The Most Expensive U.S. Cities To Live In Depend On More Factors Than You'd Think

Every time I get together with my friends from high school, we always argue over the same question: where are the most expensive cities in America? Everyone is always convinced that their city is the most expensive, especially at the beginning of the month. (It always hurts to see half our paychecks go toward paying rent.) The answer has always been hard to settle if your friend group is primarily single; the Economic Policy Institute provides a free, handy-dandy budget calculator that estimates the annual income for a "secure yet modest standard of living," but traditionally it has only applied to families.

Until now, that is. Thanks to popular demand, the Washington Post reports that this year's update to the calculator includes two new options: A setting for larger families of up to four children, and a selection for single adults so that you, too, can be depressed by how little money you're making. Or, alternatively, you can snicker at all the suckers who live in the most expensive cities, then be depressed by how little money you're making. The choice is yours.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the accompanying report notes that affordability is largely dependent upon rent for single people. If you live on your own, you've probably noticed this yourself; as the Post points out, a growing number of adults report spending at least half their paycheck on a place to live every month.

Families, on the other hand, should focus less on rent and more on childcare expenses. "Budgets rise significantly with family size, since more children require more housing, health care, and child care," the authors write in the report. They went on to point out that a one-adult, one-child household budget requires $722 more a month than a two-adult household, a difference that's largely accounted for by the cost of childcare.

This brings me to my next point — although the single-adult setting has largely been reported as a way for young adults to compare city budgets, it also works as an option for single-parent households, which are often overlooked in budget calculators. With that in mind, let's take a look at the most expensive cities for each demographic, according to the Family Budget Calculator. There's a lot of repeats; however, the cost of living changes depending on how big a household we're talking about, so look at the numbers closely.

Single People

1. Honolulu, HI: $46,308

2. San Francisco, Calif: $43,581

3. New York City, NY: $43,519

Small Families (2 Adults, 2 Children)

1. Washington, DC: $106,493

2. New York City, NY: $98,722

3. Honolulu, HI: $94,092

Larger Families (2 Adults, 4 Children)

1. Washingon, DC: $135,473

2. Honolulu, HI: $127,011

3. San Francisco, Calif.: $123,140

Single-Parent Families (1 Adult, 2 Children)

1. Washington, DC: $104,027

2. New York City, NY: $93,534

3. Honolulu, HI: $89,284

To check out how your city stacks up against the others, head over to the Family Budget Calculator.

Images: John Fowler/Flickr, Giphy (5)