It’s easy to imagine big city life as being glamorous, exciting and expensive. We picture busy professionals with amazing jobs, living in high-rise, waterfront apartments. But wait, how much of their income are they really saving, given the higher cost of living they face?

We were curious about this, so we analyzed how much Americans would need to earn in order to live comfortably and save some money while residing in the 10 of the most expensive cities in the U.S.

We also included high-paying jobs with great reputations, but won’t allow you to save adequately and live a cushy life in these cities.

10. Dallas, TX

Brunch time in Dallas is not taken lightly. Plus, you can get all this, for $6.50! Image via Flickr
Brunch time in Dallas is not taken lightly. Plus, you can get all this, for $6.50! Image via Flickr

Average annual spending of a Dallas resident: $56,827
Average annual housing cost: $19,033
Average taxes paid: $8,422

 To live well, but save nothingTo live well and save 10%To live well and save 25%
Your annual income needs to be:$65,249$72,498$86,998
Your hourly wage should be:$31.37$34.86$41.83
Annual savings:$0$7,250$21,750

High-paying jobs that won’t enable you to earn enough:

– Airfield operations specialist: $60,760/year or $29.21/hour
– MRI technologist: $71,550/year or $34.40/hour
– Registered nurse: $71,910/year or $34.57/hour

9. Stamford, CT

Stamford residents know that boredom can be fixed with a short train ride to NYC. Image via Flickr
Stamford residents know that boredom can be fixed with a short train ride to NYC. Image via Flickr

Average annual spending of a Stamford resident: $57,027
Average annual housing cost: $20,341
Average taxes paid: $13,164

 To live well, but save nothingTo live well and save 10%To live well and save 25%
Your annual income needs to be:$70,191$77,990$93,588
Your hourly wage should be:$33.75$37.50$44.99
Annual savings:$0$7,799$23,397

You’ll still struggle if you have any of these respectable jobs:

– Power plant operator: $68,660/year or $33.01/hour
– Human resources specialist: $69,610/year or $33.47/hour
– Computer science professor: $72,450/year or $34.83/hour

8. Boston, MA

Jaywalking isn’t just a New Yorker thing. Bostonians jaywalk incessantly. So much so, that they don’t even get ticketed for it. Image via Flickr
Jaywalking isn’t just a New Yorker thing. Bostonians jaywalk incessantly. So much so, that they don’t even get ticketed for it. Image via Flickr

Average annual spending of a Boston resident: $65,650
Average annual housing cost: $21,384
Average taxes paid: $12,011

 To live well, but save nothingTo live well and save 10%To live well and save 25%
Your annual income needs to be:$77,661$86,290$103,548
Your hourly wage should be:$37.34$41.49$49.78
Annual savings:$0$8,629$25,887

Great jobs with great pay, but without the great life:

– Microbiologist: $68,290/year or $32.83/hour
– Market research analyst: $74,010/year or $35.58/hour
– Physical therapist: $82,440/year or $39.63/hour

7. Miami, FL

Rule number one: if you live in Miami, you don’t party at South Beach, ever. Image via Flickr
Rule number one: if you live in Miami, you don’t party at South Beach, ever. This guy is clearly a tourist. Image via Flickr

Average annual spending of a Miami resident: $40,604
Average annual housing cost: $16,212
Average taxes paid: $6,328

 To live well, but save nothingTo live well and save 10%To live well and save 25%
Your annual income needs to be:$46,932$52,147$62,577
Your hourly wage should be:$22.56$25.07$30.08
Annual savings:$0$5,215$15,644

Welcome to Miami, where these jobs won’t suffice:

– Radiologic technologist: $48,310/year or $23.22/hour
– Credit counselor: $49,780/year or $23.93/hour
– IT support specialist: $50,530/year or $24.29/hour

6. Honolulu, HI

Yes, there’s traffic in paradise too. Honolulu, Hawaii was once ranked as the second most congested city for traffic, after L.A. Image via Flickr
Yes, there’s traffic in paradise too. Honolulu, Hawaii was once ranked as the second most congested city for traffic, after L.A. Image via Flickr

Average annual spending of a Honolulu resident: $55,460
Average annual housing cost: $19,376
Average taxes paid: $4,677

 To live well, but save nothingTo live well and save 10%To live well and save 25%
Your annual income needs to be:$60,137$66,819$80,182
Your hourly wage should be:$28.91$32.12$38.55
Annual savings:$0$6,682$20,046

Living in Hawaii won’t be the same as vacation in Hawaii, if you any have these jobs:

– Bus and truck mechanic: $56,170/year or $27.01/hour
– Insurance underwriter: $59,890/year or $28.79/hour
– Marriage and family therapist: $69,560/year or $29.11/hour

5. Washington, D.C.

Not surprisingly, it’s very common for Washington D.C. residents to ask, “So, what do you do for a living?” Image via Flickr
Not surprisingly, it’s very common for Washington D.C. residents to ask, “So, what do you do for a living?” Image via Flickr

Average annual spending of a Washington, D.C. resident: $80,452
Average annual housing cost: $28,416
Average taxes paid: $32,812

 To live well, but save nothingTo live well and save 10%To live well and save 25%
Your annual income needs to be:$113,264$125,845$151,018
Your hourly wage should be:$54.45$60.50$71.60
Annual savings:$0$12,585$37,755

Even with these elite jobs, D.C. still isn’t affordable:

– Computer programmer: $92,460/year or $44.45/hour
– Mechanical engineer: $110,060/year or $52.91/hour
– Pharmacist: $113,540/year or $54.59/hour

4. Chicago, IL

Anyone who lives in Chicago knows that hanging out at the Navy Pier only means one thing: they’re with out-of-town guests. Image via NavyPierChicago Instagram
Anyone who lives in Chicago knows that hanging out at the Navy Pier only means one thing: they’re with out-of-town guests. Image via NavyPierChicago Instagram

Average annual spending of a Chicago resident: $57,919
Average annual housing cost: $20,527
Average taxes paid: $9,664

 To live well, but save nothingTo live well and save 10%To live well and save 25%
Your annual income needs to be:$67,583$75,093$90,111
Your hourly wage should be:$32.49$36.10$43.32
Annual savings:$0$7,509$22,528

The Windy City will blow you away once you find out how little you save with these jobs:

– Aircraft mechanic: $65,880/year or $31.67/hour
– Chemist: $70,830/year or $34.05/hour
– Registered nurse: $73,540/year or $35.35/hour

3. San Francisco, CA

You’re not a true San Franciscan unless you know about ParkMobile (an app that lets you feed the parking meters through your smartphone). A parking ticket in SF costs about $76. Image via Flickr
You’re not a true San Franciscan unless you know about ParkMobile (an app that lets you feed the parking meters through your smartphone). A parking ticket in SF costs about $76. Image via Flickr

Average annual spending of a San Francisco resident: $70,807
Average annual housing cost: $25,366
Average taxes paid: $7,690

 To live well, but save nothingTo live well and save 10%To live well and save 25%
Your annual income needs to be:$78,498$87,220$104,664
Your hourly wage should be:$37.74$41.93$50.32
Annual savings:$0$8,722$26,166

You wouldn’t be able to make it in San Francisco with these jobs:

– Human resource specialist: $86,110/year or $41.40/hour
– Electrician: $86,670/year or $41.67/hour
– Accountant: $87,840/year or $42.23/hour

2. Los Angeles, CA

“We need more actors and hipsters in this town," is one thing you’ll never hear an Angelino say. Image via Flickr
“We need more actors and hipsters in this town,” is one thing you’ll never hear an Angelino say. Image via Flickr

Average annual spending of an Los Angeles resident: $55,852
Average annual housing cost: $21,353
Average taxes paid: $7,690

 To live well, but save nothingTo live well and save 10%To live well and save 25%
Your annual income needs to be:$63,543$70,603$84,724
Your hourly wage should be:$30.55$33.94$40.73
Annual savings:$0$7,060$21,189

None of these jobs will get you the house in the hills:

– Epidemiologist: $57,640/year or $27.71/hour
– Physical therapist assistant: $64,500/year or $31.01/hour
– Web developer: $69,270/year or $33.30/hour

1. New York City, NY

This “cozy" two-bedroom in NYC’s Lower East Side can be yours for a monthly rental price of $3,200. It even comes with its own "exit" sign. Image via Craigslist
This “cozy” two-bedroom in NYC’s Lower East Side can be yours for a monthly rental price of $3,200. It even comes with its own “exit” sign. Image via Craigslist

Average annual spending of a New York City resident: $60,791
Average annual housing cost: $24,187
Average taxes paid: $10,279

 To live well, but save nothingTo live well and save 10%To live well and save 25%
Your annual income needs to be:$71,010$78,967$94,760
Your hourly wage should be:$34.17$37.96$45.56
Annual savings:$0$7,897$23,690

These occupations only sound like they can fund the New York lifestyle:

– Forensic science technician: $64,140/year or $30.84/hour
– Landscape architect: $67,810/year or $32.60/hour
– Tax preparer: $69,730/year or $33.53/hour

Methodology

The most expensive U.S. cities are selected based on Mercer’s 2015 Cost of Living Rankings.

Average annual expenditures for U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are based on 2012-2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Average taxes paid by each state come from the U.S. Census Bureau as of July 2012. Average incomes for each MSA are based on the 2013 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The amount to live comfortably (before taxes) is calculated by adding the average annual expenditure and the average taxes paid.

Occupational employment statistics for each MSA is provided by the the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.

Do you live in any of these expensive cities and agree that it’s hard to save? Or do we have it all wrong and you find it easy to save? Comment on this story below or chime in our Facebook!

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Ask a Question

  • aman

    No wonder I’m having trouble saving!

    • Simon Zhen

      Hah, where do you live and what’s your occupation?

  • Zoe

    I thought SF would be #1,not New York. I’ve lived in both places, and you can still find reasonable places to live in Ny, you just have to be willing to go further out or live in a railroad type apartment, or a walk up. SF is a different story. BART is more expensive than the NY metro (it costs $5 to get from east bay to SF, one way, I think NY is $2.50). I also feel like SF cost of living is more expensive because it took me damn near 5 months to find a decent place in the area I wanted!But wow, the new york apartment on Craigslist $3200, is that how much it costs to live in the lower east side now?

    • Simon Zhen

      Zoe, gentrification of various parts of NYC is definitely leading to a major surge in rent prices. When people pay $800/month for a tiny apartment that can barely fit a bed, those rent prices don’t sound too far-fetched.

      SF does have a higher transportation cost that NY while housing costs are relatively similar — the major difference is your typical tax burden, which is higher in NY.

  • Taylor Sneider

    interesting list, thanks for the info. the amount of income is important, but whats more important is how you save. people always think wealth or a high income is equal to some six or seven digit number, but that’s bogus. you can still make $50k and save enough. how uncomfortable you’re willing to be, now that’s another story. if you’re smart about saving, you probably won’t live in one of these expensive cities, unless you don’t mind living with 3 roommates in a 1 bedroom apartment. i think once the cool factor of these cities wears off, a lot of people end up moving to a cheaper place