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Georgia — known for its sweet peaches, Southern hospitality and Vidalia onions — is one of the most desirable states on the South Atlantic coast. However, to enjoy all the state has to offer, you need to afford the cost of living in Georgia.
According to the Missouri Economic Researcher and Information Center (MERIC), Georgia is the fifth least expensive state in the United States. However, that doesn’t mean you can afford to live anywhere you want — some cities in Georgia are more costly than others. Here’s a breakdown of the state’s cost of living.
Georgia residents grapple with inflation like the rest of the country. Fortunately, the cost of groceries is still relatively low. A family of four typicals spent about $9,508 on food in 2022, making it the 22nd lowest state for grocery bills.
Generally, grocery items are 3% lower than the national average — residents spend $3.35 for bread and $2.14 for a gallon of milk.
Of course, groceries tend to cost more in Georgia’s metropolitan areas, such as Atlanta — families may spend $811 monthly or $9,732 annually for food.
Are you looking to buy a house in Georgia? According to Zillow, the average single-family home costs $301,978 — an 11.1% year-over-year increase. While housing is about 22% less expensive than in other states, Atlanta’s housing costs are 18% higher than the rest of the state — yet, it’s also the home for the state’s most robust job market.
If you’re interested in living in a city but at a lower cost, Savannah is an excellent choice. Located along Georgia’s southern coastline, you can buy a home for $286,501 in the historic city of Savannah — it’s also safer than other metropolitan areas.
Additionally, you can expect to pay $2,027 in property taxes annually in Georgia — about $800 less than elsewhere in the country.
Georgia may not experience cold weather like the north — winter temperatures average in the 50s and 60s with occasional cold spells — but it makes up for it in the summer heat. You’ll likely have to run your air conditioner often during the summer.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Americans paid an average of $122 on their utility bills in 2021 — a $5 increase from the year before. Electricity costs ranged from $178 to as low as $82, depending on the state.
In Georgia, electricity was just above the average at $134.11 — however, still sharply less than expensive states like Hawaii and Connecticut.
Nowadays, health insurance is a must-have — so you’ll need to factor health care into the cost of living in Georgia. According to ValChoice, health insurance costs $5,424 for one person — a family of four might spend $21,697. While the price is steep, it’s still over $1,500 less than the national average.
Health care varies from person to person, but Georgia is expanding coverage considerably. For instance, the state has authorized an express lane eligibility program for children, their parents and refugees and created a specialized nutrition program for women, infants and children. This will make Medicaid enrollment and renewal much simpler for struggling families.
Drivers can expect to pay about $1,647 annually for car insurance — equal to $137 monthly. There’s only a slight $35 difference from the national average.
However, gas prices in Georgia are much more appealing, considering what the rest of the country grapples with. Drivers pay an average of $3.20 per gallon in Georgia, while other states pay as much as $3.40 or more.
Hidden Cost of Living in Georgia
Before you get too excited over Georgia’s low cost of living and decide to move, you should know some of the hidden costs of living in the state of sunshine, pecans and peaches.
1. Low Minimum Wage
Georgia’s minimum wage is far below the federal minimum. Anyone in your household who doesn’t fall under the protection of the national standard is subject to a $5.15/hr minimum rate — this includes family members under 20, students and those with jobs reliant on tips.
2. Extreme Heat and Humidity
Georgia’s location in the extreme south of the US and its proximity to the ocean cause temperatures and humidity to soar most of the year. You’ll want to find a home with air conditioning, especially if this is the first time you’ve lived this close to the equator. Snow in winter is practically unheard of and typically results in a state of emergency, shutting everything down.
3. Plenty of Pests
Say goodbye to white Christmases and hello to year-round mosquitos. The humidity and heat in Georgia create a pest paradise. You’ll experience mosquitos, termites, stink bugs and fire ants, to name a few. Although, this state is also home to over 50 species of beautiful fireflies.
4. Heavy Pollen
This warm-weather state also provides the perfect environment for a plethora of plant life. While lovely to look at, it also means far more pollen than in states further north. You’ll need to take extra precautions if you have severe outdoor allergies.
5. Tricky Politics
Georgia has an intriguing political situation. Atlanta leans democratic, while its urban areas lean republican. Though it used to be a reliably red state, recent elections have proven it’s more up for grabs than ever. Whichever party you belong to, you’ll find an interesting political scene while living here.
6. Costly Commute
City traffic is notoriously heavy, especially in Atlanta. Living in the city will mean relying on public transportation to get you to work. Owning a home in the suburbs or further out in more rural areas will extend your commute exponentially. With the price of gas nowadays, your daily trips to and from work will really add up.
7. Poor Public Transportation System
Georgia’s public transportation system has a long way to go. The current infrastructure can’t keep up with the population. In fact, only 10% of people using public transportation can commute in under half an hour — the average is 53 minutes. If you plan to use these systems while living in Georgia, you can expect to leave earlier for work and arrive home later in the evening.
8. Very Friendly Neighbors
You may be wondering why friendly neighbors made the cut as a hidden cost of living in Georgia. Surely, having nice people around could only be a good thing. It all depends on your lifestyle and the level of privacy you enjoy. Living here is like signing on to an extra large family — everyone knows you and your business.
Can You Afford to Live in Georgia?
Georgia is one place you can make your money stretch. With a low living cost and a decent salary, you can live comfortably without feeling overburdened by expenses. This sunny state has a lot to offer for singles, couples and families. You’ll find good jobs, fantastic music and lots of entertainment options. If you can handle the hidden costs, this may be the perfect new home for you.