These Are the Cheapest and Most Expensive States to Live in for 2021

States with a low cost of living are usually lacking in other important areas, however

At the Vicksburg bridge in Mississippi looking west into Louisiana.
Mississippi may be an affordable state, but you may not want to do business there
Justin Wilkens / Unsplash

If you’re looking for low housing costs, inexpensive energy and all-around affordable prices in the United States, head south but not too far west. And don’t expect to do good business where you’re going.

Those are the big conclusions reached by CNBC as part of its annual Top States for Business list. While compiling that list, the news network also pulled information on the cost of living for each of the 50 states, using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and average prices for selected items based on the 2020 Average Cost of Living Index.

Some highlights from the Cost of Living list:

  • Mississippi garnered a perfect Cost of Living score. Even with the consumer price index up 5.8% year-to-year, the state had low housing prices (averaging a bit over $247K). Interestingly, the state only finished 45th out of 50 in CNBC’s overall Top States for Business. While grading an A+ for cost of living, it earned Ds and Fs for education, economy and workforce, among other categories.
  • The only state in the top 10 out of the South or Midwest was New Mexico, which finished seventh. In Albuquerque, rent is about one-third of what you would pay in Bethesda, Maryland. However, New Mexico finished just 38th in the overall states for business rankings.
  • If there is a state that appears to be affordable to live in and good for business, it’s Tennessee, which finished tied for eighth on cost of living and fifth for business (while earning an “F” rating for “life, health and inclusion.”)

It’s pretty difficult to find a state that has it all: Virginia did poorly for cost of living but ended up in first place overall as the top business state. Hawaii was the most expensive state and ranked 49th for business, but there are certainly major selling points to the islands (like a second-place ranking in “life, health and inclusion.”). New York garnered an F for living costs and business friendliness but ranked second for “access to capital.”

Essentially, the cost of doing business doesn’t come cheap. Or, at least, with cheap housing.


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