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. Alabama and Texas 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 (opens in new tab). "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 (opens in new tab) (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 (opens in new tab) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (opens in new tab).

(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.

Source: C2ER's (opens in new tab) 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. Metro-level data on populations, household incomes, home values, poverty rates and other demographic information are from the U.S. Census Bureau (opens in new tab). Metropolitan area unemployment rates, courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (opens in new tab), are not seasonally adjusted, and are as of March 17, 2023 for the month of January 2023, which is the latest available data.

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer,

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.

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.