What is the cost of living in California?

1 min readLast updated January 30, 2024by Rachel Carey

If you’re considering putting down roots in California but questioning the cost of living in the state, start your research here.

Summary

  • The fair weather, stunning sights, and excellent job prospects with high salaries result in a high cost of living in California.

  • According to 2021 research from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, California's average cost of living is $53,082 annually.

  • The average Californian spends just over $3,865 on non-restaurant food a year.

  • Speak to a financial advisor about getting and staying on top of your finances.

What is the average yearly cost of living in California?

The answer to this question differs depending on the area you aim to live in and the specifics of your situation. For example, a head of a household with three children will experience a higher average cost of living than a single person living alone.

According to 2021 research from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, California's average cost of living is $53,082 annually (rising into the $70,000s for heavily populated areas like Los Angeles).

Staying in control of your finances and maintaining a solid financial plan is essential regardless of where you live. A financial advisor can help you achieve this. By answering a few simple questions, Unbiased can connect you to a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Get started here.

What are the housing costs in California?

The rental market in California is booming, with costs generally relatively high but varying considerably between areas. This is reflected by the broader housing market, meaning that the price of a property purchase in a particular area of California will provide you with a good barometer in terms of the area's rental costs, too.

AreaAverage home cost
Long Beach $785,000
Irvine $1,376,990
Oakland $907,500
Riverside $537,523
Los Angeles $896,542
San Francisco $1,426,481
Sacramento $531,642
San Diego $895,660
San Jose $1,164,261
Anaheim $802,500
Fresno $358,981
Bakersfield $380,000
Santa Ana $759,500
Stockton $440,000
Modesto $430,000
Chula Vista $729,000
Fremont $1,260,000
San Bernardino $500,000
Santa Clarita $730,000
Moreno Valley $505,000

What is the average cost of utilities in California?

The cost of living in California is high, and utility bills are no different. Take electricity, for example. According to the Save on Energy November 2023 report, the average electric bill in the United States is $142.73. In California, this is $159.64, which puts California 42 in the national cost rankings.

Other average utility costs in the state are broken down here:

UtilityAverage bill amount in California
Water $77–84 monthly
Electricity $160 monthly
Gas $409 monthly
Cable and internet Costs can start from $9.99 monthly

What are the average grocery and food costs in California?

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the average Californian spends just over $3,865 on non-restaurant food a year. This is $322.08 per person per month. When you consider the average family of four, this amounts to $1,288 per month on groceries.

Food itemAverage cost in Los AngelesAverage cost in San FranciscoAverage cost in Santa ClaritaAverage cost in Sacramento
Milk $0.30 $0.39 $0.31 $0.32
Bread $1.02 $1.20 $1.24 $1.10
Apples (10.5 oz) $1.37 $1.94 $0.85 $1.74
A potato (7 oz) $0.54 $0.90 $0.39 $0.74
A head of lettuce $0.39 $0.66 $0.60 $0.53

How much does transportation cost in California?

California stretches from the Mexican border along the Pacific coast for nearly 900 miles. But whether you're traveling between destinations across the state or even within the same city, travel costs can be significant.

MIT's Living Wage Calculator should help you to gauge an idea of the costs you might face:

ScenarioAnnual transportation expenditure
One adult, no children $5,316
One adult, one child $9,561
One adult, two children $11,691
Two adults (one working), no children $9,561
Two adults (one working), one child $11,691
Two adults (one working), two children $14,058
Two adults (two working), no children $9,561
Two adults (two working), one child $11,691
Two adults (two working), two children $14,058

How much does healthcare cost in California?

Healthcare costs in California will vary depending on the type of health insurance you have and what your plan covers, your exact location, your age, and the state of your health. MIT estimates:

ScenarioAnnual healthcare expenditure
One adult, no children $3,136
One adult, one child $9,476
One adult, two children $9,486
Two adults (one working), no children $7,018
Two adults (one working), one child $9,486
Two adults (one working), two children $9,411
Two adults (two working), no children $7,018
Two adults (two working), one child $9,486
Two adults (two working), two children $9,411

Check out the average cost of health insurance in the US here.

How much does childcare cost in California?

By 2025, California plans to introduce a free Universal Preschool program for all four-year-olds, considerably reducing childcare costs for local parents.

In the meantime, MIT estimates the following costs:

ScenarioAnnual childcare expenditure
One adult, no children $0
One adult, one child $12,346
One adult, two children $24,691
Two adults (one working), no children $37,037
Two adults (one working), one child $0
Two adults (one working), two children $0
Two adults (two working), no children $0
Two adults (two working), one child $12,346
Two adults (two working), two children $24,692
Two adults (two working), three children $37,037

How much will I pay in tax in California?

Every taxpayer in the country must abide by tax laws unique to their state and federal tax laws that apply across the US. There are seven different federal income tax brackets in 2023.

California then charges state income tax from 1 percent to 12.3 percent according to nine income brackets:

1. A single person OR a married person/registered domestic partner filing separately

IncomeState income tax amount
$0–$10,999 one percent of your income
$11,000–$23,942 $100.99, and two percent over $10,099
$23,943–$37,788 $377.85, and four percent over $23,942
$37,789–$52,455 $931.69, and six percent over $37,788
$52,456–$66,295 $1,811.71, and eight percent over $52,455
$66,296–$338,639 $2,918, and 9.3 percent over $66,295
$338,640–$406,364 $28,246.90, and 10.3 percent over $338,639
$406,365–$677,275 $35,228.58, and 11.3 percent over $406,364
$677,276 upwards $65,835.52, and 12.3 percent over $677,275

2. A married person/registered domestic partner filing jointly OR a qualifying widower

IncomeState income tax amount
$0–$20,198 one percent of your income
$20,199–$47,884 $201.98, and two percent over $20,198
$47,885–$75,576 $755.70, and four percent over $47,884
$75,577–$104,910 $1,862.38, and six percent over $75,576
$104,911–$132,590 $3,623.42, and eight percent over $104,910
$132,591–$677,278 $5,837.82, and 9.3 percent over $132,1590
$677,279–$812,728 $56,493.80, and 10.3 percent over $677,278
$812,729–$1,354,550 $70,445.15, and 11.3 percent over $812,728
$1,354,551 upwards $131,671.04, and 12.3 percent over $1,354,550

3. A head of household

IncomeState income tax amount
$0–$20,212 one percent of your income
$20,213–$47,887 $202.12, and two percent over $20,212
$47,888–$61,730 $755.62, and four percent over $47,887
$61,731–$76,397 $1,309.34, and six percent over $61,730
$76,398–$90,240 $2,189.36, and eight percent over $76,397
$90,241–$460,547 $3,296.80, and 9.3 percent over $90,240
$460,548–$552,658 $37,735.35, and 10.3 percent over $460,547
$552,659–$921,095 $47,222.78, and 11.3 percent over $552,658
$921,096 upwards $88,856.16, and 12.3 percent over $921,095

On top of this, the statewide sales tax in California ranges between 7.25 percent to 10.25 percent, with district sales taxes ranging from 0.1 percent to one percent.

Tax considerations will be an essential factor as you assess the cost of living in California and its possible suitability for you, as the Golden State has some of the highest tax rates in America.

You could also check out the complete guide to taxes in California here.

How much money do you need to live comfortably in California?

Having gathered the numbers, only you can truly tell yourself whether you could live comfortably in California according to your circumstances and living expectations.

Whether you're retirement planning or considering relocating to chase a new career, Unbiased can assist you with your move's financial ins and outs. Find the right advisor for your needs today.

Senior Content Writer

Rachel Carey

Rachel is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She has nearly a decade of experience writing and producing content across a range of different sectors.