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Last Updated on January 3, 2018

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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    Published on September 17, 2018

    How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

    How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

    Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

    With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

    So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

    1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

    It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

    You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

    So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

    2. When you want something big, wait

    Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

    It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

    We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

    A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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    So, you get the itch.

    You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

    Here’s where you have to take a step back.

    Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

    Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

    It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

    The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

    3. Live smaller than you can afford

    You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

    You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

    That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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    Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

    Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

    The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

    But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

    4. Practice smart grocery shopping

    Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

    But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

    Create a grocery budget

    Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

    Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

    I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

    Make a list… and never deviate

    Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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    You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

    These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

    Eat before going grocery shopping

    It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

    If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

    After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

    Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

    However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

    This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

    5. Cancel your gym membership

    Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

    The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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    Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

    I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

    Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

    Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

    For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

    Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

    There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

    It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

    I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

    Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

    The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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