Smart Money, Retirement Buying Power

Revisiting the Cost of Living in 5 Southeastern States

Living in South Carolina
Published on June 14, 2023

The pandemic altered the lives and shifted the priorities of many people over the past few years, and for some Baby Boomers, plans to relocate were placed on the backburner. Today, as the health crisis has subsided and people are on the move again, focus is returning to the warmer climate of southern US cities, which remain a popular relocation destination.

The southeastern states remain among those with the lowest cost of living, despite the increasing Consumer Price Index. Cost of living has been steadily rising across the country for the past few years. In March of 2022, the Consumer Price Index reported an increase of a record 8.5% from the same time in 2021.

For families and retiree couples hoping to make a new home in one of the many beautiful cities along and near the southeastern coastline, rising costs will mean fresh strategic planning. The Baby Boomer generation continues to relocate in larger numbers to the southeastern coastal cities of the US, taking advantage of a generally lower cost of living and the warmer climate. The exodus has spurred major housing and retirement community developments. 

With the aid of reputable reporting agencies that calculate cost of living across the US, those considering a move will be able to make knowledgeable decisions based on the parameters that agencies use to determine current comparisons. The implications of taxation, from property taxes to state income tax, should also be taken into consideration as these fees will have a definite impact on financial comfort and affordability. Depending on which agency is used, statistics will be based on either a particular city or by the state. 

Taxes within southeastern states, particularly Florida and Eastern Tennessee, are still considerably lower in comparison to other areas in the states. Tennessee boasts the lowest property taxes and remains free from income tax on wages as does Florida, therefore making them two of the states with the lowest taxes. 

Cost of Living Index Ranking of the Top Five Southeastern States


There are numerous sites that publish current statistics on the cost of living in various states. According to the May 2022 statistics published by, housing prices for each state are going up, however fluctuate depending on the exact location within the state you are researching. First, let’s look at the cost-of-living index for the top five southeastern states based on the World Population Review for the first quarter of 2022.


1. Tennessee – 88.7

2. Georgia – 89.2

3. North Carolina – 94.9

4. South Carolina – 95.9

5. Florida – 97.9


2022 Ranking of Living Wages in the Southeastern States 


The 2022 average living wage is another consideration when looking at cost of living in the five main southeastern states. Here are the 2022 statistics from


1. Tennessee - $47,000

2. South Carolina - $47,000

3. Georgia - $48,000

4. North Carolina - $50,000

5. Florida - $52,000


What is the prime driver of cost of living in the US today?

According to statistics gleaned by the World Population Review, families within the US spend approximately thirty five percent of their budget on housing, with the remainder spread over healthcare, food, taxes, childcare, and transportation costs. Let’s take a quick look at the current 2022 state average house listing costs in the top five southeastern states and zoom in on a few city examples and their listing prices as of May 2022, in addition to 2022 cost-of-living index numbers. For this article, we are using current cost-of-living state statistics published online by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, and for city comparisons, the 2022 Cost of Living comparison from Best Places.


With the lowest cost of living between the southeastern and coastal states, at 88.7, Tennessee is a better bet for those hoping to keep their costs down. As of May, house listing costs are currently published by at $422,500. 

1. Memphis is currently the least expensive city to reside in, with an overall cost of living ratio at 77.5. Average home listing prices come in at $293,500, and the median wage sits at $50,000 annually.

2. Knoxville house listing prices are considerably higher with a median cost of $399,950, and the cost of living is higher at 89.6, a difference of over fifteen percent compared with Memphis. 

3. Nashville is a dynamic city with the highest cost of living percentage in the state at over three percent higher than the national average at 103.1. The average house listing price now sits at between $498,810 to 549,700.


The Empire State of the South has the fifth lowest costs of living within the US. People can still afford to purchase a new home in Georgia, however, wages in this state are among the lowest, so needs must be weighed up when considering a move to the state. lists house prices at an average listing price of $399,950.


1. Columbus retains the lowest housing prices at about $207,450 in the current market, and cost of living is a quite a lot lower than the national average at 76.4.


2. The historic and attractive city of Savannah currently offers housing listing prices in the neighbourhood of $395,000 making this an affordable option for most retirees and families. The cost-of-living index currently indicates 88.4. 


3. Atlanta ranks as the third largest city within the Southeast. A typical home currently goes for approximately $427,950 up to $862,500 on average, and the cost-of-living index is considerably higher than other cities in the southeastern states, ranking at 109.4 for the first quarter of 2022. 


North Carolina


North Carolina is considered an excellent state in which to reside due to above average household income, excellent schooling, job prospects, and some of the best rated family cities in the country. Typical housing prices are around $404,950 across the state and fluctuate depending on precise location. The state is experiencing continued growth within the housing market.


As of May 2022, according to, the average listing price of a home within the state is $399,950. However, prices fluctuate depending on the location you choose to live in.


1. Raleigh’s cost of living is slightly above the national average at 102, and housing costs are pricier with an average listing cost of $493,558. 


2. Ironically, the beach location of Wilmington would normally be thought of as higher than Raleigh, yet, current statistics indicate that the city is lower, with the average house listing costs of $498,810 and an overall cost index of 96.5.


3. Durham falls somewhere in the middle of Raleigh and Wilmington, with housing costs averaging $501,517, and cost of living index at 97.5. The city of Durham is a good fit for families, being considered one of the most family-friendly places to live in the US. 


South Carolina


The lovely state of South Carolina is an ideal location for retirees, based on their lack of taxation of Social Security benefits in addition to other retirement income exemptions. These current 2022 rates do not reflect childcare expenses and taxes. statistics for May 2022 indicate the average listing price of a home in the state is $350,610.


1. The historic city of Charleston is the oldest within the state, and is growing steadily, currently ranked as the second largest city in South Carolina. Median house values fall around $587,515, with a cost-of-living index higher than the national average at 109.8.  When compared to the next city on the list, below:


2. Columbia’s average home purchase price is currently averaged at $311,566, with a far lower cost of living index at 84.5. However, utility and health costs are higher, over the national average in comparison to Charleston.


3. North Charleston’s house expenses are considerably lower than the national average at $587,615, however, they are higher than Columbia. The current cost of living is sitting at 91. Both North Charleston and Columbia enjoy lower rates on transportation, housing, and food costs, however North Charleston is the winner with lower health care costs. 




Florida ranks third for most populated state within the US and is considered a top state for retirement. There is no income and retirement income tax, in addition to inheritance and estate taxes. The cost-of-living index rates below do not include taxes and childcare are based on 2022 statistics, and the listing price of the average house by is $399,950.


1. Naples on the Gulf coast is considered one of the best cities in which to reside in Florida, however, there is a bigger price tag, as the average home price falls around $849,000 and the cost-of-living index is just over ten percent higher than the national average at 111%.


2. Orlando in the central part of the state is home to popular destinations like Disney World and numerous other leisure sites. The average house listing cost is around $449,995, with a cost of living slightly higher than the national average at 103.3. 


3. Melbourne is in the upper east coastal region of Florida and considered part of the Space Coast. The median house cost falls in at around $402,450 with a cost of living rated in 2022 at 94.4. This figure is lower than the national average and worth a second look to home buyers.


A lower cost of living can still be realized within the southeastern states of the US, from North Carolina down through to Florida. Regardless of the current economy, people are still drawn to the beautiful southeast coastal cities, and the area will continue to experience an influx of newcomers to their shores. Housing developments continue to fill with relocating retirees and families looking to escape the harsh winters and higher cost of living of other states, like New York and New Jersey.