The 10 Most Expensive States In The United States

The most expensive states in the United States are Massachusetts and California.

The states everyone wants to live in are very expensive, especially for kids coming out of school. I can’t imagine struggling to try and save money while getting $45k on a history major salary while trying to move to California.

Well, if you’re striking out on your own soon, or you want to be nosy about which states have the highest cost of living, we’ve got you covered in today’s article. We will look at the most expensive states you could live in the United States. You can probably guess as to a few of them right off 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 states where you need to make a lot of moolah if you want to exist. So, get ready to count your pennies and list things you’ll cut back on as we begin our tour of America’s most expensive states.

There are some states in the country where you can earn a lot of money and still feel poor. We’re talking California or New York.

The most expensive state in America for 2023? Massachusetts tops this year’s list as the most costly state based on MIT living wage data. Well, thank god we don’t have to live there.

Most Expensive States In America Map

Click to enlarge

If one of the top research universities in the world says it’s an expensive state, it’s really expensive. For exactly how we calculated the most expensive state rankings, read on. Or if you’re so rich you do not care about this list, check out our other research:

The 10 Most Expensive States In America For 2023

1. Massachusetts

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.

Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Living Wage: $131,461
Housing: $24,094
Child Care: $32,766
More On Massachusetts: Photos | Rent

Massachusetts|Ma, MA

Source: Public domain

2. California

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.

Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Living Wage: $127,052
Housing: $25,624
Child Care: $22,879
More On California: Photos | Rent

California|Ca, CA

3. New Jersey

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.

Rank Last Year: 3 (No Change)
Living Wage: $123,141
Housing: $21,084
Child Care: $26,130
More On New Jersey: Photos | Rent

New-Jersey|Nj, NJ

4. New York

Welcome to New York, which is the fourth 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.

Rank Last Year: 4 (No Change)
Living Wage: $119,150
Housing: $21,739
Child Care: $23,521
More On New York: Photos | Rent

New-York|Ny, NY

5. Hawaii

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.

Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Living Wage: $118,409
Housing: $25,248
Child Care: $18,160
More On Hawaii: Photos | Rent

Hawaii|Hi, HI

Source: Public domain

6. Colorado

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.

Rank Last Year: 6 (No Change)
Living Wage: $110,692
Housing: $18,390
Child Care: $22,224
More On Colorado: Photos | Rent

Colorado|Co, CO

7. Connecticut

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.

Rank Last Year: 9 (Up 2)
Living Wage: $109,977
Housing: $18,577
Child Care: $19,753
More On Connecticut: Photos | Rent

Connecticut|Ct, CT

8. Michigan

Michigan’s status as the eighth most expensive state can be attributed to several key factors. The cost of housing in major cities like Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor has significantly increased in recent years. A limited supply of affordable housing options coupled with rising demand has driven up rental and housing prices, making it increasingly challenging for residents to find affordable places to live.

Another significant contributor to Michigan’s high cost of living is healthcare expenses. The state’s healthcare costs are consistently above the national average, making it difficult for families to access quality medical care without significant financial strain. Additionally, Michigan’s high auto insurance rates have become a well-known burden for residents, with the state frequently ranking among the most expensive for car insurance.

Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 1)
Living Wage: $109,962
Housing: $12,348
Child Care: $28,798
More On Michigan: Photos | Rent

Michigan|Mi, MI

9. Maryland

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.

Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 1)
Living Wage: $109,820
Housing: $19,382
Child Care: $20,690
More On Maryland: Photos | Rent

Maryland|Md, MD

10. Vermont

Vermont is one of the most expensive states to live in because of its reputation for natural beauty and high quality of life. Several factors contribute to Vermont’s high cost of living, with housing costs being a significant driver. The state’s picturesque landscapes and vibrant communities make it a desirable place to live, leading to increased demand for housing. Additionally, Vermont’s cold winters necessitate high heating costs, further straining household budgets.

Another contributing factor to Vermont’s high cost of living is its relatively small population and rural character. With a smaller tax base and less population density, the state has to allocate resources more thinly across its public services and infrastructure. This can result in higher property taxes and healthcare costs, which, in turn, contribute to the overall expense of living in Vermont.

Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 2)
Living Wage: $107,940
Housing: $15,591
Child Care: $19,356
More On Vermont: Photos | Rent

Vermont|Vt, VT

Methodology: How We Determined The Most Expensive States In America For 2023

Usually, when we measure how expensive a state is, we check in on a cost of living index. That analyzes the costs of goods in the 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 MIT team compiles the best 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 updated their data at the beginning of 2023, so we can take a fresh look at it.

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

The highest state, Massachusetts, was crowned the most expensive state in the United States for 2023. (Although DC would like a word if you consider that a state.)

Summary: The Most Expensive States In The United States To Live For 2023

That’s our tour of the most expensive states in the United States. After all the dust settled and the analysis was over, we crowned Massachusetts as the most expensive state to live in America for 2023. If you live in the states we just discussed, odds are you work hard and only have a little to show for it. But hey – as long as you’re safe and healthy and have a glass of wine to numb the pain, you’ll be okay.

When you stop to think about it, 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 will be moving there from California.

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

  1. Tennessee
  2. Indiana
  3. Mississippi

For more reading, check out:

Detailed List Of The Most Expensive States In America For 2023

Rank State Living Wage
1 Massachusetts $131,461
2 California $127,052
3 New Jersey $123,141
4 New York $119,150
5 Hawaii $118,409
6 Colorado $110,692
7 Connecticut $109,977
8 Michigan $109,962
9 Maryland $109,820
10 Vermont $107,940
11 Oregon $106,292
12 Virginia $106,289
13 Minnesota $104,489
14 Maine $103,080
15 Illinois $102,602
16 Delaware $102,538
17 Rhode Island $102,430
18 Wisconsin $100,989
19 Washington $100,755
20 New Hampshire $100,284
21 Iowa $99,341
22 Montana $99,226
23 North Carolina $99,045
24 Nevada $98,287
25 Florida $98,260
26 Nebraska $97,688
27 Ohio $96,867
28 Pennsylvania $96,838
29 Kansas $96,685
30 Alaska $96,146
31 Utah $95,825
32 Louisiana $94,383
33 West Virginia $94,345
34 Georgia $93,709
35 Arizona $93,390
36 Missouri $93,313
37 New Mexico $93,307
38 Idaho $92,959
39 South Carolina $92,403
40 North Dakota $92,402
41 Texas $91,949
42 Oklahoma $91,789
43 Kentucky $91,250
44 Wyoming $90,032
45 Arkansas $89,708
46 Alabama $88,041
47 South Dakota $88,018
48 Mississippi $87,723
49 Indiana $87,486
50 Tennessee $83,897

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.