THE 10 CHEAPEST Cities To Live In America For 2020


We used the most recent cost of living data to determine the cheapest large cities in America to call home.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the cheapest places to live in America.

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Everybody wants to save a buck. We use Groupon to get better deals at restaurants and then never go back there again. We share Netflix user names because why pay $12 a month when we can get that for free? And, when we show up to family gatherings we usually bring a bag of chips or beer just for us.

Not you though. Everyone else does that.

While most of us could be considered cheapskates every now and then, we don’t actually live somewhere to intentionally live a cheap lifestyle. Sure, people move into the suburbs to save on living expenses, or flee to the midwest for better life. But we don’t expect people to move to the cities we’re about to talk about just because they have a lower cost of living.

Today, we’re going to talk about the cheapest cities in America. Now, by cheap, we’re referring to the cost of living in these places. So if you’re a cheapskate, you’d fit right in. Ideally, people want to move to cheap cities so that they can afford to live without stress.

So, how do we define ‘cheap’ anyways? While we can’t tell if a population is generous or not, we can measure the cost of living in a place based on criteria most people would agree makes sense. So we used that criteria to determine the cheapest of the cheap cities in the States.

What’s the cheapest city to live in America? According to the most recent data, Fort Wayne ranks as the cheapest city in America over 100,000 people. And Glendale ranks as the most expensive American city.

Some people are just fine with cheap living. If that’s you, then pay attention. You might want to move one day, so you’ll be ahead of the game. So turn up the volume on your outdated phones and laptops, as we bring you America’s cheapest cities. To see exactly how we calculated these rankings, read on.

Or if you’re simply not interested in reading about saving a buck, check out:

The 10 Cheapest Cities To Live In America For 2020

Fort Wayne, IN

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 264,052
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.3x (18th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 65.3x (26th cheapest)
More on Fort Wayne: Real Estate | Data | Photos

This little jewel up in the northern corner of the state can’t brag about a lot, but it can hang its hat on being the most affordable place to live in the country for all cities with more than 100,000 people. In Fort Wayne, you can pay off your home in 2 years and 4 months or pay rent 65.3 times in a year. Plus, as you might presume, since this is Indiana and all, taxes are relatively low, as are standard living expenses.

The smartest thing to do would be to work from home, earning a high salary and just renting here. You could save a lot of money in very little time doing that in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Of course, it’s Fort Wayne. But the economy isn’t doing too badly. There’s a decent number of manufacturing and health care jobs. It’s not gonna wow you, but you’d be entertained for a little while I guess.

Springfield, IL

Overall SnackAbility

7
/10

Population: 116,459
Rank Last Year: 3 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.4x (25th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 67.7x (17th cheapest)
More on Springfield: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Right down the road from Rockford is an even cheaper place to live, Springfield, the capital of Illinois. While housing costs are more here, people in Springfield earn significantly higher salaries, too. Like 25% higher. Which means its cheaper to live here.

The average family brings in about $53,405 a year in Springfield, which goes a loooong way when your rent is about $789.0 bucks. In actuality, it makes far more sense to rent a home in Springfield – or Illinois – and save on property taxes. In fact, you’re almost incentivized to do it. You would basically get a $10,000 a year raise if you sold your home and rented in this state. Blame Chicago. Illinoyed.

Cedar Rapids, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

8
/10

Population: 131,360
Rank Last Year: 6 (Up 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.4x (23rd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 78.8x (6th cheapest)
More on Cedar Rapids: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Another Iowa city is on this list — Cedar Rapids. Well it makes sense when you look at Cedar Rapids’ rent to income ratio. Here in Cedar Rapids, you could pay for 78.8 months of rent with one household salary. That’s the 6th most in America – and Cedar Rapids is actually a pretty cool place people.

Now let’s compare that to the most EXPENSIVE rent to income ratio city in America, Paterson, New Jersey, where your income…to rent…is 31. Which means you could only pay rent 31 times in a year. That means it’s more than twice as expensive as Cedar Rapids. New York City is actually far less expensive than Paterson. The average family brings in about $58k, but it costs about $1,700 a month for rent. Of course, in San Francisco, it’s like a jillion dollars for rent a month, but households are far wealthier, bringing in about $96k a year.

Anyways, back in Cedar Rapids – they enjoy the cheapest public utilities in the nation, too, where a family can expect to pay only about $100 a month for all the basics. Of course, that doesn’t include internet. As you know they’re ripping all of us off for really slow internet. And we continue to pay.

Topeka, KS

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 126,877
Rank Last Year: 2 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.2x (11th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 59.4x (64th cheapest)
More on Topeka: Real Estate | Data | Photos

There isn’t a city in America where it’s cheaper to get groceries. Topeka’s rent is also far below average – you could pay rent about 59.4 times with your salary, and the housing costs are really down there too – where the average family could pay off their homes in about two years and two months.

For a state capital, living here is a real steal.

Did you know Topeka changed its name to Google once?

Rockford, IL

Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 147,881
Rank Last Year: 4 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.1x (3rd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 57.3x (86th cheapest)
More on Rockford: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Okay so our next stop is up to Rockford, Illinois.

Rockford is a bit of a real mess. The big reason it’s one of the cheapest cities in the country is that it’s a real ghetto. That’s one reason home prices are the 12th lowest in the nation – where a family could pay off their home in two year’s time. However, property taxes are through the roof here – about $800 a month. Which, considering how cheap groceries and other necessities are here, is why Rockford doesn’t top this list.

People in Illinois are leaving in droves because of high taxes alone. They’re Illinoyed.

Wichita Falls, TX

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

4
/10

Population: 104,494
Rank Last Year: 5 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.1x (7th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 58.0x (77th cheapest)
More on Wichita Falls: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Any interesting facts about Wichita Falls, Texas? Home prices are like the 18th lowest in the country, but rent is about average.

Have you ever heard of the world’s smallest skyscraper? That’s here. 100 years ago some developer said he was going to build a building that’s 40 feet, 480 inches, and investors thought he said the building would be 480 feet. Well he built the building, and investors were upset. The mix up led to the building being called the world’s smallest skyscraper.

Peoria, IL

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 114,512
Rank Last Year: 17 (Up 10)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.5x (37th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 64.7x (30th cheapest)
More on Peoria: Real Estate | Data | Photos

We’re gonna take the car all the way to Peoria, Illinois, our 7th cheapest city. You can bet the people in Peoria sneak in candy to the movies. This is one cheap place.

If you thought the home prices in Des Moines made it super affordable to live there, it’s even cheaper here in Peoria. The home price ratio is 2.5 times income, so you could buy a home, and in two years and a couple months, pay the whole thing off. Of course, that doesn’t mean people make a lot of money here. The average income is $50,688 a year. If you rolled into Peoria making $100k a year, you would be like the richest person in town. .

Davenport, IA

Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 102,318
Rank Last Year: 7 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.5x (42nd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 66.1x (23rd cheapest)
More on Davenport: Real Estate | Data | Photos

We go back to Iowa again and cruise into Davenport, our 8th cheapest city in the country. Sure homes are cheap here – about $127,100 bucks, but in Davenport, it’s the rent to income ratio that really stands out.

The rent to income ratio is explained like this: Your annual income, in this case for Davenport its $50,001 is divided by your monthly rent, which in Davenport is about $757.0. That’s a 66.1x difference. That means you can pay your rent 66.1 times each year. That’s good for the 23rd highest number in the nation.

Davenport folks also have some of the cheapest groceries and utility bills, too.

Des Moines, IA

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

6
/10

Population: 215,932
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.4x (33rd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 63.6x (37th cheapest)
More on Des Moines: Real Estate | Data | Photos

Where we heading? To the cheap city of Des Moines, Iowa. Des Moines has a lot going on right? No?

If this is an indication of the types of places we’re gonna see today, we can see why these cities are so cheap. The reason Des Moines is so cheap is because of its home price to income ratio and its income to rent ratio. Basically, how much money do you make and how much does it cost to live there. Here in Des Moines, both numbers are in the bottom 10% in the US.

For instance, the average household income in Des Moines is $52,251 and the average cost of a home is around $127,200. So that means your home price to income index is about 2.4. That means the average family can pay off their entire home in two and a half years if they only used their working incomes to make their house payments.

Wichita, KS

Source: Public domain
Overall SnackAbility

5
/10

Population: 389,563
Rank Last Year: 14 (Up 4)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.5x (40th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 64.5x (33rd cheapest)
More on Wichita: Real Estate | Data | Photos

We don’t have to go very far at all to get to our next cheapest city. This is Wichita, Kansas.

Here in Wichita, the home cost to income ratio is 2 years and 5 months. That’s dirt cheap. Now let’s compare that to our most expensive city in the nation, Los Angeles. In LA, the average household incomes are only $55k. But the cost of a home here is waaay out of whack at $560,000. Meaning — while in Wichita, a family could pay off a new home in 2.4 years, — in Los Angeles, a family would have to take 10 years to pay off their home. Which likely has a tiny yard.

But what a difference. Actually, California has 16 of the 20 most expensive cities to live in America. And we wonder why there are so many California refugees.

Wichita has 389,563 people, so it’s not a tiny place. And it has a lot of very blue collar manufacturing jobs.

Review Of Wichita by HomeSnacks User

I like Wichita because it’s got the small town feel with most of the city amenities and culture.

The cost of living is very affordable. A family can easily afford a house from the income they make from the aircraft industry.

The bad side is that it could be a bit boring.

On the bright side, Vietnamese food is really good here.

How We Determined The Most Affordable Large Cities in The US For 2020

The two most important things to think about when it comes to being able to afford if you can live comes down to:

  1. How much do money do I make?
  2. How much do I have spend to live there?

You need to understand your costs in the context of how much money you make.

For example, if the median household earns $100,000 and spends $40,000 on housing it’s actually cheaper to live there than a place with a median income of $50,000 and housing costs of $21,000. You might spend more on housing, but you have more money overall to play with.

With that example in mind, we derived several statistics from the latest Census American Community Survey 2014-2018 around incomes and costs. They are:

  • Median Home Price / Median Income (lower is better)
  • Median Income / Median Rent (Higher is better)
  • Median Home Price

We added simply median home price because high home prices generally correlate with higher expenses for all costs related to homes (heating, electricity, etc).

What you are left with is a “Cost of Living Index” by taking the average rank of each of these metrics for each city.

So we used that cost of living index in order to rank all of the 319 cities in the US that have more than 100,000 people. You can download the data here.

The place with the lowest cost of living in America according to the data is Fort Wayne.

There You Have It — The Cheapest Big Cities in America

Okay, there ya go. Our cheapest cities in the USA. The places where you can live the most comfortably on your income. After measuring every cost of living factor that makes sense, there isn’t a clear ‘region’ that has the advantage for cheap living.

And while this is good news for the places we mentioned, if you happen to live in Yonkers, NY, Jersey City, NJ or San Francisco, CA, you’re probably head over heels in living expenses.

So we hoped you learned something. We did. The next time you’re in over your head with bills, wondering why you paid all that money for a worthless college degree and lamenting that new car purchase you just made, remember this: You could always move somewhere in the midwest. No? Okay.

Here’s a look at the most expensive cities in America:

  1. Glendale
  2. Los Angeles
  3. El Monte

For more reading, check out:

Cheapest Cities In America For 2020

Rank City Population Home/Income Ratio Income/Rent Ratio
1 Fort Wayne, IN 264,052 2.3x 65.3x
2 Springfield, IL 116,459 2.4x 67.7x
3 Cedar Rapids, IA 131,360 2.4x 78.8x
4 Topeka, KS 126,877 2.2x 59.4x
5 Rockford, IL 147,881 2.1x 57.3x
6 Wichita Falls, TX 104,494 2.1x 58.0x
7 Peoria, IL 114,512 2.5x 64.7x
8 Davenport, IA 102,318 2.5x 66.1x
9 Des Moines, IA 215,932 2.4x 63.6x
10 Wichita, KS 389,563 2.5x 64.5x
11 Pasadena, TX 154,193 2.2x 58.2x
12 Amarillo, TX 198,773 2.4x 62.6x
13 Independence, MO 117,207 2.2x 57.6x
14 Broken Arrow, OK 107,500 2.3x 70.8x
15 Green Bay, WI 104,818 2.7x 68.2x
16 Beaumont, TX 118,632 2.2x 55.9x
17 Mcallen, TX 141,597 2.6x 61.6x
18 Grand Prairie, TX 191,104 2.3x 61.7x
19 Toledo, OH 278,193 2.2x 53.0x
20 Odessa, TX 118,582 2.4x 60.0x
21 Joliet, IL 147,957 2.6x 66.8x
22 Omaha, NE 465,112 2.7x 63.4x
23 Killeen, TX 143,070 2.4x 55.3x
24 Pearland, TX 117,867 2.2x 75.8x
25 Rochester, MN 113,913 2.7x 75.1x
26 Akron, OH 198,314 2.2x 51.1x
27 South Bend, IN 102,233 2.1x 50.8x
28 Corpus Christi, TX 324,692 2.4x 55.9x
29 Lincoln, NE 280,849 2.9x 67.2x
30 Oklahoma City, OK 637,284 2.8x 63.6x
31 League City, TX 100,832 2.2x 80.0x
32 El Paso, TX 680,354 2.7x 56.1x
33 Kansas City, KS 152,069 2.1x 50.7x
34 Lansing, MI 116,699 2.0x 50.0x
35 Sioux Falls, SD 174,151 3.0x 74.6x
36 Louisville, KY 617,032 3.0x 63.2x
37 Abilene, TX 123,676 2.4x 52.3x
38 Brownsville, TX 182,679 2.4x 51.4x
39 Fort Worth, TX 855,786 2.6x 58.4x
40 Warren, MI 135,192 2.4x 51.5x
41 Evansville, IN 118,952 2.4x 51.2x
42 Mesquite, TX 144,250 2.3x 52.7x
43 Elgin, IL 113,023 2.6x 62.9x
44 Olathe, KS 135,986 2.6x 86.2x
45 Kansas City, MO 481,417 2.8x 58.3x
46 Midland, TX 135,134 2.6x 64.7x
47 Sterling Heights, MI 132,470 2.8x 63.1x
48 Arlington, TX 392,462 2.7x 58.7x
49 Montgomery, AL 200,156 2.6x 53.0x
50 Garland, TX 237,982 2.5x 54.7x
51 Tulsa, OK 402,223 2.9x 56.9x
52 Norman, OK 121,090 3.1x 65.6x
53 Columbus, OH 867,628 2.8x 55.6x
54 Aurora, IL 200,660 2.6x 57.9x
55 Clarksville, TN 150,602 2.8x 56.0x
56 Huntsville, AL 193,663 3.3x 67.0x
57 Indianapolis, IN 857,637 2.8x 53.7x
58 Irving, TX 238,637 2.7x 57.0x
59 Laredo, TX 257,575 2.8x 52.5x
60 San Antonio, TX 1,486,521 2.7x 53.2x
61 Dayton, OH 140,782 2.1x 46.1x
62 Carrollton, TX 133,438 2.9x 64.5x
63 Buffalo, NY 257,518 2.3x 47.4x
64 Lubbock, TX 250,415 2.7x 52.5x
65 Grand Rapids, MI 197,081 2.8x 52.7x
66 Pittsburgh, PA 303,587 2.5x 49.7x
67 Lexington, KY 318,734 3.3x 63.6x
68 Round Rock, TX 120,157 2.9x 65.1x
69 Winston-Salem, NC 242,125 3.3x 56.7x
70 Little Rock, AR 198,135 3.3x 58.8x
71 Sugar Land, TX 118,182 2.5x 71.1x
72 Cincinnati, OH 300,357 3.3x 54.4x
73 Tyler, TX 103,721 3.2x 55.5x
74 Augusta-Richmond County Consolidated Government (Balance), GA 196,807 2.6x 47.6x
75 Jackson, MS 168,862 2.4x 45.6x
76 West Valley City, UT 135,985 3.2x 58.6x
77 Fargo, ND 120,209 3.7x 67.0x
78 Greensboro, NC 288,719 3.3x 55.2x
79 Overland Park, KS 188,687 3.2x 73.5x
80 Billings, MT 109,431 3.7x 66.4x
81 Columbus, GA 196,670 3.1x 51.8x
82 High Point, NC 111,035 3.3x 53.0x
83 Mckinney, TX 173,460 3.1x 70.7x
84 Syracuse, NY 143,293 2.6x 45.8x
85 Detroit, MI 677,155 1.6x 36.9x
86 Birmingham, AL 212,021 2.5x 44.3x
87 Frisco, TX 165,700 2.9x 88.2x
88 Cleveland, OH 387,398 2.4x 41.4x
89 St. Paul, MN 302,760 3.6x 58.9x
90 Memphis, TN 653,248 2.5x 44.2x
91 Plano, TX 284,579 3.2x 69.3x
92 Lewisville, TX 104,789 3.0x 54.1x
93 St. Louis, MO 311,273 3.2x 50.7x
94 Richardson, TX 114,402 3.1x 60.6x
95 Mobile, AL 191,485 3.0x 48.6x
96 Spokane, WA 214,804 3.6x 56.8x
97 Milwaukee, WI 596,886 2.9x 47.5x
98 Springfield, MO 166,633 3.2x 48.9x
99 The Woodlands, TX 109,843 3.0x 75.8x
100 Albuquerque, NM 559,202 3.8x 59.8x

Cheapest Places By State

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.

2 thoughts on “THE 10 CHEAPEST Cities To Live In America, 2020

  1. Chris,
    I looked at your report for the “Cheapest Cities to Live in 2020”, and wonder what References and or Calculations you used for compiling this data. I currently live in Florida, and very familiar with Northern California and question that ranking of San Francisco, Concord, Richmond, and Oakland.
    I hope to hear from you soon.
    Sincerely,
    Sam

  2. Chris,
    I just noticed that you didn’t have Wyoming in your Data of the “Cheapest Cities to Live in 2020”, how come ?
    Thank you,
    Sam

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