The Average Cost of Living by State, and Why Ignoring it Could Sink Your Business

You hear about it all the time in the news—Cost of living rising! Maybe you think about it on a daily basis—Do I earn enough to cover my standard of living?

But, how often have you thought about the relationship between the cost of living and your business? 

If it’s crossed your mind before, then you’ve probably also wondered about the average cost of living by state. Well, wonder no more—your cost of living by state guide has arrived.

What is cost of living?  

The cost of living is the amount of money an individual needs to maintain their standard of living. Cost of living includes basic expenses such as housing, food, transportation, clothing, taxes, entertainment, equipment, and education costs.

Cost of living indexes let you compare basic expenses in different regions. There are cost of living indexes that compare cities, states, and countries. 

Major cities, like New York City, have a higher cost of living than smaller cities, like Albany. To offset these higher costs (e.g., rent), wages are generally higher. 

You can use cost of living information to determine how expensive it is to live and set up shop in an area. 

Why the cost of living matters to your business

Cost of living matters to workers. It probably matters to your employees. But, why should your business be concerned with it? 

Let’s name a few big reasons why the cost of living is important to your business bottom line. The cost of living affects:

Office space expenses Business budgets Salary expectations  Product and service prices  Owner’s draw or salary  Raise determinations (e.g., cost of living adjustment)

Don’t care about a locality’s cost of living? If that’s the case, you may struggle to create accurate budgets, set reasonable employee salaries, and establish a fair pricing model that customers want to buy from. 

Businesses that don’t put in the time to research all possible expenses may find themselves dipping into negative cash flow territory.   

Not to mention, knowing a city’s cost of living can help you decide where to start your business. Cost of labor is an important factor that goes into our best states to start a business list. 

Average cost of living by state

Cost of living data can vary depending on what factors are analyzed (e.g., housing) and who conducts the study. 

Our chart below lists the following critical cost of living information:

The mean wages represent the average wages employees working in the state earn per year. This data is from May 2019. 

Median monthly rent shows the middle value of rent in the state. This data was compiled by GoBankingRates in June 2019. 

The value of a dollar captures how much your dollar is worth in the state. If the value of a dollar drops below $1, then it does not go as far in that state. This data is from May 2019.  

As you’re looking at the chart, keep in mind that states with a higher mean wage, higher monthly rent, and lower value of a dollar tend to have a higher cost of living. 

State Annual Mean Wage (All Occupations) Median Monthly Rent Value of a Dollar Alabama $44,930 $998 $1.15 Alaska $59,290 $1,748 $0.95 Arizona $50,930 $1,356 $1.04 Arkansas $42,690 $953 $1.15 California $61,290 $2,518 $0.87 Colorado $57,690 $1,927

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