For many reasons, including college debt, millennials are struggling to buy houses in the United States. Most individuals in this demographic are well into their 30s but can't afford real estate in big cities. This reality coincides with better opportunities for remote work in a post-COVID world, so migration to smaller, lesser-known towns with a lower cost of living is currently trending hard. Many of these towns offer shorter commute times, higher wages, or affordable homes to call your own. Let's explore some of the cheapest places to live in America.
Surfer dudes and dudettes—here's one for you. Portland is a beachy town on the East Coast that offers relatively affordable housing at an average of $248,000 per home, and monthly rentals oscillate around the $1000 mark. You can expect a total monthly cost of living of about $2,444. The quality of life is right up there with gorgeous coastal scenery, excellent healthcare, and plenty to do on the weekends, but the tax burden and frigid winters may be off-putting. Portland's current population estimate is 68,313.
Lakeside real estate doesn't get more affordable than in Spirit Lake, and the high quality of life here is exactly what you'd want to start a new chapter. This Midwest town is home to 5,439 people, so it's a relatively intimate urban setting. Buying a house in Spirit Lake is sure to please water sports enthusiasts, and there are other leisurely pursuits if you're not a water baby. You can get a four-bedroom home near East Okoboji Beach for as little as $230,000.
Rapid City, South Dakota, is home to about 75,000 people and is both a retirement and tourist destination known for its proximity to Mt. Rushmore. The Wall Street Journal listed Rapid City in the top spot in its Spring 2022 Emerging Housing Markets Index. Home buyers from the East Coast, Colorado, and California have been drawn to this town near the Wyoming border. Why? Because of the small-town atmosphere, outdoor recreation opportunities, robust local economy, and more affordable housing market.
Albert Lea may be a natural fit for you if you're health-conscious. The city participates in the AARP/Blue Zone Vitality Project and encourages locals to pursue various wellness goals. The schools offer healthier food, which is good news if you have kids. There are numerous walking trails and biking lanes and loads of chances to volunteer and help the community while socializing. You can buy a three-bedroom house on a lake for just $210,000, and the overall cost of living is relatively low. Albert Lea's population is 18,492.
Glens Falls has a lot going on between the civil war monuments, the hot air balloon festival, and all the medical device manufacturing. You can invest in a slice of Hometown U.S.A. (that's the town's nickname) if you like the idea of work-life balance and may be in the mood for a four-hour drive to N.Y.C. The average home price in this part of the Empire State is $189,900, and rent comes in at about $1,000 per month.
With a cost of living that's 21.3% below the national average, Muskogee is arguably the cheapest small town to settle in. The town has a population of 37,337 and is 50 miles southeast of its better-known Sooner State counterpart, Tulsa. It's where you'll find the Oklahoma School for the Blind. In January 2023, excitement overtook Muskogee when a meteorite landed in the area.
Topeka is famous for the U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, and motorsport fans may be aware of the city's Heartland Park. It's a great place to live with a low cost of living that's about 19% lower than the U.S. average and has small-town vibes with city amenities. In early 2022, the median sales price for homes was $155,000. Groceries, utilities, healthcare, and transport are cheaper here too, but the Sunflower state isn't very tax-friendly.
Logan has a population of 54,436. The average monthly cost of living is $2,641, with the average monthly rent hovering around $1,239. Homes cost in the range of $372,450. Logan is family-friendly, has good public transport, and is also a highly walkable community. The public schools are excellent, and there's a lot for people of all ages to do during their time off, from active adventures to the art scene. Businesses and careers thrive here. Utah State University lends this college town a youthful atmosphere, and the Cache Valley is scenic, which is a welcome bonus.
Statesboro is home to a Georgia Southern University campus, and the college injects life into the town. The cost of living in Statesboro is about 16% lower than the U.S. average, it has around 30,000 residents, and the median household income is $32,790. The average home is worth $115,100. Statesboro has a high poverty rate, with close to 40% of the town struggling to make ends meet. But healthcare is cheap, and an appointment with a GP or dentist costs locals significantly less than it would elsewhere. The southeast part of the city is the safest if you're considering purchasing property.
People are moving to Texas and Arizona en masse. If you're looking for a more affordable Texan option than the big cities, check out Sweetwater, an underrated prospect. The "Wind Turbine Capital of Texas" is a college town with affordable housing. You can score a three-bedroom house for the grand sum of $100,000.
New Hampshire's most northern city by the Androscoggin River has a ton of checks in the pros column, including how safe it is. For starters, you can get a three-bedroom house for a mere $184,500. Then there's the low risk of adverse weather events, which protects your investment. There are 9,425 residents, so you get all the small-town vibes. Berlin lies next to the White Mountains, and the multitude of public trails for R&R will keep you busy for free. You'll also see ATVs on the town's streets, so four-wheeler bike fans can geek out.
Lynchburg's population is 79,009. This Virginia town near the Blue Ridge Mountains is packed with history, from Thomas Jefferson's holiday home to the 19th-century Old City Cemetery. You, too, can make memories here. Lynchburg is one of the top 10 safest midsized cities in the country, and it has a stable economy thanks to small businesses. Houses cost about $185,300, and the monthly rent costs $905. There's culture and entertainment galore for every member of your household and whatever your taste.
Wausau in central Wisconsin is worth putting on your longlist. It's a vacation destination and offers skiing, tubing, and other outdoor activities. The average home price is $198,446, and rent is approximately $1,100 per month. Wausau's population totals around 39,575, and residents pay close to $1,429 for their monthly expenses.
Bargain hunters should head for Macomb. It's a college town where you can find homes for well under 100 grand if you're lucky. The wider region is known as Forgottonia, which shouldn't bode well, but parks, restaurants, community activities, and work-related opportunities abound in the memorable Illinois countryside. Macomb's population is an estimated 21,516.
Fancy living in a beach town? Consider New London. This small seaside city with a whaling history has a population of about 27,635, and the median home price is $220,000. The winters here are cold, but the city makes up for the temperatures by being budget-friendly and having a rich cultural scene. The county has dozens of properties on the National Register of Historic Places.
Elkhart is a low-cost city with a population of 53,923 as of the 2020 census. Halfway through 2022, unemployment in Elkhart was 1.6% compared to the 3.7% average across the 300 metros in the WSJ's Emerging Housing Markets Index. Elkhart produces recreational vehicles and is referred to as the RV capital of the world. The median home sale price in 2022 was $236,000.
Dublin's housing costs are super low.—accommodation costs around 40% less in this Georgian town compared to the U.S. average. Going to a doctor will set you back $75, which is a lot cheaper than elsewhere, and something like a haircut is also much more cost-effective here, so if you're WFH, you'll save big time. Dublin is tax-friendly for retirees. The downside? The town struggles with high poverty levels and crime. The northwest part of the city is the safest.
Tupelo, Mississippi, has 38,251 permanent residents, so it's one of the more populated places on this list. Elvis Presley's birthplace celebrates its musical icon just about everywhere in town, so if you're a fan, you'll appreciate every ode. But you don't need to know anything about Elvis to recognize the low cost of living in Tupelo. It's 18.7% below the U.S. average. Housing is a whopping 35% cheaper at $148,900. You might be a fool not to rush in.
Holtville has 5,582 residents, give or take a few. This small Cali town is close to the border with Mexico and about two hours away from San Diego. Holtville bucks the Golden State trend by offering would-be homeowners decently-priced real estate. The average home costs $150,900, and monthly rent is $716, one of the cheapest we've come across. The monthly cost of living is comparatively steep, though, at $3,315.
Elizabethtown's claim to fame is the 2005 film starring Orlando Bloom. But while you may know of its existence, did you know it's also one of the cheapest places to live? The monthly cost of living is $1,960 on average, houses cost $164,800, and rent is often sub 1k.
With a median rent of just $700 per month, Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a sun-soaked haven for those seeking affordability without sacrificing beauty. The city boasts around 300 days of sunshine annually, painting the Sandia Mountains a watermelon pink at dusk. Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do, from riding the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway to attending the annual international hot-air balloon festival.
Known as the "Air Capital of the World," Wichita offers a breath of fresh air with its low pollution levels and affordable living. The city is a haven for foodies, with a vibrant food truck scene and the birthplace of White Castle and Pizza Hut. With over 100 biking paths and nearly 200 parks, it's a city that encourages an active lifestyle.
Mill City is a bustling city with a rich cultural scene. With a median studio apartment rent of $990, it's a city that offers affordability without compromising on quality. From its origins as a lumber and flour milling capital to its current status as a hub for local breweries and top-notch restaurants, Minneapolis is a city that's always evolving.
Despite being a tech hub, Seattle offers a surprisingly affordable lifestyle. With a median studio apartment rent of $1,479, it's a city that balances the hustle of the tech industry with the tranquility of its many parks and coffee shops. It's a city where culture and caffeine are never far apart.
Nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs offers a strong sense of community and a median studio rental of $925. With endless trails, waterfalls, and near-perfect weather year-round, it's a city that encourages an active, outdoor lifestyle.
Columbus is a city that's rich in culture and affordable in cost. With a median studio rent of $849, it's a city that offers a high quality of life without breaking the bank. From the Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens to the historic German Village, Columbus always has something to explore.
Lovingly referred to as "Cowtown, "Kansas City is a city that's as rich in flavor as it is in culture. Known for its barbecue and craft breweries, it's a city that caters to foodies and art enthusiasts alike. With the world-renowned Nelson Atkins Museum and the Hallmark Visitors Center, Kansas City always has something to see.
Known as "Brew City," Milwaukee is a city that's steeped in tradition and taste. From its world-class breweries to its famous Wisconsin cheese curds, it's a city that offers a feast for the senses. With a strong work-life balance and a vibrant festival scene, it's a city that knows how to work hard and play hard.
El Paso is a city that's rich in history and sunshine. Known as one of the safest cities in the U.S., it's a city that offers a sense of security and community. With a rich culinary scene and a wealth of historical sites, it's a city that offers a taste of the past and a glimpse of the future.
Centrally located within California, Fresno offers a diverse culture and a median rent of $900 for a studio apartment. The fifth-most populous city in California, Fresno is a city that's in the heart of it all. With San Francisco, San Jose, and Yosemite National Park just a few hours' drive away, it's a city that offers the best of both urban and natural worlds. With a diverse culture and a growing culinary scene, it's a city that's always on the move. Whether you're exploring the local vineyards or taking in the city's rich history, there's always something to discover in Fresno.