Holiday gift–giving is stressful enough that some people would rather opt out altogether. But depending on where you live, you can actually get it done for less money than other parts of the country. One state is the exception, though — that's where everything costs exactly what it should.
The website Millennial Personal Finance has assembled a searchable index showing what the average gift costs from state to state, as well as city to city. Analysts at the firm Onboard Informatics crunched census data and the cost of various gifts, including apparel, accessories, recreational items, and household furnishings. Far and away the most expensive state to shop in isn't even a state, though residents will probably tell you it should be: Washington, D.C., clocks in at nearly 400 percent the national average.
Other factors come into play when it comes to added expense. In Alaska and Hawaii, fuel and shipping costs increase prices, while in states like Ohio and South Dakota, cheaper real estate can help store-owners keep prices low. But all that is just an average across wide geographic areas. Break down the data by city and some surprising patterns emerge.
Big metropolitan areas like Dallas and Los Angeles are more expensive shopping destinations, but the most expensive cities for gift shopping are actually small towns. Stony Brook, New York, about 55 miles from Manhattan, clocks in at more than 78 times greater than the national average; East Lansing, Michigan, home of Michigan State University, costs nearly 77 times more. (That doesn't necessarily mean a resident of East Lansing pays $77 for a $1 item, but it does reflect a relationship between high wages and high costs.)
Shoppers in states like West Virginia, Arkansas, and Kentucky and in cities like Laramie, Wyoming; Carbondale, Illinois; and Playa Vista, California, can expect to save anywhere from 13 percent to 44 percent on the national average for holiday shopping. But if you live in the State of Washington, pat yourself on the back and budget accordingly: Gifts there cost just the national average.