Cost Of Living Calculator

6 Min Read
Updated Feb. 23, 2024
young white woman with pink hair with calculator
Written By Christian Byers

Regardless of your destination, it’s crucial to factor in the cost of living before embarking on any significant move. Understanding how to compute the cost of living and the regional disparities across the United States can provide valuable insights into the lifestyle you can expect in a specific area and the financial resources required to uphold your desired quality of life.

Knowing how to utilize a cost of living calculator or manually calculate it yourself can help you determine how much money you’ll need to maintain your ideal standard of living wherever you put down roots.

Cost Of Living Comparison Calculator

A cost-of-living calculator is a valuable online tool that helps individuals or businesses estimate the financial requirements associated with relocating to a different city or region. It typically considers a range of factors, such as housing costs, transportation expenses, food prices, healthcare costs, and other essential living expenses.

The actual cost of living in a specific location is influenced not only by the prices of goods and services but also by the average income levels in that area. Depending on your relocation choice, you may require a higher income to sustain your current quality of life. Conversely, if you move to an area with a lower cost of living, your existing income may provide you with an enhanced quality of life.

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Cost Of Living Comparison By City

The Cost of Living Index (COLI) is a comprehensive tool used to analyze regional variances in expenses that allows individuals, families, and businesses to assess the relative expenses associated with purchasing a home and other key aspects of daily life across various cities in the United States.

The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) is a recognized agency that collects and interprets the data, endorsed by the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and CNN Money. C2ER assesses cost disparities among participating cities across the U.S. quarterly, based on data from six categories, including food and housing. It then computes a composite score for each city’s cost of living, relative to a national average of 100. This percentage-based system enables C2ER to illustrate the cost of living variations between metropolitan areas and even at the county level, but it’s essential to ensure data comparisons use figures from the same quarter for accuracy.


New York City

New York




San Francisco















Data Source: C2ER COLI Q2 – 2023

What Is ‘Cost Of Living’?

“Cost of living” refers to the amount of money needed to cover the essential expenses required for a certain standard of living in a particular area. The cost of living directly impacts how much house one can afford because it affects the portion of an individual’s or family’s income that can be allocated to housing expenses, such as mortgage or rent.

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You can get a real, customizable mortgage solution based on your unique financial situation.

What Does Cost Of Living Include?

It’s easiest to think about the cost of living in terms of where your paycheck will be going: food, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous expenses. The cost of living varies from location to location due to a range of factors. Differences in regional economies, housing markets, taxes, and the availability and pricing of goods and services all play a role.

Housing Costs

Housing costs are one of the biggest living expenses for most people. Homeowners must pay their mortgage as well as utilities, insurance, taxes, maintenance and repairs. While renters assume less financial responsibility when it comes to housing costs, they do pay rent and do not build equity in their houses as homeowners do.

Average homeowner costs can vary significantly depending on the location, with factors such as property values, property taxes, and insurance rates playing a crucial role. Compared to regions with a lower cost of living, homeowners in high-cost areas often face significantly higher expenses.


Transportation expenses can exhibit significant variations based on geographical location and individual lifestyle choices. Residing in urban hubs like New York or San Francisco often affords the convenience of extensive public transportation networks, such as buses, subways, or trolleys, which can help reduce personal vehicle usage and costs. Conversely, in areas with limited or less reliable public transit options, or for those who opt to own a car despite transit availability, substantial expenses can accumulate, including monthly car payments, fuel costs, routine maintenance, repairs, as well as costs related to vehicle inspections and registration.

Health Care

Health care costs are influenced by a multitude of factors, encompassing age, general health condition, employee benefits, and eligibility for programs like Medicare or Medicaid. Like other expenditures, the pricing of health care and medical services can exhibit geographical disparities. Predicting your annual health care expenses can be challenging, as it depends on your specific insurance plan and individual medical requirements.

Child Care

In regions with high demand for childcare services and limited supply, such as major cities, the cost of child care tends to be considerably higher. This can put a substantial financial burden on families, particularly those with young children, as they need to allocate a significant portion of their income to cover these expenses. In areas with more affordable childcare options, families may have a lower overall cost of living because they can allocate a smaller portion of their budget to child care.

FAQs About Cost Of Living

Now that we’ve gone over the base functionality of the calculator, how it works, and where the data is from, let’s run through some of the questions you might have.

How do I calculate my cost of living?

There are plenty of cost of living calculators available online that let you compare two different locations with ease. For those interested in doing the calculation, do not worry. The cost of living formula is also relatively simple: [(City B – City A)/City A] x 100.

What is the average cost of living per month in the U.S.?

The average cost of living in the United States is estimated to be between $2,500 and $3,500 per month, depending on your location and lifestyle. For example, monthly costs might be broken down as follows: rent (around $800 to $1,500 for a one-bedroom apartment), groceries (approximately $200 to $300), utilities (around $100 to $150), transportation (approximately $100 to $150), and health care (variable based on insurance plans).

What is the average salary to live comfortably in the U.S.?

The average salary needed to live comfortably in the United States can vary widely depending on factors such as location, family size, lifestyle, and personal circumstances. What constitutes a “comfortable” living standard is subjective and can differ from person to person. However, a common rule of thumb is that a household should aim to allocate no more than 30% of its income to housing expenses (rent or mortgage) to maintain financial stability.

The Bottom Line

Having a calculator that shows you how far a salary would go in a new city is incredibly useful when it comes to comparing your options when moving. Before your move, take a minute to sit down and do the math. If you decide the move is right and you determine what area you wish to live, .

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