The Worst Major Cities To Live In When Saving Money

Avoid the insane cost of living on the West Coast — move to the Midwest

By Brandon Ballenger

This map shows major factors in the cost of living in the 100 biggest U.S. cities, ranging from the cost of buying a home or renting, to average gas prices and unemployment. Hover your cursor over a city to see how it ranks overall, and click it for details. Some major cities are clustered together, so you’ll need to zoom or use the search box in the upper right to get there. Check it out, then see our analysis below.

We owe the concept for this map to our friends at GoBankingRates, who last month ranked the best and worst cities for saving money. But we noticed they used some information from which was outdated — it’s from 2012. We pulled the freshest data we could find to see how it affected the rankings, and mapped it to look at the trends.

We used end-of-February gas prices from GasBuddy, January 2015 home and rent data from Zillow, December 2014 unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 2013 median income and population from the Census Bureau.

AnchorageAlaska1CincinnatiOhio26HonoluluHawaii51New OrleansLa.76
Virginia BeachVa.9WichitaKansas34NashvilleTenn.59RiversideCalif.84
OmahaNeb.10Oklahoma CityOkla.35AustinTexas60MiamiFla.85
GilbertAriz.11St. PaulMinn.36Jersey CityN.J.61Chula VistaCalif.86
RichmondVa.12St. PetersburgFla.37BuffaloN.Y.62ChicagoIllinois87
RaleighN.C.13Colorado SpringsColo.38ClevelandOhio63IrvineCalif.88
Fort WayneInd.14JacksonvilleFla.39St. LouisMo.64FresnoCalif.89
PlanoTexas15Fort WorthTexas40PhoenixAriz.65San BernardinoCalif.90
Winston-SalemN.C.16MinneapolisMinn.41North Las VegasNev.66San DiegoCalif.91
GreensboroN.C.17Corpus ChristiTexas42Las VegasNev.67AnaheimCalif.92
ToledoOhio18MilwaukeeWis.43Baton RougeLa.68Santa AnaCalif.93
ColumbusOhio20LaredoTexas45BakersfieldCalif.70San JoseCalif.95
ChandlerAriz.21Kansas CityMo.46HoustonTexas71OaklandCalif.96
PittsburghPa.22El PasoTexas47DetroitMich.72Long BeachCalif.97
DurhamN.C.23San AntonioTexas48PhiladelphiaPa.73San FranciscoCalif.98
GarlandTexas24TampaFla.49AtlantaGa.74New YorkN.Y.99
ArlingtonTexas25MesaAriz.50MemphisTenn.75Los AngelesCalif.100


Fresh data was important, because housing expenses are a big chunk of the average budget and they’ve moved a lot in the past three years. Zillow recently revealed rent in major cities like San Jose, San Francisco, and Denver jumped 7 to 14 percent in a single year, for instance.

This made a big difference with some cities — for instance, GBR put Wichita at No. 7 and we have it at No. 35. Some Texas cities are also much lower in our ranking. But our Top 10s are otherwise mostly in the same ballpark. Funnily enough, Las Vegas is not the worst place to save money — our bottom 10 is New York City and a bunch of California cities. Detroit is higher up our list than on the GoBankingRates ranking, where it just made the bottom 10.

We learned that Portland is the only bright spot for savings on the West Coast, and that Midwest cities have become a better place for savings in the past few years. It’s also easier to save money in northern Texas than southern Texas.