If you’ve never paddled Flathead Lake or had a bison burger in Bozeman, then you’ve not experienced what the good people of Montana already know; they have some of the best, most affordable fun in the country.
But, you’re going to need a little more than affordable fun if you’re looking to move your life to Montana on a budget. You’re going to need a good job and a map to navigate Montana’s cost of living.
We’re pretty sure there isn’t a bad place to build your dream cabin in Montana, but there are some places that are super expensive. So, HomeSnacks thought that we’d give you the ultimate Montana life hack: a list of the most affordable places to live in Big Sky Country for 2022. How did we determine that most affordable places in Montana? We consulted Montana’s most recent census data. We also looked at cost of living, home prices, and the recent crime statistics for places with 1,000 or more residents.
The competition was fierce to say the least. Many of the Treasure State’s top ten most affordable places boast great home prices, safe neighborhoods, and good jobs. Any one of these Montana places would be a great place to enjoy life while saving money. Montana’s most affordable places also frees up cash for the fun ‘Montana’ things to do and see. Like, scoring tickets to Livingston’s Roundup Rodeo or catching a powder day in Whitefish. So, want to know where the cheapest places in Montana are to live? Read on.
The 10 Most Affordable Places To Live In Montana
It’s simple economics, folks. When you choose to live in one of Montana’s most affordable places, you’re choosing to live where your Montana dollar will go the furthest. And that, friends, makes perfect sense.
So, what’s the most affordable place to live in Montana for 2022? The most affordable place in Montana would be Colstrip according to the most recent Census data.
To see how your city compared, take a look at the list below.
And if you already knew these places were cheap, check out some more reading about Montana and the cheapest places in the country:
The 10 Cheapest Places To Live In Montana For 2022
Colstrip’s Homesnacks accolades just keep on coming: first we named it the safest place in Montana, then the best place to live overall, and now, it’s earned the title of most affordable city statewide. Colstrip doesn’t have the cheapest homes or lowest rent in Montana, but what it does have is a well-paid population and low unemployment. The median income in Colstrip is $90,263, about 65% higher than Montana’s average. So when you see a home for sale in Colstrip for only $116,900, you know it’s a good deal. In fact, of all the places in Montana, folks in Colstrip spend the least amount of their earnings on homes, by a massive margin. The median rent in Colstrip is $791, which is good enough to give Colstrip the best rent to income ratio in the state as well. If you’re stuck looking for free things to do in Colstrip, fear not, because the walleye, pike, and bass fishing at Castle Rock Lake is out of this world.
Rank Last Year: 1 (No Change)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 1.3x (most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 114.1x (38th cheapest)
More On Colstrip: Real Estate | Crime Rate
Located on the Yellowstone River off of I-94 in southeast Montana about 100 miles from Billings is Forsyth, one of the most affordable and safe places to live in Montana. The city is a paradise for those that love the outdoors as fishing and hunting are plentiful — and cheap. And who doesn’t love an annual rubber duck race down the river.
When it comes to cost of living, Forsyth is over 20% cheaper than the average in Montana. The main reason for this level of affordability is the relatively inexpensive cost of housing. While groceries and transportation costs are average, a home only costs $121,000 which ranks as the ninth cheapest in the state. And with a monthly rent of $561 it’s easy to move your family to Forsyth and have plenty of extra for a nice camping trip.
Rank Last Year: 23 (Up 21)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.5x (4th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 87.8x (2nd cheapest)
More On Forsyth: Real Estate
Located in the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeastern Montana, Wolf Point ranks as the third least expensive place to call home in the state. Wolf Point hosts the Wild Horse Stampede, “the Grandaddy of Montana Rodeos,” so if you’re a fan of cowboy stuff, you’re in luck. If you decide to settle down in Wolf Point, a home will set you back around $102,800, the second lowest price in Montana. Wolf Point also has the third best home price to income ratio statewide. If you’re not sure about committing to a mortgage, the rent in Wolf Point goes for about $617/month. As a bonus, Wolf Point is also one of the best cities for singles in Montana, so you won’t have to break the bank looking for love here.
Rank Last Year: 5 (Up 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.3x (3rd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 72.4x (53rd cheapest)
More On Wolf Point: Real Estate | Crime Rate
Chester earned its #4 position on this list thanks to having awesome affordability stats across the board. Here you’ll find the fifth least expensive homes in Montana, with a median price of $114,800. And with an unemployment rate hovering around 1%, you’d better believe that everyone gets a piece of the pie in Chester. If you want to learn more about how things were done back in the Wild West days, definitely check out the Liberty County Museum. Whether you’re just spending a small stretch of time or settling down in Chester for good, both the rent to income and home price to income ratios are among the top ten statewide.
Rank Last Year: 3 (Down 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.6x (7th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 75.6x (2nd cheapest)
More On Chester: Real Estate
Baker is a bit of an oddity on this list; with a median home price of $151,900 and a median rent of $702/month, the city has the priciest homes and second priciest rent of all the cities listed here. But, thanks to a strong economy, with rock-bottom unemployment numbers and a median income of $71,111, Baker’s still super affordable. Both renters and buyers enjoy the second best housing to income ratios in the state. Baker is also home to the O’Fallon Historical Museum, where you can learn more about the history of eastern Montana and see the world’s largest steer, free of charge.
Rank Last Year: 11 (Up 6)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.1x (2nd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 101.3x (4th cheapest)
More On Baker: Real Estate
The county seat of Glacier County in the northwestern part of the state, Cut Bank comes in as the sixth most affordable place in Montana. The unemployment rate is very low in Cut Bank, so everyone can take full advantage of how cheap things are.
The median home price in Cut Bank is the third lowest in Montana at $104,700, and the median rent is among the top ten cheapest statewide at $674. When you factor in that the median household income here is $42,616, you start to appreciate just how easy it is to save in Cut Bank.
On top of that, Cut Bank has some of the shortest average commute times in Montana, so you’ll save even more on gas. Not to mention that with plenty of interconnected trails, nature-lovers can get their fix without spending a dime.
If you’re looking for fun things to do here, look no further than Cut Bank Creek Brewery, a local favorite that’s starting to spread throughout the state. And Cut Bank residents like to party with a number of events, chief among them being the Lewis & Clark festival.
Rank Last Year: 7 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.5x (5th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 63.2x (14th cheapest)
More On Cut Bank: Real Estate | Crime Rate
Fort Benton can be found in the northwest part of the state off of Route 87 right on the Missouri River. As you would expect for a town on the Missouri River in Montana, fishing and hunting are a big part of life. As the town likes to brag, let the Fort Benton “scenery, history and residents work their magic on you!”
Looking at the numbers, the town of some 1,500 people has a cost of living over 15% cheaper than the state average. Additionally, it has the number 10.0 best home price-to-income ratio in Montana thanks to an average income of $58,802. You’ll love the affordability and your kids will love the outdoors.
Rank Last Year: 21 (Up 14)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.7x (10th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 92.0x (18th cheapest)
More On Fort Benton: Real Estate
Next up on our list of uber-affordable spots in Montana is Malta. You can buy a home in Malta for about $139,300 and get a place to rent for around $533/month. Combining those factors with Malta’s median income of $44,924 puts Malta in or around the top ten statewide for housing to income ratios. Malta is also home to the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum, which is great for a day out with the kiddos or a “wine and dino” date night with your partner.
Rank Last Year: 6 (Down 2)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.1x (2most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 84.3x (47th cheapest)
More On Malta: Real Estate
We’re finishing our tour of Montana’s cheapest places to live with the small city of Chinook. Sure the cost of living is low here, the commute times are short, and the schools are excellent.
But what really stands out about Chinook is just how much there is to do in this community of 1,225 residents. There’s a city pool, a 9-hole golf course that’s open to the public, and a wildlife museum with stunning displays of animals in their natural habitats that could rival any big city’s museum.
Unemployment is relatively low, crime isn’t a big issue, and folks here earn a median income of $41,339. If you want to try Chinook out to see how you like it, the barrier to entry is incredibly low – in fact, the city has the cheapest median rent in Montana at $504.
If you decide you like it here, the median home price is $128,400. That number’s been climbing steadily in recent years, as more people realize you can get a high quality of life for a bargain in Chinook.
Rank Last Year: 10 (Up 1)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 3.1x (22nd most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 82.0x (15th cheapest)
More On Chinook: Real Estate
Townsend is located in western Montana about 35 miles southeast of Helena off of Route 287 — it also happens to be one of the cheapest places to live in montana. The overall cost of living is 15% below the state average and has affordable homes and rent.
In addition to great fundamentals on the numbers side, the overall quality of life in town is fantastic. You have all the opportunities that Montanta provides like camping, hiking, and boating on the river. But you also have access to great antique shops and local stores on main street. You can have the less corporate and more down to earth lifestyle here in Townsend.
Rank Last Year: 17 (Up 7)
Home Price To Income Ratio: 2.7x (11th most affordable)
Income To Rent Ratio: 86.1x (52nd cheapest)
More On Townsend: Real Estate
Cheapest Places To Live In Montana FAQs
What county in Montana has the lowest cost of living?
The county in Montana with the lowest cost of living is Phillips County. The average living wage in Phillips County is $87,120 according to MIT data. Phillips County has the lowest cost of living because it has relatively less expensive childcare and housing costs compared to Montana as a whole. Childcare costs $16,384 a year in Phillips County for two children compared to the Montana average of $16,520. Housing costs, defined as a blend of the average rent and average mortgage payment, are $8,808 per year in Phillips County compared to $10,975 on average in Montana.
What is the cost of living in Montana?
The cost of living in Montana is 0.0% lower than the US average. According to MIT, the required living wage for a family of four with two working parents in Montana is $89,744 vs the national average for a family of four with two working parents of $89,744. The median income of a Montana household is $56,539.
What is the cheapest housing market in Montana?
The cheapest housing market in Montana is Roundup. The average home value in Roundup is $86,100, the lowest in the state. The average home value in Montana is $244,900, almost 2.8 times higher than Roundup.
Methodology: How We Determined The Most Affordable Places To Live In The Treasure 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 Montana 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 54 places in Montana that have more than 1,000 people.
The place with the lowest cost of living in Montana according to the data is Colstrip. You can download the data here.
Summary: There You Have It Mr. Or Mrs. Montana Cheapskate
If you’re looking at the cost of living numbers in Montana, this is an accurate list of the most affordable places to live in Montana for 2022.
Here’s a look at the most expensive cities in Montana according to the data:
For more Montana reading, check out:
- Best Places To Raise A Family In Montana
- Worst Places To Live In Montana
- Best Places To Buy A House In Montana
The Most Affordable Places To Live In Montana
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