Over the past few years, I’ve toyed with the idea of moving out of the second largest city in the United States to somewhere more affordable. There are so many factors to consider; getting an equivalent job somewhere else, making new friends, taking on a new “attitude” of sorts that comes with every city, and then getting used to a different climate.  Of course,  relocating isn’t easy when you’ve grown up in one city all your life. Something always holds me back from making the decision to actually leave.

However, after researching some affordable cities throughout the United States, a handful of them stand out as truly affordable on an average income ($50,000 – $60,000 per year). I selected cities that were listed on multiple top 10’s – best job markets, best markets for first time home buyers, and best cities for high pay and low cost. Affordability isn’t the only factor in choosing these cities, so I’ve selected cities that have unique traits such as great restaurants, thriving art or music,  or are known for their charm. I’m also throwing in weather since that’s a big deciding factor for me –  I’m a bit spoiled living in Southern California!

      • Charlotte, NC – Raleigh usually gets the kudos in best places to live, but Charlotte is up and coming. It’s economy is diverse and it has a vibrant art community as well. The average cost of living is also below the national average with a higher than average salary at almost $77,000. Cost of living averages 93 (below the average means cheaper), national average is 100. A run down of other factors to consider:
        • Housing: average home sales price is under $200,000, but the range in home prices runs from mid-$100’s to mid-$300’s.
        • Climate: Rainy and humid are frequently used adjectives. Though snow fall is typically minimal (not counting this year’s wacky weather!)
      • Fort Worth, TX – Quite a few cities come out of Texas as being good places to live, but Fort Worth not only gets listed on the top 10 for job seekers (a low unemployment rate of 5.6%), but also for first time home buyers. I’m not so sure Fort Worth is filled with charm, but considering it ended up on two lists, I’m including it here. Cost of living averages 90, national average is 100.
        • Housing: Average price is $175,000 which is quite affordable.
        • Climate: Hot and humid. The national “comfort index” is 44 while Fort Worth comes in at almost half that at 23. Hmmm….not so comfortable.
      • Austin, TX – Known for it’s music, Austin has been making top 10 lists for the past few years. It’s continued to experience job growth, yet is still affordable considering there is no state income tax and the average salary is higher than the national average at about $75,000. The one drawback in this city is home prices, unfortunately. Cost of living averages 102 (above the average means more expensive), national average is 100. A run down of numbers:
        • Housing: Pricey – many traditional 3 bedroom homes in the Austin area begin at or around $325,000 and soar right on up to $500,000. There are plenty of rental apartments in Austin, TX for those not looking to buy a home, too.
        • Climate: Texas, what can I say? Your weather sucks! Hot and humid with a comfort index half of the national average at 23.
      • Denver, CO -Though one of the more expensive cities in Colorado, Denver has quite a few industries that are hopping. Colorado, as a state, is beautiful with lots of outdoor activities for rugged, outdoorsy folks. Cost of living averages at 110, the national average is 100.
        • Housing: It’s all about location. Prime locations can run upwards of high $300,000’s on up, but if you’re willing to live a little outside the downtown area, you can snag a home for a little less.
        • Climate: Denver’s climate is quite comfortable with a comfort index above the national average at 57. Sure, they get some snow and definitely see the four seasons, but at least it’s not as extreme as cities that only see two seasons: Whoa Nelly! cold and freakin’ hot! So there’s a silver lining in their climate.

As a median income earner, I’d definitely like to get more for my money. Though I’m not quite ready to pack up my things and head on over to Denver or Charlotte, these are definitely cities I’ll continue to keep my eye on as I think about possible relocation.

Do you live in one of these cities? Have any others to add?


  1. You’d have to look at whether you could make the same as you’re making now or if an equivalent job would pay you less in those cities.

    • @Money Beagle – That’s always a problem – the income. I know I’d make less, quite a bit less, and I’d have to figure out if it would be worth the cost of living decrease. If salary decreases more than cost of living, then it’s not worth it.

  2. I’ve lately heard a lot of people talking about moving to Denver, or more specifically Colorado in general. The way they talk about it there makes me want to live there! Of course, I’d have to visit first just to make sure it was all that they claimed it was!

    • @Jon – I haven’t been to Colorado for many years, but I remember loving the scenery. It’s beautiful! However, I think you’re right, you’d have to visit a few cities and decide which one was best for you.

  3. I don’t like hot and humid weather! Although I sometimes complain about freezing winter, I’d like to have a fair share of snow… What about traffic in those cities? For me it’s also one factor I take into account because I really don’t want to deal with bad traffic!

    • @Poor Student – Traffic is something I definitely need to include in my next batch of research. I know that Colorado Springs (for example) has some pretty terrible traffic problems – the town is having some trouble accommodating the population growth. Liking snow gives you more options for cities – that’s the one big thing for me, the weather. We are spoiled living in Southern California – we like the 70’s and 80’s temps and don’t want to deal with snow!

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