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The 10 Most (And Least) Expensive States In America

The 10 Most (And Least) Expensive States In America

2017 cost-of-living index figures by C2ER (Council for Community and Economic Research) are fresh out of the oven. Well, despite continued widespread recovery tactics, where you live in America has a great deal of impact on what economic challenges you face. No country is immune from economic slumps but higher than average state autonomy in America means economic growth varies by state. While one might expect to see California and New York on the list of most expensive states in America, shifting economic landscapes make several unexpected states more expensive as well. Complicated economic factors, as well as public officials struggling to meet the challenges of the future, make these ten states the most expensive and most affordable in America.

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    Most Expensive States

    1. Hawaii

    Take palm-fringed, sandy beaches, sizzling cultural melt, and add incredibly beautiful flora and fauna – and that’s the ‘magical’ allure of Hawaii. All these goodies, however, come with a steep price. Looking to buy a home in Hawaii? That’ll set you back a whopping $1 million on average. And that isn’t all – it’ll cost you nearly$3000 to rent a two-bedroom apartment and the monthly energy bill is estimated at $455.51, a figure that’s about 3 times what you’d shed in some leafy suburbs of California. But you live in Hawaii, the Aloha State!

    2. New York

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    Chiming at the second place is the Empire State. That in and of itself isn’t surprising at all in a state where the average home goes for $1.6 million (yes, you read that right). Looking to rent? Forget about it; a cozy two-bedroom apartment averages $4200 in monthly rent. Of course, New York is vast and uneven recovery/growth is partly to blame. Despite the improvement in unemployment rates since the end recession, New York continues to battle with aging infrastructure and starkly different growth rates. But there are areas like Rochester (average home price is $287000) where life is surprisingly easier than Manhattan. Nonetheless, you will still shed more than $160 for monthly energy bill there.

    3. California

    Not surprisingly, California is also one of the most expensive states in America. High housing costs in this state have long made it one of the pricier states, but population growth is another concern. At around $1 million, the average price of a home in metro San Francisco is the 3rd highest nationwide. California is also the number one state for poverty, reportedly carrying $1.6 billion in debt. While the state holds only 12% of the American population, nearly 33% of all welfare recipients are Californian.

    4. Massachusetts

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    It’s official – it’s now more expensive to live in Massachusetts than Alaska! The cost of groceries is through the roof, with 24-ounce T-bone steak going for more than $62! While the average price of a home is $634,233, expect to pay 3 or even 5 more times in most Newton, Framingham, and Cambridge neighborhoods. At $2668, the average rent for a sweet two-bedroom apartment in Boston is the 4th highest in the US. And the energy bill of $287.63 is close to $100 more than would be in Anchorage.

    5. Alaska

    A newcomer to this list, Alaska – the moose state – offers unsurpassed natural beauty and close-knit culture you’ll never find elsewhere. With only 760 farms, it’s no surprise that most produce and food items are hauled from different states. And that trickles down to tons of other costs. A loaf of bread which goes for a mere $1.79 in Iowa will set you back $4.68 in Anchorage. But again, this is Alaska – the land of amazing wildlife. Paying utility bills ($201.39 for energy) and healthcare isn’t a walk in the park either.

    Least Expensive States

    1. Mississippi

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    One of the less densely populated states, Mississippi is one of the least expensive states to live in. With low per capita income, the state’s housing costs remain correspondingly low as well (the average home price of $199,028), making the cost of living affordable. Mississippi previously relied mainly on cotton production to drive the economy. In the last two decades or so, however, Mississippi has diversified agricultural and livestock industries, ensuring economic growth. Now focusing on producing rice, soybeans, chicken, and catfish, Mississippi continues to pursue diversification to enrich its economy, a strategy which has been successful so far.

    2. Indiana

    Next up, is Indiana, a state famous for the Indianapolis 500 and low-cost homes (averaged at $270,204). At the Crossroads of America, you can expect rock-bottom prices for groceries and other basic food items. A head of lettuce goes for a paltry $1.04 while a pound of coffee and ground beef will set you back just $4.43 and $3.74 respectively. A boom in the local economy has pushed prices up a teensy bit, but you can still pick up a check at dinner.

    3. Michigan

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    The Great Lakes State, much like Mississippi and Arkansas, offer low-cost housing (averaged at $274,355) for consumers, yet it’s consistently ranked in the top ten for best states to do business. After all, this is the home of the American auto industry. The average gas price in Detroit was about $2.04 when it hit more than $3 in most parts of the country. The auto industry has bounced back, healthcare is thriving and high-tech jobs are supplanting manufacturing, helping this state become more competitive to prospective employers, keeping the economy working for Michigan citizens.

    4. Arkansas

    Like Mississippi, Arkansas is a more rural state, offering consumers low housing costs. Arkansas also boasts incredibly low costs for doing business, attracting six Fortune 500 companies to the state. Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is just $700 a month and the monthly energy bill is $145.79, roughly half of what you’d pay in Massachusetts. In short, Arkansas’ low cost of living is balanced by a lower household income than average but still remains a top state for the economic climate.

    5. Oklahoma

    Rounding up our list is the Sooner State, the home of undulating wheat fields. And the cost of groceries, including a loaf of wheat bread for less than $3, is appropriately cheap. Well, that isn’t all – a grand 2,400 square-foot home will only chip off around $300K from your bank account. With a sub-$150 monthly energy bill and low-cost health care, Oklahoma is certainly one of the best places you’d be lucky to call home.

    Featured photo credit: US Department of Interior via om.wikipedia.org

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

    Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

    Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

    This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

    Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

    What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

    Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

    When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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    How It Leads to Financial Improvement

    It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

    Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

    Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

    It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

    Types of Personal Finance Software

    When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

    Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

    For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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    Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

    When to Use Personal Finance Software

    So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

    Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

    1. You Have Multiple Accounts

    There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

    If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

    Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

    2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

    Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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    There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

    With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

    3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

    Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

    Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

    Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

    4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

    Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

    You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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    How to Get Started

    From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

    Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

    It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

    When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

    Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

    Final Thoughts

    Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

    In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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