The 25 Cheapest Places to Live: U.S. Cities Edition

Have a look at the cheapest places to live in America for city dwellers. Is one of the cheapest places to live in the U.S. right for you?

Florence Alabama taken from the Sheffield Bluffs
Florence, Alabama, is one of the cheapest places to live for U.S. city dwellers
(Image credit: Getty)

When it comes to finding the cheapest places to live in the U.S. for city dwellers, the best locations to settle down are mostly south of the Mason-Dixon line. Tennessee and Alabama are just a couple of the Southern states making multiple appearances on our list of the cheapest places to live among U.S. cities.

But if you're thinking about relocating to one of these places with the lowest costs of living, just remember to weigh the pros and cons. Cheap prices are attractive, but the allure can fade if jobs are hard to come by, paychecks are small or the area offers little to do. Plan an extended visit to ensure that one of these cheapest places to live fits your needs.

"It is undeniable that larger metro areas like New York and Los Angeles offer better opportunities for higher paying jobs," notes Tyler Baines, cost of living project manager and research analyst at the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness. "But jobseekers should not only consider the size of their paycheck when figuring out where they should call home."

To that last point, Kiplinger has extensive experience in covering real estate, demographics and cost of living data for jobseekers, would-be homeowners, remote workers and retirees.

How we found the cheapest places to live

Our analysis of the cheapest places to live in the U.S. is based upon the Council for Community and Economic Research's (C2ER) calculations of living expenses in 265 urban areas. We then limited ourselves to metro areas with at least 50,000 inhabitants. We further supplemented C2ER's research with data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

(For smaller urban areas, be sure to read our list of the 12 Cheapest Small Towns in America.)

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.

Thanks to that data — which sorts through 90,000 prices covering 60 different items in hundreds of cities — we were able to pinpoint the places with the absolute lowest costs of living.

And make no mistake, the difference between the priciest place to live and cheapest places to live in the U.S. is striking. 

"The after-tax cost for a professional/managerial standard of living ranges from more than twice the national average in Manhattan, New York, to more than 20% below the national average in Harlingen, Texas," notes C2ER.

Read on for our latest list of the 25 cheapest places to live, in the U.S., for city dwellers.

Disclaimer

Source: C2ER's Cost of Living Index, 2023 Annual Average Data, published August 2023. Index data is based on average prices of goods and services collected during the first three quarters of 2023, with index values based on the new weights for 2023. Metro-level data on populations, household incomes, home values, poverty rates and other demographic information are from the U.S. Census Bureau. Metropolitan area unemployment rates, courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, are not seasonally adjusted, and are as of January 19, 2024 for the month of October 2023, which is the latest available data.

Personal Finance Writer

Donna joined Kiplinger as a personal finance writer in 2023. She spent more than a decade as the contributing editor of J.K.Lasser's Your Income Tax Guide and edited state specific legal treatises at ALM Media. She has shared her expertise as a guest on Bloomberg, CNN, Fox, NPR, CNBC and many other media outlets around the nation. Donna graduated from Brooklyn Law School and University at Buffalo. 

With contributions from