What is the cost of living in California?

1 min read by Rachel Carey Last updated May 24, 2024

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

Summary

  • California's average cost of living is $53,082 annually.

  • Californians spend more than any other state on groceries per month, at $298.

  • California is also above the national average when it comes to the cost of utilities, with the average monthly bill coming in at nearly $438.

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

What is the average yearly 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 (rising above $ 70,000 for heavily populated areas like Los Angeles).

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However, it’s important to remember that the cost of living varies 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.

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What are the housing costs in California?

When buying a home in California, you can expect to pay above the national average.

According to the Zillow Home Values Index, the average California home value in May 2024 was $786,180. This is a 7% increase year-on-year.

Of course, home prices will vary depending on where you are in the state. Here is a breakdown of the average home value across the 10 biggest cities in California as of May 2024:

AreaAverage home value
Los Angeles $972,818
San Diego $1,032,804
San Jose $1,477,444
San Francisco $1,296,843
Fresno $382,167
Sacramento $485,628
Long Beach $844,933
Oakland $812,106
Bakersfield $383,247
Anaheim $914,289

The rental market in California is booming, with costs generally relatively high but varying considerably between areas.

According to Zillow Rental Manager, the median rent across all bedroom and property types is $2,800, which is 33% higher than the national median.

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.

The average water bill in California is also above the national average. The average American family of four spends $73 for water in a month; however, in California, this rises to $77.

According to Forbes, Californians spend an average of $437.92 on utilities; this is above the national average of $429.33. Here is what the average spend is on each utility in California:

UtilityAverage bill amount in California
Energy $123.67
Water $77
Internet $40
Gas $34
Phone $114
Streaming $49.25

Of course, these figures will differ depending on family size, usage, service provider, and locations within the state.

What are the average grocery and food costs in California?

According to a study by the United States Census Bureau, Californians pay more for their weekly groceries than any other state.

The average American family spends around $270 a week on groceries, but Californians spend nearly $298 on a weekly basis. 

The study also looked at the most expensive cities in the US, with Californian cities taking three of the top 10 spots: Riverside ($300.50), Los Angeles ($298.44), and San Francisco ($295.33) ranking third, fourth and fifth, respectively. 

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Economic Analysis found that the average Californian spends just over $3,865 on non-restaurant food a year or $322.08 per person per month.

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.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Living Wage Calculator helps to gauge an idea of the costs you might face:

ScenarioAnnual transportation expenditure
One adult, no children $10,665
One adult, one child $12,343
One adult, two children $15,548
Two adults (one working), no children $12,343
Two adults (one working), one child $15,548
Two adults (one working), two children $17,890
Two adults (two working), no children $12,343
Two adults (two working), one child $15,548
Two adults (two working), two children $17,890

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 Living Wage Calculator estimates:

ScenarioAnnual medical expenditure
One adult, no children $2,603
One adult, one child $8,317
One adult, two children $8,205
Two adults (one working), no children $5,886
Two adults (one working), one child $8,205
Two adults (one working), two children $8,668
Two adults (two working), no children $5,886
Two adults (two working), one child $8,205
Two adults (two working), two children $8,668

Discover the average cost of health insurance in the US here.

How much does childcare cost in California?

Childcare is expensive in California.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the average cost of infant care is $16,945 annually, or $1,412 a month. California is ranked 3rd out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for most expensive infant care.

For a four-year-old, the annual cost is $11,475 or $956 each month.

Child care for two children – an infant and a 4-year-old – costs $28,420. According to the EPI, this is 41.3% more than the average rent in California.

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

In the meantime, MIT estimates the following costs:

ScenarioAnnual childcare expenditure
One child $14,433
Two children $28,866
Three children $41,020

How much will I pay in taxes 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 2024

California then charges state income tax from 1% to 12.3%. Those who make over $1 million also pay an additional 1% income tax. The amount you pay depends on your taxable income and filing status.

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

IncomeState income tax amount
$0–$10,412 1%
$10,412-$24,684 $104.12 and 2% over $10,412
$24,684-$38,959 $389.56 and 4% over $24,684
$38,959-$54,081 $960.56 and 6% over $38,959
$54,081-$68,350 $1,867.88 and 8% over $54,081
$68,350–$349,137 $3,009.40 and 9.30% over $68,350
$349,137–$418,961 $29,122.59 and 10.30% over $349,137
$418,961–$698,271 $36,314.46 and 11.30% over $418,961
$698,271 upwards $67,876.49 and 12.30% over $698,271

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

IncomeState income tax amount
$0–$20,824 1%
$20,824–$49,368 $208.24 and 2% over $20,824
$49,368–$77,918 $779.12 and 4% over $49,368
$77,918–$108,162 $1,921.12 and 6% over $77,918
$108,162–$136,700 $3,735.76 and 8% over $108,162
$136,700–$698,274 $6,018.80 and 9.30% over $136,700
$698,274–$837,922 $58,245.18 and 10.30% over $698,274
$837,922–$1,396,542 $72,628.92 and 11.30% over $837,922
$1,396,542 upwards $135,752.98 and 12.30% over $1,396,542

3. A head of household

IncomeState income tax amount
$0–$20,839 1%
$20,839–$49,371 $208.39 and 2% over $20,839
$49,371–$63,644 $779.03 and 4% over $49,371
$63,644–$78,765 $1,349.95 and 6% over $63,644
$78,765–$93,037 $2,257.21 and 8% over $78,765
$93,037–$474,824 $3,398.97 and 9.30% over $93,037
$474,824–$569,790 $38,905.16 and 10.30% over $474,824
$569,790–$949,649 $48,686.66 and 11.30% over $569,790
$949,649 upwards $91,610.73 and 12.30% over $949,649

In addition, the statewide sales tax rate in California is 7.25%. However, with local sales taxes, the average combined rate in the state is 8.85%, with some people paying over 10% depending on their location.

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

Get expert financial advice

If you’re considering relocating to California or just want to get a better sense of the cost of living in the state as it relates to your finances, it’s always wise to seek out expert help.

A financial advisor can assess your financial situation and develop a plan to help you make the most of your money.

An SEC-regulated advisor can provide expert financial advice and help you learn more about the cost of living and how to manage it.

Let Unbiased match you with the best financial advisor for your needs. 

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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.

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Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor who can help you develop a financial plan to meet your goals.