10 Most Affordable Big Cities in the U.S.

Big cities offer more employment opportunities, more things to do and more people to meet than smaller towns.

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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 10 U.S. cities with populations above 250,000 that have the lowest living costs. Cheap living alone doesn’t guarantee a good place to live; we also list household incomes, home values and unemployment rates for each of these cities, so you can focus on the economic factors that are most important to you. In all cases, home values are below the national average, and in most cases jobless rates are better than average. Household incomes in these cities fall below the national average, but in many cases paychecks are solid relative to living costs. Because big-city traffic can impact your quality of life, we even list the average commute times for workers.


The Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index is based on annual data from 2013 for 308 urban areas. City populations, household incomes and home values are from the U.S. Census Bureau. Unemployment rates are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and indicate the preliminary city rates (not seasonally adjusted) for August 2014. The cities are ranked and listed in reverse order by cost of living.

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Michael DeSenne
Executive Editor, Kiplinger.com
DeSenne made the leap to online financial journalism in 1998, just in time for the dot-com boom. After a stint with Dow Jones Newswires, dreams of IPO riches led him to SmartMoney.com, where over nine years he held several positions, including executive editor. He later served as the personal finance editor at HouseLogic.com and AARP.org. In 2011, he joined Kiplinger.com, where he focuses on content strategy, video, SEO and Web analytics. DeSenne has a BA from Williams College in Anthropology—a major deemed the absolute worst for career success by none other than Kiplinger.