Cost of living in the USA: Your 2022 guide

Adam Rozsa
10.05.22
3 minute read

If you’re dreaming of a new life in America, you’re not alone. Something in the region of a million people become new, legal residents in the USA every year. With such a massive range of places to choose to live and work, you’ll find thriving expat communities in every corner of the country.

If you’re retiring, temporarily relocating or moving to the USA for good, it’s helpful to have a picture of what the cost of living in America will be as an expat. Here’s a quick guide.


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How expensive is the USA in comparison to the UK, the EU and Australia?

The official currency in the USA is the US Dollar (USD or $ on currency exchanges).

You can find out the exact value of your money in USD, using an online currency converter - but here’s a rough guide:

  • £1000 = $1,233
  • A$1000 = $700
  • €1000 = $1,053
(05/09/2022)
Comparing basic cost of living1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)Lunch for 2 (3 courses, mid-range restaurant)Transportation (monthly pass)
New York City, USA¹$3,336$100$129
San Francisco, USA²$3,043$100$81
London, UK³$2,162$71$196.65
Sydney, Australia⁴$1,782$61$152.18


(05/09/2022)

One major factor that adds expense for expats in the USA, is the cost of converting cash to dollars from your home currency. Even if your bank says it offers fee-free money exchange, you can be sure that its cut is rolled up in the inflated exchange rate it uses.

To get the best deal, you should use an exchange service like Wise, which applies the same mid-market rate you’ll find on Google. With a quick service, and low flat fees to transfer your cash, this can be a much better deal than relying on your home bank.

Is living in the USA expensive? What is cost of living in USA per month?

The cost of living in the USA per month is pretty pricey, though varies between states.

It is estimated that an American household spends an average of $61,334 per year on their expenses, with housing being the largest expense, a whopping $1,800 per month⁵.

The most expensive cities include San Francisco, New York, Boston and Los Angeles. 

However, there are still some well known places where life comes with a reasonable price tag - Oklahoma City or Cincinnati, for example, have much lower average costs than other large cities. The cheapest state to live in the United States is Mississippi⁵. 

Naturally, get out of the cities entirely, and you’ll find the estimated livings costs are much lower.

What are the average salaries for the USA?

The salaries shown for reference here are for New York. Here, you’ll find some of the best paid data scientists and web developers in the world. Tech and finance roles, naturally, are in demand - but New York salaries are also top-notch for roles like Executive Assistant or Interior Designer.

Salary averages for the USAAverage annual salary⁶
Cashier$26,780
Financial analyst$106,340
Graphic designer$59,970
Mobile developer$81,320
Receptionist$32,910
Software engineer$113,720
Teacher (Secondary School)$69,490
Web developer$81,320

What is the cost of buying an apartment in the USA?

Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment in City CentrePrice per Square Meter to Buy Apartment Outside of Centre
3,542.13 $2,117.94 $

What about healthcare and dental costs in the USA?

No matter where you're in America you choose to live, having comprehensive health insurance is essential. For those with the insurance, or savings to pay privately, the healthcare system in the USA is world-class. However, if you can’t pay the bills, you will struggle to get adequate care (or face large costs afterwards if you need emergency treatment, for example).

Healthcare serviceAverage cost to you
Family doctor check-up$155
Cold medicine for 6 days$9
Antibiotic prescription$23

How much is travel and transportation in the USA?

Driving is fairly cheap in the USA, and outside of the very centers of cities, it’s normal to have a private vehicle. However, in large cities can be tricky, the public transportation system is usually extensive and easy to navigate.

Transportation and vehicle prices for the USAAverage cost⁷
Gasoline (1 litre / 0.25 gallon)$0.98
Monthly bus/transport pass$65.80
Bus ticket, single use$0.98
Taxi tariff, 1km journey$1.62
Toyota Corolla, new$22,244
VW Golf, new$24,000


(05/09/2022)

How much does education in the USA cost?

Education in the USA can be expensive, depending on the institution you choose to attend. There are both public and private universities, for example, with very different pricing structures. However, many private educational establishments offer bursaries and financial support to ensure that students from lower income families can still have the opportunity now to attend.

SchoolAverage cost
Preschool / kindergarten (monthly fee)$1,875
Private school for lower grades (annual)$25,286
University tuition (Public, four year university)Annual average for state residents $9,400, for out of state expect averages up to $24,930
University tuition (Private, four year University)Annual average of $36,700

Is the USA a good place to live?

America - throughout history - has always attracted immigrants inspired by the opportunities available there. It’s no surprise, then, that plenty of expats still make the leap, and move to the USA for life. Whatever you’re looking for, the US is a fantastic expat destination, for a permanent move, or just to spend a year or two exploring somewhere new.

The USA can also be an expensive destination, however. It’s worth researching the USA cost of living in advance, and seeing where you could save money. One place to start, is by saving money on your banking and transfer fees when sending money to the USA. With Wise’s free multi-currency account, you can manage and send dozens of currencies, all from the same account.

Check out how to make your first transfer with Wise and give it a try!

Get a free account in minutes

Good luck with your new life in the USA!


Sources:
  1. Numbeo - Cost of living - New York
  2. Numbeo - Cost of living - San Francisco
  3. Numbeo - Cost of living - London
  4. Numbeo - Cost of living - Sydney
  5. World Population Review - Cheapest States To Live in 2022
  6. BLS - May 2021 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
  7. Numbeo - Cost of living - US
    NCES - Fast Facts - Tuition costs of colleges and universities

All sources checked on 10 May 2022


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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