10 States Most (and Least) Likely to Live Paycheck to Paycheck


By Terence Loose, Contributor

The state in which you choose to live can play a big role in how far your paycheck stretches each month. Some states are just more expensive than others, forcing you to spend more of your paycheck on necessities.

GOBankingRates has identified the best -- and worst -- states for avoiding a paycheck-to-paycheck existence. Data was collected to rank all 50 states in a range of categories in a wide range of categories, including median household income and the cost of housing, food, transportation, utilities, and healthcare. We crunched those numbers to see which states' residents had the biggest portion of their paycheck left at the end of the month. Click through to see if you live in a state that's kind on your income, or one that stretches your budget too thin.

The 10 States Where You're Most Likely to Live Paycheck to Paycheck

There are certain states in the country where your paycheck just isn't enough to make ends meet. The 10 states where you're most likely to live payday to payday don't necessarily have low median household incomes -- in fact, a few states with some of the highest median incomes per paycheck in the nation made this list. It's their high costs for things such as housing, utilities or transportation that eat up paychecks, suggesting that the incomes, though high compared with other states, are actually still disproportionate to the costs of living.

10. Connecticut

Boasting Yale University as well as the fourth-highest median household income in the nation ($70,161), Connecticut residents need almost all their paycheck to get by because of the relatively high cost of food (the second highest in the U.S. at $353 per paycheck) and the high cost of housing ($738 per paycheck).

When all is said and done, the average Connecticut resident has less than a quarter of his paycheck left for fun and other expenses, or about $663.

9. Massachusetts

The site where the Mayflower landed is a little more taxing of a place to live than the Pilgrims probably envisioned. The high cost of housing -- about 30 percent of the median paycheck -- and transportation -- about 21 percent -- put Massachusetts in the top 10 of places you're most likely to live paycheck to paycheck.

The final result? After housing, food, utilities and transportation costs are covered, only about 23 percent, or about $550, is left over to see the New England sights -- or buy Patriots tickets.

8. Rhode Island

The smallest state in the nation is also one of the most expensive, coming in as the eighth most likely to see its residents living paycheck to paycheck. The reason can mostly be attributed to relatively high percentage of the median paycheck spent on housing (29 percent) and transportation (20 percent).

With more than 50 percent of their income going to those two necessities, there's a mere 23 percent of each paycheck, or $508, left over.

7. New Jersey

New Jersey governor and presidential hopeful Chris Christie might not want this widely known, but his residents are seventh most likely to live paycheck to paycheck. Not only are food, utilities, and average health costs relatively high, but housing and transportation cost about 33 percent and 20 percent, respectively, of the healthy median paycheck of $2,509. That leaves Christie's constituents with only 22 percent of their paychecks to donate to a presidential campaign, or something more fun.

6. Nevada

It might be easier for most Nevada residents to avoid throwing money away in casinos than it is for people visiting the state because Nevada residents don't have a lot of leftover money for blackjack. Despite having no state income tax, Nevada residents made this list in part because of a whopping 32 percent of each paycheck going toward housing and another 23 percent allocated for transportation.

That only leaves a little over $400, or 21 percent, to hit the tables with. No wonder Vegas thrives on tourism.

5. Florida

The Sunshine State might not feel so warm to many residents, with a relatively low median household income of $46,140, translating into a median paycheck of only $1,775. Of that, $593 (33 percent) goes to housing. And while food costs are only $183 (10 percent) per paycheck, transportation is $330 (19 percent) and healthcare costs are $150 (8 percent).

The result is only $376 left over. How is the average Floridian supposed to keep their golf game up with that?

4. Alaska

The largest state in the union is a pretty expensive place to live, even with a decent median household income of $67,629 and no state income tax. But with food, housing and transportation taking nearly 62 percent of each paycheck, Alaskans can end up on thin ice come the end of each month.

After utilities and healthcare costs are factored in, Alaskans only have 20 percent of their paycheck leftover. That's cold.

3. New York

Many people might guess that the city that never sleeps would rank No. 1 on this list. Close. What got New Yorkers to the dubious honor of third are a relatively modest median household income ($54,310) combined with high per-paycheck housing (34 percent) and transportation (21 percent) costs.

It all results in a mere $372 (18 percent) of each paycheck left over. Does that even buy dinner and a show anymore?

2. California

The Golden State is not so golden for a lot of its residents. Californians need to spend a lot of their paychecks on housing -- $819 of a $2,326 paycheck, or 35 percent -- and on transportation (25 percent). Maybe it's true that no one walks in LA.

With only $313 (roughly 13 percent of each paycheck) left over, not much is left for a day at Disneyland.

1. Hawaii

Paradise is pricey. Hawaii comes in as the No. 1 state where you're most likely to live paycheck to paycheck -- and for good reason. Despite having the third-highest median household income in the nation ($71,223), the cost of food, housing, transportation and utilities per paycheck are all highest in the Aloha State.

That breakdown results in a paltry $186 of leftover income, or less than 7 percent of each paycheck -- the only state in single digits.

The 10 States Where You're Least Likely to Live Paycheck to Paycheck

If you don't live on the coasts of the U.S., there's a better chance of not having to live payday to payday. None of the top 10 states where paychecks typically go further is on a coast. Keep reading to see where you should live if you want more breathing room in your budget.

10. North Dakota

North Dakota residents seem to be doing okay when it comes to making ends meet. The state has a relatively decent median income ($60,730) combined with reasonable housing costs -- at 18 percent of each paycheck, housing costs are lower than transportation costs (19 percent). Those expenses result in North Dakotans having 36 percent of each paycheck, or $834, left over.

9. Nebraska

The home of the Cornhuskers is also home to a great place not to spend your entire paycheck. Although the cost of transportation is not that low in Nebraska -- nearly 19 percent of the median paycheck -- the cost of housing is reasonable (21 percent). Same with food (9 percent) and utilities (7 percent).

Those factors have Nebraskans keeping a nice percentage (36 percent) of their paychecks for other expenses and savings.

8. Arkansas

Arkansas residents' median household income of $44,922 might not sound like a lot -- it's the seventh-lowest median income in the country -- but low living costs mean it's more than enough. Housing is relatively inexpensive at 22 percent of each paycheck, as are food (9 percent) and utilities (8 percent) costs. It all adds up to an impressive 36 percent of each paycheck left over.

7. Kansas

No wonder Dorothy kept repeating, "There's no place like home." Her state is a pretty great place to enjoy some discretionary income. With a median income of $53,444, housing in Kansas costs only 22 percent ($461) per paycheck. Food costs, at 9 percent of each paycheck, and utilizes, at 8 percent per paycheck, are relatively easy to manage as well.

The slightly higher income than nearby Arkansas edges Kansas into the seventh spot on this list, with $751 (37 percent) of each paycheck leftover after necessities.

6. Montana

Big Sky Country has some big benefits if you're hankering to avoid living paycheck to paycheck. The food costs are under $200 per paycheck, and the housing costs are only $451 (23 percent). Another benefit is that healthcare costs are a low $91 (5 percent) per paycheck. After typical expenses, Montanans have a respectable $723, or 37 percent, of their paychecks left.

5. Idaho

Potatoes are cheap, and Idahoan's food costs are among the lowest in the nation at $172 per the median $2,055 paycheck (just 8 percent). Housing (22 percent), healthcare (5 percent) and utilities (7 percent) per-paycheck costs are all also modest, with transportation being one of Idahoan's biggest expenses (20 percent).

When all is said and done, living in Idaho is pretty easy on your budget. If you earn the median income, you can have a little more than 37 percent left over ($769) per paycheck.

4. Utah

Utah can be a great place to get ahead. With a median household income of $63,383, you can expect a paycheck of $2,438, and state income tax is a relatively average 5 percent. Utah residents have relatively low living expense totals across the board: Housing costs per paycheck (22 percent), transportation (20 percent), food (9 percent), and utilities (7 percent) are all about or better than average, and average health costs are the sixth-lowest in the U.S. (4 percent).

When these expenses are totaled, residents of Utah have more than 38 percent ($929) of each paycheck left over.

3. Missouri

The Show-Me State might soon be called the "Show-Me-the-Money State" if word gets out that it's one of the top three states where you can avoid living paycheck to paycheck. With a median household income of $56,630, meaning a median paycheck of $2,178, the people of Missouri might not be rich, but with only $449 (21 percent) percent of their paychecks going to housing and fairly low food (9 percent) and utilities (8 percent) costs, Missourians are showing the rest of the nation up. After these expenses, they have $840 (39 percent) left over from each paycheck.

2. Iowa

Now that the Republican party canceled Iowa's presidential Straw Poll, perhaps the state will get more attention instead for being a great place to make money go further. With a respectable median household income of $57,810, Iowans have relatively low costs for housing ($424 per paycheck), food ($202), and utilities ($166).

For those reasons -- despite having one of the higher average per-paycheck health costs ($149) among this top 10 -- Iowa comes in a strong second to...

1. Minnesota

Minnesota has a healthy median household income -- $67,244, which is the sixth-highest in the U.S. When you combine that with relatively inexpensive housing costs (21 percent of each paycheck) and utilities (7 percent), along with the second-lowest average per-paycheck health costs in the nation ($84, or a mere 3 percent of each paycheck), the Land of the 10,000 Lakes takes the top spot as the state in which you're least likely to have to live paycheck to paycheck.

Minnesota is the only state where the amount left over from each median paycheck after subtracting the expenses considered for this study tops $1,000 -- $1,017.23 to be exact.

All 50 States Ranked by How Likely You Are to Live Paycheck to Paycheck

GOBankingRates' analysis ranked all 50 states in order of most or least likely to live paycheck to paycheck. The most likely is listed first, based on the percentage of a paycheck that is leftover after paying for basic necessities. The least likely is last. See where your state ranked.

1 Hawaii 18 Vermont 35 Wisconsin
2 California 19 Pennsylvania 36 Texas
3 New York 20 Michigan 37 Virginia
4 Alaska 21 Kentucky 38 Colorado
5 Florida 22 Louisiana 39 South Dakota
6 Nevada 23 South Carolina 40 Oklahoma
7 New Jersey 24 Maryland 41 North Dakota
8 Rhode Island 25 Delaware 42 Nebraska
9 Massachusetts 26 New Mexico 43 Arkansas
10 Connecticut 27 Georgia 44 Kansas
11 Illinois 28 North Carolina 45 Montana
12 Mississippi 29 West Virginia 46 Idaho
13 Washington 30 Ohio 47 Utah
14 Arizona 31 Alabama 48 Missouri
15 New Hampshire 32 Indiana 49 Iowa
16 Maine 33 Tennessee 50 Minnesota
17 Oregon 34 Wyoming

Methodology: Based on each state's median household income, states were ranked according to the percentage of the median paycheck that was left over after subtracting the following: (1) average housing cost per paycheck, (2) total amount spent on food per paycheck, (3) total amount spent on utilities per paycheck, (4) total amount spent on transportation per paycheck and (5) total amount spent on health per paycheck.

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