Cheapest Places To Live in America
By Andrea N. Browne, Kiplinger.com
Don’t mess with Texas when it comes to affordability. Major metropolitan areas in the Lone Star State reign supreme on Kiplinger’s annual ranking of the least expensive places to live in the U.S. Indeed, all of our picks are cities located either in Texas or the heartland of middle America.
The cities on our least-expensive list all have housing prices well under $250,000; homes in one city average less than $200,000. Overall cost of living in these metro areas falls 15% to 20% below the national average.
We ranked the least expensive places to live using data from the U.S. Census (metropolitan statistical areas only) and the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, which is assembled by the Council for Community and Economic Research. The index measures relative prices in several categories, including consumer goods, housing, transportation, utilities and health care, to come up with a composite score for each city. The national average is 100. So a score below 100 indicates a lower cost of living.
Here are the five cheapest places to live in the U.S.:
Monthly apartment rents in Sherman average at $595.
5. Sherman, Tex.
Cost of Living Index: 86
Metro Population: 117,913
Median Household Income: $45,171
Average Home Price: $213,485
Located 60 miles north of Dallas, the Sherman metropolitan area includes Denison and Pottsboro. The population is the lowest of any of the city metro areas that comprise our least-expensive list. Families make up about 70% of the population. Health care is one of the leading industries, providing one of the highest median incomes in our least-expensive rankings. The extra money can go a long way, considering the relatively affordable costs of food and utilities. Monthly apartment rents run just $595, on average.
Grocery and utility costs in Forth Smith are low.
4. Fort Smith, Ark.
Cost of Living Index: 85
Metro Population: 288,468
Median Household Income: $37,363
Average Home Price: $235,168
Nestled in a bend of the Arkansas River and bordering Oklahoma, the Fort Smith metro area includes Van Buren and Ozark. Low prices for groceries and utilities make it a budget-friendly place, as does a meager average rent of just $456 per month. Owning a home runs a bit higher than some other cities on our least-expensive list, but the average cost of a house is still $320,000 less than in San Diego, the tenth-ranked city on our most-expensive list.
Fort Hood includes a major U.S. Army base.
3. Ft. Hood, Tex.
Cost of Living Index: 84.8
Metro Population: 368,682
Median Household Income: $46,183
Average Home Price: $210,383
The Fort Hood metropolitan area, which includes Killeen and Temple, is about 60 miles north of Austin, the capital of Texas. The local economy is anchored in part by a major U.S. Army base. The high concentration of soldiers and military families may help explain why close to 15% of the population is 25- to 34-year-olds. Rent averages $596, and home prices are among the five least expensive in our ranking.
Pueblo has the lowest average home price.
2. Pueblo, Colo.
Cost of Living Index: 84.1
Metro Population: 153,814
Median Household Income: $40,805
Average Home Price: $194,302
Located about 100 miles south of Denver, Pueblo has an enviable combination of decent paychecks and super-low housing costs. Median household income ranks in the top five among the cities on our least-expensive list, yet the average home price is the lowest here. Grocery prices are higher relative to a place like Brownsville, where a T-bone steak, for example, will run you about $8.49. The same cut of beef costs about a buck more in Pueblo. The metropolitan area includes Boone, Avondale and Stone City.
The cheapest city sits right by the Gulf of Mexico.
1. Brownsville, Tex.
Cost of Living Index: 80
Metro Population: 383,171
Median Household Income: $30,034
Average Home Price: $209,177
This metro area, which includes Harlingen and San Benito, is at the southwestern tip of the Lone Star State, hard against the Mexican border. The Gulf of Mexico and the popular beaches of South Padre Island are just a stone’s throw away. Rents in Brownsville average $659, more than four times cheaper than New York, the most expensive city in our annual rankings, where rents average $2,778. Utilities can be pricey, but costs for groceries and other consumer goods are exceptionally low. An affordable South Texas alternative to Brownsville is the McAllen metro area, just an hour’s drive away along the Rio Grande.