How Much $100 of Goods and Rent Really Costs in Each State

Written by Carly Hallman

How much is $100 really worth across the United States? With such huge gaps in the cost of living and purchasing power from urban to rural U.S., how far will a crisp, beautiful Benjamin Franklin get you when it’s time to pay the rent? With data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, we’ve created a hundred-dollar value chart that shows the relative costs of goods and services as well as rent in all 50 states.

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Where is the U.S. dollar worth the most within the country? To figure this out, let’s start by creating a scale that assumes that the national average cost of something is $100. Scaling the rest of the data accordingly brings us to dollar amounts that can also be understood as percentages.

Now, let’s look at the numbers.

In Alabama and Mississippi, both rent and the cost of services are a fraction of what they are in other states. All of these expenses combined work out to $86.20 in Mississippi using this scale, or 86.2% of the national average, and rent is only $62.80 in Alabama or 62.8% of the national average. All in all, if you’re in southern and Midwestern states, the purchasing power of the dollar will get you further. Unfortunately, that also means that you’ll likely be paid less of a salary as a result.

Meanwhile, if you’re on vacation in Hawaii and you ask yourself, “What can I get for $100?” you’re probably not going to like the answer. You can pay almost $20 for a piece of pizza, five rolls of toilet paper cost $6, and rent frequently beats that of San Fransisco. Among other states with the highest cost of living are New York, California, and New Jersey, all famous for their huge urban centers. In these places, you need much more than a hundred bucks to get what would average out to $100 worth of items.

But if you do a cost of living comparison by state, you’ll also see that salaries are quite often higher in those locations, right? Well, only sometimes. Actually, the median income stays fairly consistent outside of those major urban centers. In ultra-expensive Hawaii, there are parts of the islands where $35,000 is still a considered decent wage. Usually, though, if you’re paying more, you’re paid more, so the relative dollar value shouldn’t cause as much strife.

The value of a dollar in each state for goods varies wildly; just go on a road trip and see how the price of a bottle of water can spike and drop rapidly. But it’s the cost of rent that gives us the more interesting cost of living state comparison. How much is the dollar worth if you spend such a high percent of your income on rent? In Hawaii, you need to pay $163.04 for rent using our scale, or 163.04% of the national average. You can see how much greater the discrepancy is, especially when Alabama residents pay about 37% less than the national average.

This dive into the United States dollar value really can give insights about what it’s like to live in the so-called poorest and so-called richest states and what each person in the country has to deal with in terms of prices for basic needs every day.

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