What is a Good Salary for A Single Person? (Defining A Good Wage By State)

Defining A Good Wage By State

Determining what constitutes a good salary for a single person can be tricky. Wages and cost of living vary greatly depending on your location. What may be a decent paycheck in one state may not go far at all in another.

In this article, we will define salary benchmarks for singles based on typical living expenses and provide breakdowns by U.S. state. Read on to find out the key factors that determine a good wage no matter where you live!

How to Define a Good Salary for a Single Person

When evaluating pay as a single person, here are 3 key considerations:

1. Basic Necessity Expenses

At minimum, your salary should cover basic costs like:

  • Housing – rent or mortgage
  • Transportation – car payment, insurance, gas
  • Food
  • Healthcare – insurance, prescriptions
  • Utilities – electricity, water, phone

Aim for a salary that comfortably covers these baseline needs.

2. Lifestyle Expenses

Next, factor in other common expenses like:

  • Entertainment – dining out, movies, concerts
  • Travel/vacation
  • Shopping – clothing, personal care items
  • Savings – emergency fund, retirement

Determine what lifestyle is important to you and ensure your pay allows for those activities. Don’t forget to budget for savings as well.

3. State and Local Cost of Living

Finally, adjust for where you live. The same salary may have vastly different purchasing power in high cost areas like New York City versus lower cost cities like Memphis. Location matters.

Now let’s examine average salaries for singles based on typical budgets and expenses.

Average Salaries for Singles by State

Here are the benchmark salaries that are considered “good” for singles in each state based on overall cost of living. These amounts represent solid middle-class wages.

State Good Salary
Alabama $35,000
Alaska $45,000
Arizona $40,000
Arkansas $35,000
California $55,000
Colorado $45,000
Connecticut $50,000
Delaware $40,000
Florida $40,000
Georgia $40,000
Hawaii $50,000
Idaho $35,000
Illinois $45,000
Indiana $40,000
Iowa $40,000
Kansas $40,000
Kentucky $35,000
Louisiana $35,000
Maine $40,000
Maryland $50,000
Massachusetts $55,000
Michigan $40,000
Minnesota $45,000
Mississippi $35,000
Missouri $35,000
Montana $35,000
Nebraska $40,000
Nevada $40,000
New Hampshire $45,000
New Jersey $50,000
New Mexico $35,000
New York $60,000
North Carolina $40,000
North Dakota $40,000
Ohio $35,000
Oklahoma $35,000
Oregon $45,000
Pennsylvania $40,000
Rhode Island $45,000
South Carolina $35,000
South Dakota $35,000
Tennessee $35,000
Texas $40,000
Utah $40,000
Vermont $40,000
Virginia $45,000
Washington $50,000
West Virginia $35,000
Wisconsin $40,000
Wyoming $40,000

As you can see, salaries considered “good” vary significantly by state based on average cost of living. High cost states like California and New York require $55-60k+ for a single person to live comfortably. Meanwhile, lower cost southern and midwest states fall closer to $35-40k.

Location is key – a $50k salary goes a lot further in Ohio than it does in Hawaii, for example. Now let’s break down typical budgets for singles in some sample states.

Sample Budgets for Single People

To give a more detailed view, here are estimated monthly budgets for single people in three different states:

California Budget (San Francisco)

Expense Cost
Rent (1 bedroom apartment) $2,500
Groceries $550
Dining/Entertainment $700
Car Payment $350
Car Insurance $100
Gas $150
Health Insurance $400
Gym Membership $70
Cell Phone $100
Utilities $150
Total $5,070

To comfortably afford these basic living expenses in San Francisco, a good salary would be around $70,000 annually. And this budget doesn’t include savings or travel. Big city living is expensive!

Texas Budget (Houston)

Expense Cost
Rent (1 bedroom apartment) $1,200
Groceries $400
Dining/Entertainment $500
Car Payment $300
Car Insurance $100
Gas $120
Health Insurance $350
Gym Membership $40
Cell Phone $80
Utilities $200
Total $3,290

In Houston, that same budget is much more affordable. A salary in the $45,000 range would provide a similar middle-class lifestyle.

Ohio Budget (Columbus)

Expense Cost
Rent (1 bedroom apartment) $800
Groceries $350
Dining/Entertainment $400
Car Payment $250
Car Insurance $90
Gas $100
Health Insurance $300
Gym Membership $30
Cell Phone $70
Utilities $150
Total $2,540

Finally, for Ohio, a salary around $35,000 gives you comparable purchasing power and amenities. Location clearly makes a huge impact on how far your paycheck will go as a single person!

While these are estimates, it shows how vastly salary requirements can differ across the country based on local costs. Understanding your own typical expenses is key.

Additional Factors That Impact a Good Salary

Some other considerations that affect your definition of a “good” wage include:

  • Job/career – some fields naturally pay higher wages
  • Education level – higher degrees often lead to increased pay
  • Years of experience – salary tends to rise with more experience
  • Cost of living increases – inflation drives up living costs every year

Make sure to factor in these elements as well when evaluating what pay makes sense for your situation. Also consider that needed income tends to be higher if you have:

  • Student loan debt – extra debt payments
  • Medical issues – higher healthcare costs
  • Children – childcare and education expenses

Questions to Ask When Determining a Good Salary

If you are unsure what earnings qualify as good wages given your circumstances, ask yourself:

  • Can I pay all my monthly bills and living costs?
  • Do I have money left over for savings and fun?
  • Can I afford to handle emergencies like car repairs?
  • Can I contribute to retirement accounts?
  • Can I take a vacation each year?

If the salary allows you to answer “yes” to those questions, it likely provides a solid middle-class lifestyle for a single person.


Defining a “good salary” depends primarily on your current expenses and desired lifestyle. A wage that allows you to cover necessities, enjoy some leisure activities, and save each month is generally a good target for singles.

Where you live is the biggest factor that will raise or lower required earnings. Use this article as a guide, understand your own budgets, and adjust based on location and job market when evaluating potential pay. With the right income, you can thrive financially as a single person!

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