Cost of Living Calculator

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What is a Cost of Living Calculator?

If you've ever wondered how much it would cost to move to your dream city, you need a cost of living calculator. For context, cost of living describes the amount of money you need to cover your basic living expenses, including housing, food, and transportation costs.

Those figures can seem opaque and confusing, but that's where the cost of living calculator comes in. It helps you make cost of living comparisons that give you more insight into essential expenses you would be taking on after your move, starting with your rent.

Cost of Living Index Explained

Simply put, the cost of living index compares the cost of living in two different cities. It uses the number 100 as the national average and can indicate if a city is above or below that baseline. The factors used to make these comparisons can vary, but usually focuses on a few key categories.

How Is Cost of Living Determined?

Cost of living expenses fluctuate often, but the factors used to make these calculations have remained consistent. The following are the components considered when calculating cost of living comparisons.


Mortgage and rent are necessary expenses factored into cost of living comparisons. The index will show you the percentage difference between the cost of housing in both cities. For example, you’ll find the cost of rent is 6% lower in Abilene than in Amarillo, Texas.


Groceries and restaurants are another necessary expense factored into the cost of living comparisons. Our data shows grocery costs are 24.74% higher in Miami than in Atlanta, which could mean you need to tighten up your budget if you move.

The good news is you can look at individual items, like eggs and bread, and budget according to what you usually eat.


Transportation costs are a significant part of your budget, including servicing, repairs, and gasoline. We used our calculator to compare the cost of living between Chicago and Boston, showing that Windy City's gasoline is 2.63% more expensive.


Entertainment is a discretionary budget item, which is leftover money to spend on non-essentials, such as concerts. If you're moving somewhere expensive, you can always reduce your entertainment budget as much as possible to make room for transportation or rent.

You'll find a movie costs $13.60 in Denver and only $12.74 in Dallas, giving you an idea of the cost of living comparisons for entertainment.


Healthcare costs include doctor's visits, contact lens prescriptions, hospital stays, and anything healthcare-related. You'll find that healthcare costs in Seattle are 32.73% higher than in DC, with a $40.45 price difference for a dentist visit.

Of course, your health insurance plan could also dramatically change how much you'll spend.


Your income is essential to your cost of living and determines what apartment you can rent and your discretionary spending. Unfortunately, the cost of living calculator doesn't account for your income taxes, retirement, life insurance, or similar items.

However, our cost of living calculators makes it easy to determine what to expect from your current income. For example, if you earn $4,000 in Indianapolis, you'll need a monthly after-tax household income of $4,105 in Cleveland.

Other Costs to Consider

Your cost of living also considers expenses like toiletries, newspapers, yoga classes, dentist visits, prescription drugs, and other everyday expenses. So, for example, you can figure out how much you'll spend on a haircut or manicure.

You’ll still need to factor in budget categories that the cost of living index doesn’t, like your student loans or outstanding credit card debt.

How to Use Cost of Living Data

Cost of living data is invaluable for determining how much you'll need when moving from one city to another. For example, if you realize your income stretches farther in an area like Santa Fe over Phoenix, you can feel more financially secure when making the final decision on your move.

With a cost of living calculator in hand, you'll have more insights into the next steps of your rental journey and be able to learn how to set yourself up for success.

How Does This Calculator Work?

Apartment List’s Cost of Living Calculator features data collected by the Council for Community and Economic Research, also known as C2ER. The C2ER has consistently released cost of living index (COLI) reports since 1968 to keep those interested informed about fluctuations in living costs throughout the country. Their results reflect analyses from over 60 goods and services at a local level provided by more than 300 independent researchers. This makes C2ER the only localized cost of living index available within the U.S.

How Much Should I Spend on Rent?

If you are new to renting, you might be wondering: How much should I spend on rent? There are lots of factors that go into finding a home that you love, but the monthly housing cost is likely the most important factor. Before starting your apartment search, there are a few ways you can determine how much rent you can afford.

Budgeting Tips: The 50 30 20 Rule

The 50 30 20 rule was introduced by United States Senator Elizabeth Warren in her book "All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan." The book provides tons of personal financial advice, and the 50 30 20 rule was one of the highlighted concepts. If you are a first-time renter and still trying to nail down your budget, this fundamental rule is a good place to start. The 50-30-20 rule says that you should spend 50% of your after-tax income on necessities, 30% on discretionary spending, and set aside the remaining 20% to pay off debt and contribute to your savings.

15 Tips to Get Cheaper Rent for Your Apartment

Getting cheaper rent for your apartment is a primary concern for most renters. And how could it not be when rates are the highest they've ever been, according to recent reports? However, instead of getting overwhelmed by this new rental market, first, realize there are several things you can do to secure cheaper rent for yourself.

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