States With the Best Income to Cost of Living Ratio

Olivia Elsher

Jul 10, 2023

states with best income to cost of living ratio

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Relocating to states with the best income to cost of living ratio is the soundest financial move. If the costs of rent, utilities, food, groceries and health care consume a massive portion of your monthly income, consider changing your location.

Out of the 50 states, where should you settle next? Check out these seven locales that give you your dollar’s worth.

Virginia

If you want to move to the East Coast for cheap, Virginia is your best choice. It’s a multicultural state with a thriving economy and a high-quality standard of living at an affordable price.

Compared to the country’s average, utilities in Blacksburg cost 13% less. In Roanoke, the cost of groceries is 14% cheaper than the national rate. Transportation expenses are also 9% less statewide, while health care is 6% to 12% below the average in the country.

If you want to move to the cities with the lowest cost of living, consider Martinsville, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Lexington and Danville. These locations have anywhere from 10% to 13% lower costs of living than the national average, making your relocation dreams a breeze.

Texas

Relocating to the Lone Star State offers numerous advantages in lifestyle, access to quality necessities and getting the most out of each dollar. It can be hot during summer, but other than that, it has a wallet-friendly cost of living and a flourishing job economy that entices many people to move here. A single person in Texas earns a median income of $55,441.

El Paso’s cost of living is 10% lower than the nationwide average. Meanwhile, Houston and San Antonio are 8% lower. The average rental price in Texas is about $1,446 for an apartment — much better than the national median rent of $1,995 in May 2023.

Utilities, grocery, transportation and health care costs are also below the country average. Utilities are 7% lower and the cost of gas per gallon in Texas is $3.20. The national average price is $3.56, so residents spend less for transportation. Texas also doesn’t charge state income tax, which compels retirees to move here.

Alabama

If you want to move to a warmer place, Alabama boasts excellent weather for many outdoor activities, like hiking and water sports. Besides the beautiful landscapes and southern charm, it’s also a very livable state. Cities like Huntsville and Montgomery offer cheap costs of living.

The average income in Montgomery is $46,710, but the median rent is $949. On average, you’ll pay $398 per month for utilities — that includes gas, water, cable and electricity. Food and groceries are also fairly cheap, at $271.75 per person monthly. In addition, the state has lower housing costs and inexpensive property tax rates.

Alabama is like most states that use a graduated-rate income tax structure for sales, with the highest individual tax rate of five percent. Compared to South Carolina and West Virginia, Alabama has a lower top marginal tax rate and is one of the states with the best income to cost of living ratio.

Minnesota

Minnesota is another state where you can stretch your income — so long you don’t mind the long, cold winter. The low cost of living, low unemployment rate and expanse of job opportunities — including from Fortune 500 companies — may make moving to the North Star State more enticing.

Housing, transportation and utility prices in the Twin Cities — Saint Paul and Minneapolis — are 10% and 8% lower than the national average, respectively. Expenses for food and groceries are also 7% lower in Saint Paul and 5% lower in Minneapolis, while their health care costs are 2% to 5% below the country’s average.

North Carolina

North Carolina has stunning coastlines, fantastic career opportunities, and rich culture and history. It’s also one of the most affordable states to live in.

The median rent for a two-bed apartment in smaller cities like Greenville is $1,137 — 11% lower than the national median of $1,286. Utilities are also 6% less than the average city in the U.S. If you live in Durham-Chapel Hill, you’ll pay 10% less. In Raleigh — the capital city — grocery and health care costs are 12% and 3% less, respectively.  Regarding transportation costs, the Thomasville-Lexington area is 27% below the average, but the cost of health care here is relatively high.

Illinois

The Prairie State has astonishing lush forests, farmland and rolling hills. People often move to Illinois to find high-paying jobs in industries like transportation, publishing, engineering, food processing and electronics.

The cost of living in Illinois is 8% lower than the average in the country. However, living in larger cities is expensive, with the cost of living going as high as 20% more than the country’s average. If you want to relocate to Illinois, choose smaller cities like Decatur and Danville, where the cost of living is 13% and 9% below the state average. Medical costs and non-necessary expenses are also cheaper here.

Kansas

Kansas has a cost of living index of 87.7, which is below the country’s average. It’s one of the states with the best income to cost of living ratio since everything from groceries, utilities, transportation and housing are all below the current standard.

House prices here are mostly within the budget, currently sitting at around $211,000 per home. While it might still seem like a lot, that’s 63% of the national average. Additionally, Kansas has an income-to-home ratio of 30% — one of the most affordable in the U.S. Aside from the Kansas-style barbeque that many people love, the highly affordable cost of living — even in the urban belt — is what attracts people to move to Kansas.

Be Financially Wise in Choosing Your Next Home

People have different reasons for moving out of state. Some may want to live in a smaller city because they like the weather, have better access to health care or want to start a new life. Others relocate so they can maximize their financial resources.

Whatever prompts you to pack your things, ensure you research the place you’ll move to. Rarely will you find the perfect location with good weather, affordable living and high income. One city will have at least one thing you must compromise on. Check out the smaller cities in these six states and find the place that balances everything you want in your next home.


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