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If you've been working to cut your cost of living you've probably already read some of the more obvious ways to do this. For example, you could create a budget and then find ways to cut the cost of your groceries, clothing, entertainment, transportation costs and so on. You could move to a smaller home or apartment, get cheaper auto and life insurance and get rid of your cable service. The problem is that even if you do all this, you won't cut your cost of living by more than maybe $300 to $400 a month and that’s a best-case scenario. So, how could your cut those costs by thousands of dollars instead of just hundreds?
Make one simple move
The answer to this is fairly simple. Just move … to a new city.
We understand that might sound somewhat drastic but if you were to move to one of the following cities you would likely reduce your cost of living substantially and without giving up your lifestyle.
The 10 least expensive cities
There have been a fair number of reports as to the 10 cheapest places to live in America. The one we chose is based on calculations made of the living expenses in 307 urban areas by the Council for Community and Economic Research. This council’s report was based on a cost of living index that included the cost of groceries, utilities, transportation, housing, health care and miscellaneous goods and services. It screened out all cities with populations of less than 50,000 and came up with this list of the least expensive cities.
Idaho Falls, Idaho
This city of 57,646 has a cost of living that’s 12% below the national average. Its median household income is $45,990 vs. the national average of $52,762. What makes it an inexpensive place to live is that it’s overall housing cost is 29.3% below the national average as the median home value in Idaho Falls is just $146,900. Just as important, the average cost to rent an apartment is $655 a month, which compares to the national average of $870. Idaho Falls is the state's largest city outside the Boise metropolitan area and sports an extensive greenbelt along the Snake River that flows through the center of the city.
We can personally attest to what a nice city Conway is as there was a time when we traveled to there on business almost monthly. Conway’s cost of living is 12.1% below the national average and its median home value is $147,400. Conway’s population is 60,470 and the city is just 30 miles north of Little Rock. The city lies between Lake Conway and the Arkansas River. To give you some idea of the costs of living in Conway, a trip to the doctor is about 17% less than the national average and a dental checkup costs 23% less.
Conway’s largest employers include the Acxiom Corporation (2,000 employees), Hewlett Packard (1,400), the Conway Regional Health System (1,330) and the University of Central Arkansas (1,500).
In 2011, Kiplinger named Conway the 7th best value for a city.
This capital city of Illinois sports a population of 117,076 and a median home value of $114,100, which means you can buy a home there for about half of what a house in Chicago costs. Springfield’s median household income is $48,022. Your paycheck goes even further there as its utilities cost 15.2% below the national average. Abraham Lincoln lived in Springfield for 24 years and the only home he ever owned is open to the public, seven days a week, free of charge.
Pueblo lies 100 miles south of Denver and has a population of 107,577 and a median home value of $118,400. The city’s cost of living is 12.9% below the national average and is median household income is $34,750, which unfortunately is 34% lower than the national average and its unemployment rate hovers around 10%. On the upside Pueblo’s median home value is about half that of Colorado as a whole.
The Arkansas River runs through the city and there is a river walk in the city’s Union Avenue Historic Commercial District.
Wichita Falls, Texas
Housing costs don’t come much cheaper than what you’d find in this city where the median home value is just $90,500. Wichita Fall’s median household income is $42,559 and its cost of living is 13.6% below the national average. The population of Wichita Falls is 103,931. Apartments rent for an average of $565 vs. the average cost of an apartment in New York City of $3902 a month. Wichita Fall's top employer is Sheppard Air Force Base. Its climate is rated as humid subtropical.
Wichita Falls also boasts Lucy Park; a 170-acre park that includes a river walk that extends to a re-creation of the original falls for which the city was named.
Fayetteville is the second Arkansas city to make this list of America's least expensive places to live. Its population is 75,102 and it sports a cost-of-living that's 14% below the national average. The median household income in Fayetteville is $35,970 and its median home value is $177,900. The city is best known for being the home of the University of Arkansas, which is the city's largest employer. It lies in the northeast corner of Arkansas. Walmart is located nearby in Bentonville, Arkansas – which definitely helps this city's economy.
Fayetteville, according to Wikipedia, “.. also derives a cultural identity from the University of Arkansas, exhibiting many trademarks of a college town such as a prominent arts and music scene, a college-oriented bar/restaurant entertainment district and a focus on environmental sustainability.”
This city is the largest on our list of the 10 least expensive places to live with a population of 652,050. Its median household income is $37,072 and the median home value is $99,000. Memphis is the largest city in Tennessee yet doesn't have big-city prices. For example, you can buy a home there for less than $100,000. The Mississippi River makes Memphis a hub for the transportation and shipping industries. It's home to three Fortune 500 companies – FedEx, AutoZone and International Paper and is full of music that includes Memphis soul, Memphis blues, gospel, rock n' roll, crunk, and "sharecropper" country music.
If you’ve ever watched a University of Oklahoma home football game, you probably already know that the school is in Norman. What you might not know is that its cost of living is 14.4% below the national average and its median home value is $147,100.
Norman's population is 113,273 and the median household income there is $46,595. The city boasts a unique combination of low living expenses, high incomes and low unemployment. Healthcare and housing are especially affordable. As an example of this, apartments rent for an average of $647 a month or $100 less than in Oklahoma City. And a visit to the doctor costs 21% less in Norman than in the state capital. Norman is home to the National Whether Center, which certainly make sense in that it lies in the heart of tornado country.
The city has many cultural attractions including the Fred Jones Junior Museum of Art that houses the Weitzenhoffer Collection, the largest collection of French Impressionist art ever given to an American University.
This city with its population of 133,742 lies in the southern tip of Texas along the Rio Grande River. It has close relationships with Mexico – both culturally and geographically. McAllen's cost of living is 14.6% below the national average and its median household income is $39,193. Housing is very affordable with a median home value of $105,300.
Almost 85% of McAllen's residents are Hispanic and speak a language other than English at home. There are border crossings between this city and the Mexican city of Reynosa. In fact, McAllen is closer geographically to Monterrey, Mexico then to San Antonio or Houston. It has a hot semi-arid climate.
East of McAllen, TX is Harlingen, a town of 66,122 that boasts a cost of living that’s 18.2% below the national average. Harlingen’s median home value is a modest $77,900 and its median household income is $35,267. While the cost of housing in a city is important, it's also important that it have cheap groceries and only corpus Christie and San Antonio have cheaper groceries than Harlingen. Unfortunately, this doesn't equate to prosperity as the city has near double-digit unemployment and a 32% poverty rate.
Harlingen's Hugh Ramsay Nature Park is the home of the World Birding Center. The city’s Harlingen Medical Center is a nationally recognized and award-winning general acute care hospital.