The Best and Worst Cities in America for Making Ends Meet

Birmingham, Alabama


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Birmingham, Alabama

Tight Spots

The economy may be humming away, but not everyone reaps the benefits — and for millions of Americans, covering the cost of even basic necessities each month is a challenge. The average American has less than $140 left over from payday and nearly 80% of workers live paycheck to paycheck, with some ending up in the red, according to a Clever Real Estate study. (Even 10% of people earning six figures struggle to make ends meet each month.) Where you live matters a lot, as Clever shows in a ranking of cities where residents have the most and least disposable income from biweekly pay after taking care of the basics. We're going to show you the top and bottom 15 from the full ranking.

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McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas

No. 75: McAllen, Texas

Average left over from each paycheck: -$230.68
With its arts district and parks, McAllen can be a pleasant place to live — but residents struggle more than any other city in the country, according to Clever Real Estate. After paying for basic expenses from each paycheck, they come up about hundreds short from income of $1,015.

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No. 74: New Haven, Connecticut

Average left over from each paycheck: -$156.41
Despite living alongside Yale University, residents of New Haven still find themselves well over a hundred bucks short from paychecks of $2,179.

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Jon Bilous/shutterstock

No. 73: Riverside, California

Average left over from each paycheck: $112.11
Residents in the Southern California city of Riverside, an hour outside Los Angeles, find themselves deep in the negative after paying basic living costs. The income here is $1,557.

New York, New York

No. 72: New York

Average left over from each paycheck: -$109
New York City is famous for being pricey. The fact that residents tend to fall this short after paying living costs seems conservative, really — goods and services are most expensive in places such as San Francisco and New York City — despite income of around $2,949.

Related: 15 Types of People Who Shouldn't Visit New York City

Orlando, Florida
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

No. 71: Orlando, Florida

Average left over from each paycheck: -$83
Residents of this popular theme park center are among the worst off when it comes to disposable income. This is not entirely surprising, given that Clever says southern residents are more likely to live below 125% of the poverty level. Income here averages $1,672.

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San Antonio
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

No. 70: San Antonio

Average left over from each paycheck: $1.31
It's not a pretty picture in San Antonio, the home of the Alamo, where residents are just barely out of the red each pay period after covering their basic necessities. The average income in this Texas city is $1,807.

Detroit, Michigan

No. 65: Detroit

Average left over from each paycheck: $47
Detroit's struggles are well-known. The city has been on the decline and facing economic challenges for decades — though it has seen some modest revitalization in the downtown core. Residents, while not among the absolute worst off, don't typically have much free cash to spend from pay of $2,041.

Virginia Beach
TK Fotoshop/istockphoto

No. 64: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Average left over from each paycheck: $56
Virginia Beach residents have a bit of discretionary income to spend on the famous beach and boardwalk from income of $1,946.

Dayton, Ohio
Nicholas Smith/istockphoto

No. 63: Dayton, Ohio

Average left over from each paycheck: $70
In Dayton, once the home of aviation legends Wilbur and Orville Wright, the discretionary spending each pay period might cover checked luggage on a flight somewhere despite income of $1,834.

Providence, Rhode Island

No. 62: Providence, Rhode Island

Average left over from each paycheck: $76
The capital of Rhode Island and home to the Ivy League Brown University leaves residents without much spending money at the end of a $2,099 pay period.

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El Paso, Texas

No. 61: El Paso, Texas

Average left over from each paycheck: $87
Income is about $1,378 before taxes, and at the end of each pay period people are left with not too much — even though El Paso has some of the cheapest housing and utilities, which are the largest share of per capita spending nationwide at around $403. They're followed by miscellaneous goods and services (including such things as home, auto, health, and other insurance) at $348. Transportation expenses are next up at $224, followed by health care (not including insurance) at $160, and finally groceries at $137.

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No. 66: Milwaukee

Average left over from each paycheck: $27.60
Having this discretionary income at the end of every two weeks isn't likely to get you very far. But that's the reality for residents in brewery-rich Milwaukee, after income of about $2,192.

Las Vegas

No. 67: Las Vegas

Average left over from each paycheck: $26.50
In the city of high-rolling gamblers, the locals are clearly not the ones with all the cash. The average disposable income for residents of Sin City is barely enough to play the slot machines for a few minutes after income of $1,811.

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Columbus, Ohio

No. 68: Columbus, Ohio

Average left over from each paycheck: $18.55
The picture isn't much brighter in this state capital, where residents have less than $20 to live on after paying for basic expenses from income of $1,967.

Allentown, Pennsylvania

No. 69: Allentown, Pennsylvania

Average left over from each paycheck: $11
Residents of Allentown — the working-class burg sung about by Billy Joel — don't even enough to buy a ticket to a Lehigh Valley IronPigs game after paying for the basics each month from income of $2,081.

Omaha, Nebraska

No. 15: Omaha, Nebraska

Average left over from each paycheck: $423
Residents of the largest city in Nebraska average paychecks of $2,232 and end each pay period with a solid amount to put in the bank — or maybe spend exploring the The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.


No. 14: Seattle

Average left over from each paycheck: $425
This tech hub, home of Amazon, Microsoft, and more, sees residents take home average income of $2,870 — with enough left over to buy some stock after paying for the basics.

San Francisco

No. 13: San Francisco

Average left over from each paycheck: $433
San Francisco is legendary for its steep price of living. But it is also legendary for its many highly paid residents: Per capita income income is $3,824. San Franciscans are left with money to burn despite being among those spending the most on housing and utilities, along with cities such as Bridgeport, Connecticut; San Jose; New York; and Los Angeles.

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No. 12: Denver

Average left over from each paycheck: $456
The Mile-High City can seem like a fairly comfortable place to live: Residents get an average income of $2,472 and see out every two weeks with enough to ski around on.

Salt Lake City

No. 11: Salt Lake City

Average left over from each paycheck: $463
Utah's capital and world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ski City sees its residents end each pay period short of $500 in discretionary spending from pay of $1,989.

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St. Louis
amolson7 / shutterstock

No. 10: St. Louis

Average left over from each paycheck: $465
On the banks of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and known as the Gateway to the West — with a Gateway Arch to match — St. Louis also allows residents to bank some income after paying the basics from $2,149 paychecks.

Birmingham, Alabama
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

No. 9: Birmingham, Alabama

Average left over from each paycheck: $481
Big on banking and business, Birmingham's average pay is $1,960, but residents still come out of each pay period with a significant amount of disposable income.

Related: The Most Expensive Neighborhood in Every State

Richmond, Virginia
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

No. 8: Richmond, Virginia

Average left over from each paycheck: $488
In Richmond, where Patrick Henry dared England to "Give me liberty or give me death," most residents don't have to be given anything — they can afford to buy, even after paying all of their basic living costs each paycheck. Average income is about $2,203.

Sean Pavone/shutterstock

No. 7: Pittsburgh

Average left over from each paycheck: $491
Maybe it's not like it was when Andrew Carnegie was forging steel in the 1800s, but Pittsburgh is doing just fine: Pay per capita is about $2,233, and workers end each pay period with plenty of that to save or spend.

Nashville, Tennessee

No. 6: Nashville, Tennessee

Average left over from each paycheck: $504
Maybe it's the music industry, perhaps it's the relatively inexpensive cost of living, but Nashville residents are doing quite well, with more than $500 in discretionary spending each pay period from pay of $2,228.

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Charlotte, North Carolina
Sean Pavone/istockphoto
Raleigh, North Carolina

No. 4: Raleigh, North Carolina

Average left over from each paycheck: $601
In Raleigh, home to the Research Triangle of North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, income is a comfortable $2,117, and what's left over is very comfortable as well.

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Tulsa, Oklahoma

No. 3: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Average left over from each paycheck: $706
In a bit of a shocker, Tulsa rounds out the top three cities in the country where residents have the most spare change in their pockets after paying the bills and other living expenses. Per capita income here is $2,110, while discretionary spending amounts to about one-third of that.

San Jose, California
Bridgeport, Connecticut

No. 1: Bridgeport, Connecticut

Average left over from each paycheck: $1,683
There's extreme poverty here too, but this seaport city is where residents have the most money in their pockets each pay period — more than some people's entire paycheck, in fact, from before-tax income of $4,639 per capita.

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