New Online Tool Helps Calculate How Much You Need to Live Comfortably in NC

March 15, 2018

A sea of online tools help us calculate HSA savings, potential tax refunds and projected retirement growth on a 401(k). Now there’s one to help you calculate cost of living in North Carolina.


A new online calculator from United Way of North Carolina and RTI International was born from a 2017 report that showed many families in North Carolina were struggling to make ends meet. According to the report, "Over the past two decades, cost increases have far outstripped wage increases."

In light of this "economic crunch" experienced by so many North Carolinians, these two nonprofits have created what could be a great starting point for those looking for help. The “Our Money Needs Calculator” is an easy, intuitive tool for North Carolinians—even those already working steady full-time jobs—to get the information they need on financial planning and cost of living in NC.

The News & Observer reports that the tool calculates the bare minimum of what you or your family would need to get by in NC without government support or help from friends and family. So, unfortunately, it will not break down the costs of that cute Bernedoodle you’ve been looking to adopt.

The calculator uses information from the user (see our test run below), as well as data from the Self-Sufficiency Standard for North Carolina 2017 report to determine costs of housing, childcare, food, transportation, healthcare and more in each of the 50 North Carolina counties.

We tried the calculator to see how a single adult in Wake County would fare.

To start, we answered two simple questions:

  1. County: Wake
  2. Household: 1 adult

The results were in—according to the calculator, a single adult in Wake County needs an annual income of $25,287 and a monthly income of $2,107 to make ends meet.


And the monthly breakdown:


Remember that the tool calculates the "bare bones"—so keep in mind that the breakdown will change based on your lifestyle and needs.

Words of hope (“Stay with us” and “You are not alone”) reassure people that, if the projected income seems out of reach, there are options and resources to help them move forward. We also see advice on how to secure basic needs, create an emergency fund and improve one’s long-term financial future. Two focal points are increasing income and decreasing expenses.

Some FAQ in the tool link out to additional resources:

  • “I'm overwhelmed. Where should I start?” links to “Let’s Talk Money: A Family Guide”—a report full of conversation-starters, actionable steps and tools to help you review your current financial situation and set future goals.
  • “I'm concerned about my health or the health of someone in my household. What support is available?” links to a NC 2-1-1 page on five healthcare-related topics: health insurance, medical bill help, healthcare providers, support groups and transportation for medical appointments.
  • “I'm not sure we’ll have enough to eat this month. What are my options?” links to a NC 2-1-1 page on food assistance.
  • “What if we move to a different county?” circles users back to the calculator to see how moving to a different county could change their financial needs. Nodding back to the earlier example, we see that the same individual in Wake County would need an annual income of $20,727 and monthly family income of $1,727 if he or she lived in Alamance County.

We’re here to talk about improving the fiscal health of all North Carolinians, and cost of living is sure to affect the health of our state in years to come. Whether you’re already a North Carolina resident or you’re interested in moving here, this tool could help outline what to expect. It could also provide insight into how much one should be compensated to live in our state, nodding to the growing gap between "sluggish wages" and always-increasing expenses. Why not give it a try? Let us know what you think.

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