How Much Does it Really Cost to Live in California?

Includes interactive infographic

California’s statewide minimum wage is $8/hour. But in order to pay for basic living expenses, a single California resident with no children actually needs to make more like $11.20/hour. This is an estimate of what’s called a living wage.

Below are estimates of how much each adult in various-sized households needs to make in order to pay for basic monthly living expenses (with amounts based on statewide averages). These figures, and living wage calculations in general, are averages. The actual cost of things in California, of course, varies significantly, by region. Whereas rent in, say Stockton, might be lower than the average shown here, San Francisco’s average rent is, well, fuggedaboutit!

All estimates below are taken from a Living Wage Calculator created by Amy K. Glasmeier, a professor of urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Using the most updated government data, the calculator estimates average living wage expenses for every state and every county in the country (methodology explained beneath the chart).

Methodology (as explained by MIT’s Glasmeier):

“The calculator lists typical expenses, the living wage and typical wages for the selected location … The tool is designed to provide a minimum estimate of the cost of living for low wage families. The estimates do not reflect a middle class standard of living. The realism of the estimates depend on the type of community under study. Metropolitan counties are typically locations of high cost. In such cases, the calculator is likely to underestimate costs such as housing and child care. Consider the results a minimum cost threshold that serves as a benchmark, but only that. Users can substitute local data when available to generate more nuanced estimates. Adjustments to account for local conditions will provide greater realism and potentially increase the accuracy of the tool. As developed, the tool is meant to provide one perspective on the cost of living in America.”


  • EastLovesWest

    A shame this doesn’t take into consideration one income families with two adults (one stay at home parent) and two children that share a room. Wish it didn’t automatically assume that two adults means two incomes or that more than one child means a three+ bedroom home.

    • Ross

      If you can’t afford children…DON’T HAVE THEM! >:I Simple solution. In addition, if you make minimum wage, GET A ROOMMATE! >:I F*ckers think just ’cause they breathe they are entitled to the high life instead of working toward it! >:I Minimum wage is there as a starting point NOT a sticking point, Get more skills, make more money!

      • Nikki

        People should be allowed to have kids if they want to. That’s why we’re here on this planet, to reproduce. And it’s hard to come a by a good-paying job. Not everyone can live by just “making it by”. So think about these things before putting everyone into a stereotype. Yes, it’s a free country. Yes, we all have the right of Freedom of Speech, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re saying is right about everybody and everything involved in this topic.

        • Ross

          Read my comment AGAIN! Read it! >:I Part of bringing ANOTHER life into this world is being able to take care of it! If you can’t take care of yourself, you should NOT be bringing another life into this world! >:I That’s IRRESPONSIBLE and SELFISH, and plain stupid! >:I

          • Nikki

            Not everyone that wants to have a child is capable of having everything needed for a child, but they should be able to have a kid without feeling selfish. Plus, many people have been able to take care of a kid without being able to take care of themselves. You are obviously some dude who “had a hard life” and thinks that by saying these things you can prevent someone else from having that kind of life or that everyone else needs to work hard too because you obviously don’t know…

          • Ross

            If you don’t have EVERYTHING you need to raise a child, DON’T HAVE ONE! >:I Do you jump out of a plane without a parachute? Do you fly up there, and say “Oh I couldn’t afford the parachute, but I’m up here anyway, so I gotta jump!” That’s F*CKING STUPID! >:I

            It’s called PREPARATION! PLANNING! Just like you save up for a car, you gotta do the same thing before having a baby. I have ZERO sympathy for idiots working minimum wage, and they keep on reproducing! F*CK YOU! >:I Condoms are cheap! Birth control is already taxpayer paid for! No cost to the person using it, yet they ignore it! F*ck ‘em. Those are selfish people, and they should be sterilized AFTER the first child! >:I Israel does that to welfare recipients. You want money from the gov’t you take BIRTH CONTROL administered by GOVERNMENT workers! No honor system! ‘Cause it’s the money of the collective! You don’t want birth control shots, GET OFF welfare! >:I SIMPLE!

          • Nikki

            you are just so inconsiderate and sound so stupid I-I’m done with you

          • Ross

            Good! F*CK YOU! >:I

          • Jaimy

            I agree in some way with Ross- minus the cursing lol but it is true, at time i see poor families with 5+ children, Why, Why, Why?- Stop having children if you cannot provide them with a better life than what you have/had. But children is not the main issue here, its about making good money to provide for your self and family if you have one. And we live in a country were we can make good money. We just need the right educatin, right job ect – dont expect great pay if you are lazy and comfy with just working at a minimun wage pay job :P

          • Ross

            Darn tootin’! :D

          • TattooMachine

            Ross, I completely agree with you (sans cursing). I had a brother that had 6 children. He asked why I didnt have more than two. I told him I couldnt afford more. He said, get foodstamps. I disagree.
            My wife works part time and Im a tattoo artist by trade. No, we are by far not rich. I make the same as a high end full timer after tax and material costs. I always wanted to live in California, but my wife doesnt produce enough money to help support us. I refuse to live off the government on a whim. There are people with true needs out there.
            I believe whole heartedly that if you cannot support yourself you should not have kids. Hands down.

          • Ross

            GOOD FOR YOU! :D A living example! Thank you for sharing! :D

          • mango

            I agree 120%!! If you can’t afford to have a child, DON’T have one and don’t expect other people to help you pay for it.

          • Ross

            TESTIFY! :D

          • Doge

            Much cursing
            Very capitalizations
            So emoticon

          • Ross

            Gotta make a lasting impression! ;)

          • MissGabbyDear

            You Have To Think Though, Who’s To Say They Didn’t Have Good Jobs, Have Children, And The Company Shut Down? I Agree That Living Off The System And Popping Them Out Like Rabbits Is Wrong. However, You Don’t Know What Has Happened In People’s Lives, There Is No Need To Be A Judgmental Asshole Out Of The Gate.

          • like-mind

            Nikki, you’re obviously a thoughtful and mature person. Please don’t take offense when people such as ‘Ross’ lob bombshells at you. You’ll find the same hateful bromides hurled by other as offensive as he is because they have learned their lessons from the same sources, and repeat them to any target they can find. You can probably tell Ross and others like him are very angry, unhappy people and they are only to glad to blame others for it – that’s why they are so susceptible to demagoguery. I’ve found that these folks are working off a mental script and do not accept new information. Maybe one in a thousand actually wanted to hear what someone else has to say, and will think about it. So, I have adopted the practice of ‘don’t feed the trolls’ and ignore them in Comment Sections, and block them on Twitter and Facebook.

          • Ross

            F*CK YOU, TOO! >:I My comments make sense! Don’t have money, DON’T MAKE BABIES! >:I Oh, perish the thought to actually PLAN before bringing ANOTHER life into this world! >:I F*ck off, you enabler of mediocrity! >:I

          • reality

            if you “want” a kid so bad, your kid can die of starvation and malnutrition and I shouldn’t have to pay taxes to support it :D then you can live with that guilt!

        • aRareSaneOne

          MOVE where it’s cheaper, idiot! Then have as many as you can provide for. I am 50 with 5 kids, and I have my house paid for. But I didn’t live exactly where I wanted to, boo hoo.

          • Nikki

            Calling me an idiot was uncalled for. I can’t move. I’m 14, and I live with my mommaw. We don’t have the money to move. My mommaw adopted me & my sister in 2006. I’ve lived this long and we get our money from Social Security. My birth mother did not lose us (and my little brother who I haven’t seen since 2005) because of monetary issues. The government has taken its toll on my family before, but we’re still standing. For those of you who say you won’t take from the government, I can’t say that because that money is why I’m living. I know what some issues are like because I had to get a “grown-up” mind at the age of 7, so don’t just act like I don’t anything now that you know my age.

          • Ross

            Call a spade a spade! >:I If the shoe fits…>:I You’re 14 and you’re thinking of making babies!!!! WHAT!!! >:I You live with your mama, can’t even take care of yourself, you got NO business bringing or even thinking of bringing a baby in this world! >:I Grown up mind says “I need to take care of myself before I can think of taking care of another!” So actually GROW UP, dear! 14! >:I Go do some research on what other 14 year olds are doing. I ran into a kid at 16 who’s making a $100 000 a MONTH! >:I Met a 13 year old who’s making $3000 a month blogging! They ain’t thinking of making babies! >:I

          • Black Betty

            ross, just curious, how old are you? My husband and I are sitting here enjoying the more comical aspects of your exchange with Nikki in particular. And btw, we aren’t sucking off the governments tit either.

          • Ross

            I’m old. :P Pushing 40! :)

          • Michelle

            @RossTan:disqus Your comments sound ignorant! There’s more educated and professional ways to express your feelings regarding this topic. I am 23 yrs old with a baby. My son was far from planned but I didn’t care, I still had him. I had no job when I had him but I wouldn’t change a single thing. OH but let me add one thing because I’m sure you will have something smart to say…I am now a REGISTERED NURSE making $80k+ a year. So yeah, I had a baby when I couldn’t even take care of myself but I’m sure that at 40yrs old I won’t be sitting behind a computer arguing & disrespecting a minor, 14yr old.

          • Ross

            Dear, YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM!!!! >:I F*CK YOU TOO! >:I 23 years old with a baby! I’m sorry, was it via IMMACULATE CONCEPTION!!! Most likely NOT! It was you being a f*cking idiot with your reproduction! >:I “So yeah, I had a baby when I couldn’t even take care of myself ” <—-Translation: I'm an idiot and proud of it!

            " I'm sure that at 40yrs old I won't be sitting behind a computer arguing & disrespecting a minor, 14yr old." :I You had time to go to UNIVERSITY for FOUR YEARS, who watched your son during that time while you were studying and taking classes? Who paid for school? Gee, let me guess? TAXPAYERS! They’ll come a day when the majority will have enough of supporting irresponsible parasites like yourself! >:I

          • Ross

            Read my comments, dear. Don’t care if you’re a nurse, you made a selfish decision to bring ANOTHER LIFE into the world when you were NOT capable of taking care of him! >:I That’s a TRAGEDY! >:I That’s IGNORANT!

          • Chris Marcoux

            Ross my fiance are devoted catholics and we plan to have plenty of children even if it means we go without so they do not. There is no legal way for you to limit how many kids we have if we choose to have kids, so get over it

          • Nikki

            I’m not thinking of getting pregnant; I’m thinking of the others that want too, and I live with my MOMMAW-my great-grandmother.Besides that’s just your opinion of what a grown-up mind is.Start being an inconsiderate jackass, and maybe you’ll learn a few things.

          • Ross

            DAFUQ! o.O “Start being an inconsiderate jackass, and maybe you’ll learn a few things.” WHAT??? o.O Like I said, SOME PEOPLE are just NOT meant to REPRODUCE! >:I F*cking tragedy! >:I Opinion! NO! It’s called a FACT! Can’t take care of yourself, you shouldn’t be bringing another life into this world! Pretty simple! >:I It’s called PLANNING for a reason. Get into a car drive off a cliff, you gonna blame the cliff, or are you going to blame yourself for not reading the signs! “Oh, it’s just your opinion I should be reading all those warning signs when I’m driving.” Ah, f*ck off! >:I

          • Nikki

            Stop** because you already are an inconsiderate jackass