5 Worst Cities for Cheapskates

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Cheapskates, beware! Move to one of America's costliest cities and you'll pay more than $600,000 for an average four-bedroom house or more than $2,300 a month for a typical two-bedroom apartment -- plus $9 for a six-pack of good beer.

"People who live in America's most-expensive cities pay a premium to be on the cutting edge," says Dean Frutiger of the Council for Community and Economic Research, which recently identified America's least-affordable locales as part of its study seventh-annual Cost of Living Index.

Each year, the think tank uses crowdsourcing to estimate living expenses in hundreds of communities. Volunteers check local prices on everything from teeth cleaning to takeout pizza, which CCER uses to create a weighted index that estimates how much it costs the typical professional/managerial worker to live in each area.

Popular East and West Coast locales dominate the most-expensive list, and this year is no exception. Frutiger says that's due primarily to such communities' stratospheric rents and mortgage bills, given that housing accounts for nearly a third of CCER's weighted index.

But the expert says many Americans pay the high housing prices gladly because moving to a major metro area can mean you'll land a great job.

"If you're someone who's aggressively upwardly mobile, you're probably going to have more of a chance for advancement in a big, expensive city," Frutiger says. "I lived in Vermont for years -- but if I moved back, what would I do for a living? Wax skis?"

Read on to check out America's five most-expensive communities from among the 308 locales CCER surveyed. (Or, click here to check out the nation's five least-costly cities.)

The rankings use actual 2013 prices on 56 goods and services available in one or more neighborhoods that are popular with each community's professional or managerial workers. Terms such as "average" or "highest-priced" refer to how much a given item costs in a specific community relative to what CCER found nationwide.

Fifth-worst locale for cheapskates: Queens, N.Y.
Cost of living:
 52% above U.S. average

You almost have to be a king to afford the New York City borough of Queens these days.

Located across the East River from ultra-expensive Manhattan, this once-blue-collar area is slowly becoming gentrified -- and expensive.

"When anything happens [economically] in Manhattan, you eventually get a spillover into Queens and Brooklyn and Staten Island," Frutiger says.

Queens' 2.3 million residents pay housing costs that run 132.3% above the U.S. average -- the eighth-highest rate among communities that CCER polled. Locals also face the fourth-highest tab for miscellaneous items, paying 27.8% above the U.S. norm for a basket of goods and services ranging from tennis balls to dry cleaning.

Similarly, Queens has the seventh-heftiest costs for utilities (34.8% higher than the norm), the 10th-biggest charges for transportation (17.2% higher than average) and the 14th-highest rate for groceries (16% more than the national average). Lastly, residents pay 12.3% more than what's typical for health care.

Fourth-worst locale for cheapskates: San Francisco
Cost of living:
 61.6% above U.S. average

About the only thing that doesn't cost an arm and a leg in San Francisco in today's economy is the Rice-a-Roni.

The City by the Bay has America's third-worst housing costs (195.6% above the U.S. average) and seventh-heftiest grocery charges (19.5% higher than the norm).

Locals also pay the 13th-highest expenses for both health care (20.1% above average) and transportation (15.2% higher than average), plus the 17th-biggest costs for miscellaneous items (16.8% greater than what's typical).

In fact, Frisco's only affordable item is its utility costs, which run a surprisingly low 4.9% below the U.S. average.

Frutiger attributes 837,000-population San Francisco's earthshakingly high living expenses to the city's booming tech sector.

"San Francisco is one of the hottest, most-in-demand cities in the world right now," he says. "Even the more moderately priced neighborhoods are being taken over by Silicon Valley types."

Third-worst locale for cheapskates: Honolulu
Cost of living:
 69.1% above U.S. average

Prices in Hawaii's largest city are high enough to drive you positively Waikiki.

Frutiger says Honolulu perennially ranks near the top of CCER's annual rundown due to a combination of strong housing demand and the fact that vendors have to import many items from the mainland. "You've pretty much got to ship everything in," he says.

Honolulu's 391,000 residents face America's second-highest prices for groceries (55.2% above America's average), plus the third-highest costs for utilities (71.5% higher than the norm) and transportation (26.9% above what's typical).

Locals also pay the seventh-highest rate for miscellaneous goods (23.6% above average), as well as 11.5% more than what's typical for health care.

Second-worst locale for cheapskates: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Cost of living:
 71.5% above U.S. average

Brooklyn residents can't dodge high prices.

That's because the borough, another former blue-collar area across the East River from Manhattan, has been undergoing some major gentrification.

"Brooklyn is the newest trendy community -- almost the San Francisco of the East," Frutiger says. "A lot of that is a spillover effect from Manhattan."

The 2.6 million-population area has come in second place in CCER's rankings for five straight years, mostly due to high housing costs. Brooklyn has America's second-highest rents and mortgage payments, running 222.5% above the U.S. average.

Brooklynites also pay the nation's ninth-highest grocery prices (19.1% above average), 13th-heftiest costs for miscellaneous goods (19.6% higher than average) and 17th-highest utility bills (24.1% above what's typical).

Residents also face America's 23rd-largest transportation expenses (12.2% higher than average), while health care costs run 10.5% above the national norm.

Worst locale for cheapskates: Manhattan, N.Y.
Cost of living:
 120.4% above U.S. average

Manhattan Island hasn't been affordable since Dutch settlers bought the place from the Indians for $24 worth of beads in 1626.

"Manhattan is probably the most vibrant place in the country, but lots of people want to live there and you only have limited space," Frutiger says. "That puts a premium on everything."

CCER found that Manhattanites pay America's highest prices -- by far -- for housing (351.4% above the U.S. average) and miscellaneous items (51.6% higher than the norm).

They also face the nation's fourth-largest transportation bills (26.7% above average) and eighth-highest utility costs (33.8% greater than what's typical). Lastly, Manhattan's typical health care expenses run 6.2% above the U.S. norm.

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