- The cost of household essentials varies widely, depending on where you live.
- Idaho, Tennessee, and Texas are a few of the states with the lowest costs in certain categories.
- There are steps anyone can take, such as conserving energy and taking care of your health, to reduce how much they pay for their everyday expenses.
Did your state make the list?
Cost of living isn't the only -- or even the most important -- factor when deciding where you want to live, but it's definitely a topic on everyone's mind. While there are some states that tend to be more affordable than others, determining which has the cheapest cost of living isn't as simple as you might think.
Some states have affordable housing, but more expensive groceries and utilities or vice versa. Here's a look at which states offer the most affordable prices on five common household essentials.
Cheapest groceries: Texas
Texas groceries are 10.6% cheaper than the national average, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC). That amounts to nearly $776 in annual savings on groceries compared to what the average American household spends on them.
One reason groceries in Texas might be so cheap is because the state leads the nation in terms of the number of farms and ranches. With so much food grown close to home, it doesn't cost nearly as much to transport it, and grocery store owners are able to pass that savings on to their customers.
Cheapest housing: Mississippi
Mississippi housing prices are 36.2% below the national average, according to MERIC. That sets the average Mississippian's annual housing costs at $7,750 less than the typical American's. If you're curious how your state stacks up, check out our research on average housing prices by state.
Since housing is most people's largest expense, it's not surprising that Mississippi also has the lowest cost of living overall. However, it's worth noting that these figures are simply averages. It's likely that there are some areas of the state where costs are above average and others where costs are even lower than the state average suggests.
Cheapest utilities: Idaho
Idaho's overall cost of living falls toward the middle of the pack, but its utility costs are surprisingly affordable. Residents pay 18.2% less than the national average, according to MERIC. That's a savings of about $757 per year compared to what the average American pays for their utilities.
Idaho is able to keep its costs down because over half of its electric costs come from hydropower rather than traditional power plants. The state actually has the fourth-highest share of renewable energy in the nation. And its natural gas usage falls within the lowest third of states in the nation.
Cheapest transportation: Tennessee
Transportation costs in Tennessee are 12.1% lower than the national average. That amounts to an average annual savings of $1,189 over the typical American.
But actual savings likely depend upon where in the state you live. Those who live in cities and have access to public transportation will likely save more than those who live in rural areas and must drive more frequently.
Cheapest healthcare: Arkansas
Arkansas's average health insurance cost is 19.9% below the U.S. average. That will save the typical household over $1,030 compared to the average American. But there are a lot of variables here.
Older adults and individuals with chronic health conditions may save more than they would if they lived in another state. But they may also spend more than someone who visits the doctor less frequently.
Tips for saving on your essential costs
If your state didn't make the list above, that doesn't mean you're doomed to pay high costs for everything. And if your state did make the list, that doesn't mean you're always getting a great deal. Like anything, you need to be conscious of what you're spending and look for ways to keep costs down. Here are some tips to help:
- Shop sales and look for coupons to use at the grocery store.
- Compare costs on apartments or homes before you buy, and don't forget to include related costs, like home insurance and maintenance.
- Turn off lights and TVs when you're not using them and consider raising or lowering your thermostat a couple degrees, depending on the season.
- Use public transportation whenever possible and combine errands so you don't need to drive as often.
- Do your best to stay healthy and invest in good health insurance coverage to reduce your out-of-pocket medical costs.
No matter where you live, making moves like these can help you reduce your monthly costs without changing your lifestyle too much. See if you can brainstorm some additional ways to save and then put them into action.
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