12 Cheapest Small Towns to Live In

The cheapest small towns might not be for everyone, but their charms can make them the best places to live for plenty of folks.

cheapest places to live small towns
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The cheapest small towns to live in aren't for everyone. 

True, small-town living has plenty of perks: light traffic, a strong sense of community and a slower pace of life. Perhaps best of all, there's the cost of living, which typically is cheaper in small towns than in expensive big cities.

To get a sense of what inexpensive small-town living really costs, we compiled a list of the 12 cheapest small towns to live in America, with small towns defined as places with populations of approximately 10,000 to 50,000 people. 

We compiled our rankings based on the Council for Community and Economic Research's (C2ER) calculations of living expenses in 265 urban areas. C2ER's Cost of Living Index measures prices for housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous goods and services, such as going to a movie or getting your hair done at a salon.

The data, which sorts through thousands of prices in hundreds of cities, allowed us to pinpoint the small towns with the absolute lowest living costs. (For larger urban areas, be sure to read our list of the 25 Cheapest Places to Live: U.S. Cities Edition.)

It goes without saying that you should weigh the pros and cons before you pack up and relocate to one of the 12 cheapest small towns in America. While a low cost of living is attractive, it can be offset by issues such as scarce jobs, small paychecks or a lack of things to do in the area. Plan an extended visit to ensure the small town fits your lifestyle.

And so, without further ado, here are the 12 cheapest small towns to live in the U.S.

Disclaimer

Source: C2ER's Cost of Living Index, 2022 Annual Average Data, published January 2023. Index data is based on average prices of goods and services collected during the first three quarters of 2022, with index values based on the new weights for 2023. Population data, household incomes, home values, poverty rates and other demographic information are from the U.S. Census Bureau. Local unemployment rates, courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, are not seasonally adjusted, and are as of April 5, 2023 for the month of February 2023, which is the latest available data.

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer, Kiplinger.com

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.


A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.


Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.


In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.


Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.


Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.