The 15 Cheapest Places to Live in America

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It’s not news to anyone: Life in the United States can be expensive. But if you’re willing to forgo the fancier coastal cities, you can find a place to live that’s easier on your budget.

Niche.com, a neighborhood data platform, publishes an annual list of the most affordable U.S. cities. It’s based on the site’s own analysis of government data to determine the cost of living in cities across the U.S. The analysis considered such factors as housing, food and fuel costs, median tax rates and other elements that affect the overall affordability of an area.

Here’s a look at the cheapest places to live in America, according to Niche.

15. Abilene, Texas

Abilene Texas
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: B+

Let’s start off the list with Abilene, Texas, not to be confused with Abilene, Kansas (although the Texas version was named for the Kansas city). This Abilene sits 150 miles west of Fort Worth and is home to more than 125,000 people. There’s plenty to do, thanks to three private universities and a flourishing downtown cultural district that includes museums, urban parks and more.

14. Beaumont, Texas

Beaumont, Texas
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: B+

Beaumont, population 112,000, sits on the Neches River, near the Texas border with Louisiana. It benefits from all the usual college-town cultural amenities thanks to Lamar University, whose 292-acre campus is part of the Texas State University System.

13. Montgomery, Alabama

Montgomery Alabama
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: B+

Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, is one of the larger cities on this list, with a population of just more than 200,000. The Yellowhammer State also has a boost for older folks: It’s one of six states that recently reduced taxes on retirement income.

12. Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: B+

Want a large city that’s also affordable? Cleveland, Ohio, with a population close to 375,000 but with a median home value of less than $100,000, might be your place. The benefits of Cleveland’s size include a major presence in professional sports, thanks to the Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers and baseball’s Cleveland Guardians. And Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the I.M. Pei-designed museum that celebrates all things rock and often hosts live concerts.

11. Topeka, Kansas

Topeka, Kansas
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: A-

Topeka, Kansas, is the capital city of the Sunflower State, located along the Kansas River in the northeast part of the state. And Topeka is one of the places that will pay you to move there. Newcomers to the city can get up to $15,000 when they rent or buy a home if they follow the rules laid out in the Choose Topeka campaign.

10. Buffalo, New York

Buffalo New York
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: A-

Buffalo, population 276,000, isn’t just famous for its chicken wings. The second-largest city in New York state (you know who’s No. 1) is home to two pro sports teams: the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills and the National Hockey League’s Buffalo Sabres.

9. Akron, Ohio

Akron, Ohio
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: A-

Akron, population 191,000, has been dubbed the “Rubber Capital of the World” thanks to the 1898 founding here of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. The city scored an A in both diversity and nightlife, and just look at local home prices: The Niche analysis lists the median home value here as just $87,100 with median rent at $821, both well below national averages.

8. Evansville, Indiana

Evansville, Indiana
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: A-

Evansville, population 117,000, is the third-largest city in the Hoosier State, following Indianapolis and Fort Wayne (the latter of which you’ll also find on this list). It’s home to the University of Evansville and the larger University of Southern Indiana. But if you’re looking for cool weather, you may want to look elsewhere: a 2021 Filterbuy analysis using government data declared Evansville the hottest city in Indiana, with 66 days a year topping 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

7. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne, Indiana
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: A-

Fort Wayne is Indiana’s second-largest city, after state capital Indianapolis, with more than 262,000 residents. It may be inexpensive to live here, but you can still enjoy plenty of cultural attractions as the city is home to the Fort Wayne Ballet, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory.

6. Erie, Pennsylvania

Erie Pennsylvania
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: A-

Erie, Pennsylvania, sits on the south shore of the Great Lake that shares its name, about halfway between Cleveland and Buffalo, New York. The city scored an A in the Niche analysis for both nightlife and diversity, and its median home value according to Niche is less than $100,000. A recent report from web and mobile bill-pay service doxoINSIGHTS showed that people in Erie also spend an average of $1,736 on 10 common monthly bills, which came in at 13% lower than the national average.

5. Toledo, Ohio

Toledo, Ohio
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: A-

Toledo sits at the western tip of Lake Erie, along Ohio’s border with Michigan. With a population of about 271,000, the city earned an A for both nightlife and diversity in the Niche analysis. And with a median home value of less than $100,000, it’s no wonder the city made a recent Zillow list of the best cities for first-time homebuyers.

4. South Bend, Indiana

South Bend, Indiana
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: A-

If you’re a fan of Notre Dame Fighting Irish football, you certainly have heard of South Bend, population of about 100,000. The University of Notre Dame was founded there in 1842, and it’s consistently ranked high among American universities. If football’s not your game, Notre Dame also boasts the Snite Museum of Art and hosts the annual Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival.

3. Wichita Falls, Texas

Wichita Falls, Texas
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: A-

In Wichita Falls, there’s a military presence in town, as Sheppard Air Force Base is located just north of the central business district. The city’s namesake waterfall actually washed out in a flood in the 1800s, but the city built a new version in 1987 that’s a favorite backdrop for wedding photos.

2. Dayton, Ohio

Dayton Ohio homes
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: A-

Americans are finding Dayton, population 138,000, to be an affordable place to put down roots. Researchers at Filterbuy named Dayton to their list of cities where homeownership has jumped the most during the past decade. There’s plenty to do and see, as the city is home to the Dayton Ballet, Dayton Philharmonic and Dayton Opera.

1. Brownsville, Texas

Brownsville, Texas
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Cost-of-living grade for this city: A-

Top-ranked Brownsville sits on the U.S.-Mexico border near the Gulf of Mexico and has a population of about 186,000. In 2020, Brownsville made the list of best cities for working parents, according to an analysis by SmartAsset. The website considered such factors as child-care costs, housing costs, crime rate and average commute time.

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