Downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana

Downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana (Photo by Nicholas J Klein on Shutterstock)

Feeling the pinch of a tight budget? Dreaming of a life with a lower cost of living? Look no further! This guide explores hidden gems and established havens across the U.S., all boasting affordability without sacrificing livability. From charming towns with friendly communities to bustling cities offering unexpected bargains, we’ll uncover the perfect place to stretch your dollar further. So, ditch the budget woes and discover the cheapest places to live in the U.S., where you can thrive without breaking the bank! We reviewed 10 articles from top travel and real estate sites to come away with the seven most frequently recommended affordable communities in the country. Let us know if we missed one in the comments below.

1. Hickory, North Carolina

Nestled among the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this charming city offers delightful Southern hospitality. Hickory is also known for its scenic beauty and vibrant local culture. “This metro area in North Carolina’s Catawba Valley offers a small-town atmosphere that is seeing growth from larger metro areas within a couple of hours’ drive, including Charlotte and Asheville,” says U.S. News and World Report. “Hickory residents enjoy a lower cost of living than those in the more populated parts of the state and spend just 18.95% of the median household income on housing, making it the Best Affordable Place to Live in the U.S. in 2023-2024.”

With a population of nearly 365,000, Business Insider also ranks Hickory as tops in their list of most affordable cities, noting the average salary of residents there is about $44,470 per year.

Travel + Leisure suggests people looking for green space and a wealth of nature will love Hickory life. “Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hickory is a family-friendly destination known for its ample hiking trails and Southern charm. Currently ranked as the cheapest place to live in the U.S., Hickory has a median home price of $161,000.”

2. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Founded in 1829, Fort Wayne boasts a rich history reflected in its architectural gems. Residents can enjoy landmarks and forays into the city’s storied past. “Fort Wayne, Indiana, is one of the cheapest places to live in America,” raves Rocket Mortgage. “The affordable housing costs are a major draw for residents moving to the city. But the area also boasts several picturesque rivers which create boating and other recreational opportunities.”

Adds Smart Asset: “Located in northeast Indiana, not far from the state’s borders with Michigan and Ohio, Fort Wayne was originally the site of a U.S. Army fort, built by Anthony Wayne in the years following the revolutionary war. While living in the city today probably isn’t quite as cheap as it was back then, it is hard to beat Fort Wayne’s median monthly rent.”

Yahoo Finance highlights how the city has flourished over time: “Fort Wayne has grown to become a diverse economy over time, which includes manufacturing, healthcare, education, defense, and services sectors. The cost of living in Fort Wayne is 1% lower than the state average and 11% lower than the national average.”

3. Jackson, Mississippi

You might recognize this next one from Johnny Cash’s famous song. Jackson, Mississippi, the “City with Soul,” is a vibrant southern gem. It offers a captivating blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. “Metro Jackson is a surprisingly eclectic city that holds appeal for Civil War buffs, blues music aficionados and even ballet fans,” notes Kiplinger’s review. “Every four years, dancers from around the world flock to Jackson for the two-week U.S.A. International Ballet Competition to compete for medals, scholarships and spots in ballet companies.”

Mississippi's capital building in Jackson
Mississippi’s capital building in Jackson (Photo by Pieter van de Sande on Unsplash)

MarketWatch Guides adds, “Housing costs in Jackson, Miss., are significantly lower than the national average. The median home sale price in March 2023 was only $120,000, and the median monthly rent was $1,065. Relative to other cities we examined, Jackson has the 15th-lowest home prices and 34th-lowest rents.”

The city could be especially appealing to history buffs — who are into ballet. “An affordable cost of living isn’t the only thing that Jackson, Mississippi, offers residents. Additionally, you’ll find ample opportunities to explore Civil War history and the roots of blues music,” says Rocket Mortgage. “The city also hosts the U.S.A. International Ballet Competition every 4 years, which offers some extra spice for this robust city full of interesting activities.”

4. Toledo, Ohio

Toledo, Ohio has got some seriously cool things to offer! Our sources offer a quick rundown of what makes Toledo a hidden gem. Insider Monkey writes: “Toledo is just a short drive from other major Great Lakes metro areas like Detroit and Cleveland. In addition to beaches, lake-side parks, and ferry access to popular island destinations, Toledo offers both the cultural amenities of a big city and the close-knit feel of a small town.”

Like others on the list, savvy citizens will enjoy a greater ability to save money living in Toledo. “Located at Ohio’s border with Michigan on Lake Erie’s Maumee Bay, Toledo offers a low cost of living for residents in this Midwestern metro area, many of whom work for major employers like General Motors and Mercy Health Hospitals,” writes U.S. News and World Report. Just 21.71% of the median household income is needed to cover housing costs, and the cost of goods and services in the Toledo area ranks 30th compared with the rest of the spots on [our] Best Places to Live list.”

According to Rocket Mortgage, “The Glass City has served as a hub for glass manufacturing since the 1880s. With time, the economy has evolved to attract a wider range of industries to the affordable area. Plus, its location on Lake Erie makes it a prime place for water enthusiasts.”

5. Akron, Ohio

There are many reasons why residents love living in Akron, Ohio. Akron offers a unique blend of urban amenities, natural beauty, and American charm. “Known as the ‘City of Invention’ … You’ll find plenty of things to do in Akron—whether it’s touring the estate and gardens at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, exploring the extensive art collection at the Akron Art Museum, or spending time outdoors at Lock 3 Park,” writes SpaceWise.

The economy hasn’t always been kind to Akron, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism, according to Smart Asset. “While many of the tire factories have since been shuttered, Akron has recently proved … its ability to bounce back,” their report points out. “Today it houses a multitude of R&D and tech offices, and its unemployment rate is half a percentage point lower than the national average.”

Of course, Akron might be best known for a certain NBA star being raised there — but there’s plenty more to love about the city. “Sometimes overshadowed by Cleveland to its north, Akron is one of the most affordable places to live in Ohio. Hometown to Lebron James, Akron is globally recognized as a hub for polymer research, formerly known as a prominent rubber capital, worldwide, and renowned for its association with the breakfast cereal industry,” writes Yahoo Finance.

6. South Bend, Indiana

There’s a lot to love about South Bend, Indiana. Housing, groceries, transportation, and entertainment are all much more affordable than the national average, allowing residents to stretch their budgets further. Kiplinger points to the obvious notable fact about the city — and how that its youthful atmosphere is a good thing for the  economy. “South Bend is best known for the University of Notre Dame and its illustrious college football program. In addition to being a major employer, the presence of so many graduate and undergraduate students also help keep costs in check.”

At number two on its list, Rocket Mortgage says with a population of about 104,000, the average household income is about $43,000. Renters should expect to pay just $814 on average, while the median home value is $88,600

“An important economic and cultural center, South Bend lies right in the north of Indiana, just a stone’s throw from the border with Michigan,” notes Insider Monkey. “South Bend boasts a budget-friendly lifestyle and a wide range of parks and recreational activities to keep residents engaged and entertained.”

7. Brownsville, Texas

Brownsville enjoys a subtropical climate with warm temperatures year-round. Residents are close to the beautiful beaches along the Gulf Coast and the American food culture that goes along with it.

Insider Monkey says residents spend less on necessities than other Texans. “Brownsville is a city in and the county seat of Cameron County in the U.S. state of Texas. It is on the western Gulf Coast in South Texas, adjacent to the border with Matamoros, Mexico. The cost of living in Brownsville is 8% lower than the state average and 15% lower than the national average.”

Kiplinger addresses notable lower median income statistics of the area, “The city sits at the southernmost tip of Texas, with the Rio Grande to the south and the Gulf of Mexico to the east. The Brownsville-Harlingen metro area is a hardscrabble place where 24.7% of residents live below the poverty line. That’s about one-and-a-half times the poverty rate for Texas as a whole.”

On the other hand, U.S. News and World Report writes, “Housing costs in Brownsville are still below the national median of 24% of the median household income… What makes Brownsville so affordable, however, is the fact that when comparing the cost of goods and services in the area with the other 149 places on the list, Brownsville ranks No. 1.”

Why move somewhere cheaper?

Affordability and lower financial stress trump all the benefits of why to move somewhere cheaper, but there are many more reasons why the places on our list are appealing. Here are some key reasons why Americans and their families might choose to call these places home.

Lifestyle Factors:

  • Slower Pace of Life: Many low-cost-of-living cities offer a more relaxed and community-oriented atmosphere compared to faster-paced, expensive urban metros.
  • Strong Sense of Community: Smaller communities often foster closer connections with neighbors and a stronger sense of belonging.
  • Access to Nature: Many of these cities boast stunning natural landscapes, parks, and outdoor recreational opportunities, promoting a healthier and more active lifestyle.
  • Lower Crime Rates: Some low-cost-of-living areas have lower crime rates compared to larger cities, providing a sense of safety and security.
  • Opportunity for Entrepreneurship: Lower operating costs can make starting a business more accessible, attracting aspiring entrepreneurs to these cities.

Specific Appeal for Certain Groups:

    • Retirees: Affordable housing and slower pace of life attract retirees seeking a comfortable and stress-free retirement.
    • Artists and Creatives: Lower living costs can allow artists and creatives to focus on their passion projects without financial constraints.
    • Remote Workers: The rise of remote work has made location independence possible, opening these cities to those seeking an affordable environment.

Sources used to create our list:

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.

About Alan Corona

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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  1. Roger says:

    Interestingly, there seems to be no mention of public school quality in “cheap” cities.

  2. John says:

    This is truly a BS article, there is nothing else to say, just BS

  3. Mathew Milutin says:

    Author fails to cite that several of these communities have well above average crime statistics. Agree with previous comment…article is BS

    1. Dirty Dan says:

      No kidding, I was waiting for East Saint Louis to show up here

  4. Francis WHite says:

    I moved to Hickory in 2007 and agree with most of what is said in this article about the city. But saying Hickory has a population of 365,000 is HUGE overstatement. Hickory’s population is around 45,000 at the most. That 365,000 number likely is for the four county area known as the Unifour, of which Hickory is the center. Those counties are Catawba (in which Hickory is situated), Alexander, Caldwell, and Burke. Hickory is the shopping and cultural center of those four counties, which accounts for its “livability”. It is about 60 miles from Charlotte, an easy drive on excellent roads, and about 80 miles from Asheville, also an easy drive on excellent roads. The Blue Ridge mountains are 30 to 45 minute drive away. The climate is moderate and the people are too. Primarily Conservative with a little bit of Liberal/Progressive thrown in to make it interesting.

  5. Bob Sackimanow says:

    Hickory, NC once the core of American produced furniture. There are no manufacturers left. The town has zero tax base.

  6. MJ says:

    Jackson Mississippi has one of the worst violent crime rates in the nation. No mention of the crime factor in this article.

  7. Matthew says:

    The Johnny Cash song references Jackson, Tennessee. Has nothing to do with Jackson, Mississippi. What a pathetically researched and poorly written “article.”