8 Cities Where You Can Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

Jon Fesmire | Apr 18, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

Is the cost of living just too much where you live? Do you long to find somewhere affordable but also enjoyable? Here are eight U.S. cities where most people pay less than 30% of their income on their living expenses. On top of that, these cities have plenty to do indoors and out.

Greeley, CO

With a population of about 100,000, Greeley is one of the smaller cities on this list, but it’s growing.  With a median household income of $44,000 and a median home value of $230,000, the cost of living in Greeley is 9% lower than the Colorado average. Residents pay about 27% of income on housing. The unemployment rate is generally a percentage point or more lower than the national average.

As an added bonus, it’s a city with plenty to do, with live music shows at night, family sites like the Colorado Model Railroad Museum and the Greeley History Museum, and free bus fare for anyone under 18.

Bloomington, IL

Bloomington has a surprisingly high median household income of $62,000 per year, and a median home value of $146,000. Unemployment is slightly higher than the national average at about 5.5%, which is still reasonably low. Major employers include State Farm Insurance, Country Financial, and Illinois State University. Unemployment approximately mirrors the national average.

This is also a pleasant place to set down roots, with plenty of outdoor parks to take the kids or to go for a run or walk. Speaking of taking the kids out, you can take yours to enjoy places like Grady’s Fun Park or Miller Park Zoo. There are many open-air cafes, restaurants, concert venues, and more.

Cedar Rapids, IA

What do you get when your household income is $55,000 and the value of your home is $124,000? A low mortgage, that’s what, and a great cost of living. Those are the median household income and median house value of Cedar Rapids, a small city with a population of about 130,000. The cost of housing and utilities for residents comes to about 27% of income.

Cedar Rapids has plenty of fun places to visit. Museum lovers should visit the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, and if you enjoy getting great deals, check out the NewBo City Market.

The unemployment rate is also usually lower, often by a full percentage point, than the rest of the country.

Fayetteville, AK

People in Fayetteville, a city of about 490,000 residents, enjoy a median household income of about $42,000, average housing value of $180,000, and spend just 24% of their income on living expenses. Rent and utility prices are also on the low side.

Fayetteville is an artsy town, and more Democratic than Republican, in part due to the University of Arkansas. Check out the popular restaurant, Hugo’s, for burgers and crepes, go to the Bikes, Blues, and BBQ Rally in September, and enjoy the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks year-round. Finally, the unemployment rate is generally lower than the national average. With a low cost of living, jobs, and lots to do, Fayetteville is worth considering as a place to call home.

Des Moines, IA

Des Moines has a strong job market, growing population, and residents pay an average of 27% of their income on living expenses. Compared to many of the other cities on this list, Des Moines already has a big population, with 600,000

residents. The median home value is about $170,000, while the median annual household income is about $47,000. As the city grows, however, expect these things to change.

Gentrification has swept through downtown Des Moines. There, you’ll find fine restaurants and more, and at various times of the year, many fun festivals. And, you should have no problem enjoying those festivals, since the unemployment rate in Des Moines is generally lower than the national average.

Baton Rouge, LA

Baton Rouge is another big city with a population of about 820,000. The median housing price is about $147,000, and household income averages about $43,000. In the capital of Louisiana, residents pay about 27% of their income on housing expenses. Also of note: the sales tax in Baton Rouge is just 5%, bringing cost of living even lower.

Living in Baton Rouge, you should get used to spicy Cajun food. Of course, you can find plenty of other foods. You may come to love the burgers at Burgersmith, and the ice cream at the agricultural center at Louisiana State University.

If you enjoy occasionally gambling, you’ll find plenty of casinos in Baton Rouge. The city also has lots of events, so you never have to be bored for long. As for finding work, rest assured that the unemployment rate approximately mirrors the national average.

Rochester, MN

Get ready for a pleasant surprise. The median household income in Rochester is about $63,500. The median cost of a home is about $230,000, which is certainly reasonable considering income. There’s plenty to do outdoors in Rochester as well, from swimming to team sports to golf, and you can expect to pay less than 23% of your income on housing.

Unemployment is typically lower than the national average. If you work in health care, you may end up working for the Mayo Clinic Medical Campus, which is expanding.

Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis may be the largest city on this list with a population of about 2 million, but it has a surprisingly rural feel. The median home price is about $130,000, the median household income about $46,000, and about 27.5% of one’s income generally goes to housing expenses. As for work, the unemployment rate is typically lower than the national average.

When you visit Indianapolis, you may be surprised at how sprawling much of the city feels, with many communities down country roads branching off major roads. Houses are also spaced apart and many have big yards. At night, you can see a lot of stars.

If you have kids,  get a year pass to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, which always has fun, educational exhibits, and visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

We hope this list helps you in your search for an affordable place to live. When you do move, consider self storage or portable storage as tools to make the transition easier.