Where Americans Pay The Most To Live And Why

Samurai On Waialae Beach At Sunset

As one can guess, higher paying jobs leads to higher costs of living.  In fact, more than half of the 20 cities surveyed by the US Census Bureau are based in Caleeforneea, as Governor Arnold would say.

How is it that California is so dominant in the expensive category, when the mass of settlers first arrived on Plymouth Rock 300 years ago?  3,300 miles is a long way to travel, especially on horse and foot!  The main reason for the unfettered move out west is simply warmth and sunshine!

Every time I vacation in Hawaii, I always ask myself, why the heck ain’t I here for good.  Let’s face it, more sunshine equals happier people.  Sunshine is the classic zeitgeber to help us wake up and get us motoring in the morning.  No sunshine leads to no photosynthesis, which means no plant life, and therefore no ecosystem.

After 10 years of living on the east coast, I can still feel the grey skies weigh down my soul every winter.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the winter snow during the holidays, but I just love being in a cheerful mood more.  Here are America’s most expensive places to live based off median monthly housing costs.


1. San Jose, Calif. Median Monthly Housing Costs: $1,828

2. Bridgeport, Conn. Median Monthly Housing Costs: $1,793

3. Oxnard, Calif. Median Monthly Housing Costs: $1,780

4. Washington, D.C. Area Median Monthly Housing Costs: $1,706

5. San Francisco, Calif. Median Monthly Housing Costs: $1,660 (Here!)

8. Honolulu, Hawaii. Median Monthly Housing Costs: $1,532 (There!)

15. Trenton, New Jersey.  Median Monthly Housing Costs: $1,401 (So not there!)

19. Seattle, Washington. Median Monthly Housing Costs: $1,368 (On the West Coast, but not as expensive likely due to rain)

Source: Forbes


So there you have it.  Would you be willing to pay $131/month more to live in Honolulu, Hawaii than in Trenton, New Jersey? You bet your buns of steel I would!  The next time you are feeling a little glum, look outside and see if the weather has anything to do with it. And if so, come back to this post and plan your move out west.

300 years ago, it would have taken you months to come out west.  Now, all it takes is a two week bus ride at most.  Don’t be afraid to pack up your bags and move, even with a family.  Leo from Zenhabits, with his 6 children are moving to San Francisco from Gaum, and Ryan from Planting Dollars left Wisconsin for Hawaii, why can’t you?  After experiencing 10 years on each coast, there is no doubt in my mind that living in a warmer, sunnier place is the way to go.  See you on the beach this winter!


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Updated for 2015 and beyond

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. says

    If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

    In the short term, anywhere with good diving. In the long term – back in Wisconsin because I’ve learned to love it by being raised there and enjoy having close knit friends and family in one place. It’s the only place that feels like home.

    Why do people on the East Coast choose to submit themselves to harsh climates?

    Family, friends, and familiarity. I think it’s why most people stay wherever they’re at… there’s not enough upside to motivate them to take a risk. I think most people are motivated by things more important to them than climate. Climate actually wasn’t my reason for moving, but having the ability to scuba was. Just happens that they go hand in hand.

    Do you think people fear that living in a more pleasant environment might make people friendlier and less motivated?

    Yes!! Just met a guy yesterday who said everyday feels like groundhogs day out here and he never knows what he does with his days. I think it’s harder to “get ahead” career wise when there’s a beach a block away and gorgeous distractions everywhere. However, I’m trying very hard to have both ;)
    .-= Ryan @ Planting Dollars´s last blog ..Home Mortgage Calculators, 5 Ways to Workout Your Abode’ =-.

  2. Mike Hunt says

    Live in Bangkok, Thailand. Chiang Mai is pretty nice too and the weather is a bit cooler.

    It is very hot here year round but it’s a great value for money living here.

    Ideal place for me is Southern California or perhaps San Francisco. It costs a lot to live there but I really like the year round outdoor friendly weather!


  3. says

    @Mike Hunt
    Mike, you live in Bangkok now, or are you saying go to Bangkok and live? Seems like a lot of the community is in Bangkok. I may have to join.

    The cost of living in SF is high, but it is accompanied by high wages, otherwise, it’s unsustainable.

    @Ryan @ Planting Dollars
    I really think there is a truth to lazying out if one lives in too beautiful and comfortable a place. I’ve found myself unmotivated to do anything when I’m in Hawaii, although, I am there on vacation!

  4. says

    @ Financial Samurai:
    Montreal is pretty cold in winter but you should see it during summer time… there is not only the city that is hot if you know what I mean ;-)

    Kelowna is amazing and it snows only twice a year during winter time so it’s not California, but it’s not that bad either ;-)

    • says

      Joel – Cool man. Can’t beat the 0% state income tax of Florida! Been to Tampa a couple times, donno, a little too sleepy for me, same w/ San Diego.

  5. says

    If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

    It’s hard to say; there are so many places that look good on paper (so to speak), but that I can’t say for certain I’d want to live until I visited. My fiancee and I have talked about Japan quite a bit, so that’s probably at the top of the list.

    Why do people on the East Coast choose to submit themselves to harsh climates?

    As mentioned, there are lots of reasons; my family (on my mom’s side, at least) all live close by, I was born and raised here, and I like to have seasons like fall and winter. Besides, I think we can make a good case for the weather around here (Pennsylvania) not being that harsh; we get a really bad winter about as often as you get an earthquake, so I think we’re still doing alright.

    Plus, given the choice between driving on ice covered, snowy roads and driving on California highways, I’ll take the icy roads hands down. Driving in California was one of the least fun experiences I’ve ever had, and if it weren’t for my fiancee’s family and their insistence on living there, I would never, ever do it again.

    Do you think people fear that living in a more pleasant environment might make people friendlier and less motivated?

    Maybe; it makes an interesting psychological question.
    .-= Roger´s last blog ..Net Worth Update: Going Back to School =-.

    • says

      Mike – I think you might be the only one visiting from Thailand. There are some from China Philippines, New Zealand, and other countries though!

  6. says

    This one hits home, especially since I used to live in Honolulu. Yes it is worth every penny. Most people ask why would you come back to Texas. In the end, its not where you live, but the friends and family you have around you.

    If you do plan on moving to Hawaii though, plan on being cramped if you decide to get an apartment.

    • says

      Mr. Finance – Thanks for stopping by and good to hear you are enjoying life in my dream state! The good thing about being in SF is that so long as I don’t retire in Manhattan, pretty much everywhere is cheaper.

      Look forward to more of your Hawaii insights! You and Ryan from Planting Dollars should meet.

  7. says

    Wow, San Jose is pric-yyy! I’m a west coast lover as well. Everything seems a bit “dark” when you go to the east coast. Maybe it’s because of the lack of ocean in the major cities on the east.

    It is true about the less motivated part. People who come over here from Toronto are are more “go go go” and have a much deeper work ethic. (Whereas people here in Vancouver somehow find a way to make money without have a 8-6 job *COUGH* *Drug money* *cough*).
    .-= youngandthrifty´s last blog ..Wondering if Pet Insurance Claim will be Approved =-.

    • says

      Youngandthrifty – And San Jose can’t hold a candle to San Francisco! Actually, since the figures are an average, the real price is probably 25% higher for most people, if that makes any sense.

      East coast grey skies, I can’t take. It weighs my soul too heavily. I’d rather be warmer and happier. Life is too short.

  8. NorCal_lost says

    Born in SF, raised in Sacramento, 2 years in Anchorage, now an hour south of ATL….and really, really, really miss California. The weather here sucks and the food is gross!!!! 3 P.M. thunderstrorms everyday in the summer get old, as does the hellish humidity. Too cold to go out in the winter. Outdoor activities are either hunting or Wal Mart parking lot. Moutains here are speed bumps west of the Rockies.
    Work wise my wife makes $110 dollars less a day here then in California as a Dental Hygienist. I work DOD so pay is pretty uniform thru-out U.S. Besides housing, everything else here is the same. 200k house…$1700 taxes a year. The past 7.5 years in central Georgia have been very long and boring. Florida weather sucks too in comparison to San Diego and So Cal. To those who are thinking of leaving Cali, make sure you do your homework! The houses may be less expensive and bigger, but you will be in them ALOT!! The idea of a good time where you move may be called a, ” Pig Jig!” No joke do a search…. Oh yea… Southerners may have discovered NASCAR, but driving for most is not a gift, most think it is still 1953 and 45MPH is fast. I miss 75 MPH traffic on the 5.

  9. says

    Hmmm.. an hour South of Atlanta doesn’t sound that great. 200K houses though, what a steal! :) I hear ya. Today was 70 degrees with no humidity. Went for a hike and played tennis.

    Taxes here are killer though… but it’s worth it being happy. Although, chilling at the Wal Mart parking lot sounds fun!

  10. Kelly says

    @The Financial blogger
    I really loved this article. It describes my viewpoint completely. I currently live on the east coast in Northern Ohio. Now, let me tell you that winters here in Ohio take up 3 quarters of the year. Yes, it really puts a damper on my spirit. Not only are the winters long, but even the summers are cloudy and dreary. I’d say it’s cloudy 85% of the time, the skies here are cloudy, overcast skies. When I go to the store, you can see it in the people’s faces that they are affected by it. I live for sunshine. Who doesn’t love sunshine!? I plan on moving to either Hawaii or California whenever I can. The only problem is money. I am a stay at home/work from home mom and my husband works all the time. I’m all for taking a risk and making a new life somewhere warm, but I can’t convince my husband to give up his job. I’ll still be able to keep my job as a medical transcriptionist since I’m employed nationwide, but my husband will have to start all over somewhere else. He works for an excavating company, and I don’t think there are many excavating jobs in Hawaii, maybe california. Anyway, point is I hate the cold, cloudy weather here and I refuse to live my whole life in Ohio.

    • says

      Life is too short to live in Northern Ohio Kelly. Trust me when I tell you , you will be SO MUCH happier not living there! Whatever job you have in Ohio, you can DEFINITELY find it in C or HI!

  11. Kelly says

    Can I get some tips for relocating to California or Hawaii? Which is better for schools? How much should I earn to make a living there? It would be me, my husband, and 2 kids moving there.

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