Here Are America's Least-Expensive Cities to Live In
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Wall Street titans flock to Manhattan's Upper East Side and Hollywood A-listers favor Beverly Hills, but here's a look at five locales America's biggest cheapskates will love.
"These are good cities for someone who's just starting out or who's looking for a quiet life," says Dean Frutiger of the Council for Community and Economic Research , which recently identified America's least-expensive cities as part of its annual Cost of Living Index study.
CCER, a suburban Washington, D.C., think tank, has been ranking U.S. cities' living costs every year since 2008.
Volunteers in communities across America reach out to local businesses to price a basket of nearly 60 goods and services, from toothpaste to two-bedroom apartments. CCER then weights each price according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics formula to estimate how much it costs the typical professional/managerial household to live in each locale.
Frutiger says America's least-expensive cities typically offer rock-bottom home prices and rents, as housing accounts for 26.5% of the study's weighted index.
"The overriding commonality among inexpensive cities is that they're not major urban areas," he says. "They're relatively big cities, but they're not the kind of 'destination' urban areas that everyone wants to move to, like New York or Boston."
Look below to check out the least-expensive communities in this year's rundown from among the 308 cities and counties CCER surveyed.
Prices reflect actual costs found last year on 56 items available in one or more neighborhoods popular with each community's professional/managerial class. Terms such as "average" or "lowest-priced" refer to how much a given item cost vs. what CCER found among all of the communities that it polled.
One caveat: The study didn't include property taxes, car insurance and some other significant household expenses.
Fifth-best city for cheapskates: Idaho Falls, Idaho Cost of living: 14.4% below U.S. average
Located along the Snake River some 250 miles east of Boise, Idaho Falls makes the grade for cheapskates thanks mostly to the lowest housing costs for any community that CCER polled. Houses and apartments cost 34.6% below the U.S. average there.
The 56,800-population city also boasts 14.8% below-average grocery prices, 6.6% savings on utilities and 8.4% lower pricing on miscellaneous items such as haircuts and movie tickets.
On the downside, you'll save just 0.2% over average U.S. transportation costs and will actually pay 0.7% above the national average for health care.
Fourth-best city for cheapskates: Memphis, Tenn. Cost of living: 14.6% below U.S. average
Elvis Presley could afford plenty of his beloved fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches if he still lived in Memphis, as groceries there cost 11.8% below the U.S. average.
The River City, which placed fifth in CCER's rankings last year, also offers the 13th-lowest housing costs among communities the group surveyed. Local rents and mortgage expenses run 26.8% below the national average.