Making six figures is the goal from the moment we leave home and strike out on our own. Then we find out that entry-level jobs are far less and we have to work our way up to six figures (and hopefully more!). GoBankingRates annually reviews U.S. cities across the country to find those where you can live comfortably for less than $100k. It looks at the cost of living, average rents and home prices, median salaries, and – the best part – the quality of life because we know we can live cheap in the boonies but what we really want is a place where can we live, work and play.
Here’s a look at the best cities to live, in every state.
The top cities where your money goes the furthest
When it comes to affordability, the annual costs for necessities such as a place to live, utilities, and food were lowest in the South and Northwest states but there were a couple of northeastern states that made the cut. These cities all fell below the $40k mark for costs of annual necessities.
|City||Total annual necessities cost|
|Fort Polk South, Louisiana||$28,728|
|Fort Thomas, Kentucky||$38,539|
|Miles City, Montana||$31,895|
|Tonawanda, New York||$34,669|
|West Fargo, North Dakota||$38,089|
|Mauldin, South Carolina||$35,018|
|Brandon, South Dakota||$38,928|
|Teays Valley, West Virginia||$36,263|
|De Pere, Wisconsin||$38,134|
The top cities for comfortable living
Only 10 of 50 cities receive livability scores above 93 out of 100 points, and more than half of them are in the Midwest.
|City||Total annual necessities cost|
|Fort Thomas, Kentucky||94|
|Short Pump, Virginia||93|
|De Pere, Wisconsin||93|
The cities where you can earn the most
Twelve of the 50 cities had median annual salaries of just over six figures so although take-home pay may be less than $100k (especially if you are maxing out your 401k
), they are the highest-earning states in the review.
|Marina del Rey, California||$112,050|
|Simsbury Center, Connecticut||$108,264|
|Pike Creek, Delaware||$114,865|
|Greentree, New Jersey||$128,797|
|White Rock, New Mexico||$135,929|
|Holly Springs, North Carolina||$104,822|
|Short Pump, Virginia||$109,384|
The best of the best
Not one city appeared within the top 10 of all three study components, but six did appear in at least two top 10s. These are the best of the best places to live on $100k or less – all of them suburbs of thriving cities.
Ranked as the best place to live in America by Town & Country and Money magazines, this suburban city outside of Indianapolis is renowned for its affordable cost of living, great schools, and safe neighborhoods. The city has more than 91,000 residents and is filled with indoor and outdoor fun. But, of course, it is close enough to Indianapolis if you need to work in a big city or want more excitement.
Another top suburban city is Dormont, within Pittsburgh’s metropolitan area. Livability calls the area a “testbed and proving ground for world-shaping technologies and innovations” while Area Vibes named it the Keystone State’s most livable city. Allegheny County is both a mix of city and country life, as well, providing residents with the best of both worlds.
Short Pump, Virginia
Richmond’s suburban Short Pump is considered Virginia’s best-kept secret. Filled with lots of parks and restaurants, the city features top-rated schools, shopping, and home values so good that its residents are more likely to own than rent. In fact, most of the city is made up of homeowners.
De Pere, Wisconsin
You’ll find De Pere outside of Green Bay, and it is Wisconsin's top place to live. According to Area Vibes, De Pere ranks better than 90% of cities in the U.S. for livability. Young professionals love this community for its proximity to the city and its own array of parks, restaurants, and shops, not to mention good schools.
Fort Thomas, Kentucky
Across the river from Cincinnati is Kentucky's best city and a reason many who work in the Ohio city live across the border. The city has low unemployment rates and crime is in the lowest 10% for the state. Plus, all you have to do is cross the river into Ohio when you seek big city life or more job ops.
This St. Louis suburb provides a more rural feel within miles of city life. Highly rated schools, outdoor space to enjoy, and low crime rates make Eureka popular for young families, plus its median income is above six figures.
Ways to live comfortably where you live
But we get it: You may not want to move to these cities and like where you are. There are ways you live comfortably on less than $100k.
Lower your monthly bills.
Break free of living paycheck to paycheck by living below your means. The easiest way to do spend less is to make cuts but they don't all have to be on the fun stuff. Finding ways to lower your monthly bills
– a little here, a little there – can add up.
We know this is a tired "how-to" but it is repeated for a reason: If you don't know where your money is going every month, it's easy to overspend and to get into debt. Creating a budget
in a way that is not overwhelming to you and that can be followed if the best way to stay on track.
Get a side hustle.
If you are in a cycle of living paycheck to paycheck and even small changes are not helping, getting a part-time job or working a side hustle
to bring in extra money may be just what you need to get caught up and then get ahead.