THE 10 MOST Expensive States In America To Live For 2020

We looked at the most recent MIT living wage data to determine the states in America where you need some serious cash to get by.

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Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the most expensive states in America.

Most Expensive States In America Map

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The real world is real… expensive. Especially for kids coming out of school these days. I can’t imagine struggling to try and save money while getting $45k on a history major salary.

Well, if you’re striking out on your own soon, or you just wanna be nosy, we’ve got you covered in today’s article. We’re going to look at the most expensive states you could live in America. You can probably make a guess as to a few of them right of the bat – they’re the places where child care costs are crippling, rent is through the roof, and even owning a car is a burden.

They are the places where you need to make a lot of moolah if you want to just exist. So, get ready to count your pennies and make a list of things you’re going to cut back on, as we begin our tour of America’s most expensive states.

There are some places in the country where you can earn a lot of money and still feel poor. We’re talking San Francisco or New York City — where a 2 bedroom apartment costs over $4,000 a month on average. And for those playing at home, a living wage in the San Francisco Metro clocks in a staggering $81,795.

The most expensive state in America for 2020? California tops the list this year as the most expensive state based on MIT living wage data. Well, thank god we don’t have to live there.

If one of the top research universities in the world says you’re expensive, you’re real expensive. For exactly how we calculated these rankings, read on. Or if you’re so rich you do not care about this list, check out:

The 10 Most Expensive States In America For 2020

1. California

California|Ca, CA

Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Living Wage: $68,190
Housing: $19,875
Child Care: $8,311
More On California: Photos | Rent

California certainly isn’t a walk in the park, either, when you look at the cost of living in the Golden State. Taxes, housing costs and child care are all in the top 5 in the nation. Food costs are tied with Colorado as the most expensive – although I don’t know why more Californians don’t just eat burritos all damn day. And housing costs are on par with new york, where you can expect to pay, on average, $13,200 a year.

But try living in an actual real city in California, and you’ll send closer to $3,000 a month on rent or a mortgage. Most professionals can’t afford to live near downtown LA or San Francisco, and move out into the suburbs, which means longer commute times, which means more working hours. It’s a never ending cycle.

What is surprising about California is the average health care costs – where a family of four can expect to pay about $13,000 a year. That’s not bad, in comparison with other states on this list. A family of 4 needs about $40 an hour between both working parents, to stay out of poverty. And you can basically double that if you actually want to live near a real actual city. Required income before taxes in Cali – as the cool kids say – is $81,000.

In California, unless one person is loaded, both mom and dad work, which means two cars and child care costs.

2. New York

New-York|Ny, NY

Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Living Wage: $67,419
Housing: $17,896
Child Care: $10,602
More On New York: Photos | Rent

Welcome to New York, which is the second most expensive place you could live in our fine country. In New York child care is $23,000 for two kids a year. Taxes here are no joke either. This is the second highest taxed state on today’s list, where the average family can expect to pay more than $5,000 a year in income taxes.

Now if you live in Franklin County New York, you might as well be in Canada, but your cost of living needs would be fairly doable. But if you wanted to live in the NY metro area, look out, pal. Housing, medical costs and food are really, really high in the Empire State. And what about cigarettes? Those cost like $15. A simple dinner is $40 per person. Young professionals in NYC have to eat ramen until they get their next paychecks. You can understand why – when apartments cost like $3,000 a month for a real dump.

For fun, if you have anything left at the end of the day, you could go to a $100 broadway show, $35 to get into the Bronx Zoo, or $32 to get to the top of the Empire State building. No wonder NY natives stay away from the tourist trap. Well at least if you live in many areas of New York, where it’s most expensive, you can not own a car. That helps save some money.

Review Of by HomeSnacks User

Depending on the neighborhood, crime is low comparable to other cities in the country. School funding is always cut s the education system is in disrepair.

The beauty of NYC is that is is one big melting pot of different ethnicity, cultures, languages and skin tones. I love NYC for the variety of food and the fact that it literally is the city that never sleeps.

3. Massachusetts

Massachusetts|Ma, MA

Source: Public domain

Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Living Wage: $66,376
Housing: $17,721
Child Care: $12,373
More On Massachusetts: Photos | Rent

Here’s what’s interesting about Massachusetts. A lot of people who live there complain about the high taxes, and call it taxachusetts. But Massachusetts actually has the lowest taxes of any state we’re talking about today, except Alaska, at about $3,500 a year.

But what really gets you in this damn state is the cost of health care and child care. On average, a Massachusettsian can expect to pay about $7,000 a year in health care costs, and about $16,000 a year in child care. Man, if this isn’t birth control advice, I don’t know what is.

A typical Massachusetts family would have to earn about $77,000 a year to eek out a living. If mom or dad is an epidemilogist, that would bring in enough dough. Epidemologists study diseases.

4. Maryland

Maryland|Md, MD

Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Living Wage: $66,150
Housing: $18,196
Child Care: $8,452
More On Maryland: Photos | Rent

If you live in Maryland, you’ll probably nod in agreement when we tell you that your cost of living is massive. To earn a decent living, and not have to ask family, friends, or the government for extra money, a family of four in Maryland needs just over $76,000 on average to survive. But we can actually look at that for different areas to compare Maryland vs. Maryland.

If you live in Hagerstown, looks like about $76,000 would do you right. You won’t be balling, but you won’t be broke, either. Just enough to splurge on something cool every now and then. Now, if you live in Dorcester County, you can get by with far less – about $72k a year. If you live in Baltimore, you need a little more. And if you live in the DC metro area of Maryland, well, you’d better have a good job, cause it’ll be tough to keep your head above water.

What makes costs so high in Maryland, anyways? Pretty much everything, but Maryland taxes are the second highest of all states on our list today, at about $5k a year. If you’re the only Marylander bringing home the bacon at your house, you’d have to get a job as something like an elevator installer or a nuclear medicine technologist to afford to live here. And I don’t know very many nuclear medicine technologists.

Maybe aim lower, Maryland guy. Real estate broker? You could always take the kids to an Orioles game. Hot dogs are some of the cheapest in all of major league baseball.

Review Of by Brandon Smith

As a marylander the state is rich the D.C suburbs are rich but western Maryland is poor I’m talking p**s poor it’s farms factorys hills whores and liquor stores it’s the kinda area where if you touch a man’s cigarettes he will probably kill you and I know this cuz I’m from western Maryland……i do love my state though

5. Connecticut

Connecticut|Ct, CT

Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Living Wage: $64,668
Housing: $15,670
Child Care: $10,438
More On Connecticut: Photos | Rent

Lordy, the cost of living in Connecticut is sky high!

A couple with two kids would have to make about $76,000 – or about a grand more a year than their New Jersey neighbors in order to live comfortably. You could be an animal control worker? Or, one of you stays at home to save an estimated $13,000 a year, and one of you gets a job as, say a social worker? Either way, you’re not gonna save a lot on those salaries in Connecticut, that’s for sure. Sure, places like Bridgeport or New Haven will be far less expensive than, in say Greenwich, where you’d need about $110,000 a year to live comfortably.

6. New Jersey

New-Jersey|Nj, NJ

Rank Last Year: 6 (No Change)
Living Wage: $64,436
Housing: $17,409
Child Care: $8,863
More On New Jersey: Photos | Rent

Where’s our next most expensive state to live? That would be the Garden State itself, New Jersey. Here in Jersey, the average cost in the big six – food, child care, cars, housing, medical and taxes are in the top 5 for every category.

Especially health care costs. New Jersey is tied with Massachusetts for the highest annual health care costs, at about $7,700 a year for a family of four. Well, just don’t get sick, and you should be okay. Housing costs aren’t anything to sleep on, either, especially if you’re renting. If you want to share a two bedroom place in Jersey, expect to pony up about $900 a month each.

Did you know New Jersey has the nation’s 6th highest income taxes and highest property taxes? First highest? Is that even a word?

To live a lower middle class lifestyle in New Jersey, you and your spouse would have to bring in about $75,000 a year, or average about $18.25 each. Job wise, that means you’d be working as a small engine mechanic or a dental assistant. And, If you don’t have a decent job, you’d likely be eating at Wawa everyday. Not that that’s such a bad thing, though.

Review Of by Skyris

I lived in New Jersey. You didn’t mention Trenton/Hamilton. Those are two of the least safe cities in the whole state, I know from experience.

I lived in the town of Princeton, probably one of the best towns in the state, though. I’d seriously suggest living there, it’s safe and has great schools. Just don’t live in Trenton/Hamilton, Camden, or Newark.

7. Colorado

Colorado|Co, CO

Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 3)
Living Wage: $62,950
Housing: $14,799
Child Care: $9,133
More On Colorado: Photos | Rent

Love crunching numbers? You probably won’t want to go look closely at the numbers in Colorado. For some odd reason, food prices in Colorado are higher than anywhere else in the country – except Hawaii. You can plan on a family of 4 spending ten grand, or about 900 a month, on food alone. However, the good news: If you go to Coors Field in Denver, beer prices are the cheapest in all of America, at about $3 each.

Now, people who are dealing with outrageous prices in the Denver area won’t agree, but overall, annual housing costs in Colorado are the cheapest of any other state on this list. Whether you rent or own, you’ll pay somewhere around $10,000 a year, on average, for housing costs. Obviously, the snobs in Aspen pay more than that – some people up here pay like $10,000 a month for their mortgages.

To live a decent life in Colorado, mom and dad both need to bring in about $17.50 an hour each – or $73,000 yearly, combined.

Now, 18 million jobs pay less than $10 an hour in America. There’s no way people in Colorado could exist on a fast food wage, or as a cashier. At least, comfortably.

Review Of by ashdoesmc

I live in Colorado. We have the Broncos and JstuStudios. Stereotypes in a nutshell

8. Virginia

Virginia|Va, VA

Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 1)
Living Wage: $62,598
Housing: $14,900
Child Care: $8,427
More On Virginia: Photos | Rent

If you live in Virginia, you know – this is a pretty expensive state in which to live. If you’re thinking of moving here, there’s a lot to consider. A family of four would need to earn about $35 an hour, combined, or about $72,000 a year combined, in order to live outside of poverty. To put that into perspective, in America’s most inexpensive state to live, Mississippi, a husband and wife could each hold jobs paying $13 an hour, and bring in $55,000 a year combined in order for their family of four to live outside of poverty.

A real big difference.

Here in Virginia, the annual cost of owning a car for one person is the highest in America, at about $4,600 a year. So double that if mom and dad have a car – and if you live in places like Northern Virginia, you will. (And you’ll sit in traffic for hours each week as well). Annual average housing costs are about $12,500 a year in Virginia – the fifth highest housing costs in America.

It really starts to add up, doesn’t it? Now if you live out in the sticks, like about half of Virginia’s population, you can probably save money on clothing costs. Camo is damn cheap. However, if you’re trying to keep up with the Jones’ in the DC metro area, you’re gonna be buying heels and suits all the time.

Review Of by Robert Scott

New England states are to cold for criminals to live. I lived in Virginia most of the population is in northern Virginia. Part of the Washington DC metropolitan area. The area has crime and gangs however it is not only state but also local police who try to keep it safe.

9. Hawaii

Hawaii|Hi, HI

Source: Public domain

Rank Last Year: 9 (No Change)
Living Wage: $62,413
Housing: $22,314
Child Care: $698
More On Hawaii: Photos | Rent

In Hawaii, housing costs are around $15,000 a year, which isn’t surprising, since the average Hawaii home is more than $600k. Taxes, and property taxes, are the highest in the nation, and since there’s a shortage in child care, you can expect to pay like $9,000 a year per kid!

Have you ever visited Hawaii? A gallon of milk is like $8. Dinner is about $50 to $60, depending on how many drinks you have. And gas is going to be the highest you’ll see in America. Much of these commodity costs are because Hawaii is an island, and it costs a lot of money to get things there.

Sure, it’s a pretty place, and there’s hula girls everywhere, and you can see kangaroos and polar bears right outside your front door, but, gee whiz, what a price tag it comes with.

Review Of by Joe Malapitan

I live in Hawaii…totally dark blue. I love it! I agree with pretty much with this. Something that a lot of people forget when they argue that states like Illinois, California, New York and New Jersey are bad places to live, well yeah there are some downsides to living in those states, but what there are a lot of too is opportunity. That’s something that’s missing in all of the states mentioned in this video.

10. Alaska

Alaska|Ak, AK

Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 2)
Living Wage: $62,102
Housing: $15,239
Child Care: $10,084
More On Alaska: Photos | Rent

Just what makes the Last Frontier such a pain in the rear to survive, financially? One person needs $26,821 a year to live a decent life in Alaska, but a family of four needs $74,247 a year to not struggle. If you live alone, you need to make $12.89 an hour. If you have kids at home, you need to make about $42.40 an hour.

In Alaska, we have some good and bad news. The bad news: If you plan on having multiple kids in Alaska, your child care costs are going to be through the roof. Just one kid a year in Alaska will cost you more than $10,000 a year – the third highest child care bill in the nation. Of course, many people in Alaska choose to rear their own kid at home.

For some reason, the cost of owning a vehicle in Alaska is about $4,200 a year – also the third highest rate in the US. Now, you don’t have to own a car in Alaska, but you’re gonna have to find some way to get around, right?

The good news – there is no income tax in Alaska, so that’s great. So, your overall tax burden in Alaska is the lowest of all states we’ll talk about. Plus, in Alaska, everyone gets a check from the government from oil proceeds. It’s called the Alaska Permanent Fund. A few years back when oil prices were high, some families of four got nearly 10 grand!

Review Of by Lucas Adams

I live in Alaska and we do pay taxes. Only in anchorage do you not have to pay for taxes. Driving to anchorage is 41 miles but we do not have much traffic due to population.

How We Determined The Most Expensive States In America For 2020

When we at HomeSnacks normally measure how expensive a place to live is we check in on whats called a cost of living index. That analyzes the costs of goods in basket of things like housing, milk, utilities, and gas across the country.

But for this analysis we had an even better source — MIT’s Living Wage data.

The team at MIT compiles the best set of geographical data on what a family of various sizes can realistically expect to spend to live a decent life each year. Not super comfy, but not in poverty.

In particular they look at the cost of the following items:

  • Food
  • Child Care
  • Medical
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Other Personal Necessities
  • Taxes

They just updated their data at the begining of 2020, so we can take a fresh look at it.

Specifically, this analysis uses their average required wage for two adults and one child in every states. We ranked the living wage from highest to lowest with the highest being most expensive.

The highest state, California, was crowned the most expensive state to live in America for 2020. (Although DC would like to have a word if you consider that a state.) You can download the data here.

There You Have It — The Most Expensive States In America To Live For 2020

That’s it, our expensive tour of America. After all the dust settled and the analysis was over, we crowned California as the most expensive state to live in America for 2020. If you live in the states we just talked about, odds are you work hard and don’t have a lot to show for it. But hey – as long as you’re safe, healthy and you have a glass of wine to numb the pain, you’ll be okay.

When you stop to think about it though, being expensive is probably a good thing — it means people must really want to live there and the economy is doing well. So even though it might be 30% cheaper in Mississippi, I doubt anyone is going to be moving there from California.

Here’s a quick look at the cheapest states in America:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Arkansas
  3. West Virginia

For more reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Most Expensive States In America For 2020

Rank State Living Wage
1 California $68,190
2 New York $67,419
3 Massachusetts $66,376
4 Maryland $66,150
5 Connecticut $64,668
6 New Jersey $64,436
7 Colorado $62,950
8 Virginia $62,598
9 Hawaii $62,413
10 Alaska $62,102
11 Washington $61,988
12 Illinois $59,498
13 Oregon $59,237
14 Rhode Island $59,221
15 Delaware $58,886
16 Vermont $58,841
17 Minnesota $58,289
18 New Hampshire $58,161
19 Florida $57,029
20 Montana $56,410
21 Nevada $56,277
22 Wisconsin $56,231
23 New Mexico $56,228
24 Arizona $56,189
25 Maine $55,665
26 Georgia $54,964
27 Idaho $54,631
28 Utah $54,627
29 North Carolina $54,429
30 Nebraska $54,332
31 Wyoming $54,316
32 Pennsylvania $53,884
33 Missouri $53,654
34 Iowa $53,502
35 Louisiana $53,501
36 Michigan $53,281
37 Texas $53,219
38 Kansas $53,201
39 North Dakota $53,161
40 Oklahoma $52,805
41 Indiana $52,207
42 South Carolina $52,038
43 Ohio $52,013
44 Kentucky $51,925
45 Alabama $50,585
46 South Dakota $50,166
47 Tennessee $50,152
48 West Virginia $50,068
49 Arkansas $49,970
50 Mississippi $48,537

Expensive Places By State

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.