Cost of living in California
Budgeting and financial planning are essential when choosing where to live. So if you’re considering putting down roots in California but questioning the cost of living in the state, start your research here.
Life in a popular US state like California doesn't always come cheap. The fair weather, stunning sights, and excellent job prospects with high salaries result in a cost of living that can be high compared to other areas in America. But can you manage that cost? And would life in California potentially suit you perfectly?
Preparation is vital ahead of any financial decision. This article will allow you to prepare, covering the various expenses to consider in California—from the price of a home to the state income tax rates.
What's the Average 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).
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:
|Area||Average home cost|
Utility costs in California
|Utility||Average bill amount in California|
|Cable and internet||Costs can start from $9.99 monthly|
Groceries and Food Costs in California
There's no big headline news for this cost-of-living factor. So, when you're shopping, you'll find prices are much the same as elsewhere in the United States.
|Food item||Average cost in Los Angeles||Average cost in San Francisco||Average cost in Santa Clarita||Average cost in Sacramento|
|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|
Transportation Costs 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:
|Scenario||Annual 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|
Healthcare Costs 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:
|Scenario||Annual 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|
Childcare Costs 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:
|Scenario||Annual 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|
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 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
|Income||State 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
|Income||State 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
|Income||State 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.
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 is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She has nearly a decade of experience writing and producing content across a range of different sectors.