"When I was your age, a movie ticket cost 25¢. And for that, I got a cartoon, a movie, popcorn, and a one-legged midget to drive me home. How do you crazy kids afford anything these days?"

Get out of the Stone Age (a.k.a. "1980"), Gramps - life is growing more and more expensive. The cost of living in a big city is rising, thanks to a booming economy and the NASDAQ's tip-top rise. Most of these cost-of-living increases are manageable, but there are 10 U.S. cities that have grown wildly expensive. Our list below is of the ten most expensive cities to live in. If you don't see your hometown on the list but still see yourself paying $10 for a hot dog, don't get too confused. Various criteria go into compiling a list like this (including rent prices, the cost of food, the cost of keeping a car, gas prices, and whether the local economy is doing well).

By the way, if you're into that whole "All you need is a dollar and a dream" bit, you'll be fine in any of these cities. Just plan on a whole lotta rice and beans.

Note: These rankings are taken from the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association. Each city is followed by a number that indicates how much more expensive the cost-of-living is in that city as compared to the national average. So if you make, say, $100,000 per year in the average U.S. city, you'd need to make $116,000 in Seattle (indicated as 1 - 1.16) and $142,000 in Boston (1 - 1.42) to live the same lifestyle.

1. CITIES 10 - 8

10. Seattle, WA
1 - 1.16

The city of Microsoft. Why is the city so expensive? Did everyone jack up their prices, figuring that Bill Gates would foot the bill? (Save his barber, that is.) The reason is that Seattle is the headquarters of many other companies, including Starbucks and Boeing.

This is all fine and dandy for the folks who get to enjoy the city Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan made famous. Seattle has a booming culture, is the center of new music sounds (remember grunge?), gorgeous scenery, and tons of rain. Open-air markets, coffee shops, and a laid-back attitude are key.

The super-expensive coffee chain idea started in Seattle's own Pike Market (where you can catch a free bus ride home). Good thing, since you may spend $15 on lunch before arriving at your $900/month downtown apartment.

9. Ann Arbor, MI
1 - 1.21

Just west of Detroit, Ann Arbor's small-town charm wraps around the historic streets and country roads that give way to ample museums, stores, and changing venues to satisfy any cultural aficionado's taste for the finest.

All roads in Ann Arbor lead to the world-renowned University of Michigan. One-third of the city's adults work for UMich, and the school gives the town its unique flavor (not to mention its money and its population). Save some money before you soak up some school spirit, though; UMich apparel even comes in a Tommy Hilfiger line, with sweatshirts at $60 each.

While the cost of most items are way about above the national average (food, clothing, knick knacks), over 25% of the city does earn at least $50K, and housing costs here are lower than the national average.

8. Fairbanks, AK
1 - 1.27

Fairbanks holds an annual Felix Pedro look-alike contest. Who? In 1902, Pedro struck gold in Alaska. Lucky for him, a supplier named E.T. Barnette had a little boat mishap, and was stuck onshore with nothing to do but finance Pedro. By 1904 there was a gold rush stampede to Fairbanks, and E.T.'s trading post grew into a small town, and then a bustling city. Starting in the 1920s, prospectors found a whole lotta gold in Fairbanks. And the current residents are paying for it.

The Gold Rush days may have ended, but the city still searches in modern mines. And, it honors the good ol' days with museums, parades and tours dedicated to that which glitters. You can even visit the state's largest public display of gold at the U of AK Fairbanks Museum, for a bargain at a $5 entrance fee. The rest of the city is pretty pricey, though. It's tough to ship a lot of "necessities" up to Alaska, making the prices higher.

2. CITIES 7 - 5

7. Los Angeles, CA
1 - 1.27

Movie stars aren't just gorgeous; they're also loaded. So are their directors. And they're all running around LA, dropping lots of cash wherever they go. For instance, at The Ivy, star-watchers drop $45 for a simple meal of fried chicken.

And lest we forget, LA is not only tourist central for its proximity to Hollywood, but also because this SoCal city hosts Disney World, Magic Mountain, Universal Studios and Knott's Berry Farm. Everyone who visits the small worlds of wonder is willing to fork over not just sky-high admission costs, but also $5 for a soda.

The general cost of finding an apartment is rather cheap in Los Angeles, but the thing that raises the cost of living is the extreme reliance on cars and gas. And outrageous prices in ritzy areas like Bel Air (say hi to the Fresh Prince for us) and Beverly Hills really add up.

6. Philadelphia, PA
1 - 1.28

People coming to the country's "fattest city" don't just carry big stomachs (thank you, Mr. $5.50 cheesesteak), but also big wallets. It's more than South Philly's delicacies that ask people to pull out their pocketbooks; the city offers a ton of theater, sports, art (remember Rocky?), shopping, and parks. You can find bargains in thrift stores and food markets, but make no mistake: the eighth largest city is on the map as a bustling business center with all the expected accouterments for the finer life.

Take a stroll through Center City and in addition to the posh Rittenhouse Square apartments (topping the million dollar mark), you'll find Restaurant Row - a concentrated block of very expensive eateries - in addition to all the fancy-schmancy, Brooks Brother-y, Jones NY-y, shopping you want.

5. San Diego, CA
1 - 1.29

Why wouldn't people pay a whole bunch of money to live in San Diego? Its presence on clean, sunny beaches (without that L.A. smog) would do it for us. But here are the added bonuses of the most museums west of the Mississippi, some of the world's friendliest people, the famous San Diego Zoo, and even LegoLand.

The cost of living index is high, but that's because its economy is booming as the Internet tycoons of the Silicon Alley start buying winter homes there. And with the large number of IT/Telecommunications jobs in the area, many San Diego folks can stand the bump.

3. CITIES 4 - 2

4. Anchorage, AK
1 - 1.29

Alaska's largest city is perfect for people who are not only a little lucky in the cash department, but who also enjoy the outdoors a great deal. Hiking, biking, and fishing are favorites, but in Anchorage you can also dogsled, canoe, pan for gold, ski, take a hot air balloon ride, or try your skill at snowmobiling.

Note: Anchorage is not for the easily chilled. We're not kidding; the threat of frozen hands, toes and tushes doesn't stop people from taking the one-hour trek to Alaska's top attraction, the Portage Glacier, where the "coolest" (get it?) take "iceberg safaris." From Anchorage you can get to six other nearby glaciers for hiking, viewing, boating, ooooohing, and aaaaahhhhhing.

Why is it so expensive? Again, because it's tough to get the tons of modern conveniences and products that Anchoragites desire all the way up to that block of ice.

3. Juneau, AK
1 - 1.33

Yes, another Alaskan town (and we refuse to explain again why stuff is expensive there). Alaska's capital city, now a "Naturalist's Paradise," is named for Joe Juneau, who found some gold in 1880 in the city's Quartz Gulch and Silverbow Basin - which led to a gold stampede when the good news spread. Back in the day, the gold mine in Juneau paid 2,000 men each $100 a month. In 63 years the Juneau Gold Belt produced close to $3 million in today's money in gold. Not too shabby.

2. Boston, MA
1 - 1.42

In Boston, you've got to pahk your cah neah the Hah-bah. But that's only if you have gas money left after you pay for everything else. Boston is, after all, 48% more expensive than most U.S. cities... and its professional's salaries don't make up the difference.

A real college town, a real trendy town, and a real laid-back town, the Bean Town is also a real expensive town. Those who can afford to do so hang their hats in the posh brownstones tucked beside Newberry Street's outdoor restaurants and trendy boutiques. But while apartments may be less costly in other areas of the city, rents are still usually among the country's highest, with one-bedrooms often topping $1000 per month.

Still, Bostonians get to enjoy seeing friendly faces, chowing down on the city's famous clam chow-dah ($5) and baked beans, and living it up in a young, liberal, fun city packed with our country's richest history and most exciting new culture.


1. New York, NY
1 - 2.08

We dare you to find a student discount that actually resembles a discount. We dare you to feel OK about shelling out nine bucks for a movie, 25 bucks for a club entrance, or 63 bucks for a monthly MetroCard. And we double dare you to find a "reasonably priced" apartment ($1,000/month) that isn't shoebox-sized and in a "questionable" neighborhood. And that's why NYC is full of rooms split into rooms split into rooms - because not everyone can make the salary of 40-50 grand needed to pay the rent.

And yet, we're willing to pay exorbitant prices for our own bites of the Big Apple.

Why? We dare you to give up the bright lights and top billings of Broadway, or the world-famous art housed in some of the world's best museums and galleries. Could you? How about skipping out on an hour-long jog through Central Park, a trip to Yankee or Shea Stadium, or a night out in the Village? It's OK… we can't give this stuff up either.