The 10 Cheapest Cities in America

Cheap citiesBy Jill Krasny

Southern metros ruled the Community of Economic Research's top 10 list of cheapest cities this quarter, with Harlingen, Texas being the cheapest of them all.

"It's an area where there's plenty of room," says Dean Frutiger, the project manager and economist who worked on the Cost of Living Index. "If your housing is more expensive, that's going to affect everything."

No wonder the little city scored so well on COLI's survey (81.6 on an index of 100). In Harlingen, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment only costs $642 a month. And the houses there are just as cheap.

It's hard to answer what makes an area more expensive than another, but "it all comes down to supply and demand," says Frutiger. Even in the downturn, a city like DC with a "built-in infrastructure of demand" didn't feel the pinch. In fact, higher values for D.C. property and homes have driven the metro's prices higher.

That said, it's important to note that "each item on the list is a surrogate for a larger category," says Frutiger, who's analyzed this data for the past five years. "There are so many things people can go out and buy. There's a lot of stuff that we're not covering."

One example is property tax, which can really drive up the cost of homeownership. Though that's not to say housing is only the factor at play. Location matters, too.

"In many places like Honolulu and Alaska, the entire basket price [of consumer goods] will drive whether they make the [most expensive cities] list. There are enormous shipping costs. And their utility costs are high," says Frutiger.

Using COLI's data, we've picked out some prices that show how cheap it is to live (mostly) south of the Mason Dixon line.

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BS - there are plenty of cheaper places than these 10. Few people want to live in Texas anyway.

September 15 2012 at 6:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

there all cheap cause no one wants to live there

September 15 2012 at 2:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

These photos that go with the cities are so bogus! I mean there have got to be tons of better photos for Fayetteville, Arkansas, a college town nestled in lovely green hills that are brilliant with color in the fall. That pic could be any funnel cake carnival in any city (and same goes for Springfield, IL as well). You ought to see the Fayetteville historic square. Lovely and especially lit up for the holidays.

Same goes for a lot of these photos. San Marcos, and Ardmore are the only ones with photos that have any connection to the town. Who picks these photo files? Circus chimps?

September 15 2012 at 12:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

only problem is the libs come running in droves to convert the old population...My state now full of illinois residents bringing there same failed politicts that doomed there state to your state..

September 15 2012 at 11:10 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

The only problem with living in Harlingen, Texas,'re living in Harlingen, Texas. Welcome to the Lower Rio Grande Valley, folks. It's poverty central, a major drug smuggling route, hot, muggy, bug-infested, flat and so far from any major metropolitan center that you may as well be living on the moon. It's cheap for a reason. I'm Texan to the core, but I have absolutely no desire to live in that part of the state--and I've lived in every corner of Texas.

September 15 2012 at 10:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Except these ******* gas prices.....

September 15 2012 at 9:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hitchcock, Texas 77563...........Suuuuuuper cheap

September 15 2012 at 9:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

live in NC here... average utilities are
light,gas,water,trash,phone,internet & tv =approx. $180.00 per month....
mortgage paid this past spring, but home eguity for new metal roof...
and we are 125 miles from the beach....
not that's economical.....

September 15 2012 at 6:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Did you notice that MOST of the cities listed are in tornado alley? Not to mention the fact they're all HOT states, with average annual climates in the 80s-90s. No wonder the cost of living is so cheap - most everyone else who can has moved out.

September 15 2012 at 2:57 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to RJM's comment

Sure thing RJM. San Marcos, just minutes from Austin one way or San Antonio the other direction is so vacant. No way fellow.

Yeah, it's hot in the summer. But the A/C works great and you don't have to freeze your buns when winter comes. People are moving in, not out.

September 15 2012 at 12:47 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Yeah, but what are the crime rates? I know that Memphis looks great on this list; but compared to the several homicides we have per year in Lincoln, NE (pop approx 245,000), I bet they have way more than we do. And what about the crime rates in the other cities and towns?

September 15 2012 at 2:10 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kathy's comment

Memphis is a standout. It's the only really large city in the group it seems, so yeah, crime might be an issue (of course, the really cheaper places to live in the market are in the rural suburbs not near Beale St. or midtown). On the other hand I'm sure the crime rates in Des Moines, IA and Ardmore, OK are just rampant, shocking, just absolutely shocking.

September 15 2012 at 4:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply