Millennials, Look to the Midwest! A Cost of Living Comparison

The Midwest sees some of the lowest costs of living of the United States’s five regions, but what exactly is your salary worth here? No matter what aspect of living expenses you look at, cities in the Midwest are consistently more economical than other regions in the United States. Everything from housing, food, utilities, to services is more affordable.

Cincinnati Chicago San Francisco Seattle
Dinner for Two (Mid-Range Restaurant) $50 $69 $75 $65
Domestic Beer $3 $5 $6 $5
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) $11 $12 $12 $11.50
State Sales Tax 7% 10.25% 8.75% 9.6%

This chart shows the average cost for a dinner out in Cincinnati, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle. Let’s compare a typical night out between Cincinnati and San Francisco. While a dinner out might cost you $65.27 including sales tax in Cincinnati, that same dinner would cost you about $23 more in San Francisco, or 35% more. However, it’s not just everyday expenses that add up outside the Midwest, housing costs compared to other regions have even more disparity.

Say you’re an entry-level software developer currently making $65,000 per year, and the average salary for your job is $63,000 per year. You’re currently looking for your first home and your budget is around $250,000. The chart below shows you how much home your dollar can afford:

Cincinnati Chicago San Francisco Seattle
Average Salary for Software Engineer $69,994 $76,677 $103,367 $92,451
Square Footage of $250,000 Home (City Center) 1350 800 500 700
Cost of Living Index 77.14 85.61 104.16 84.33

However, these are just estimates. What type of home could you actually buy in each of these cities in the current market within your budget?

Cincinnati

Cincinnati

If you’re looking to live in Cincinnati, this 1780 sq. ft. downtown apartment is currently on the market and within your budget.

Chicago

Chicago

In the Windy City, $250,000 would get you this 865 sq. ft. 1 bedroom apartment near the city center.

Seattle

Seattle

Check out the spacious bedroom in this 470 sq. ft. apartment in Seattle! This apartment is also within your $250,000 budget.

San Francisco

San Francisco

This 1 bedroom, 470 sq.ft. apartment is located in San Francisco; however, it comes in over your budget at almost $300,000.

While the Midwest offers a uniquely American experience and diverse communities, this isn’t the only pull for the modern first time home buyer. Whether you’re looking to live in a large city or a small suburb, your dollar will go much further in the midwestern US than any other region.

This is a guest post from Laura Zenni, University of Cincinnati student and intern at The Brandery.

  • Super interesting to see the visual representations of the differences ins sq/ft breakdowns, amazing. I’ll stick to the midwest for now.