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 But we noticed they used some information from which was outdated — it’s from 2012.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.

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