Cost of Living in the United States

by Jose Marc Castro on August 10, 2009

costoflivingUSCost of living in the United States can differ depending on location and lifestyle. Big cities like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago tend to have high costs and quality of goods and other commodities but there are also a number of states offering lower standards of living. Several people from all over the world want to move into the country because of the very high salaries as well as the abundance of job opportunities. The United States is the richest and most powerful nation in the world. At present, it ranks 1st in terms of economy and quality of life. The current GDP of the nation is over 13 trillion euros with a per capita GDP of over 44,000 euros.

The United States has the 3rd largest space area in the world and although the cities are well-populated, there are still plenty of land in nearby towns, farms and the countryside. New York City is currently the state with the most number of people and is the most expensive city to live in followed by Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. Cost of food, household items and entertainment can vary but overall, almost all people can afford these comfortably. Majority of Americans enjoy good quality of life with high net income. The government also asks for state and government income tax from all immigrants, locals and foreign visitors.

The country has been hardest hit by the worldwide recession but still remains an industrial power by sheer volume and economic size of the country.

Food and Drinks Costs in the US

There are a lot of cheap food and drinks in the United States. Most of these are in the form of fast food while others are sold widely with vendors such as hotdogs, waffles and pretzels. The average American spends around 5 to 10 euros a day on food.

Buying grocery items to be prepared at home will save more. Provincial states send in agricultural products like beef, pork, poultry, eggs, fruits and vegetables to big cities for consumption. Buying these raw goods directly from farmers and fish vendors can be cheaper but traveling may tend to be tedious.

There are also several restaurants all over the country. Diners and coffee shops serve several American favorites like hamburgers, pizza, French fries, donuts and other pastries. A single meal in a middle class place can cost around 6 to 10 euros.

More luxurious places in the middle of the city and in hotels can be as hefty as 300 to 500 euros. Overall, food and drinks are plenty in the United States and all people get to enjoy the various tastes and brands of products. Most of the products are locally made but there are also a number of items imported from Asia which can cost higher or the same as others.

The current financial downturn though has put a damper on the seeming cornucopia of the great American way. As food prices increase, much of it has a great impact on the overall capacity of American families, especially lower and middle class families lower and middle class families.

Clothing and Accessories Costs in the US

The United States is one of the best places in the world to shop. New York City and Los Angeles are the top two cities offering great clothes at very affordable rates. There are 99-cent shops as well as flea markets, garage sales and bargain stores in every nook of major cities. Expatriates will find plenty of wares and cheap goods in factory outlets as well. As for accessories, there are plenty of locally made trinkets and gadgets sold by street vendors. A number of Chinese-made goods have also entered the scene and are sold at very competitive prices.

Designer brands and labels are found mostly in major cities in shopping malls and department stores. These are all up-to-date and rather expensive. Prices of bags, shoes and clothes depend on the maker and quality. Some can have price tags of over 5,000 euros but styles change every season and sales are more likely to come around every now and then.

Housing Costs in the US

Finding a quality and affordable apartment in the city can be quite difficult. Beautiful apartments and condominiums with great locations can change anywhere from 1000 to 2500 euros every month. Smaller rental spaces can be located farther from the middle of town between 150 to 300 euros monthly.

The more luxurious places usually cover electricity and water supply but less comfortable nooks exclude utilities. The suburbs are also great places to raise family or retire since there is more available space and the opportunity to own property is there. American citizenship however, is required before expatriates can fully own land or property.

Real estate agents are widely popular in the United States since they help very much in finding a suitable place for any immigrant. Hiring an agent can quickly process documentation, analyze current and future value as well as compute other taxes for building and maintenance.

Single rooms are also available in some parts of cities at affordable rates. Tenants however need to cover utilities as well as pay for repairs and other renovations indicated by the landlord. Dormitories are not as popular compared before but there are a number of hotels and hostels offering cheap package rates should expatriates plan to stay for months of years.

Though the property market has been said as the trigger to the current fiscal crisis felt throughout the world, as US homeowners have signified confidence that the market will rebound from the crisis of the last few years.

Services Costs in the US

The United States government provides a lot of opportunities to all its citizens and visitors alike. There are however, some income taxes and immigrant and foreigner fees which will depend on individuals’ worldwide income. Along with these are great advantages like insurance and liability policies, safety and protection policies, health care insurances and housing loans and benefits. The healthcare dilemma has been shared in America Expat Forum last March 9, 2009:

you’re normally better served by getting a group policy of some sort – if not through an employer, then through an association or there are even some civic and church organizations that offer group policies. But if you or your family has any pre-existing conditions, you need to consider carefully all the fine print and that’s best done one on one with an independent insurance advisor.

Education is also taxed but quality and service in all aspects is excellent. Job satisfaction is guaranteed and there are compensation benefits for health issues and the like.

The country has the most modern equipment and technology in the world. Communication links, postal service, telephone and internet service as well as transportation are ensured to be of the best quality. Traveling to any part of the United States is very easy and prices are fairly affordable. People get to enjoy quick response in terms of communication.

The country has the most modern equipment and technology in the world. Communication links, postal service, telephone and internet service as well as transportation are ensured to be of the best quality. Traveling to any part of the United States is very easy and prices are fairly affordable. People get to enjoy quick response in terms of communication.

Employment Costs in the US

America currently has an employment rate of 95% but with the current crisis has seen this numbers increase and with it the pressure on governmental finances. The government is actively supporting a number of programs to help fight the remainder of poverty-stricken citizens. Job opportunities are plenty for expatriates. At the moment, the country is eyeing on filling more vacant slots in the health care industry. The need for more health professionals is so great that the United States is offering several bonuses and advantages to people from all over the world to work in respective hospitals and institutions.


{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

Kit June 7, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Any part of the world you go you just have to adjust to the living standards of that area. I like America because you get results in the taxes you pay. A lot might disagree but compared to other countries the tax dollars still goes to nice roads and community programs while in other countries it goes to corrupt officials' pockets. In America you will never go hungry if you are not picky. There's always places to eat for free. The community and government helps, clothes and feeds the needy. One just needs to reach out. On other countries, this is seldom the case. There are a lot of programs in the America that helps the needy, it's just that either the needy do not know what is available for them or that they do not want or refuse the help.

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Chris June 13, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Americans need to travel more globally, and I know when they return, they will feel much more appreciated about USA.
The US people is being manipulated so much by the Media, now they think they live in 3rd world country.
If you think China is the future, go and live in China for 6 months and you will be so glad you can live in USA…There is like 1% of rich people in China (which still makes quite a big no.) and most of them do not even meet the basic needs. My friends works in Beijing for a big German company, she earns US$600 a month which is already well above avg. Chinese citizen ($300 a month), her rent in Beijing is $500 a month, so what can she eat? Not even MacDonalds, because that is a "luxury meal" in China!

Get it, Americans? How many Big Macs have you eaten this week? Most people in the world only go to MacDonald as a special event.

Go and live in Australia or Europe, I bough a bottle of mineral water in Australia and it costed me more than $2.00, at Costco in USA, it's less than 5 cents!

You are complaining about your gasoline price, go and ask Japanese and British how much they pay.

And the funniest part, tax?? You call that tax, go and cross the border to Canada.

You get to keep your own money, you get to choose what career you want to do..this is why USA is such a big magnet.

Yes, some emerging economies are growing very fast now – but as you can see, who are moving to USA now? Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, Russians – because $200,000 in USA can mean a very good life with a house, and that's not even enough to buy a tiny apartment in China or Russia.

Stop complaining, you guys don't know how lucky you are.

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stielle June 24, 2011 at 3:19 pm

American living part 1:

I just have to chime in here about the standard of living in America. America is an absolutely huge country. That being said, the housing costs will vary depending on where you live. The higher the population (ie: cities and coastal areas) the higher the cost of housing. This is for two reasons. Supply and demand, and because people will pay it to be close to their jobs. Most everything else has little variance, generally speaking. The reason most people live in higher populated areas with higher housing is that is where the jobs are.

Note: at the time of this writing, 1 Euro is worth 1.40 USD.

I live in a coastal area in Virginia with an area population of about 2 million. My home (1600 sq ft, 3 bed) is running $1250 a month. The same thing 3 hours south will run $600 per month. The same thing 3 hours north is over $2000 per month. We live on $45k after child support and taxes, so this is what I have to pay bills with. There are two of us.

We have the normal expenses, rent, electric ($200/month) and food (varies, but around $400/month from the grocery store)
We have 2 pups, 2-3 cars (depending on whether I need a weekend roadster or not), and 4 laptop computers, 5 TVs, and a HUGE DVD collection. We have Internet, drink bottled spring water, have gym memberships, live on a lake, and go out to eat 2-3 times per week (some fast food, some at steakhouses,etc. NOTHING more than $50 per trip though, I'm too cheap.) I also pay on average $80/month on gas for my car, about $120/month for the other car.

Here's where it gets nice to live in an American city…
Everything I need is within 10 miles of me. I drive my own car wherever I want to go. My grocery store has 100,000 items I get to choose from. I also have 20+ super grocery stores I can choose from. We have specialty stores in every shopping center or mall for those specific items (vitamins, health products, etc) We purchase at a wholesale clubs to save even more money, for instance the bottled water costs 15 cents each. To eat at Subway for lunch costs me only what I make in less than 15 minutes. If I'm broke for the week, I can buy noodles for 20 CENTS or a burrito at Taco Bell for under a dollar.

My house is never above or below 75 degrees, as everyone has heat and almost everyone has a/c. If you do not, you can buy a unit for under $100 at a hardware store less than 10 minutes a way.

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stielle June 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm

American living part 2:

I rent movies not yet in our collection for $1 a day from a vending machine 5 minutes away. I can buy gas, food, clothing, and entertainment 24 hours a day, 364 days a year (most are closed on Christmas, thank God for Christian values, eh?) Travel in my local area is on highways that are minimum 8 lanes wide, as wide as 14 lanes in some areas. Our local streets are all at least 4 lanes wide (those are the small ones) If I have an issue, police and firedepartment are within 5 minutes away.

In the early 90's we had an exchange program with sailors of a Russian ship. We took them to a grocery store and they seriously believed we were making it up. They thought the government built this behemoth store with hundreds of thousands of items to trick them into believing we actually lived this way. Then we took them to a Walmart, then to a shopping mall. No joke boys, this is how we live. They LOVED it and were sad to go back.

Now the caveats:
Yes, my government is full of liars. Name one that isn't. Hell, even my neighborhood has its own politics. Yes, I think it stinks my money goes to pay for housing for an unemployed idiot who has no intention of getting a job yet drives a $70,000 SUV. Yes, I hate the way gas has gone up to $3.50 (now 'cheap') a gallon. But after hearing Europeans pay almost $9 a gallon, I suddenly do not mind as much. Yes, I believe some of our laws are stupid. They used to be for our protection from corporations looking to take advantage of us. Now new laws are less 'protective' and more 'do this because we say so.'

America is also a GREAT place to start a side business to supplement your income. We LOVE services. We pay for people to wash our cars, care for our lawns, go to the grocery store for us, do our nails, clean our houses, decorate our houses for holidays, cook for us, even pick up our pet's poop. We even have pet Daycare centers!

Don't even get me started on entertainment. Americans crave it. We spend more on our vices and entertaining ourselves than any other country. We love to be spectators. We like to watch movies, sports, video games, and especially TV. While we do it 5-6 hours a day we EAT! Then we get overweight and spend more of our disposable income on weight loss products we see on TV while we watch the commercial stuffing our faces wondering why we are getting fat.

Don't get me wrong, we aren't lazy, but we just have so many ameneties we take for granted. We have the largest percentage of disposable income and the most opportunities to generate extra income! The only thing I would change would be to move all my income online so I can live in a lower cost of living place, save and invest more of my income so that when I am ready to retire, I can make have the same standard of living doing nothing except having fun.

Hubris has become the new American mantra. Those that live here or come over here and work hard will do well. There are plenty of opportunities for those who will put in the time. Most immigrants that come over here and do well do so because they do not have our bad habits. Americans have to unlearn these habits first.

Quality of life is not only money. Our middle class does well. Even our poor do not have to suffer much. They get housing and food. It may not be up to par with the guy making $50,000 or even $30,000 but it does not have a dirt floor either.

For those that say the middle class is dead, you're wrong. Dead wrong. Poor = dont work, dont own anything. Rich = Dont work BECAUSE they own everythoing. Middle Class= work for what they own, spend the most money. If you have a job, you're middle class. You may be broke, but that is not poor. BIG difference. The casts system never went anywhere. There are still nobles, merchants, peasants, and squatters in America just as there were in Europe in the middle ages. We just changed the names. The good thing about America is you can transcend your level if you want to.

For anyone looking to come over from anywhere else, come on in, the water is fine!!!

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gunoi October 2, 2014 at 9:39 pm

I realise that this is an very old thread. However many of the laurels posted here were and are not valid then and now.
America was and still remains a country of slaves. 90% of Americans slave daily so the rest of the 10% will aquire
more wealth and power. Today (2014) most of Americans need at least two incomes just to keep their noses above water.
If you like to be a slave, go to America. If you want to feed the sharks go to America.
And this comes from an American.

XAmer

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Marcie June 26, 2011 at 5:20 am

I'd like to know where everyone is working to make atleast 10k U.S. Currency a month? I'm from kentucky and I dont know one single person that makes that much… After taxes being cut out I thought bringing home 3k a month was awesome, but according to almost everyones post on here I should be dead by now! lol. Where i'm from rent is usually between $300-$500 a month utilities are never over $400.00. Reading these posts makes me appreciate the things that I do have :)

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Max Hendrix July 1, 2011 at 9:19 am

Hi Marcie. A lot of talking in this blog. But your commend seams very fair(sorry for my bad english, I ‘m from the netherlands. I have a question for you. I hope you can help me. We are(2 persons…no children) preparing a move from the netherlands to Florida in let’s say 3 years from now. Could you give me a global indication in the costs of living? Things like: electricity, water, sewer, garbage, house insurance cabel tv, internet etc etc. I thank you already, Max.

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cuban in US November 5, 2011 at 3:56 am

Max I was in your country in the last december. I liked it but it is too cold for me. I am going to give the cost of Miami, the most expensive city in Florida, the other cities of the state will be cheaper.

Electricity- 130.00 USD in the summer (less in the "winter")
Rent 1 bed 1 bath-750.00
Water-free
Gas-If availabe is free
Sewer & garbage – you dont' pay for this if you rent an apartment
House insurance – you don't pay for this if you are rented. If you buy a house will be very expensive for the hurricanes
Internet – 30.00
Cable – 45.00
Food – it depends of what do you like but not too much expensive
Gas – 3.35 a gallon
Car insurance – very expensive – the maximum coverage for 2 cars around – 270.00 per month
Public transportation – 2.00 per trip (cheaper if you get monthly tickect, however, it is not like in Netherlands because is very limited unfortunately)

If you want to know about somenthing specific just let me know.

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Linda July 12, 2011 at 1:39 am

It is so true, Marcie..when Americans travel overseas, they are so shocked by the cost and many actually become very appreciated. For your reference, I am from Australia, $300 is just enough for a tiny 1 bedroom apartment with no parking space for just 1 WEEK.
Or think it of this way, the average grocery cost for 1 WEEK in Australia for a family is $300 to $350…For a house, rental would be $3,000+ easily a month in Australia.

America is really affordable place to live – I am now in North America, I am so appreciated to have chance living here – I wish more Americans understand this and be content and appreciated with their life. Americans think owing a car is a necessity, in places like Japan, an imported car like VW Golf will be over $65,000 to $70,000, how much is it in US? Less than $16,000?

What makes USA a beautiful place is also opportunities – as long as you are willing to try.

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Geoff July 26, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Stielle hit it right on. All the rest of these stats from the USA only apply to the largest cities. 70% of the USA lives just like stielle described. Marcie I make that much in Ky but I'm in sales :) we r spoiled rotten in the USA!

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sky August 2, 2011 at 6:35 am

Hi, i have just went through my first interview of snr engineer job in a semiconductor company in New York,US. The office/plant is not really in NY city, but its abt 3-4hrs driving distance. Thus, i want to know what kind of salary that i should expected/ask for in case i got the job. I am married with no children, and i have a master degree with 6 to 7 years of working experience. I am currently working in Singapre and earning ard SGD65,000 per year( tax ard 15%, meaning i m bringing home less than 65k a year).
Thanks!

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Walminatah October 5, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I can not believe how much bias the media here in western europe generates, it is BULLSHIT! I live in norway with my norwegian dad and american mom. I visit the states approx. 2-4 times a year, and it is a freakin blessing! As someone posted above here, the only winners in scandinavian societies are the ethnic minorities. The government pays for everything and there cost of living is free, all his extra money goes to his pleasure.

But natives have to work and pay extremely high prices on everything! With an income above 120 000 dollars you have to pay 50%income tax, house prices average around 350 000 dollars and banks give you about 15 years to pay it off. New SUVs here cost about 200 000 dollars and you have to pay annual car fees around 2 000 dollars. But people making above 100 000 dollars before tax here are considered to live the "good life" with 10 year old cars and mediocre sized houses. Not to mention that a 0.5 liter bottle of soda here costs 3 dollars and a beer 15.

Believe me, europe is not that great!

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mushie November 4, 2011 at 6:22 am

how much is the cost of living in America, in states like California, Florida for a family of four?if you are getting around usd 75k-80k per annum, will you be bale to make it, and still have some savings.can someone break up for me costs like rental, education….etc.

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cuban in US November 8, 2011 at 5:18 am

Mushie, below find the cost of living in miami, the most expensive city of florida

Electricity- 150.00 USD in the summer (less in the "winter")
Rent 2 bed 2 bath-1000.00 or 3 bed 2 bath – 1200-1300 usd
Water-free
Gas (house)-If availabe is free with the rent of an apartment
Sewer & garbage – you dont' pay for this if you rent an apartment
House insurance – you don't pay for this if you are rented. If you buy a house will be very expensive for the hurricanes
Internet – 30.00
Cable – 45.00
Food – it depends of what do you like but not too much expensive
Gas – 3.35 a gallon
Car insurance – very expensive – the maximum coverage for 2 cars around – 270.00 per month
Public transportation – 2.00 per trip (cheaper if you get monthly tickect, however, it is not like in Netherlands because is very limited unfortunately)

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cuban in US November 8, 2011 at 5:19 am

If you want to know about somenthing specific just let me know. Between FL and CA earning the same amount of money I will choose FL because CA is very expensive. 75k-80k is a very good amount of money to live in FL, and if you live don't live in south florida it represents even more money.

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jowie December 28, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Hey y'all, i'm a non-American, most specifically an African, looking forward to get to the US to go on with my studies. I did elementary + secondary + high school in Africa, and even am starting with college to gain some experience before studying abroad. I belong to the middle class here and would like to know in which states/ cities it would be better for me to live, and if i could get internships, to 'lighten my parents burden' thank you :)

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Ke Liu July 10, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Hey, maybe you American guys complained too much about your awesome life. I'm from China and now I'm studying in Germany. I can tell you some things about living here and in China. Now I'm working on my Master and I have a small job in the university for 10.85 euro/h. You know? That's terrific for me! 1 L milk or 1 L orange juice costs only less than 1 euro in Germany, so if I work for 1 hour, I can have only juice and no water for more than one week! Maybe you're laughing now, but it's true. In China, for most families, juice is not the daily drink, but for the party, and 1L orange juice that costs 1 euro may have only 30% or less pure juice in it! And in China most people can only make about 2000 yuan a month(in the city, in the country should be less), and about 6 yuan is 1 USD. So, what do you think?

And when I found my life in Germany was terrific, some of my friends in American told me that, they can make about 4000 USD(after tax) a month and that draw me crazy, because a people at the same level in Germany can only make about 2000 euro after the tax, if you can make 3000 euro pro month in Germany, you can be one of the richest people.

See? I have to say, that lives are not fair, and I knows there are still maaaany people, who have much worse life than in China. So, just try to know the truth, you're the most lucky lives on this planet!=D

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Phano July 14, 2013 at 12:44 am

Can anyone share me some idea about living in Massachusetts, Lowell city in 2013?
What is a salary range for a skill worker?

Typical costs of living:
Rent for 1 bedroom?
Utilities?
TV / Phone?
Running a car?
Food / month?
Education cost?

Thanks,

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