The 15 U.S. states with the highest cost of living for single people — No. 1 isn't California, New York or Hawaii

Oscar Wong | Getty

You'll need to earn nearly $60,000 annually to live alone in Massachusetts, the most expensive state in the U.S. when it comes to basic costs, according to a recent SmartAsset analysis.

That figure includes estimates for how much a single-person household needs to cover housing, transportation, health care, taxes and other common expenses, as tracked by the MIT Living Wage calculator.

These expenses vary widely by state, however, especially housing, taxes and food. The biggest spread in annual cost for a single-person household is $58,009 in Massachusetts compared with $39,386 in West Virginia.

Based on a 40-hour work week, that works out to an hourly wage of about $28 in Massachusetts and about $19 in West Virginia needed to cover basic expenses.

Here's a look at the 15 U.S. states with the highest cost of living, based on how much a single person needs to cover basic costs:

  1. Massachusetts: $58,009
  2. Hawaii: $56,841
  3. California: $56,825
  4. New York: $55,878
  5. Washington: $53,242
  6. Colorado: $51,644
  7. New Jersey: $51,504
  8. Maryland: $51,460
  9. Oregon: $50,553
  10. Rhode Island: $50,418
  11. Connecticut: $50,194
  12. Virginia: $49,973
  13. New Hampshire: $49,045
  14. Arizona: $48,677
  15. Georgia: $48,448

Housing is by far the biggest factor in most people's budgets. At a median of $17,000, housing costs in the 15 most expensive states are nearly double that of the 15 least expensive states.

Unsurprisingly, housing costs are higher in states with large cities, like California and New York. Big cities tend to attract people because of job opportunities, which increases the demand for homes and subsequently drives up prices.

The difference in cost of living between states is also related to food and tax costs, which vary by as much as $2,000 and $1,500, respectively.

Note that these expense estimates only cover necessities, so they don't include discretionary spending like entertainment or investment contributions.

Unfortunately, minimum wage won't cover basic expenses in any state, even for states that far exceed the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25. This includes California's newly enacted $20 per hour minimum wage for fast food workers, which doesn't cover the $27.32 needed to pay for a single full-time worker's basic expenses in that state, according to MIT's data.

MIT's Living Wage calculator is based on data from various federal agencies, adjusted for inflation as of December 2023.

Want to be a successful, confident communicator? Take CNBC's new online course Become an Effective Communicator: Master Public Speaking. We'll teach you how to speak clearly and confidently, calm your nerves, what to say and not say, and body language techniques to make a great first impression. Sign up today and use code EARLYBIRD for an introductory discount of 30% off through July 10, 2024.

Plus, sign up for CNBC Make It's newsletter to get tips and tricks for success at work, with money and in life.

Copyright CNBC
Contact Us