How High Is the Cost of Living in South Carolina?

The cost of living in South Carolina is much lower than the national average—but what’s the rural vs. urban breakdown?
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
The cost of living in
South Carolina
is very affordable—although prices may be on the rise. Currently, a single adult needs at least $36,337.60 to live comfortably in South Carolina
Hilton Head Island
, the Palmetto State offers the best of accessible American living. But how much does it really cost to live here? Here to break down the real costs of living in South Carolina is
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How high is the cost of living in South Carolina? 

South Carolina is wildly diverse, ranging from fancy coastal getaways and metropolitan centers to rural towns and beautiful countryside. Averaging the cost of living across the state, South Carolina’s cost of living index of 88.5
What does that number really mean? 100 is the national average cost of living. Any number above 100 means that it’s more expensive than average, and any number below 100 means a lower-than-average cost of living. By comparison, Alabama’s cost of living index is 82.3, while
North Carolina’s
are 118.7 and 90.6, respectively. 
In other words, South Carolina is pretty darned affordable compared to the rest of the country
Now, let’s dive into some details like food, healthcare, housing, transportation, and more. Here is what you can expect to pay for these required expenses in South Carolina versus the national average cost for the same goods and services.

Food: $279.25 to $821.33 per month

In the pantry and onto the table—everybody’s gotta eat! Food is a non-negotiable cost of living. When calculating this cost, we exclude going out to eat. In other words, we’re pricing out your monthly grocery bill.
The annual cost of food in South Carolina is between $3,351 to $9,856, according to MIT’s
Living Wage Calculator
. Of course, your food cost will depend on how many people are in your family and where you live. A one-person household in South Carolina can expect to spend at least $279.25 per month on groceries. If you’re feeding four people, you can expect to pay closer to $821.33 every month—just to feed everyone!
What is the national figure? The national average monthly household bill is $411, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Remember, this figure does not include your weekly Five Guys visits or your morning Starbucks run. It doesn’t include date night dinners, either. 

Healthcare: $246.42 per month

Here’s some good news: Healthcare costs in South Carolina are really low compared to other states in the U.S. The average annual healthcare cost per person in this state is $2,957, or $246.42 per month. The national average is $477 per month, aka almost twice as much!
There’s a caveat, which is that healthcare costs can vary dramatically from household to household. If someone in your family needs expensive prescriptions or other costly healthcare, then you can expect to pay a lot more than South Carolina’s average of $246 per month per person.

Housing: $814.67 to $1,011.92 per month

In nearly every state, the cost of housing eats up a huge portion of the monthly budget. This holds true in South Carolina, where the typical home value is $310,000 (as of April 2022). It’s reasonable to expect that housing costs in South Carolina will continue to increase, unfortunately.
Now let’s look at how housing costs show up in your monthly budget. It all depends on the type and size of home that you live in:
  • Median monthly mortgage payment: $1,250
  • Average studio rent: $610
  • Average one-bedroom rent: $657
  • Average two-bedroom rent: $788
  • Average three-bedroom rent: $1,044
  • Average four-bedroom rent: $1,231
The numbers above represent the state averages. Housing costs change dramatically when you zoom in to the city level. For example, in downtown
, the average monthly rent for a studio apartment is just under $1,500. If you head to
, the average one-bedroom goes for about $1,000 per month. 
That may sound high but it’s a lot lower than the rest of the country. The typical home value in the U.S. is $337,560 and the average rent is currently $1,904 per month.

Transportation: $459 to $1,251 per month

Another unavoidable expense is transportation. The average range (which includes people who drive as well as people who use public transit) for monthly transportation costs in South Carolina is between $459 and $1,251. 
That’s about on par with the national average of $818 per month for a two-person household.
Let’s break down this figure to understand the variety of transit costs in this state: 
  • Average annual cost of car insurance in South Carolina: $558 to $1,512 (
    only vs.
    full coverage
  • CARTA 31-day pass in Charleston: $57
  • Average
    commute length
    in South Carolina: 24 minutes
  • Average cost of a gallon of gas, June 2022: $4.086

How much you need to live comfortably in South Carolina: $36,337.60 to $46,196.80 per year

If we add up the numbers in each category above, it’s clear that a single adult needs to earn at least $36,337.60 per year, or $17.47/hour, to survive in South Carolina. A family of four needs $46,196.80 per year or $22.21/hour.
So how easy is it to earn the cash you need to pay for the cost of living in South Carolina? Well, South Carolina’s minimum wage is $7.25/hour. Living comfortably in South Carolina is a serious challenge if you’re only making minimum wage. 
Of course, there’s more to life than the bare minimum costs! What about trips to the beach, or going out for ice cream? Here’s a list that shows the prices of a few non-essential goods compared to the national average: 
  • Average cost of a date: $84.92 (US average: $116) 
  • Average cost of a night at the movies: $7.53 (US average: $10.61) 
  • Average cost of a Big Mac: $4.11 (US average: $3.99) 
  • Carowinds tickets: $39.99 and up per person (US average theme park ticket price: $91)
  • Average sales tax: 6%(US average: 5.09%)
We can’t generalize about every South Carolinian. You may be able to meet all your needs on less than $36,337.60. In most cases, however, that is the amount one person needs to earn to pay for basic needs and live comfortably in South Carolina.

The South Carolina cities with the lowest cost of living

South Carolina is already an affordable state, but there are a few cities that are even more affordable. If you want to pay less for life, check out these South Carolina cities with a low cost of living index (COLI)—lower than the state average, and way lower than the national average: 
  1. Parker (COLI: 78.2): Just outside of Greenville is Parker, an area with positive economic growth and a strong community. 
  2. Conway
    (COLI: 88.2): Conway is just 30 minutes from the coast at Myrtle Beach. This is a vibrant and historic area with lots of natural recreation opportunities.
  3. Chester
    (COLI: 77.3): This is a small, proud rural town with great respect for the past and eagerness to embrace the future. 
  4. Gaffney
    (COLI: 71.3): The seat of Cherokee County and not far from the North Carolina border, Gaffney is a small town with a famous peach-shaped water tower.
  5. Laurens
    (COLI: 77.1): Abutting nearby national forests, Laurens is a tight-knit and creative town where businesses and families thrive.
Saving money is nothing to be ashamed of! If you want to realize your dream of living in South Carolina without breaking the bank, check out one of the five cities listed above.

How to easily find home and car insurance in South Carolina

You’ll pay less than the average American for daily living expenses in South Carolina. So what about home and
car insurance
costs? Insurance costsa little bit less than the national average for most residents of South Carolina. 
The good news is that you don’t have to accept the first price you’re offered. Finding home and car insurance is a critical part of being a responsible adult. But it’s unreasonable to expect one person to do all that research just to find a low rate. 
, a free app that helps you with insurance shopping. Jerry does all the paperwork and phone calls for you. Jerry even helps cancel your old policy. Compare rates, tap to sign up, and save a ton of money. The best part is that Jerry will continue doing research and send you an update every six months when your policy is up for renewal.
“I was literally floored by the savings
found for me. I was paying close to $960 every 6 months and now I’m paying $380 every 6 months for IDENTICAL COVERAGE in South Carolina!” —Olivia Z.
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A single person in South Carolina needs approximately $2,795 per month to live comfortably.
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