How Much You’d Need to Survive in America’s 9 Most Expensive Cities

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Whenever I watch sitcoms about 20-something professionals living it up in New York City, I always have one question: How could they possibly afford that apartment?

Despite what TV shows and movies would have us believe, you have to make serious bank to afford rent in certain cities.

New York City, San Francisco, and Boston have some of the expensive rent in the U.S., and many new grads would be hard-pressed to afford the cost of living there on their starting salaries.

If you’re living in any of the places on this list, you might have trouble finding an affordable apartment. These nine cities have some of the highest rent in the country.

1. San Francisco

The folks at Apartment List crunched the numbers and the results are in: San Francisco has the most expensive rent in the country. The median price for a one-bedroom apartment is a whopping $2,450 per month. Adding another bedroom will set you back $3,080 every month.

A common rule of thumb is to spend about one-third of your income on rent. According to federal regulations, a family that spends more than 30 percent on rent is considered “cost burdened.” Following this rule, you’d need to earn roughly $7,300 per month to comfortably rent a one-bedroom in San Francisco.

Of course, some people choose to spend 50 percent or more on rent to live in expensive cities. But if you increase your rent budget, you’ll have less left over to put into your emergency fund or pay off student debt.

Kevin Miller is a former San Francisco resident who felt the financial squeeze. “In San Francisco, a $100,000 annual salary felt like $75,000 in LA or $50,000 in Florida, where I grew up,” said Miller. “Everything is more expensive but mainly transportation, food, and drink are outrageous.”

You might be attracted to San Francisco’s exciting tech scene — but you also might need close to a six-figure salary to enjoy all the city has to offer.

2. New York City

It will come as no surprise that the Big Apple also makes the list of the most expensive cities in the U.S. The city that never sleeps is full of world-class restaurants and cultural activities — but you’ll have to pay sky-high prices to live near them.

According to Apartment List, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,090 per month. To comfortably afford these prices, you’d need to make $6,270 per month, or $75,240 per year.

“The cost of living in New York is extremely high,” said Jennifer McDermott, communications manager at Finder.com. “Everything from groceries to transport and rent [is] priced at a premium.

“I live in a modest-sized two-bedroom apartment which costs $5,000 per month in rent,” she added. “When I tell people from out of town how much I pay, their eyes pop, but when I tell fellow New Yorkers, they actually think I have a pretty good deal.”

As a center of finance, media, and publishing, New York might have the job opportunities you’re looking for. But you might need to deal with a shoebox apartment for a few years as you build your career.

3. San Jose

Traveling an hour south of San Francisco won’t lower your cost of rent by much. To live in San Jose, prepare to spend $2,050 for a one-bedroom apartment or $2,570 for a two-bedroom.

Like San Francisco, San Jose’s prices have gone up along with the rise of Silicon Valley. In fact, San Jose is known as the capital of Silicon Valley.

Assuming you pay one-third of your gross income on rent, you’d need to make over $6,000 per month to live comfortably in this city.

4. Washington, D.C.

If you’re interested in a career in government or politics, you might be drawn to the nation’s capital — but you could be stuck with a few roommates.

According to a 2017 survey by Zumper, a one-bedroom apartment will eat up $2,210 per month. You probably won’t be able to build a savings account unless you’re taking in $6,600 per month or more.

5. Los Angeles

With a population of 3.98 million, LA is the second-biggest city in the U.S. But to live near the bright lights of Hollywood, be prepared to spend big on rent.

Zumper puts a rented one-bedroom at $2,100. If you’re going to afford rent and have enough leftover to enjoy the city, you’ll need to make $6,300 per month or more.

6. Boston

As home to 35 colleges, Boston’s rent prices mirror the costs of a higher education — they just keep going up.

The median rent of a one-bedroom in Boston has risen to $1,680, according to Apartment List. Unless you’re making more than the median household income of $59,039, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, you could be living paycheck to paycheck in the capital of Massachusetts.

7. Anaheim, California

If you’re looking for trends among this list of the most expensive cities to live in the U.S., here’s one: California isn’t cheap. Like San Francisco and LA, Anaheim has hefty rent prices.

Apartment List reveals a one-bedroom costs $1,610 and a two-bedroom is about $2,070 per month. Given the high cost of living in Anaheim, you’ll need a high income — about $4,800 per month — to enjoy the city’s 280 days of sunshine per year.

8. Jersey City, New Jersey

Jersey City has long been an affordable alternative to NYC for people who work in the city. But as the population grows, the cost of living has risen with it. These days, Jersey City is one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., at least in terms of apartment rentals.

Apartment List puts the median one-bedroom at $1,580 and two-bedroom at $1,880. Although you’ll pay a lot less than in Manhattan, you’ll still be paying $421 per month more than the national median reported by Zumper.

Of course, it could be worth the cost for easy access to New York City. Buses, shuttles, trains, and ferries run all day, or you could drive into the city in 30 minutes or less.

9. San Diego

Another city in California rounds out this list. San Diego might seem like a surfer’s paradise, but when those surfers hang up their boards they’re probably heading off to work in some of the highest-paying jobs.

Without a high salary, they’d be hard-pressed to pay the rent, which costs about $1,560 for a one-bedroom apartment. To hang 10 in this beach city, aim to make $4,680 per month or more.

Are the most expensive cities in the U.S. worth the cost?

It’s no secret that many of the cities on this list are exciting places to live. They offer tons of cultural events, museums, restaurants, and nightlife, along with the chance to live beside diverse people from all over the world.

But before choosing one of these cities as your home base, consider the impact it will have on your finances. Rent a $2,450 one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, for instance, and you’d shell out more than $29,000 per year on rent alone.

That’s $22,320 more than you’d pay per year in, say, Toledo, Ohio, where the monthly rent for a one-bedroom is just $590. That difference is especially huge if you’re trying to pay off student loans or build a retirement savings account.

At the same time, you might find more job opportunities — and the chance for a higher income — in one of these pricey cities. Plus, there are creative ways to increase your income with a side gig or reduce your cost of living by living with roommates or cooking at home.

Ultimately, a number of factors come into play when choosing where to live. It’s up to you to figure out what makes sense for your finances. And if your current zip code is breaking the bank, you could always relocate to one of the most affordable cities in the U.S.

Interested in a personal loan?

Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2018!
LenderAPR RangeLoan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 6.990% APR to 14.865% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 6.255% APR to 12.555% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 1, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. See APR examples and terms. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 6.255% APR assumes current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 4.425% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

    To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull.See Consumer Licenses.
  2. Minimum Credit Score: Not all applicants who meet SoFi’s minimum credit score requirements are approved for a personal loan. In addition to meeting SoFi’s minimum eligibility criteria, applicants must also meet other credit and underwriting requirements to qualify.
  3. SoFi Personal Loans are not available to residents of MS. Maximum interest rate on loans for residents of AK and WY is 9.99% APR, for residents of IL with loans over $40,000 is 8.99% APR, for residents of TX is 9.99% APR on terms greater than 5 years, for residents of CO, CT, HI, VA, SC is 11.99% APR, and for residents of ME is 12.24% APR. Personal loans not available to residents of MI who already have a student loan with SoFi. Personal Loans minimum loan amount is $5,000. Residents of AZ, MA, and NH have a minimum loan amount of $10,001. Residents of KY have a minimum loan amount of $15,001. Residents of PA have a minimum loan amount of $25,001. Variable rates not available to residents of AK, TX, VA, WY, or for residents of IL for loans greater than $40,000.
  4. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Payoff.

Payoff Disclosures

  1. All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.

3 Important Disclosures for FreedomPlus.

FreedomPlus Disclosures

  1. All loans available through FreedomPlus.com are made by Cross River Bank, a New Jersey State Chartered Commercial Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. All loan and rate terms are subject to eligibility restrictions, application review, credit score, loan amount, loan term, lender approval, and credit usage and history. Eligibility for a loan is not guaranteed. Loans are not available to residents of all states – please call a FreedomPlus representative for further details. The following limitations, in addition to others, shall apply: FreedomPlus does not arrange loans in: (i) Arizona under $10,500; (ii) Massachusetts under $6,500, (iii) Ohio under $5,500, and (iv) Georgia under $3,500. Repayment periods range from 24 to 60 months. The range of APRs on loans made available through FreedomPlus is 4.99% to a maximum of 29.99%. APR. The APR calculation includes all applicable fees, including the loan origination fee. For Example, a four year $20,000 loan with an interest rate of 15.49% and corresponding APR of 18.34% would have an estimated monthly payment of $561.60 and a total cost payable of $7,948.13. To qualify for a 4.99% APR loan, a borrower will need excellent credit on a loan of $15,000 with a term of 24 months, and qualify for at least two of the following discounts: (1) add a co-borrower who has sufficient income; (2) use at least fifty percent of the loan proceeds to directly pay off existing debt; or (3) show proof of having at least forty-thousand dollars in retirement savings – contact FreedomPlus for further details.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate DisclosureFixed interest rates from 6.49% – 19.49% (6.49% – 19.49% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates range from 5.99%-18.99% (5.99%-18.99% APR), are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.

LendingPoint Disclosures

  • Loan approval is not guaranteed. Actual loan offers and loan amounts, terms and annual percentage rates (“APR”) may vary based upon LendingPoint’s proprietary scoring and underwriting system’s review of your credit, financial condition, other factors, and supporting documents or information you provide. Origination or other fees from 0% to 6% may apply depending upon your state of residence. Upon LendingPoint’s final underwriting approval to fund a loan, said funds are often sent via ACH the next non-holiday business day. LendingPoint makes loan offers from $2,000 to $25,000, at rates ranging from a low of 15.49% APR to a high of 34.49% APR, with terms from 24 to 48 months. The loan offer(s) shown reflect a 28 day payment cycle which is being offered as a courtesy as many of our customers are paid on a biweekly schedule and thus this may better align the loan payment dates with your actual income receipt schedule.

6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.

LendingClub Disclosures

All loans made by WebBank, Member FDIC. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, and credit usage & history. The APR ranges from 6.95% to 35.89%*. The origination fee ranges from 1% to 6% of the original principal balance and is deducted from your loan proceeds. For example, you could receive a loan of $6,000 with an interest rate of 7.99% and a 5.00% origination fee of $300 for an APR of 11.51%. In this example, you will receive $5,700 and will make 36 monthly payments of $187.99. The total amount repayable will be $6,767.64. Your APR will be determined based on your credit at the time of application. The average origination fee is 5.49% as of Q1 2017. In Georgia, the minimum loan amount is $3,025. In Massachusetts, the minimum loan amount is $6,025 if your APR is greater than 12%. There is no down payment and there is never a prepayment penalty. Closing of your loan is contingent upon your agreement of all the required agreements and disclosures on the www.lendingclub.com website. All loans via LendingClub have a minimum repayment term of 36 months. Borrower must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or be in the United States on a valid long term visa and at least 18 years old. Valid bank account and Social Security number are required. Equal Housing Lender. All loans are subject to credit approval. LendingClub’s physical address is: LendingClub, 71 Stevenson Street, Suite 1000, San Francisco, CA 94105.

†Per reviews collected and authenticated by Bazaarvoice in compliance with the Bazaarvoice Authentication Requirements, supported by anti-fraud technology and human analysis. All reviews can be reviewed at reviews.lendingclub.com

**Based on approximately 60% of borrowers who received offers through LendingClub’s marketing partners between January 1, 2018 to July 20,2018. The time it will take to fund your loan may vary.


7 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Earnest does not lend in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, or Rhode Island.

8 Important Disclosures for Avant.

Avant Disclosures

* The actual rate and loan amount that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination and other factors. Funds are generally deposited via ACH for delivery next business day if approved by 4:30pm CT Monday-Friday. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.

** Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33


* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

* Your loan terms are not guaranteed and are subject to our verification and review process. You may be asked to provide additional documents to enable us to verify your income and your identity. This rate includes an Autopay APR reduction of 0.5%. By enrolling in Autopay your payments will be automatically deducted from you bank account. Selecting Autopay is optional. Annual Percentage Rate is inclusive of a loan origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. All loans made by WebBank, member FDIC. Please refer to Upgrade’s Terms of Use and Borrower Agreement for all terms, conditions and requirements.

** Accept your loan offer and your funds will be sent to your bank via ACH within one (1) business day of clearing necessary verifications. Availability of the funds is dependent on how quickly your bank processes this transaction. From the time of approval, funds should be available within four (4) business days.

7.73% – 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000

Visit Upstart

6.26% – 14.87%1$5,000 - $100,000

Visit SoFi

6.99% – 35.97%*$1,000 - $50,000

Visit Upgrade

5.99% – 24.99%2$5,000 - $35,000

Visit Payoff

4.99% – 29.99%3$10,000 - $35,000

Visit FreedomPlus

5.99% – 18.99%4$5,000 - $50,000

Visit Citizens

15.49% – 34.49%5$2,000 - $25,000

Visit LendingPoint

6.95% – 35.89%6$1,000 - $40,000

Visit LendingClub

6.99% – 18.24%7$5,000 - $75,000

Visit Earnest

9.95% – 35.99%8$2,000 - $35,000

Visit Avant

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.