When you think of California, what comes to mind?
The seals in the SF bay?
The warm beaches and beautiful mountains?
What about America’s tech center that brings us everything we need to survive, from computers to iPhones?
California is a state that is unlike many others. It is America’s largest state, with enough enticing features to make anyone want to live there. Whether you like catching the latest wave on the California beaches, trying your luck in casinos, or even hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, it is a state that has a little something for everyone.
California is one of America’s most coveted states, so why doesn’t everyone just move there? One reason is quite obvious: California is expensive. As much as California is known as one of the most exciting places to live in America, it is also known as one of the most expensive.
So is there any hope for those who don’t have an incredibly large cash flow to live there? Luckily, HomeSnacks had the same question and has found the answer — the few remaining affordable places to live in the Golden State.
Obviously, San Francisco and Los Angeles are not on this list, but that doesn’t mean you will be missing out on all of the good California fun.
What is the cheapest place to live in California for 2022? According to the Census data we crunched, Ridgecrest ranks as the cheapest place to live in California. Still expensive, but cheaper than its neighbors.
If you want to live cheaply in California, you won’t be living on the coast, but that doesn’t mean you will be that far from it. If you want to live near the Mexico border and have international date nights, you could try out Imperial, California. Or if you want to be closer to the coast, you could try our winner, Taft, California.
Interested to see how these cities ranked top 10? Keep reading to learn about how we crunched the numbers and to see why these cities are so affordable.
And if you already knew these places were cheap, check out some more reading about California and the cheapest places in the country:
The 10 Cheapest Places To Live In California For 2022
Our most affordable city in California for 2022, Ridgecrest, is nestled between the Sierra Nevada, Cosos, Argus, and El Paso mountain ranges. Once a farming community, Ridgecrest’s residents now find themselves working at a testing Naval Station and the Cerro Coso Community College to offset their cost of living. We know why you scored an 8/10 on our snackability scale for affordability, Ridgecrest. It shouldn’t be difficult to meet your cost of living head on with the median income hanging at $71,774.
So do yourself and your wallet a favor, and get-a-movin’ to this affordable Kern County city.
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.6x (most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 77.3x (355th cheapest)
More On Ridgecrest: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living
Coalinga, California’s “Sunny Side of the Valley,” is our second most affordable city in the The Land of Milk and Honey for 2022.
This city in Fresno County is the 7th most affordable city in terms of home to income ratio and fifth cheapest for rent to income ratio. Holding strong as our fourth most affordable California city two years in a row, we’re pretty sure the residents in Coalinga know a good deal. More importantly, those numbers scream buy, don’t rent. But who wouldn’t want to buy a home where agriculture, oil, and cannabis are keeping the median income around $62,420?
Rank Last Year: 2 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.2x (5th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 73.3x (378th cheapest)
More On Coalinga: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living
With the economy doing so well, people are moving now more than ever. Might we suggest California’s third most affordable city for 2022: Imperial? This city in Imperial County on the US/Mexico border scored an 8.5 on our snackability scale: the highest for any city in the top ten. According to our data, they should be California’s poster city for affordability, housing, and safety. The El Centro-burb knows how to make their ‘dolla holla’ with year-round golf, dune buggying, and camping.
And you know what else Imperial’s residents know? Apparently a good deal when they see it, because they are the third most affordable city for home price to income ratio.
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 8)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.0x (3rd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 71.1x (364th cheapest)
More On Imperial: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living
Corning ranks as the fourth most affordable city in california for 2022 based on the latest Census data. The city has a cost of living a solid 50% lower than the average city in California. The relative affordability is driven by low housing costs and better than average transportation costs.
Corning’s economy centers around the olive trade and other agricultural products such as prunes, walnuts, and almonds. Those sectors lead the median income to stand at $48,038, which comes in quite nicely when compared to the home price figure. The result is the number 13.0 best ratio of home price to income in all of california.
Rank Last Year: 31 (Up 27)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.6x (13th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 60.0x (346th cheapest)
More On Corning: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living
Just East of San Diego, on the California/Arizona border, is our fifth most affordable California city, Blythe.
This ‘Hub of Southern California’ is home to the greatest percentage of young folks concentrated into one city on our list. And if we’ve learned anything about Millenials, they know a good deal. We also know that age group probably wasn’t drawn to this affordable Riverside County city for their love of the desert, but to work at one of the largest cannabis facilities in North America: the Palo Verde Center.
What we’re confused by, however, is Blythe’s median income only topping out at $44,563???
Rank Last Year: 5 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.5x (10th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 58.4x (357th cheapest)
More On Blythe: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living
If your city has a Walmart supercenter, you can bet you are living where it’s affordable; and we might add, convenient.
This is only ‘one’ of the reasons our sixth most affordable city in California, Hanford, made the list. Hanford’s low cost of living runs deep. Local employers in trucking, healthcare, and education help keep the residents in this Kings County city with cash in their pockets and an affordable roof over their head. Heck they scored an 8/10 for housing on our snackability scale.
Hanford’s population is growing by leaps and bounds. So if affordable, central California living is on your bucket list, don’t wait, cuz the word is out.
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.5x (11th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 64.3x (35cheapest)
More On Hanford: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living
The seventh most affordable city in California for 2022 is Taft. Kudos to Taft, they have been the Golden State’s most affordable city two years in a row.
Located in the foothills of Kern County, at the extreme southwestern edge of the San Joaquin Valley, this city’s oil and natural gas industry have been keeping this city ‘booming’. The median income for Taft is close to $46,980. This allowed Taft to grab the 22nd most affordable city in California in terms of home price to income ratio title, too. Do we think Taft has managed to keep their city so affordable because of the backing of the locally operated Standard Oil? Maybe.
Either way, seems like they’re keeping their townies employed and their economy strong.
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 4)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.9x (22nd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 60.0x (214th cheapest)
More On Taft: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living
Another low cost of living city in california is Avenal — the eighth most affordable city in california for 2022. The city has an overall cost of living that is more than 30% cheaper than the California average. Like most places on this list, that is driven by low housing costs, even for an expensive state like California. The median home price sits at $144,800, the fifth lowest mark in the state. Rents are equally cheap. You can score a rental for a median price of $882 per month.
Some of the major employers in town include the Avenal State Prison and Paramount Farms. This makes sense as agriculture serves as the main driver of the economy. The local farmers market is one of the town’s bigger attractions where we know you can find moderately priced produce.
Rank Last Year: 49 (Up 41)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.9x (2nd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 56.4x (402nd cheapest)
More On Avenal: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living
Woodlake is a city in the San Joaquin Valley in Tulare County, California, United States. The population was 7,279 at the 2010 census, up from 6,651 at the 2000 census.
The city has approved two companies cannabis dispensary proposals in hopes of generating tax revenue for the public service budget.
Rank Last Year: 12 (Up 3)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 4.3x (44th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 62.7x (229th cheapest)
More On Woodlake: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living
Located about 40 minutes south of Fresno, Lemoore ranks as the tenth cheapest place to live in California for 2022.
The median home value in Lemoore is $242,700, which is quite easy for residents to afford on a median household income of $68,658. And with property values going up by over 5% annually in recent years, there’s no time like the present to say yes to Lemoore.
Lemoore also has safe streets and great amenities around. For history buffs, the Sarah A. Mooney Memorial Museum offers a rare glimpse at what California was like in the 19th century. And anyone with a pulse would be delighted to attend Lemoore’s annual Central Valley Pizza Festival.
Now, Lemoore’s overall cost of living is slightly higher than the national average, but it’s actually 22% lower than the California average. If you want to try Lemoore out to see how you like it, rent isn’t too steep either — the median price is just under $1,000.
Rank Last Year: 8 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.5x (12th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 62.6x (289th cheapest)
More On Lemoore: Real Estate | Crime Rate | Cost Of Living
Cheapest Places To Live In California FAQs
What county in California has the lowest cost of living?
The county in California with the lowest cost of living is San Joaquin County. The average living wage in San Joaquin County is $101,058 according to MIT data. San Joaquin County has the lowest cost of living because it has relatively less expensive childcare and housing costs compared to California as a whole. Childcare costs $19,292 a year in San Joaquin County for two children compared to the California average of $22,259. Housing costs, defined as a blend of the average rent and average mortgage payment, are $15,240 per year in San Joaquin County compared to $23,682 on average in California.
What is the cost of living in California?
The cost of living in California is 27.1% higher than the US average. According to MIT, the required living wage for a family of four with two working parents in California is $114,059 vs the national average for a family of four with two working parents of $89,744. The median income of a California household is $78,672.
What is the cheapest housing market in California?
The cheapest housing market in California is Clearlake. The average home value in Clearlake is $124,400, the lowest in the state. The average home value in California is $538,500, almost 4.3 times higher than Clearlake.
Methodology: How We Determined The Most Affordable Places To Live In The Golden State For 2022
The two most important things to think about when it comes to being able to afford if you can live comes down to:
- How much do money do I make?
- 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 2016-2020 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).
You can then compare these metrics in each of the places in California to figure out which is the least expensive.
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 426 places in California that have more than 5,000 people.
The place with the lowest cost of living in California according to the data is Ridgecrest. You can download the data here.
Summary: There You Have It Mr. Or Mrs. California Cheapskate
If you’re looking at the cost of living numbers in California, this is an accurate list of the most affordable places to live in California for 2022.
Here’s a look at the most expensive cities in California according to the data:
- Beverly Hills
For more California reading, check out:
- Best Places To Raise A Family In California
- Best Places To Live In California
- Most Dangerous Cities In California
The Most Affordable Places To Live In California