You always hear about how expensive the major cities in the U.S. are in terms of rent and general cost of living. It can be quite a shock to move from a small town to Manhattan or L.A., where expenses are dramatically different from most other locations. But you don’t hear as much about the inexpensive cities out there. Which spots in the U.S. are surprisingly affordable?
The Council for Community and Economic Research recently measured the after-tax prices of common purchases in 307 urban areas. The resulting Cost of Living Index is comprised of more than 90,000 prices being crunched for everything from grocery items to transportation to housing. Here’s a look at the 10 cities that came out on top in affordability.
* The Cost of Living Index (COLI) is a measurement of the average living expenses compared on a national scale. The national average is a rating of 100 in the Index, which means that cities with ratings under 100 have below average costs of living.
For nearly three straight years, Harlingen, TX, has ranked America’s most affordable city. Its cost of living index is 80.6, a decrease of 1.2% from the previous year.
- If you’re moving here be sure to bring your bathing suit and beach chair.
- It’s a perfectly sunny location, close to the famed beaches of South Padre Island, and within a stone’s throw from Mexico.
Idaho Falls, ID
Idaho Falls’ index of 82.4 is nearly 18% below the national average. If you’re considering moving here, pack a parka and some hiking boots to adventure out in the colder months.
- Due to its proximity to so many outdoor destinations, Idaho Falls was recently featured on National Geographic’s list of “100 Best Adventure Towns.”
- Idaho falls is in close proximity to the Rocky Mountains, and near the famed Great Teton, a peak which is 13,775 feet high.
The historical city of Pueblo, CO, is the third-least expensive in the United States. Its cost of living index, 83.4, is approximately 17% below the national average.
- In 1993, it was proclaimed by Congress as “America’s Home of Heroes” and hosts National Medal of Honor Day. Pueblo has had as many as four living Medal of Honor recipients living there.
- The city of Pueblo also sits near the front of the Rocky Mountain range, but this city is on a high desert shelf that sees snow in the winter.
Pryor Creek, OK
Pryor Creek is located at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, and has many lakes and outdoor activities for the whole family. The cost of living index of 84.7 is roughly 15% below the national average, and with only 9,507 residents, this is the smallest city on our list.
- Oklahoma’s first school and printing press were established in Pryor Creek, OK
- Pryor Creek is a haven for those who love to fish or go out on a boat and water ski, as nearby there are 2,500 miles of lakeshore to launch your boat from.
Norman has many free festivals and events that are centered on the arts: music, theater, parades, arts, jazz, and even a medieval fair. The cost of living index of Norman, OK, is 85.0.
- Norman is the home of the state’s first institution of higher learning, the University of Oklahoma.
- The National Weather Center (NWC) is located in Norman, OK. The NWC collects data about our atmosphere to improve the technology that assists in storm prediction.
San Marcos, TX
In some areas near the San Marcos River, it is thought that humans have been living and thriving there for over 10,000 years. San Marcos’ index is 85.9, about 14% below the national average.
- It was listed by Businessweek as one of the “Best Places to Raise Your Kids” in 2010.
- It features cool river springs in which families can go tubing every summer, and Wonder World Park, which has a Cave, which is the oldest commercial cave in Texas.
With the largest population on our list, and an index of 85.9, the city of Memphis is a great option for those looking for an affordable new location with a lot of amenities.
- Home to Graceland – the home of the late musician Elvis Presley.
- Lichterman Nature Center’s a great place to take the family for a quick and relaxing day at the park. It boasts a wide variety of plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals—all in 65 acres of landscape.
Located in the Boston Mountains, which is part of the larger Ozark Mountain region—Fayetteville, AR, has a cost of living index of 85.9. The terrain and low cost of living makes it the only city in Arkansas in the top 10 most affordable places in the U.S.
- According to the city’s website, Fayetteville leads the region in number of National Merit Scholars and annual awards for student publications.
- Fayetteville is known as a College Sports town, and has deep roots in BBQ tradition.
Wichita Falls, TX
Wichita Falls has an array of activities for families to do outdoors, but softball is the #1 activity for all ages. The city’s cost of living index of 86.6, nearly 14% below the national average.
- It’s home to The Newby-McMahon Building, “the world’s littlest skyscraper.”
- Wichita, TX was named after an Indian phrase, “wee chi tah” which means, “waist deep.” This ended up serving as the name of the town, and the Indian settlers as well.
Springfield, MO, ranks as the 10th most affordable city in the U.S., with a cost of living index of 86.7.
- It’s the birthplace of Route 66, which is known as the Main Street of America that has assisted travelers going west since 1926.
- Springfield is home to over 60 miles of designated biking trails and street lanes, so bring your bicycles and safety gear if you’re planning on moving here!
Finding the Perfect Town
Texas and Oklahoma are noteworthy states in terms of affordability, as they represent half of the cities on the Top 10 list. But all of the cities featured are exceptionally affordable. If you’re looking to move to a new city, it’s important to take cost of living into consideration, along with other important factors like the local job market, attractions, businesses, population and the quality of the school systems, etc.
Nevertheless, this list provides a glimpse into what cost of living looks like on the other side of the affordability spectrum. With another report set to be released in November of this year, will economic volatility or population growth create a shakeup in the list? Which cities do you think will fall off or join the Top 10?