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Biggest Bang for Your Buck Cities in the U.S.

5 minute read

By Katie Ormsby

If you want to stretch your paycheck without sacrificing a high quality of life, then consider moving. While moving isn’t an easy decision, it can be an amazing way to make your money go further. You might assume affordable cities are unexciting, but that isn’t always the case.

For instance, Niche assessed U.S. cities and discovered several that fit the bill. Based on factors like housing costs to income ratio and the price of gas and groceries, here are the top 10 cities with the lowest cost of living. All are big enough to have things to do without breaking the bank.

Fort Wayne, Indiana

  • Population: 268,378
  • Median rent: $777
  • Median home value: $121,600
  • % of people who rent their home: 37%
  • % of people who own their home: 63%

Located in northeastern Indiana, Fort Wayne is the second-largest city in the state. According to Space Wise, it combines a strong economy with a low cost of living.

In fact, the source says Fort Wayne’s cost of living is 14% below the national average. Fun things to do include an art museum, science center, zoo, and conservatory.

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Wichita Falls, Texas

  • Population: 104,657
  • Median rent: $828
  • Median home value: $104,800
  • % of people who rent their home: 43%
  • % of people who own their home: 57%

Wichita Falls is a smallish mid-size city. So, it could be great for folks who want a small-town vibe without living in a small town. The northern Texas city has several other things going for it, too.

According to Citytistics, Wichita Falls stands out for its cost of living, livability, and education. As a result, young families with kids may especially be interested in checking out Wichita Falls.

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South Bend, Indiana

  • Population: 102,686
  • Median rent: $814
  • Median home value: $88,600
  • % of people who rent their home: 42%
  • % of people who own their home: 58%

The University of Notre Dame is located just outside of South Bend, giving the city a charming college-town vibe. Don’t be fooled, though — South Bend is a dense suburban city, not a small town.

In addition to a low cost of living, Livability praises the city’s “great job opportunities, friendly folks, diverse neighborhoods, [and] four-season weather.” All of that makes South Bend a hidden gem.

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Dayton, Ohio

  • Population: 140,444
  • Median rent: $724
  • Median home value: $69,400
  • % of people who rent their home: 53%
  • % of people who own their home: 47%

Dayton, Ohio, is another Midwestern city offering a big bang for the buck. For instance, Niche says Dayton is home to “a lot of bars, coffee shops, and parks.” So, Dayton residents have things to do.

Dayton also has an affordable housing market. Nadia Evangelou of the National Association of Realtors tells Dayton Daily News, lower-income residents can become homeowners and build wealth here.

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Buffalo, New York

  • Population: 255,805
  • Median rent: $801
  • Median home value: $101,000
  • % of people who rent their home: 58%
  • % of people who own their home: 42%

Located a short drive from Niagra Falls, Buffalo offers quick access to Canada and relatively close proximity to New York City. So, it’s a good option for people who like to make weekend trips.

According to Space Wise, Buffalo’s cost of living is 17% below the national average and about 50% below New York City’s cost of living. Additionally, the source says Buffalo has a growing job market.

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Brownsville, Texas

  • Population: 182,230
  • Median rent: $754
  • Median home value: $92,400
  • % of people who rent their home: 40%
  • % of people who own their home: 60%

Brownsville is a sparse suburban city where a high percentage of residents own their homes. So, it could be a good fit for folks who want the classic suburban experience.

Plus, money can go further here. According to Indeed Hiring Lab, Brownsville has one of the nation’s highest adjusted salaries, giving residents more bang for their buck.

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Toledo, Ohio

  • Population: 275,116
  • Median rent: $737
  • Median home value: $83,600
  • % of people who rent their home: 49%
  • % of people who own their home: 51%

Located on Lake Erie, Toledo is close to both Detroit and Columbus. So, it’s near a couple of big cities. It also happens to be the largest mid-size city on this list.

As a result, it may be fitting for anyone who wants an affordable cost of living without living in a small city or town. Toledo is a metropolitan city with lots to do.

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Evansville, Indiana

  • Population: 118,414
  • Median rent: $797
  • Median home value: $98,600
  • % of people who rent their home: 45%
  • % of people who own their home: 55%

Evansville is a family-friendly city with fun things for growing families to do, including a zoo and children’s museum. Also of interest, Niche says the city’s public schools are above average.

It’s also a short road trip away from family vacation spots like Indianapolis and St. Louis. If you’re looking for an affordable city to start a family, then Evansville should be on your radar.

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Beaumont, Texas

  • Population: 117,321
  • Median rent: $868
  • Median home value: $123,700
  • % of people who rent their home: 45%
  • % of people who own their home: 55%

Beaumont is a southeastern Texas city with several attractions for art and history lovers. For instance, the city is full of museums and galleries devoted to art and local history.

Of course, one of the most notable things about Beaumont is its affordability. Thanks to its low cost of living, residents can enjoy a relatively high quality of life for less.

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Akron, Ohio

  • Population: 197,375
  • Median rent: $795
  • Median home value: $83,500
  • % of people who rent their home: 50%
  • % of people who own their home: 50%

Finally, let’s head back to the Midwest for the last city on the list. According to PayScale, Akron’s cost of living is 15% lower than the national average.

In addition to the city’s affordable housing market, the source highlights the affordability of health care — the cost is 13% lower in Akron than the national average.

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Key Takeaways

  • Big cities like New York and San Francisco are exciting but notoriously expensive.
  • Fortunately, there are still U.S. cities with a low cost of living and a high quality of life.
  • Indiana, Texas, and Ohio all have several cities that provide a big bang for the buck.

Katie Ormsby

Contributor

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