You already know that the value of a dollar varies wildly depending on where you're sitting. Even close by in two neighboring states—OK, California is pretty huge—you can get a lot more for your dollar in one over the other. Here's a quick examination of exactly how much the cost of everyday living varies across the West Coast.
You might have seen this infographic recently from the Tax Foundation, which reveals the relative value of $100 in every state across the country:
Kind of eye-opening, yeah? The Tax Foundation used 2016 Regional Price Parities (RPPs) from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis to adjust the value of $100 state by state. What that means is that in, say, Ohio, $100 will buy you goods that would cost $111.98 in a state at the national average price level. "You could think of this as meaning that Ohioans are, for the purposes of day-to-day living, 11 percent richer than their incomes suggest," it says on the Tax Foundation website.
Basically, $100 will go a lot farther in some places than in others. And to see exactly how far, we did a little back-of-the-envelope math.
An Average Day in Portland vs. Los Angeles
If you saw the East Coast breakdown from earlier in the week, you know the drill: We used the Tax Foundation's "Value of $100" infographic to select two states on the West Coast—Oregon, the most affordable, and California, the least affordable (if you don't count Hawaii)—in order to compare the real-life value of a dollar in each state.
We selected one city in each state (their most populated, Portland and Los Angeles) and crafted together a somewhat normal day for a reasonably average person in each city by adding up the same list of purchases a person might make in either place (also someone with an empty fridge, so they're refreshing their breakfast staples) until the total hit $100. To determine the average cost of goods in both Portland, OR, and Los Angeles, we consulted the data on Numbeo.
A well-rounded $100 day in Portland buys you coffee and lunch during the day, then dinner, drinks and a movie at night.
1 gallon of milk: $3.31
1 dozen eggs: $2.90
1 lb. banana: $0.79
During the workday:
One-way ticket on local transportation: $2.50
Regular cappuccino: $3.79
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant: $13
Small bottle of water: $1.35
3 miles in a taxi to dinner: $10.30
2 pints of domestic beer: $8
Meal for one at a mid-range restaurant: $27.50
1 mile in a taxi to the movies: $5.10
1 seat at the cinema: $11.25
3 miles in a taxi home: $10.30
Grand total: $100.09
In L.A., you can still do dinner, drinks and a flick, but you won't have enough left over to call a cab home.
1 gallon of milk: $3.68
1 dozen eggs: $3.60
1 lb. banana: $0.91
During the workday:
One-way ticket on local transportation: $1.75
Regular cappuccino: $4.03
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant: $15
Small bottle of water: $1.48
3 miles in a taxi to dinner: $11.80
2 pints of domestic beer: $10
Meal for one at a mid-range restaurant: $30
1 mile in a taxi to the movies: $6.10
1 seat at the cinema: $14
Grand total: $102.35
You'd need another $23.20 to make the three miles home in a taxi.
Check out the East Coast:
Ever wonder how far your salary could go if you picked up and moved to another—more affordable—state?