Cheapest Big Cities in the U.S. to Live In

We found great places where you can live large on a small budget.

Big cities offer more employment opportunities, more things to do and more people to meet than smaller towns. But they also have drawbacks, from congestion and crime to high costs. That’s why a big city with a small price tag is uniquely appealing; offering urban perks without urban expenses.

We identified the U.S. cities with populations above 250,000 that have the lowest living costs, like these:


Louisville is Kentucky’s largest and arguably most important city, as home to three Fortune 500 companies: Humana, Yum Brands and Kindred Healthcare. Sports fans will enjoy watching the University of Louisville’s powerhouse men’s basketball team, and taking in a running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

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It’s not all coming up roses for Louisville, though. The city has an above-average unemployment rate and the third-longest average commute among the top 10 most affordable big cities.

San Antonio

Forget the Alamo. The true claim to fame of San Antonio just might be its right to call itself “America’s Biggest Cheap City.” Often overshadowed, San Antonio actually has a bigger city population than Dallas or Austin–yet its living costs are much lower than either of its better-known Texas neighbors.

Speaking of the Alamo, entry to the downtown landmark is free, fitting for such an affordable place to live. There’s also no charge to stroll the nearby River Walk. A margarita can be found for just $3 during happy hour at one of the bars lining the water. Cheers!


Despite being home to Ohio’s state capitol as well as multiple Fortune 500 corporations, Columbus has a small-town feel to go along with its small-town living costs.

Locals live and die by the fate of their beloved Ohio State University football team. You’ll pay a steep price for a seat in the stadium, though, so you may want to catch the game on TV, or take in other Ohio State sporting events—think volleyball, gymnastics and the like—for just $8 per ticket.

As one of Kiplinger’s 10 Best Cities for Cheapskates, Columbus offers many low-cost activities beyond OSU’s campus. The renowned Columbus Zoo charges seniors and residents half-price admission on selected days. The Ohio State Fair, which attracts more than 900,000 visitors every summer for pig races, fireworks, foods on a stick and more, charged $6 for advance-purchase tickets in 2014.

If none of these affordable places appeals to you, sneak a peek at seven more of the cheapest big cities in the U.S.

Rebecca Dolan
Contributing Writer,
Before joining the Kiplinger team as Online Community Editor in 2013, Rebecca was associate travel editor at the Huffington Post, where she also handled the travel section's social media. She landed at AOL/HuffPost after earning an MS in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School, with a concentration in health and science journalism. Prior to that, she covered lifestyle at Jacksonville Magazine, in Jacksonville, Fla., preceded by a stint at American Cheerleader magazine. She holds a BA from the College of William and Mary.