities have higher minimum wages than that, with Los Angeles at $15 and San Francisco at $16.07 — both more than double the federal minimum wage.

Is It Expensive to Live in California?

That said, the real question is how much a person has to make above the minimum wage in order to afford the cost of living.

That’s usually called the “living wage,” which can differ between cities, neighborhoods, and even people. It depends on how many children you have, whether you have a commute, and what your expenses are like. While for some the living wage is $12 an hour, for others, it is closer to $20 per hour.

Should I Buy a House in California?

In terms of the housing market, each city and county will have their own set of rules and principles. Really, it all depends on what you want.

If setting down roots and buying property in California is important to you, you might want to consider moving forward with the process of wading through the competitive market. However, the California housing market is slightly more saturated and a bit more expensive than other places.

Should I Live in NorCal or SoCal?

California is a big state with a variety of communities and cities, and so many opportunities for finding a place you want to be.

That said, many people find the difference between living in Southern California and Northern California to be one of the most observable and stark.

While the culture of Southern California is a bit more traditionally Californian, laid back, and beachy, NorCal has more seasonal weather and a booming tech industry.

However, NorCal tends to be a bit more on the expensive side, as San Francisco is the second most expensive city in the United States, while San Diego and LA don’t even crack the top five.

The Best Places to Live in California

If you’re looking for some great guidance when choosing a place to live in California, the larger cities are always good options if you like that sort of thing.

Los Angeles is great for entertainment industry creatives, San Francisco is a bit more professional, Sacramento is a bit more suburban, and San Diego is more beachy and laid-back.

However, here are some other great places to check out in California:

  • Fresno
  • Ojai
  • Pismo Beach
  • Tahoe City
  • Carlsbad
  • Encinitas
  • Alameda
  • Oakland
  • Carmel by the Sea
  • Eureka

These towns, and so many more, are great places to check out in California, especially if you’re looking for a community outside the bigger cities.

Understanding the Cost of Living in California

California is an amazing state filled with nature, community, and people of all walks of life. While it gets a reputation of being expensive, there are so many diverse and varied experiences that you can have in California. It’s all about where you want to go.

Cost of Living in California by City

Cost of living in Los Angeles

Cost of living in San Francisco

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