Best & Worst Cities for Your Money

Finding the right place to live to foster a stable financial outlook.

Home may be where the heart is, but depending on where you live it may also be bad for your bottom line. That’s according to a new data study released by GOBankingRates. The results show the best and worst cities to live if you want to save money.

The ranking they used is determined by comparing several major money factors, including: median home price and rent payment, median income, unemployment rate, sales tax and even gas prices. By looking at all these factors as a whole, the analysts were able to rank where consumers could live to have the most earning potential with the lowest amount of expenses to cover.

So while the median income in San Diego, California is high compared to the rest of the country ($64,058 per year), it ranks as one of the worst places to live because expenses like housing payments, gas prices and sales tax all make it an expensive place to live. By contrast, the median income in Louisville, Kentucky is only $44,159 per year, but with significantly lower housing payments, better unemployment, lower gas prices and even 2 percent less sales tax, it’s just a better bang for every buck earned if you live there.

It’s important to note that the original study by GoBankingRates used housing data from 2012. This data is somewhat outdated – especially since the housing market has changed significantly from 2012 to 2015. Luckily, our friends at Debt.com updated the rankings with more recent data from Zillow , Gas Buddy, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rankings are largely the same, but the map below has the most recent data.

City State Rank City State Rank City State Rank
Anchorage Alaska 1 Oklahoma City Okla. 35 Baton Rouge La. 68
Portland Ore. 2 St. Paul Minn. 36 Reno Nev. 69
Boise Idaho 3 St. Petersburg Fla. 37 Bakersfield Calif. 70
Madison Wis. 4 Colorado Springs Colo. 38 Houston Texas 71
Lincoln Neb. 5 Jacksonville Fla. 39 Detroit Mich. 72
Lexington Ky. 6 Fort Worth Texas 40 Philadelphia Pa. 73
Chesapeake Va. 7 Minneapolis Minn. 41 Atlanta Ga. 74
Louisville Ky. 8 Corpus Christi Texas 42 Memphis Tenn. 75
Virginia Beach Va. 9 Milwaukee Wis. 43 New Orleans La. 76
Omaha Neb. 10 Indianapolis Ind. 44 Newark N.J. 77
Gilbert Ariz. 11 Laredo Texas 45 Boston Mass. 78
Richmond Va. 12 Kansas City Mo. 46 Hialeah Fla. 79
Raleigh N.C. 13 El Paso Texas 47 Washington D.C. 80
Fort Wayne Ind. 14 San Antonio Texas 48 Sacramento Calif. 81
Plano Texas 15 Tampa Fla. 49 Seattle Wash. 82
Winston-Salem N.C. 16 Mesa Ariz. 50 Fremont Calif. 83
Greensboro N.C. 17 Honolulu Hawaii 51 Riverside Calif. 84
Toledo Ohio 18 Scottsdale Ariz. 52 Miami Fla. 85
Lubbock Texas 19 Denver Colo. 53 Chula Vista Calif. 86
Columbus Ohio 20 Tucson Ariz. 54 Chicago Illinois 87
Chandler Ariz. 21 Baltimore Md. 55 Irvine Calif. 88
Pittsburgh Pa. 22 Glendale Ariz. 56 Fresno Calif. 89
Durham N.C. 23 Henderson Nev. 57 San Bernardino Calif. 90
Garland Texas 24 Dallas Texas 58 San Diego Calif. 91
Arlington Texas 25 Nashville Tenn. 59 Anaheim Calif. 92
Cincinnati Ohio 26 Austin Texas 60 Santa Ana Calif. 93
Tulsa Okla. 27 Jersey City N.J. 61 Stockton Calif. 94
Irving Texas 28 Buffalo N.Y. 62 San Jose Calif. 95
Charlotte N.C. 29 Cleveland Ohio 63 Oakland Calif. 96
Albuquerque N.M. 30 St. Louis Mo. 64 Long Beach Calif. 97
Orlando Fla. 31 Phoenix Ariz. 65 San Francisco Calif. 98
Aurora Colo. 32 North Las Vegas Nev. 66 New York N.Y. 99
Norfolk Va. 33 Las Vegas Nev. 67 Los Angeles Calif. 100
Wichita Kansas 34

“Where you live can have a significant impact on your ability to maintain financial stability,” says Gary Herman, President of Consolidated Credit. “You want to live somewhere that allows you to have your career of choice at the right income, but major metropolitan areas in places like California and New York where earning potential is high also come with higher costs of living. So you can’t just assume that more income means a better place to move your family for a stable financial outlook.”

The hidden factor of cost of living increases

Another key factor that isn’t captured by the data detailed in the map above comes with cost of living increases. So while Portland, Oregon is ranked as the second best place to live, one thing that isn’t factored into this ranking is the fact that Portland experiencing rental price increases that are notably higher than the national average (which is also already high to begin with).

So median rent may be lower than the rest of the country, but if you’re a Portland resident then you may be struggling to maintain stability because your rent payments increased by enough that you can’t cover the gap in your budget without tightening your belt.

The moral of the story?

If you’re thinking of relocating for a better financial outlook, you should aim for the Great Lakes and middle America if you want to find a place where low cost of living is balanced against decent and stable income levels. This may be especially true if you’re living anywhere in California or in the larger New York-New Jersey metropolitan area.

“Just be sure if you’re moving on to greener pastures that the pastures are truly greener where you’re going,” Herman concludes. “Relocating usually creates a significant financial burden as you get settled and adjust to your new location. It’s not something you want to do often if you’re trying to maintain the most stable financial outlook possible.”

If you’re having budget problems and you need help to find the right balance, we can help. Call us today at for a Free Debt & Budget Analysis or you can ask for help online.