Looking for a new city to call home? Below, we’ve rounded up some of the 15 best cities in the U.S. for affordability. Whether you’re looking for a small community where you can raise a family or a big city where you can enjoy unique amenities, these cities are worth checking out!
- Boise, ID
- Buffalo, NY
- Colorado Springs, CO
- Columbus, OH
- Fargo, ND
- Fort Myers, FL
- Grand Rapids, MI
- Greenville, SC
- Kansas City, MO
- Lexington, KY
- Madison, WI
- McAllen, TX
- Omaha, NE
- Phoenix, AZ
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Population: 218,677
- Home Price: $191,000 median purchase price; $834 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 39% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 4.1%
If you’re looking for a not-so-hidden gem in the northwestern United States, Boise is the place to be. The capital of Idaho is a cozy city bursting with charm—not to mention, it consistently ranks among the cheapest cities to live in. With all four seasons, opportunities for outdoor recreation in Boise are endless! You can count on a welcoming community, a low cost of living, and at least one person telling you that “It’s pronounced boy-see, not boy-zee.”
What to Do in Boise
Whether you’re craving gourmet fries with burgers on the side from Boise Fry Company, corned beef hash and pancakes from Goldy’s, or a ribeye from Barbacoa, you can always find top-notch local cuisine in Boise! Celebrate the city’s rich Basque heritage at events like the San Inazio Festival and Jialdi. Boise also heavily encourages art and culture in its affectionately nicknamed Freak Alley, where you can find blocks of graffiti art and murals. If the hustle and bustle of city life gets to be too much, there are hundreds of opportunities for hiking, skiing, and kayaking nearby, especially around Sawtooth Lake and Table Rock.
- Population: 258,989
- Home Price: $72,600 median purchase price; $710 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 4% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 5.8%
Easily one of the cheapest cities in New York, Buffalo is also one of the most affordable cities in the U.S. The Great Recession made it unappealing to real estate developers, which means Buffalo’s quirky history and landmarks have avoided the bulldozed fate of many current strip malls. The economic bounce-back has given Buffalo new life, and it’s a fantastic place to settle down with a family. Buffalo’s residents are extremely friendly, so be ready for thoughtful conversations and playful banter with strangers!
What to Do in Buffalo
Buffalo is on the opposite side of New York from the Big Apple, but it’s only half an hour from the breathtaking Niagara Falls. The sights to see don’t end there. The stunning architecture throughout Buffalo includes seven Frank Lloyd Wright sites and a collection of Art Deco designs that seem mismatched with the city’s down-to-earth locals. Buffalo is also home of the buffalo wing, embracing it to the fullest with a city-acknowledged Buffalo Wing Trail. Beef on wecks and sponge candy are just two more of the City of Light’s signature foods you’ll need to try after moving here. With shopping, art, and history surrounding you, you’ll wear your civic pride as proudly as your neighbors do.
Colorado Springs, CO
- Population: 448,759
- Home Price: $222,100 median purchase price; $958 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 17% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 4.8%
Founded as a resort town, Colorado Springs is one of the most affordable cities in Colorado. Just an hour south of Denver, Colorado Springs is a comfortable community full of artisans, environmentalists, and military personnel. In fact, it’s home to the Air Force Academy and Peterson Air Force Base, and it made our list of best places for veterans to live. With a beautiful view of the mountains and a short drive to nearby hiking and skiing destinations, Colorado Springs is an excellent place to settle down affordably!
What to Do in Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs is consistently ranked as one of the fittest cities in America, and it’s easy to see why! Whether it’s a stroll through the Garden of the Gods, a hike up Pike’s Peak, or some action-packed whitewater rafting, many Colorado Springs attractions are outdoors. The city is also packed with mountain views and bed and breakfasts that are perfect for romantic staycations. Between downtown, Old Colorado City, and Manitou Springs, there’s seemingly endless shopping as well.
- Population: 837,038
- Home Price: $131,800 median purchase price; $856 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 14% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 4.8%
Columbus doesn’t seem as large as it is, but from one end of the city to the other, the experience can be completely different! This affordable U.S. city is known for being the home of Ohio State University, as well as the host of the Arnold Sports Festival, one of the most prestigious events for professional bodybuilders (named for and founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger himself). Whether you’re looking for fun downtown adventures, higher education, or a quiet neighborhood where you can retire, Columbus has what you’re searching for at a fraction of the cost of other cities in the region!
What to Do in Columbus
Columbus holds its heritage dear, obvious in its preservation of its historic German Village. Check it out for shopping, contemporary cuisine, and history lessons. The Short North Arts District will give you a glimpse into how this Midwestern city manages to keep its impressive collection of local artists and culture. More active residents of Columbus will discover a haven in the city’s manicured urban trails. Aspiring designers and fashionistas will find they’re in good company—Columbus is a secret fashion capital, trailing New York and Los Angeles when it comes to big-name labels. When you’re thrifting on the weekends, keep an eye out for pieces that might not have been released elsewhere in the U.S.!
- Population: 115,950
- Home Price: $178,300 median purchase price; $727 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 25% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 2.7%
Right on the border between North Dakota and Minnesota, Fargo prides itself on being a little bit different. This city doesn’t take itself too seriously and welcomes everyone with a similar, laidback sense of humor. You can even get your picture taken with the infamous wood-chipper from the eponymous Oscar-winning flick! Fargo is one of the best-kept secrets in the Midwest, as well as one of the most affordable cities in the U.S.
What to Do in Fargo
Both Fargo and Morehead (its twin city in Minnesota) are bursting with opportunities. Head downtown for some retail therapy, or venture out into nature to go canoeing and kayaking. There are plenty of museums and historic spots in Fargo, including the Viking museum and Native American sites. End a day of sampling the local cuisine—like delicious eats from Speak Easy or Kroll’s Diner—with a trip to the Fargo Theatre for indie films.
Fort Myers, FL
- Population: 71,051
- Home Price: $160,800 median purchase price; $851 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 6% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 5.0%
If winter in the Midwest doesn’t sound too cozy, check out Fort Myers for one of the best warm places to live with a low cost of living. With lovely beaches and a constant sea breeze, you wouldn’t expect that this little coastal escape is one of the cheapest cities to live in Florida! The City of Palms offers you a chance to lie back and relax while listening to the waves in your personal oasis.
What to Do in Fort Myers
It’s time to get sand between your toes in one of America’s best affordable beach cities! Fishing is a popular activity (especially of the deep sea variety) on one of the city’s many beaches. Sail to the nearby islands of Sanibel and Captiva for a chance to see dolphins in the wild and pick out some beautiful shells to display at home. Back on the mainland, there are spas and shopping options galore, as well as dining and nightlife at hot spots like El Gaucho Inca and Space 39. You can also tour the home of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, who joined their Fort Myers estates together for a unique historic experience.
Grand Rapids, MI
- Population: 193,887
- Home Price: $113,600 median purchase price; $806 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 14% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 5.7%
Aside from the booming healthcare market, the affinity for public art, and the thriving LGBTQ scene, Grand Rapids wins the heart of its citizens with its friendly demeanor and semi small-town charm. Grand Rapids has a long history of practical careers and pleasant hospitality, and it’s the hometown of President Gerald Ford! If you’re looking for affordable cities with the cheapest cost of living, give Grand Rapids a try!
What to Do in Grand Rapids
From artisan markets downtown to uptown boutiques, you can’t be disappointed with the shopping in Grand Rapids. Whether you’re looking for handmade candies or farm-to-table lunch, go “biteseeing” for some of the best food in Michigan. Grand Rapids has been voted Beer City multiple times, and the craft beer, microbreweries, and local flavors explain why. Stop by Brewery Vivant, one of the city’s most popular bars, or Founders, the spot that started the craft beer revolution in Grand Rapids. It’s hard to visit the Great Lake State without some time on its many lakeside beaches! Grand Rapids also takes pride in its visual art endeavors and boasts over 100 live music venues, so you never have to miss a show!
- Population: 62,776
- Home Price: $237,800 median purchase price; $832 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 11% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 4.6%
In the last few decades, Greenville has exploded into a hot spot in the South, making several national publications’ lists of best affordable cities. This little community is nestled up against the Blue Ridge Mountains and brings that majesty inside its limits with miles of lush greenery and trails. Located about halfway between Charlotte and Atlanta, Greenville is quickly becoming a tourist destination in its own right. Its city-approved social media hashtag is #yeahTHATgreenville, so go check out some snaps of the this up-and-coming South Carolina city!
What to Do in Greenville
If you’re directed to “the park,” you should probably head to Falls Park—the gem of Downtown Greenville full of natural beauty. Visit more than 30 waterfalls, or get your heart pumping with outdoor activities like hiking and ziplining. Whether you’re looking for boutiques or name-brand outlets, check out Greenville’s extensive shopping centers. For more adventurous types, put the pedal to the metal at the BMW performance driving school.
Kansas City, MO
- Population: 471,767
- Home Price: $135,900 median purchase; $826 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 3% of U.S. cities
- Unemployment Rate: 4.6%
Kansas City is a hub of activity in the relatively peaceful Midwest, as well as in the running for most affordable cities in America. This city straddles the border between Missouri and Kansas, and it has loads to offer! Jobs in the STEM fields are on the rise with Kansas City ranking in the top five cities nationally for “brain gain” (that is, educated and skilled workers are flocking to this Midwestern gem). Interesting art installations, local flair, and a penchant for barbecue all make Kansas City a fantastic place to call home.
What to Do in Kansas City
There’s never a dull moment in the City of Fountains. For dinner and shopping, The Plaza is the place to go, especially the establishments stocking pieces by local craftsmen and makers. From sports bars to speakeasies, there are tons of places to have a fun night out. And you’ll find all of the hot spots for lunch and dinner going on the Kansas City barbecue tour. KC is proud of its history, too! Tour intimate venues to experience the still-strong jazz culture. Or pay your respects at the national WWI museum on the weekend. To really get in on the Kansas City spirit, join your neighbors in cheering for local pro teams, the Chiefs and the Royals.
- Population: 311,529
- Home Price: $170,800 median purchase price; $793 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 22% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 4.3%
Just an hour away from Kentucky’s state capital, Lexington often gets overlooked. But when searching for the cheapest U.S. cities to live in, it’s definitely hard to miss. With natural rock formations and foliage visible even from the highway, Lexington is a fantastic city for people who don’t want to trade beauty for cost of living. The University of Kentucky is a major draw for both jobs and education, as well young people and innovative businesses. For great food, hard-working people, and equine activities, Lexington is the place to be.
What to Do in Lexington
The birthplace of Abraham Lincoln is more commonly known as the Horse Capital of the World! Racetracks full of thoroughbreds and horse farm tours are scattered throughout the winding roads of Central Kentucky. The city is known for its bourbon, but the food scene is just as impressive, winning national awards and exciting cuisine connoisseurs. Schedule date night at Lockbox for an upscale dinner inside a contemporary art museum, or grab a bite at The Merrick Inn for incredible southern cuisine. The wide open spaces that lend themselves so well to horse races also mean Lexington is full of championship-caliber golf courses, so hitting the links is easy!
- Population: 246,034
- Home Price: $217,000 median purchase price; $959 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 32% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 3.5%
Wisconsin may largely be known for its cheese, but Madison offers so much more than delicious dairy. With a fantastic sense of humor (their official city bird is the plastic pink flamingo), a love of environmentalism and the outdoors, and a college community centered around University of Wisconsin, Madison is a great place to put down roots. In fact, the low unemployment rate and low cost of living work together to make Madison one of the most affordable cities in the U.S.!
What to Do in Madison
Madison has the scenes you’d expect of a college town. It’s great for nightlife and has a burgeoning reputation regarding cuisine. But Madison is also exceedingly fond of art, going out of its way for live concerts and directing visitors toward the “museum mile,” which consists of multiple museums and galleries on a convenient route. Check out the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, then make a stop at the Madison Children’s Museum. Or get the full view of Madison from its street by hopping onto one of 350 shared bikes that you can use to explore the city’s miles of bike lanes and urban trails.
- Population: 142,475
- Home Price: $117,500 median purchase price; $739 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 41% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 4.8%
One of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., McAllen is right on the border between Texas and Mexico. That means it’s a friendly blend of customs with Hispanic culture standing hand-in-hand with Texan attitude. The annual Fiesta De Palmas (formerly PalmFest) is a great example of this, consisting of a weekend of live music, dancing, and art commemorating the city’s creation and celebrating what McAllen has become in recent years—a city that truly embraces the diversity of its people!
What to Do in McAllen
Whether it’s Mexican, French, Italian, or Greek fare, McAllen adores its food. It keeps up the diversity with its selection of bars and clubs, from mega clubs like COSMO to local-approved dives like Sofie’s Double S Saloon. McAllen’s shopping options have everything from boutiques to big brand names. For something truly unique, visit the McAllen Public Library (formerly a Walmart), which has won several interior design awards for its impressive, sprawling layout. McAllen’s recreational activities are largely outdoors, from birdwatching to biking. For nature lovers, Quinta Mazatlan is the place to go. This previously privately-owned mansion is now an educational center centered around colorful local birds and butterflies.
- Population: 443,072
- Home Price: $139,800 median purchase price; $819 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 13% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 3.8%
Omahans will tell you their “Homaha” is a big city that feels like a small town, thanks to the innate hospitality of its residents. As one of the best places to live for affordability and job opportunities, this Midwest city keeps growing. Whether you’re looking for arts and entertainment in The Old Market or the best version of the city’s claim-to-fame Reuben sandwich, Omaha will show you that Nebraska doesn’t mean boring!
What to Do in Omaha
With thousands of restaurants ranging from steakhouses to sushi bars, Omaha is a city that likes to eat. The world-famous Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is a blast for families and animal lovers alike, and baseball fans will love when the NCAA College World Series comes to town in the summer. Rub elbows with Warren Buffett during the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting, or indulge in the indie rock scene where nationally-recognized artists like Bright Eyes and Tilly & The Wall originated. You can also find innovative public art displays throughout the city, as well as traditional art and history museums like the Joslyn Museum or Durham Museum.
- Population: 1,555,324
- Home Price: $178,200 median purchase price; $914 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 10% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 5.1%
Phoenix is the largest city on this list, but for good reason. It’s one of the cheapest big cities to live in! The fifth most populous city in America and the capital of Arizona, Phoenix is known for being a tourist destination rife with spas, resorts, and shopping that brings snowbirds during the winter. But the hub of activity in the Sonoran Desert is also a hot spot for young people, startups, and nightlife. With the Grand Canyon just a day trip away, there’s no shortage of natural beauty surrounding this desert city.
What to Do in Phoenix
Arizona is proud and respectful of its Native American culture and history, and you’ll see that in Phoenician art and architecture on city-approved downtown tours. Phoenix also embraces inclusivity regarding its LGBTQ community, from its nationally recognized Rainbows Festival to the “friendly gayborhood” of the Melrose District. The Valley of the Sun is almost always sunny, making its desert parks and mountain preserves a treat to tour and hike—just make sure you bring water! Want to hit the green? Head to the suburb of Scottsdale, which is well-known for having incredible golf courses!
Salt Lake City, UT
- Population: 191,446
- Home Price: $248,700 median purchase price; $844 median monthly rent
- Crime Rate: Safer than 2% of cities in the U.S.
- Unemployment Rate: 3.9%
This buzzing mountain city in the Beehive State sits at an elevation over 1,000 ft, but that doesn’t mean it’s always tranquil. Home to the Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City is comfortably urban—bustling but not busy. It has become one of the most progressive cities in Utah and is also one of the best affordable cities in the U.S. With the breadth of activities and cultures represented here, you might just forget to look out at the always gorgeous sunsets in the valley every night!
What to Do in Salt Lake City
The city’s natural beauty is easily accessible through several hiking and biking trails. The metropolis itself is built around Temple Square, an architectural wonder you have to see. But the impressive buildings don’t stop there. The copper-plated Natural History Museum is one of the most unique museums in the country! Salt Lake City will surprise you with its nightlife, but prepare to be impressed by its artisan chocolate and coffee. The focus on local goods continues with the weekly farmers market, which takes over an entire block of streets in Downtown SLC! Of course, you can’t forget to hit the slopes among the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” which was showcased during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
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Data from AreaVibes and Niche.