Location, Location, Location

Visualizing the Best & Worst Cities in the U.S. for Saving Money

Question: Which U.S. cities are the best to live in if you're trying to save a high percentage of your income?

The answer isn't necessarily the cities with the highest salaries or even the cities with the lowest cost of living. The best cities for saving money are the ones with high salaries relative to the cost of living.

Lucky for us, the website Numbeo provides a metric that measures exactly this: local purchasing power. This number represents the average salary in a certain city compared to the prices of goods and services in that city. The higher the purchasing power, the further your salary goes in that city.

Numbeo uses New York City as a baseline with a purchasing power index of 100 and caclculates the purchasing power of 132 other major U.S. cities relative to NYC. So, a city with a purchasing power index of 200 is one where residents with an average salary can afford to buy 200% as many goods and services as New York City residents with an average salary.

Likewise, a city with a purchasing power index of 50 is one where residents with an average salary can only afford to buy 50% as many good and services as NYC residents with an average salary.

Check out the map below to see the 25 cities with the highest purchasing power index. Hover over or click on the individual circles for more information.

Sioux Falls, the most populous city in South Dakota, scores the number one position among the 133 major cities on the list with a local purchasing power index of 168.93. This means that residents in Sioux Falls with an average salary can afford to buy 68.93% more goods and services than New York City residents with an average salary.

There also seem to be a few distinct "pockets" in the U.S. that provide residents with high purchasing power:

Northern Ohio/ Southern Michigan: Ann Arbor (2), Cleveland (15), and Grand Rapids (23)

Texas: Dallas (3), San Antonio (5), Arlington (8), and Houston (16)

The southeast: Atlanta (7), Huntsville (9), and Chatanooga (18)

. . .

Now let's switch perspectives and take a look at the 25 cities with the lowest local purchasing power. These are the cities where goods and services are the least affordable relative to the average salary in that city.

Norfolk, Virginia ranks as the city with the lowest local purchasing power, with a score of 64.42. This means that residents in Norfolk with an average salary can only afford to buy 64.42% as many goods and services as New York City residents with an average salary.

This map is particularly interesting because it shows that differences in purchasing power can vary significantly between two cities that are within one hour of each other.

For example, Norfolk, VA landed the lowest score on the list while its neighbor Virginia Beach, VA earned the 10th highest score. Another example is Seattle, WA ranking 21st while its 15-minute-drive neighbor Bellevue, WA ranks 131st.

In general, the northeast coast seems to be filled with cities that have low purchasing power.

. . .

To see how your city ranks, check out the bar chart below that shows the local purchasing power index for all 133 major cities on the Numbeo list:

Technical notes: These visuals were created using D3.js, a javascript library for producing visualizations. Data was cleaned and formatted using Excel and R.

1,"1.","Sioux Falls","Sioux Falls, SD",168.93,-96.44,43.34
2, ,"Ann Arbor", ,163.57,-83.74,42.28
3, ,"Dallas", ,162.37,-96.51,32.51
4,"4.","Rochester","Rochester, NY", 158.71,-77.4,43.7
5,"5.","San Antonio","San Antonio, TX",154.92,-98.28,29.32
6,"6.","Memphis","Memphis, TN",154.91,-90,35.3
7, ,"Atlanta", ,153.77,-84.26,33.39
8,"8.","Arlington","Arlington, TX",152.9,-97.11,32.74
9, ,"Huntsville", ,152.26,-86.35,34.42
10,"10.","Virginia Beach","Virginia Beach, VA",151.73,-75.98,36.85
11,"11.","Colorado Springs","Colorado Springs, CO",150.89,-104.43,38.49
12,"12.","Las Vegas","Las Vegas, NV",148.81,-115.1,36.5
13,"13.","Salt Lake City","Salt Lake City, UT",148.6,-111.58,40.46
14,"14.","Durham","Durham, NC",146.95,-78.47,35.52
15, ,"Cleveland", ,146.27,-81.51,41.24
16, ,"Houston", ,145.38,-95.21,29.58
17,"17.","Saint Petersburg","Saint Petersburg, FL",145.31,-82.64,27.77
18, ,"Chattanooga", ,145.27,-85.12,35.2
19,"19.","Madison","Madison, WI",144.83,-89.2,43.8
20,"20.","Saint Louis","Saint Louis, MO",144.7,-90.23,38.45
21,"21.","Seattle","Seattle, WA",144.6,-122.18,47.27
22, ,"Tampa", ,144.43,-82.32,27.58
23,"23.","Grand Rapids","Grand Rapids, MI",143.87,-85.31,42.53
24,"24.","Boulder","Boulder, CO",143.02,-105.16,40
25,"25.","San Diego","San Diego, CA",142.72,-117.1,32.44
109,"109.","Fort Lauderdale","Fort Lauderdale, FL",104.35,-80.9,26.4
110, ,"Syracuse", ,103.63,-76.7,43.7
111,"111.","Honolulu","Honolulu, HI",103.08,-157.55,21.2
112,"112.","Plano","Plano, TX",101.69,-96.7,33.02
113, ,"Hartford", ,101.57,-72.39,41.44
114,"114.","Boston","Boston, MA",101.35,-71.2,42.22
115,"115.","Burlington","Burlington, VT",101.19,-73.9,44.28
116, ,"Augusta", ,100.38,-81.58,33.22
117, ,"New York", ,100,-73.58,40.47
118,"118.","Akron","Akron, OH",99.21,-81.26,40.55
119,"119.","Oakland","Oakland, CA",97.94,-122.19,37.49
120, ,"Miami", ,97.81,-80.16,25.48
121,"121.","Saint Paul","Saint Paul, MN",97.64,-93.13,44.53
122, ,"Bloomington", ,96.92,-86.37,39.8
123, ,"Indianapolis", ,94.22,-86.17,39.44
124, ,"Newark", ,94.1,-74.1,40.42
125, ,"San Francisco", ,92.96,-122.23,37.37
126,"126.","Columbia","Columbia, SC",92.47,-81.7,33.57
127, ,"Brooklyn", ,87.04,-73.94,40.68
128, ,"Fort Myers", ,86.87,-81.52,26.35
129,"129.","Springfield","Springfield, MO",77.68,-93.23,37.14
130,"130.","Shreveport","Shreveport, LA",76.03,-93.49,32.28
131,"131.","Bellevue","Bellevue, WA",73.46,-122.2,47.61
132,"132.","Fort Collins","Fort Collins, CO",73.23,-105.5,40.45
133,"133.","Norfolk","Norfolk, VA",64.42,-76.12,36.54
1,"Sioux Falls, SD",168.93
2,"Ann Arbor, MI",163.57
3,"Dallas, TX",162.37
4,"Rochester, NY",158.71
5,"San Antonio, TX",154.92
6,"Memphis, TN",154.91
7,"Atlanta, GA",153.77
8,"Arlington, TX",152.9
9,"Huntsville, AL",152.26
10,"Virginia Beach, VA",151.73
11,"Colorado Springs, CO",150.89
12,"Las Vegas, NV",148.81
13,"Salt Lake City, UT",148.6
14,"Durham, NC",146.95
15,"Cleveland, OH",146.27
16,"Houston, TX",145.38
17,"Saint Petersburg, FL",145.31
18,"Chattanooga, TN",145.27
19,"Madison, WI",144.83
20,"Saint Louis, MO",144.7
21,"Seattle, WA",144.6
22,"Tampa, FL",144.43
23,"Grand Rapids, MI",143.87
24,"Boulder, CO",143.02
25,"San Diego, CA",142.72
26,"Oklahoma City, OK",142.4
27,"Fort Worth, TX",142.22
28,"Greensboro, NC",141.87
29,"Harrisburg, PA",140.56
30,"Austin, TX",140.39
31,"Irvine, CA",139.48
32,"Albany, NY",139.34
33,"Phoenix, AZ",139.29
34,"Milwaukee, WI",139.23
35,"Tucson, AZ",138.07
36,"Cincinnati, OH",136.92
37,"Reno, NV",136.4
38,"Kansas City, MO",135.76
39,"Spokane, WA",135.55
40,"Sacramento, CA",135.14
41,"San Jose, CA",134.82
42,"Birmingham, AL",134.55
43,"Omaha, NE",134.51
44,"Santa Barbara, CA",134.38
45,"Pittsburgh, PA",133.38
46,"Lubbock, TX",133.25
47,"Richmond, VA",133.08
48,"Little Rock, AR",132.31
49,"Raleigh, NC",131.99
50,"Detroit, MI",131.62
51,"Bellingham, WA",131.14
52,"Minneapolis, MN",131.08
53,"Jersey City, NJ",130.99
54,"Boise, ID",130.86
55,"Rockville, MD",130.79
56,"Lexington, KY",130.77
57,"Denver, CO",130.1
58,"Fort Wayne, IN",129.87
59,"Orlando, FL",129.02
60,"Pensacola, FL",128.73
61,"Knoxville, TN",128.69
62,"Melbourne, FL",128.34
63,"Vancouver, WA",127.95
64,"Greenville, SC",127.49
65,"New Haven, CT",127.41
66,"Long Beach, CA",127.25
67,"Louisville, KY",127.21
68,"Des Moines, IA",125.85
69,"Portland, OR",125.57
70,"Columbus, OH",125.47
71,"Nashville, TN",125.4
72,"Tacoma, WA",125.1
73,"Olympia, WA",125.04
74,"Anchorage, AK",124.92
75,"Manchester, NH",124.75
76,"West Palm Beach, FL",124.36
77,"Lincoln, NE",124.13
78,"Albuquerque, NM",123.57
79,"Tulsa, OK",123.2
80,"Mobile, AL",122.2
81,"Washington, DC",120.62
82,"Bakersfield, CA",120.54
83,"Arlington, VA",120.53
84,"Buffalo, NY",120.23
85,"Chicago, IL",119.17
86,"College Station, TX",118.7
87,"Wichita, KS",118.39
88,"Winston-salem, NC",117.44
89,"Jacksonville, FL",117.13
90,"Baltimore, MD",116.79
91,"New Orleans, LA",116.56
92,"Philadelphia, PA",116.06
93,"Berkeley, CA",115.84
94,"Charleston, SC",115.41
95,"Dayton, OH",114.2
96,"Everett, WA",113.75
97,"Portland, ME",113.69
98,"Queens, NY",113.4
99,"Charlotte, NC",112.72
100,"Hamilton, Bermuda",112.26
101,"Asheville, NC",111.73
102,"Fresno, CA",110.71
103,"Athens, GA",110.52
104,"Eugene, OR",109.06
105,"Los Angeles, CA",109.01
106,"Santa Rosa, CA",106.77
107,"Salem, OR",106.58
108,"Fayetteville, AR",104.92
109,"Fort Lauderdale, FL",104.35
110,"Syracuse, NY",103.63
111,"Honolulu, HI",103.08
112,"Plano, TX",101.69
113,"Hartford, CT",101.57
114,"Boston, MA",101.35
115,"Burlington, VT",101.19
116,"Augusta, GA",100.38
117,"New York, NY",100
118,"Akron, OH",99.21
119,"Oakland, CA",97.94
120,"Miami, FL",97.81
121,"Saint Paul, MN",97.64
122,"Bloomington, IN",96.92
123,"Indianapolis, IN",94.22
124,"Newark, NJ",94.1
125,"San Francisco, CA",92.96
126,"Columbia, SC",92.47
127,"Brooklyn, NY",87.04
128,"Fort Myers, FL",86.87
129,"Springfield, MO",77.68
130,"Shreveport, LA",76.03
131,"Bellevue, WA",73.46
132,"Fort Collins, CO",73.23
133,"Norfolk, VA",64.42