To determine the cities where it’s easiest to be a minimum wage worker, GOBankingRates found the largest 100 cities where the minimum wage is higher than the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage. Then, examined the median price of rent for a one-bedroom apartment and the cost of groceries, utilities and transportation to determine if the pay from a minimum-wage job could cover those expenses.
Of the 13 cities that met that threshold, they were ranked then in order of how much was money left over per year after paying for basic expenses, from the least amount of extra cash to the most. If you earn the minimum wage, click through to see where you can live comfortably.
Workers in Tucson have the highest annual surplus of about $8,700 — which doesn’t amount to a lot of wiggle room.
Two other Arizona cities, Mesa and Phoenix, also fell within GOBankingRates’ top 10 list.
The Grand Canyon State has a relatively high minimum wage ($2.75 above the federal minimum wage). Minimum-wage workers face financial struggles no matter where they live — but some cities are more affordable than others.
High housing costs put renting a two-bedroom apartment out of reach for minimum-wage workers in any U.S. state, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. In only 1 of 12 counties can a full-time minimum-wage worker afford the rent for a one-bedroom apartment, they estimate.
The study isn’t a full picture — it doesn’t take into account federal or state taxes, and it assumes the employee will work 40 hours per week for 52 weeks without a break.
Even so, only 13 metros made the cut:
Tucson topped the list. GOBankingRates estimated that a resident earning the minimum wage in the city ($10 an hour) would have an annual surplus of about $8,700 — which still isn’t a lot to work with to meet other goals like paying off debts or saving for retirement.
Low housing, grocery and utility costs make Tucson one the cheapest places to live. The median monthly rent in this city just 60 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border is only $628 — the seventh lowest on our list. That’s a key reason why you can live in Tucson for less than $50,000 a year, and why it’s the city in Arizona where your paycheck stretches furthest.
Here are the 13 Cities in top ranking: