The 15 Worst Cities for Frugal People

By Brittany Lyte on 16 February 2015 0 comments
Photo: Leo Patrizi

Frugal living can be a challenge anywhere, but in some corners of the globe it takes exquisite talent. Especially when basic staples like milk and bread are expensive enough to make your jaw drop. (See also: 10 of America's Awesomest Cheap Cities)

Read on for our roundup of the worst cities for living on a budget. (Read: Avoid, unless you're prepared to splurge!)

1. Hong Kong

The people of Hong Kong enjoy one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Apparently it's large enough that they can afford a $6.64 cup of coffee, because that's the average price of a cup of joe in this Chinese hub.

2. Paris

The City of Love might also be called The City of Highway Robbery. It costs $21 to see a movie here, nevermind the popcorn. For perspective's sake, consider that a family of three could go to the movies in the U.S. for that same price.

3. New York

There are lots of frugal ways to enjoy the City That Never Sleeps. Just don't move there. The average monthly rent in New York City is $3,017. That's about triple the average monthly rent nationwide.

4. Moscow

In Russia's capital, an unfurnished two-bedroom apartment will set you back more than $4,600 a month. Even a gallon of milk — averaging more than $7.50 — doesn't come cheap.

5. San Francisco

Fog City might be better characterized by the outrageous monthly rent than its gloomy weather conditions. Late last year this northern California hub officially became the most expensive American city to rent a one-bedroom apartment. The average price? A whopping $3,100. That's enough to rent out four apartments in Kansas City and still have $180 leftover for utilities.

6. London

pack of cigarettes in London costs about $12.40 — more than double the average price of a pack of smokes in the U.S. But this city's high prices aren't just problematic for smokers. London is also one of the most expensive places to get around, with a walk-up ticket for a short-journey ride on the Tube costing more than $6.

7. Los Angeles

The cost of living in the City of Angels is more than 30% higher than the rest of the country, yet the average household income here is 6.6% below the national level. It's no wonder more than 21% of the population is living in poverty, compared with an average of 15% across America.

8. Boston

You don't have to actually live in Boston to suffer from its high prices. A one-night stay in America's Walking City will do just fine. A new study from the travel planning website GoEuro found that Boston is the sixth most expensive city in the world for accommodations, and the third most expensive in the U.S. A five-star hotel room here ($252) will cost you more than a room in Melbourne ($206), Barcelona ($242), Stockholm ($184), or Vienna ($233). But what'll really suckerpunch you are the soaring Airbnb rates. At $274 a night, Boston is the most expensive Airbnb city, easily topping New York ($231) and London ($176).

9. Zurich

The average price of a pair of blue jeans in this Swiss banking hub is a staggering $156. Even the typical fast food hamburger meal is ridiculously priced at $15.

10. Sydney

The price of a loaf of bread in Australia's capital city? $5. Take a moment to catch your breath before we rattle off a few others: A bottle of table wine will set you back $25, and a brand-name pack of cigarettes will eat up almost $16.

11. Stamford

Stamford is perhaps very fittingly dubbed Connecticut's "City That Works." Clearly, you've got to work pretty hard to afford these prices. Exhibit A: This small city 30 miles outside Manhattan has one of the highest concentrations of millionaire households in the nation. Housing costs here are more than double the national average.

12. Honolulu

It may be paradise, but it comes at a cost. Last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture named Honolulu the nation's second-most expensive city to raise a child. When considering housing, childcare, and education from birth through age 17, the estimated cost for parents is $430,000.

13. Geneva

According to a study by Hotels.com that uses a club sandwich index to determine how affordable different international cities are for tourists, the classic sandwich of turkey, mayo, and bacon costs nearly $23 on hotel restaurant menus in Geneva. If you want to wash that down with a swig of water, consider drinking from the tap. A standard .33 liter sized bottle of water in this Swiss city costs close to $4.

14. Tokyo

In Japan's capital, dinner at Pizza Hut isn't exactly a cheap date. A pie here costs close to $25. The cab ride home will also cost you, too. A three km ride in Tokyo is $14.15, 150% of what you would pay in New York City.

15. Rio De Janeiro

The dark side of Brazil's global investment boom is that daily life in the big cities has become unreasonably expensive, even when compared to other metropolises known for unaffordability across the globe. For example, purchasing an international newspaper in Manhattan will set you back $2.50. But that same paper in Rio De Janeiro will cost you $9.59. Another illustration: a summer dress that costs $38 at an American outpost of the international affordable clothing chain H&M would be priced at $76 in Rio.

How pricey is your city (or town, village, or burg)?

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