It's the future. There's no reason to live in a city unless you want to. Since your goal is max bang for the buck, the obvious choice is to live in the sticks and work over the Internet. Well chosen. It's nice out here!
Schumpter will have a word.
In general, though, you want to carve out a niche for yourself in a place which is not a hot spot for technology. This makes you much more valuable locally; you don't have much competition because others in your industry don't like your city in general and aren't moving there; and it thereby allows you to attain compensation which is very high relative to the COL.
Another strategy, which I would love to capitalize on myself in the next few years, is to work remotely. Find a nice suburban area to live in which has a lot of amenities without the high home prices. What holds me back is the fear of settling down in such an area, then getting laid off from my remote job 10 years down the line and having to rebuild my whole life to re-enter the game.
As far as telecommuting, when I was at Yahoo, David Filo maintained a small cadre of elite kernel hackers who lived all around the world and worked from wherever they pleased. The reported directly to David. I would be very surprised if Marissa mucked around with that setup.
I know some people very well off in Denver, CO as well.
Using public data(data.gov, enigma.io) you can find the areas that have the most positive trend in population weighted with average/median income and percent software jobs and/or locations of companies recently funded on crunchbase.
Might be best to start with a data set of cost of living and just apply functions to the ranking of the index depending on what matters more to you.
By comparison to SF and LA its high. If you're not white you'll feel it and every now and then if you like the bar/ club scene when you try to get in the bouncer will say "Your pants are too low" which in my opinion is code for "your skin color is too dark"
Having lived in the south most of my life I've figured out its mostly from Austin's sad and hardly talked about lack of diversity and the xenophobia that generates.
For what it feels like to be a minority in Austin here's really good read
Houses sell really quick too. If the current trend continues for another few years in Austin, it will be at Boulder, CO levels for housing (which isn't that far off from Bay Area housing prices).
Now compare Austin to Houston or San Antonio. (Besides, $100/SF is low unless you are talking about the East side.)
You can get quite a large house in Buda for $150K
I've tried for New York, San Francisco (both terrible), Austin, Dallas (pretty close), Boston, St. Louis, Denver (also pretty close) and Seattle among others and Houston beats them all.
But I have a friend that has been in Houston since he went to Rice and he swears by it. His girlfriend even lives here in Austin and we can't seem to convince him to move back.
I love Austin, but I think Houston is big enough that you can find your people.
This may be indicative of something else entirely.
In GA I was making $78k, about twice the average household income but could have probably landed $95k pretty easily with a smaller company and better negotiation. Mortgage on 1750 sq ft townhouse is running me only $830/mo.
Moved to San Antonio on 2010 when position just landed in my lap (it required this location initially but is now 100% telework). Started at $95k, with annual raised in around $108k now, which I think is around 2.5 times the average household income for this area. Mortgage on a 2700 sq ft suburban home runs about $1300/mo. Girlfriends housekeeping business in which she's the sole employee does well, roughly another $60k/yr.
My advice: stay south of I20, east of Phoenix. Government contractors were easy money but its starting to slim down and I'm not seeing a lot of new hires within the "old guard." Instead, Silicon Valley veterans like Amazon/Google are landing this money and filling positions in mini-hotspots like Austin, Atlanta and Charlotte.
Quality of life might be lower though. Unless everybody communicates over IRC, video chat, etc, you'll feel alienated. Even if they use the right tools, you'll miss out on any conversations your coworkers have in-person, such as at lunch.
A lot of people don't believe in "10x-ers", but perhaps they just haven't met one. I am not one but I know several. They make a lot of money. It's not something that they like to talk about.
tl;dr If you're looking in Canada, you're looking a LONG time.
With the lower cost of living of not living in a tech center, you also give up other non-monetary things.
I would think that a lot of innovation comes from being surrounded by like minded people and the access to tech talks and networking events.
Can you explain why Chattanooga is more expensive? [This](http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=cost+of+living+chattano...) says otherwise. I'm considering both (and a number of other cities), so I'd really like to know.
Midtown/downtown, where I live, are exceptions, but not so great ones--Atlanta is still a fully car-oriented city. What's more, the centre is definitely not where the corporate tech jobs are.
Here are some that come to mind, in no particular order: Austin, Portland, Boulder, Baltimore, Chicago, Durham.
On the other hand if you're trying to pile up money to do "something" once the pile reaches a certain size (take time off and go to Nepal, or perhaps do a startup) you're probably better off with a much lower quality of life in Chicago with correspondingly higher pay. Look out for taxes and AMT, a guy making $50K/yr more than I do in Chc is only making $2K/month more after taxes, but his cost of living an equivalent lifestyle would be far in excess of $2K/mo more (probably more like $5K to $10K more, from what I've seen), on the other hand if he's willing to live worse than a student, he could bank all that extra money...