The cost of living in
Wisconsin is considerably cheaper than the national average. Affordable housing and transportation costs are the leading causes of Wisconsin’s overall affordability. A single adult needs about $34,112 annually to live comfortably in the Badger State.
If you’re looking for an affordable place to live with plenty of natural beauty, rural locations, and a whole lot of cheese, then look no further than Wisconsin! This article—brought to you by
licensed broker and super app for saving money on
home and auto insurance—will break down the cost of living in Wisconsin, from healthcare to housing and more.
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How high is the cost of living in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin’s overall cost of living index (COLI) is 90.9, which is quite low. The COLI is a measure of the cost of living in an area, relative to the national average, which is always set at 100.
A COLI of 90.9 means that the cost of living in Wisconsin is 90.9% of the national average, or 9.1% lower than is typical.
The COLI is a useful measurement if you’re wondering how Wisconsin compares to other states, but it doesn’t give an actual dollar amount to work with.
For that, we’ll need to take a look at each of the individual expenses that Wisconsinites have to pay for—food, healthcare, housing, and transportation.
Food: $330 to $820 per month
First, let's take a look at the most basic living requirement that there is—food. On average, the cost of groceries in America’s Dairyland is 5.3% lower than the national average.
In real dollars, that translates to about $329.25 a month for a single adult. A family of four would need about $820 each month for food.
Again, that would be for groceries. Eating at a restaurant or ordering delivery isn’t included in this number.
It should be noted that while the cost of food is still lower than average, it is rising in Wisconsin at a staggering rate—jumping nearly 10% in the past few years alone.
Rising gas prices and archaic worker’s rights laws have left Wisconsin with a dwindling workforce, leading to sharply rising food costs.
Healthcare: $219 per month
Unlike many of the other regular expenses in Wisconsin, healthcare is noticeably more costly in the Badger State than elsewhere in the U.S.
Living Wage Calculator published by MIT tells us that the average single individual in Wisconsin has to pay about $219 per month on healthcare.
While higher than the national average, this seems to be quite a bit lower than what Wisconsinites actually have to pay. Some estimates report that individuals spend as much as $375 per month on average for medical care.
Needless to say, if you have any preexisting conditions, Wisconsin might not be the right place for you to move to.
Housing: $686 to $987 per month
Housing costs are where you’ll save the most money by living in Wisconsin. The cost of living index for housing in Wisconsin is 81.4—18.6% lower than the national average.
As a single adult, you’ll pay about $686 per month, on average, for housing. If you have a family of four, you’ll pay closer to $987 per month.
The typical home in Wisconsin costs only $173,600, which means most Wisconsin homeowners only pay between $600 and $700 each month in mortgage payments.
For those Wisconsinites that rent, costs are also low. The median rental price for a housing unit is around $840 per month. Let’s take a look at how that breaks down depending on the size of the unit in question.
Average studio rent: $660
Average one-bedroom rent: $750
Average two-bedroom rent: $950
Average three-bedroom rent: $1,250
Average four-bedroom rent: $1,375
Overall, that’s about as affordable as housing gets in the United States in 2022.
Transportation: $442 to $1,204 per month
Transportation is another area where Wisconsin is especially affordable. A single adult living in Wisconsin typically only has to pay around $442 per month to get around. For a family of four, that cost jumps to $1,204 per month.
Once again, though, those numbers are based on MIT’s Cost of Living Calculator, which does not necessarily take into account recent increases in gas prices.
More recent data from the
Economic Policy Institute (EPI) suggests that a single individual might be paying closer to $830 per month on transportation due to rampant inflation.
To get a more firm figure, let’s consider some of the various costs that make up transportation expenses.
How much you need to live comfortably in Wisconsin: $20,124 to $75,587 per year
Based simply on the numbers we see above, it would seem that a single individual needs $20,124 annually (about $9.68 an hour) just to survive. Of course, there’s a big difference between surviving and living comfortably.
According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, you’d need up to $16.40 per hour ($34,112 annually) to afford a decent lifestyle in Wisconsin.
If you have a family of four, you’d need at least $38,760 annually ($18.63 hourly) to make ends meet and $75,587 annually ($36.34 hourly) to live comfortably.
As affordable as that may seem, keep in mind that the minimum wage in Wisconsin is a staggeringly low $7.25 per hour ($15,080 annually)—which is well below even the most conservative estimate for the cost of living in that state.
For a more day-to-day look at Wisconsin’s cost of living, let’s take a look at what some common non-essential expenses look like:
Average cost of a date: $54.50 (US average: $116)
Average cost of a night at the movies: $11.50/per person (US average: $10.61)
Average cost of a Big Mac: $4.19 (US average: $3.99)
Average sales tax: 5.43%(US average: 5.09%)
Of course, everyone has their own definition of what it means to live comfortably. It may be that you can get by on the minimum of $20,124 just fine. Even still, you’ll need to be making well over the state’s minimum wage to make ends meet.
The Wisconsin cities with the lowest cost of living
The cost of living in Wisconsin may be fairly low, on the whole, but that doesn’t mean that every city/town is an affordable place to live—or that the cost of living is the same throughout the state.
Like any state in the Union, Wisconsin has its more affordable areas as well as more costly ones. If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest places to live in the Badger State, consider moving to one of these cities:
Rothschild (COLI: 87): The scenic village of Rothschild is a cozy little settlement on the banks of the Wisconsin River with a population of 5,269 and a 92.6x home-to-rent ratio.
Merrill (COLI: 81): The small town of Merrill is another of the cheapest places to live in Wisconsin, with an average home price of only $81,000.
Manitowoc (COLI: 82): If the small-town setting isn’t for you but you still want an affordable place to live, then Manitowoc might be the spot for you. It’s decently sized with a population of around 32,000—but it’s still quite affordable.
Two Rivers (COLI: 80): The mid-sized town of Two Rivers is a great place if you’re looking to start a life and put down roots. Its flourishing job market and low housing costs make it the ideal setting for first-time homebuyers.
Waupun (COLI: 92): Waupun isn’t quite as affordable as some of the other locations on this list but it offers a significantly better style of living. With nearly-nonexistent crime and close proximity to large cities like Green Bay, it’s the perfect spot to start a family.
If you’re on the hunt for an affordable life in America’s Dairyland, one of the cities listed above should be the perfect place to settle!
How to easily find home and car insurance in Wisconsin
One of the major contributors to your overall cost of living that we haven’t yet mentioned is insurance.
80% of all adults in Wisconsin own and drive their own cars. This being the case, there is very little public transportation available. You’ll need to have a car and
affordable car insurance to protect it.
The premiums for these insurance policies can get pretty expensive, so it’s important to hunt for good deals. Luckily, that hunt won’t be very difficult or take very long—at least, not when you have
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