5 charts reveal the US cities where groceries, gas, and everyday expenses eat up your paycheck — like San Francisco or Washington, DC

Grocery and other bills can add up in these cities. Joe Raedle / Staff / Getty Images

The basic necessities of life cost a lot more in New York City than in Memphis, Tennessee.

Clever Real Estate, a real estate referral site that connects potential buyers with realtors, used Bureau of Economic Analysis spending data and Sperling’s Best Places‘ cost of living index for US cities to find how much money a typical person spends on different expenses in 75 major metro areas.

They estimated the average amount of money spent every two weeks on housing and utilities, groceries, health care, and transportation in each of the cities.

To estimate the amount of money spent on particular expense category in a major metro area, the company started with the BEA’s figures on how much the average resident of each state spent on that category. They then adjusted those spending figures by Sperling’s metro area cost of living index for that category, relative to its state’s cost of living.

For instance, California’s health care cost of living index is 92.4 and San Francisco‘s health care cost of living index is 104.7, meaning health care is 12.48% more expensive in San Francisco than in California as a whole. Annual per capita spending on health care in 2018 in California was $US7,543, or $US290.12 every two weeks. Using these figures, the biweekly health care cost for someone living in San Francisco would be estimated at $US328.73, 12.48% higher than the state total.

San Francisco, San Jose, and Honolulu made the top of Sperling’s list of metro areas with the worst overall cost of living. At the state-level, Hawaii, DC, California, and Massachusetts have the worst cost of living.

Multiple cities in California made the top of the list of cities that spend the most on biweekly housing and utility costs per person, while multiple cities in Connecticut were at the top of the list for the most money spent on groceries per person. Housing and utilities are the largest expense per person in America, according to Clever Real Estate.

Using Clever Real Estate’s calculations and Sperling’s Best Places cost of living index, the following four charts show the 13 cities among the 75 most-populous US metro areas where the average person spends the most in the four spending categories. The minimum values of the graphs are the US biweekly averages for each of the expenses, so that we can observe how much more money is spent in these cities than in the nation as a whole. We also included a chart that ranks the cities with the worst overall living costs by metro area with of a population size of at least 300,000.

San Francisco residents spend almost double the US average on housing and utilities.


The US average spent on housing and utilities biweekly is $US301.81.

Multiple cities in Florida, Massachusetts, and Connecticut made the top of the list for cities that spend the most of their biweekly paycheck on groceries.


The US average spent on groceries biweekly is $US117.96. Biweekly spending on groceries varied less across major cities than other expenses did, ranging between $US95 and $US173. Additionally, most cities that fell above the national average did not spend all that much more than the average – 19 of the 30 cities above the average spent about $US2 to $US10 more than the typical American.

Residents in Washington, DC typically spend more on health care biweekly than residents of any other metro area.


The US average spent on health care biweekly is $US276.58. Clever Real Estate noted the data excluded health insurance costs. According to the BEA’s definition, health care expenditures include dental, paramedical, and physician, hospital and nursing home services.

Residents in large metro areas, such as Los Angeles and New York, spend more on transportation expenses than other cities.


The US average spent on transportation biweekly is $US115.66. Transportation is the second biggest contributor to the New York metro area’s cost of living index score, right behind housing.

10 of 15 cities with the worst cost of living scores were in California.


The cost of living index examines how expensive a state or city is overall based on its different living expenses. In the above chart, the average cost of living for the US as a whole is set to 100.

Sperling’s cost of living index includes a set of typical expenses with weights attached to each of them to generate an overall score: housing’s weight is 30%, food and groceries’ weight is 15%, transportation’s weight is 10%, utilities’ weight is 6%, health care’s weight is 7%, and other expenses’ weight is 32%.

San Francisco is 125% more expensive than the US – more than double the cost of living in the rest of the country. The city’s outlandish housing expenses contribute to its high score.