There’s no official equation to calculate a monthly cost of living. However, there are some unofficial indexes offered by different organizations which provide cost of living information.
It’s important to note that the cost of living in the U.S. will vary from one location to another. It not only depends on which region of the U.S. you live in, but also whether you live in a suburban, urban or rural area. The following is a simple checklist you can use when figuring out what to include in your calculations, and there are free budget calculators available at your disposal around the web.
What to include in a monthly cost-of-living calculation:
Utilities and Housing
- Monthly Housing Payment
The first item to include is your monthly housing payment. This payment should always be included whether you rent or own your home.
Electric bills usually range anywhere from $50 to $400 per month. These bills vary depending on the season, the number of appliances using electricity, and the size of your residence.
- Gas (cooking, appliances, etc)
If used for heating, gas bills might also run between $50-$400 per month. If gas is only used just for cooking, the costs won’t be too high. This, of course, depends on how much food you’re cooking and how long you are cooking for.
- Water, Sewer, and Trash
This fee will usually be included in your rent if you live in an apartment. Depending on the township, you can expect these monthly costs to range between $15-$75/month if you own your home.
- Television and Internet Services
Depending on the provider and the package you choose, residential internet & television services can range from $20-$300.
- Phone Service
Whether you pay for a landline, cell phone, or both, include your monthly phone bills in your calculation. These numbers can range from $20-$200 depending on your plan, the number of devices, and other factors.
Other Monthly Costs
The best way to calculate an average cost of monthly groceries is to average the totals spent on groceries during previous months. Depending on the number of people in your house and the types of foods you eat or prepare, you can expect these costs to fall between the $50-$500 range.
- Gas (auto)
Gas prices vary by location. How much you spend depends on your daily commute to and from school or work. When calculating the cost of your monthly gas expense, consider how often you take public transportation and factor in those costs as well.
While this may not need to be calculated monthly, you might find yourself spending money on clothing when the seasons change. If that’s the case, include this calculation on a quarterly basis.
- Financial Services
Loans (student loans, credit cards, auto loans, etc.) and insurance (auto, health, rental, homeowners, etc.) should also be factored into your monthly cost of living.
Sum up everything you have been spending in each area to see how much you are spending each month.