Shift from one county to the next in New Jersey and you may get more bang for your buck.

denisvrublevski, ThinkStock

An in-depth analysis from financial technology company SmartAsset goes county by county in the Garden State to determine where residents' money may be better spent.

Boasting a median income of $106,519 and a cost of living of $56,874, Hunterdon County ranked No. 1 among the 21 New Jersey counties, followed by Morris and Somerset counties. Essex County ranked last with a median income of $54,499 and a cost of living of $41,539. Cumberland County and Passaic County ranked 20th and 19th respectively.

No solid pattern was registered for the southern, central and northern portions of the state.

The study is meant to give consumers a better idea of the cost-related pros and cons of moving to a new town in order to be closer to a new job, for example.

To determine residents' "purchasing power," SmartAsset compared a county's median income with its average cost of living, such as expenses association with housing, food and transportation.

NJ's purchasing power
Higher ranked counties in dark blue. Click a county to see details.


Map not displaying? Click here.

"Sometimes you hear incomes that people are making and you think, 'Oh my gosh; if only I was making that income, I'd be fine,' but of course it depends on where you're living and how much you're paying to live near that high-paying job," said AJ Smith, SmartAsset's vice president of content.

Smith said this data can assist state residents in planning for their future because the more money you have left beyond the cost of living, the more money you have for emergencies and expenses related to retirement.

Cost of living has long been a concern for United Way, which puts out a report every other year that focuses specifically on "asset limited, income constrained, employed," or ALICE, residents. They earn above the federal poverty level, but still struggle to make ends meet in the Garden State.

The latest report indicated more than a third of New Jersey households are struggling to bring in the money needed to cover the basic cost of living.

Dr. Stephanie Hoopes, the ALICE project national director, said despite big differences in costs from county to county, designated poverty levels are set in stone everywhere.

"It's the same number for every county in every state across the country," Hoopes told New Jersey 101.5.

To help ALICE and poverty-level residents, United Way of Northern New Jersey launched a program this January that offers free tax preparation. It could save low- and moderate-income workers an average of $200, United Way said, and ensure they receive maximum tax credits.

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