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Austin Ranks First On List Of Top Spending Cities

Image by KUT News

Does a day go by without Austin ranking high on some cool list? Yesterday it was third place in a ranking for entrepreneurs, today we are number one on a list of top spending cities.'s list doesn't account for boring expenses like mortgage and rent. That's probably why New York City ranked number 53, and it's why relatively affluent towns with low housing costs fared better.

More importantly, the data reveals how spending persists, across circumstances. A lower cost of housing often means that people spend more on food, restaurants and travel. It's why residents of Fresno, Calif., spend more on shopping, gas and auto expenses than their northern neighbors in San Francisco. In other words, you can move to a cheaper city, but you won't necessarily spend less.

That may be true, but at least in a cheaper city you get more bang for your buck. In (relatively) affordable Austin, the average household is blowing $67,000 per year on things like food, restaurants, clothing, and transportation. Seems as if plugging less money into your mortgage just means we have more left over for dinner or drinks or a new BBQ.

Here are the top five. Read the full list here.

1. Austin ($67,076)
2. Scottsdale, Ariz. ($64,687)
3. San Jose, Calif. ($59,022)
4. Arlington, Va. ($52,085)
5. Plano, Texas ($56,738)

But spending averages don't tell the whole story. Income inequality has been rising in Texas since the 1980s, according to a 2008 study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  The Lonestar State was among those reporting a large and growing gap between the highest earners and middle income earners.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.