How Far Can A $100K Salary Take You in These U.S. Cities?

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Feb 02, 2024

What do you think is a comfortable salary for the average American? Well, your answer will vary depending on where you live. Some cities in the U.S. are far more expensive than others, which means your dollar won’t go as far as you would like it to.

In a new report, GoBankingRates discovers how far a six-figure salary can go in each of the 50 states in America. While some states allow you to save, others will put you in debt. Let’s get into it.

What Is the Study?

Researchers set an imaginary person’s salary to $100,000. Then, they assessed taxes and living costs in each major city in all 50 states. Then, they decided how much money an individual would have after those two factors.

1 Us Bank Note

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Unsurprisingly, New York City was deemed the most expensive city in the United States to live in, and Memphis, Tennessee the cheapest.

Why Is New York City So Expensive?

It feels like it costs money to breathe air in New York City! The expensive city sits comfortably on GoBankingRates’ study as the most expensive city in the U.S. Rent, healthcare, utilities, and total expenses are the highest on the list.

Young office worker talking on phone at metro station

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What does that leave someone making $100,000 a year? A little more than $6,200 in debt at the end of the year.

Why Is Memphis, Tennessee the Cheapest City? 

If you are feeling blue from the prices in New York City, then go to where blues thrive in Memphis. Not only is Memphis home to some of the best music and food in the U.S., it is the most affordable city for someone who earns $100,000 a year.

The Memphis welcome sign on the highway

Source: Wikimedia Commons

With the lowest expenses, those who earn a six-figure salary will save nearly $40,000. Not too bad, right?

The Top Five Most Expensive Cities in the U.S. 

San Francisco is the second most expensive city in the United States, according to the study, followed by San Jose, San Diego, and Boston. While New York and San Francisco left people in debt, the latter three have around $5,000 left to save.

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

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In comparison, the cheapest U.S. cities would allow workers to save thousands of dollars on a salary of $100,000.

Other Expensive Cities on the List 

Unsurprisingly, coastal cities in the U.S. are the most expensive. Other cities that round out the top ten for most expensive cities include Oakland, Los Angeles, Washington, Miami, and Long Beach.

The Hollywood sign on a green hill in Los Angeles, CA

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New York and San Francisco are the only cities that will leave a person making $100,000 in the red.


The Top Five Cheapest Cities in the U.S.

El Paso, San Antonio, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City are the three cities where there was a good amount of income left over. This is a whole lot better than having less than $10,000 to save.

The Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX at night

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These findings show just how widely the cost of living varies in America, and it’s not getting better as the price of groceries, homeownership, and utilities rise.


Other Affordable Cities on the List 

The other affordable cities on the list include Wichita, KS, Houston, TX, Tucson, AZ, Jacksonville, FL, and Indianapolis. These are the places with the cheapest rent and cheapest healthcare costs.

Houston, Texas from the highway at night

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Both Oklahoma and Texas have five of the 10 least expensive cities on GoBankingRates’ list. If you live in these states, consider yourself lucky.


Inflation Is Insanely High

While the price of eggs went down, the price of all your other groceries has increased. On top of that, living costs have been increasing across the board by inflation, which peaked at 9.1 percent in June 2022.

Woman in Yellow Tshirt and Beige jacket Holding a Fruit Stand

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The annual rate of inflation was hovering at 3.4 percent at the end of December, according to Investopedia.


The Interest Rates Are Also High

The Federal Reserve attempted to curb the hiking rates by raising interest rates to a high of 5.25 and 5.5 percent. This was done to encourage consumers to spend less and bring inflation down (via the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System).

A photo of The Federal Reserve from the street

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When interest rates go down, making it cheaper to borrow, households are willing to buy more goods and services and businesses can expand their businesses and make it more competitive.


The Increasing Wage Gap

On top of inflation, wages are not enough to keep people afloat during these expensive times. The widening wage gap is leaving people scrambling as they try to figure out what it is they need to live comfortably.

Top View Photo Of People Near Wooden Table

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Even if you want to move to these less expensive states, you need the money to get there. While it is not impossible, it is a difficult road to travel.


Healthcare Is Also on the Rise

Healthcare costs have also increased over the years, leaving people in a weird spot. For many single people looking for health care assistance, you have to make so little that it doesn’t make sense how you could afford rent or anything else.

Thermometer on Medical Pills

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America has a financial problem on its hands. The best advice is to limit your spending and prioritize investing in the future with a few of these tips.