Which US City Has the Lowest Cost of Living?

Joe Roberts
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on June 24, 2019
5 min read

To get current cost of living data, check out the most recent version of this post.  

the average monthly cost of living for 75 us cities - move.org

Have you ever thought about packing up and moving to an entirely new city? Whether you’re motivated by job prospects, educational opportunities, or pure wanderlust, a fresh start in a new locale is an excellent way to begin the next chapter of your life.

Before you hit the road, though, there are a few things you should learn about your destination. Will it be a good fit for your lifestyle? What is its culture like? And, perhaps most importantly, can you afford to live there?

To help you find the ideal setting for the next act in your life’s play, we researched living costs in 75 popular US cities, and then we ranked them based on affordability.

Keep reading to find out which cities you could afford to live in—and which ones would be better to visit next time you get the travel bug.


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What does cost of living include?

For our research, we looked into the average monthly costs of five common expenses:

  • Rent for a 1-bedroom apartment
  • Utilities (electricity, water, etc.)
  • Internet
  • Gasoline
  • Food (groceries plus occasional restaurant meals)

Of course, a lot of factors can affect your cost of living. If you ride public transportation every day and cook all of your meals at home, your cost of living likely will be much lower than your SUV-driving, pizza-ordering neighbor’s. Our numbers don’t account for differences in lifestyle, so consider them guidelines, not predictions.

With that in mind, let’s get to our rankings.


10 cities with the lowest living costs

1. El Paso, TX

Average cost of living in El Paso: $1,182.96
Average cost of living (per month)
$1,182.96

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$658.53

Utilities

$128.75

Internet

$55.31

Gas

$124.44

Food

$215.93

Of all the cities we researched, El Paso has the lowest cost of living, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer. If you’re an outdoorsy type who enjoys hiking, rafting, and fishing, then you’ll love this city’s proximity to state parks and the Rio Grande. As home to the University of Texas at El Paso, it’s also one of the most affordable college towns.

2. Lincoln, NE

second lowest cost of living: lincoln, nebraska - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$1,291.50

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$647.22

Utilities

$153.75

Internet

$65.82

Gas

$128.01

Food

$296.70

With the lowest monthly rent on our list and a big university (University of Nebraska), Lincoln is an excellent place for students to get an education without going into massive amounts of debt. Lincoln also has more parkland per capita than most other cities in the US,1 so you’ll always be able to find outdoor space that isn’t too crowded.

3. Toledo, OH

third lowest cost of living: toledo ohio - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$1,322.93

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$662.14

Utilities

$170.83

Internet

$64.10

Gas

$130.56

Food

$295.30

Toledo combines a superb school system with thriving suburbs and a low cost of living, making it an ideal city for families to put down roots. The city is also a hub of cultural diversity, and it hosts numerous festivals where you can learn about another culture while enjoying its traditional foods and customs.

4. Wichita, KS

fourth lowest cost of living: wichita kansas - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$1,433.37

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$782.50

Utilities

$176.76

Internet

$67.00

Gas

$122.91

Food

$284.20

Wichita is the first city on our list whose average monthly rent is above $700—but with a total cost of living below $1,500 a month, it’s still well within reach for young professionals, families, and retirees. The only downside is that, since Wichita is in Kansas, you can expect occasional tornado warnings.

5. Louisville, KY

fifth lowest cost of living: louisville kentucky - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$1,441.22

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$829.64

Utilities

$150.32

Internet

$59.29

Gas

$128.01

Food

$273.96

Birthplace of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali and home to a variety of healthy sports rivalries, Louisville is made for sports fans. Louisville also has several whiskey distilleries scattered throughout its streets, so connoisseurs of good whiskey will also feel right at home in this southeastern city.

 6. Tulsa, OK

sixth lowest cost of living: tulsa oklahoma - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$1,450.67

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$817.63

Utilities

$156.68

Internet

$67.00

Gas

$122.91

Food

$286.45

If you’re a live music lover looking for a new scene or an amateur musician trying to catch your first big break, then consider moving to Tulsa. The city boasts an impressive assortment of venues where residents can enjoy live bands. As the sixth most affordable city on our list, Tulsa is a great option for musicians who aren’t ready to quit their day jobs just yet.

7. Memphis, TN

seventh lowest cost of living: memphis tennessee - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$1,476.18

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$899.47

Utilities

$140.62

Internet

$59.72

Gas

$119.34

Food

$257.03

As the city that Elvis called home, Memphis is a town with indestructible rock ’n’ roll roots. The city’s thriving music scene makes it another great option for young musicians. Memphis also has strong ties to the civil rights movement—you’ll find the National Civil Rights Museum near the heart of downtown.

8. Lexington, KY

eighth lowest cost of living: lexington kentucky - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$1,480.49

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$852.11

Utilities

$156.02

Internet

$57.50

Gas

$128.01

Food

$286.85

Lexington’s economy and culture center on the University of Kentucky. The university is the city’s biggest employer,2 and residents take their college basketball team—the Wildcats—very seriously. All of this combined with Lexington’s low cost of living makes the city a perfect home for students, professors, and college athletes.

9. Albuquerque, NM

ninth lowest cost of living: albuquerque new mexico - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$1,500.26

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$873.10

Utilities

$144.00

Internet

$63.43

Gas

$130.05

Food

$289.68

Bugs Bunny spent so much time taking the wrong turn at Albuquerque that he never stopped to enjoy everything the city has to offer. From hiking and biking for outdoorsy folks to galleries and theaters for artistic types, there’s something for everyone in Albuquerque. To top it off, the city’s cost of living barely breaks $1,500 a month, making it one of the least expensive places in the nation.

10. Mesa, AZ

tenth lowest cost of living: mesa arizona - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$1,501.29

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$851.38

Utilities

$161.49

Internet

$71.76

Gas

$133.62

Food

$283.04

Situated between Phoenix and Tonto National Forest, Mesa is a suburb on the edge of everything that makes Arizona fun and interesting. Utility bills in Mesa can run a little high because of the constant need for air conditioning, but low rent and proximity to Phoenix’s healthy job market more than make up for this extra cost.


The 5 cities with the highest living costs

1. San Francisco, CA

first highest living costs: san francisco california - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$4,210.60

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$3,396.62

Utilities

$123.22

Internet

$66.62

Gas

$197.88

Food

$426.26

What can we say about San Francisco that hasn't already been said? From the Golden Gate Bridge to Coit Tower, the city is imbued with a unique personality that has inspired countless songs, books, and poems. SF is worth visiting often, but with the nation’s highest cost of living (thanks largely to steep rental prices), it’s not an easy place to settle unless you’re very wealthy.

2. New York, NY

second highest living costs: new york new york - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$3,956.11

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$3,126.35

Utilities

$142.84

Internet

$62.77

Gas

$155.55

Food

$468.60

You know all those sitcoms that portray down-on-their-luck actors living in high-rise apartments in the Big Apple? Well, don’t believe everything you see on TV. With average rental rates that rival San Francisco’s, New York is a difficult place to make ends meet without significant income. Not surprisingly, it’s one of the least livable cities for minimum wage earners.

3. San Jose, CA

third highest living costs: san jose california - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$3,289.07

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$2,555.85

Utilities

$123.86

Internet

$63.36

Gas

$186.15

Food

$359.85

Nicknamed the “Capital of Silicon Valley,” San Jose is known around the world for innovation and technology. But the city has a population that surpasses San Francisco’s—and some of the steepest rental prices in the nation. Unless you plan to make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year working for a tech giant, San Jose probably isn’t for you.

4. Oakland, CA

fourth highest living costs: oakland california - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$3,212.14

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$2,481.65

Utilities

$142.21

Internet

$65.00

Gas

$175.95

Food

$347.33

Sitting right across the bay from San Francisco, Oakland has a lot of the same beauty, culture, and diversity that makes SF special. Unfortunately, Oakland’s cost of living trails by only a thousand dollars. While this difference might make the Bay Area seem like a realistic option for some, it’s still more than many can justify.

5. Boston, MA

fifth highest living costs: boston massachusetts - move.org
Average cost of living (per month)
$3,211.51

Rent (1-bed apartment)

$2,420.26

Utilities

$147.15

Internet

$62.97

Gas

$145.35

Food

$435.78

Caught between the nation’s history and its future, Boston is a city with foundations firmly set in the American Revolution and eyes firmly set on technological advancement. The city is also home to Fenway Park, making it a great spot for baseball fans. The only drawback is the city’s infamously high cost of living—a challenge for lower-income earners.


Methodology

We focused our research on the 75 most populous cities in the United States. To calculate each city’s cost of living, we added the city’s average rent for a one-bedroom apartment to the average costs of utilities, internet, food, and fuel according to Numbeo.com.


Want to move to a new city?

If our list left you itching to relocate, check out our guide to cheap ways to move cross-country and our favorite interstate moving companies.


Complete data set

City
State
Utilities
Internet
Gas (per gallon)
Gas (monthly)
Rent
Food
Total

El Paso

TX

$128.75

$55.31

$2.44

$124.44

$658.53

$215.93

$1,182.96

Lincoln

NE

$153.75

$65.82

$2.51

$128.01

$647.22

$296.70

$1,291.50

Toledo

OH

$170.83

$64.10

$2.56

$130.56

$662.14

$295.30

$1,322.93

Wichita

KS

$176.76

$67.00

$2.41

$122.91

$782.50

$284.20

$1,433.37

Louisville

KY

$150.32

$59.29

$2.51

$128.01

$829.64

$273.96

$1,441.22

Tulsa

OK

$156.68

$67.00

$2.41

$122.91

$817.63

$286.45

$1,450.67

Memphis

TN

$140.62

$59.72

$2.34

$119.34

$899.47

$257.03

$1,476.18

Lexington

KY

$156.02

$57.50

$2.51

$128.01

$852.11

$286.85

$1,480.49

Albuquerque

NM

$144.00

$63.43

$2.55

$130.05

$873.10

$289.68

$1,500.26

Mesa

AZ

$161.49

$71.76

$2.62

$133.62

$851.38

$283.04

$1,501.29

Oklahoma City

OK

$172.04

$62.72

$2.44

$124.44

$869.29

$279.14

$1,507.63

Arlington

TX

$172.93

$52.39

$2.34

$119.34

$896.00

$279.63

$1,520.29

Greensboro

NC

$144.58

$59.33

$2.46

$125.46

$850.00

$343.70

$1,523.07

Omaha

NE

$153.75

$60.00

$2.51

$128.01

$907.50

$280.19

$1,529.45

Corpus Christi

TX

$154.52

$58.30

$2.32

$118.32

$912.11

$292.25

$1,535.50

Tucson

AZ

$297.01

$71.76

$2.61

$133.11

$741.67

$300.08

$1,543.63

Stockton

CA

$130.00

$61.11

$3.49

$177.99

$825.00

$366.71

$1,560.81

Fresno

CA

$161.34

$64.57

$3.44

$175.44

$856.67

$343.25

$1,601.27

St. Louis

MO

$188.66

$53.24

$2.51

$128.01

$962.87

$299.71

$1,632.49

Las Vegas

NV

$148.24

$68.28

$3.12

$159.12

$976.93

$285.98

$1,638.55

Bakersfield

CA

$161.34

$60.00

$3.47

$176.97

$924.55

$330.83

$1,653.69

Milwaukee

WI

$125.63

$57.74

$2.70

$137.70

$1,030.48

$305.99

$1,657.54

Cincinnati

OH

$156.02

$57.00

$2.56

$130.56

$1,032.90

$287.23

$1,663.71

Plano

TX

$157.00

$53.25

$2.33

$118.83

$1,058.33

$285.46

$1,672.87

Jacksonville

FL

$164.07

$64.80

$2.53

$129.03

$1,026.11

$293.72

$1,677.73

Colorado Springs

CO

$132.50

$61.66

$2.62

$133.62

$1,071.67

$319.70

$1,719.15

Columbus

OH

$170.83

$57.40

$2.56

$130.56

$1,060.74

$302.97

$1,722.50

Kansas City

MO

$229.01

$58.59

$2.54

$129.54

$1,017.32

$292.67

$1,727.13

Fort Worth

TX

$156.20

$57.85

$2.34

$119.34

$1,134.66

$278.33

$1,746.38

Cleveland

OH

$171.52

$68.33

$2.53

$129.03

$1,084.38

$298.48

$1,751.74

Henderson

NV

$172.42

$50.00

$3.05

$155.55

$1,129.47

$273.40

$1,780.84

San Antonio

TX

$172.96

$58.30

$2.32

$118.32

$1,122.56

$313.69

$1,785.83

Indianapolis

IN

$155.40

$54.25

$2.64

$134.64

$1,148.65

$320.78

$1,813.72

Pittsburgh

PA

$171.52

$75.33

$3.10

$158.10

$1,117.48

$328.07

$1,850.50

Virginia Beach

VA

$136.12

$67.58

$2.46

$125.46

$1,178.03

$351.88

$1,859.07

Phoenix

AZ

$161.49

$74.02

$2.89

$147.39

$1,197.11

$289.96

$1,869.97

Detroit

MI

$171.09

$64.10

$2.71

$138.21

$1,201.11

$309.01

$1,883.52

Raleigh

NC

$127.21

$55.79

$2.61

$133.11

$1,214.35

$388.12

$1,918.58

Houston

TX

$132.97

$60.77

$2.41

$122.91

$1,340.68

$261.61

$1,918.94

St. Paul

MN

$144.18

$59.00

$2.60

$132.60

$1,272.22

$326.11

$1,934.11

Dallas

TX

$140.82

$62.72

$2.50

$127.50

$1,372.75

$288.19

$1,991.98

Riverside

CA

$145.61

$59.58

$3.52

$179.52

$1,322.22

$318.97

$2,025.90

Tampa

FL

$150.82

$60.03

$2.62

$133.62

$1,357.25

$328.64

$2,030.36

Orlando

FL

$136.97

$61.47

$2.68

$136.68

$1,379.47

$319.15

$2,033.74

New Orleans

LA

$138.07

$68.33

$2.30

$117.30

$1,373.87

$340.39

$2,037.96

Baltimore

MD

$151.44

$72.14

$2.72

$138.72

$1,352.67

$351.51

$2,066.48

Newark

NJ

$233.33

$52.50

$2.64

$134.64

$1,356.25

$309.29

$2,086.01

Minneapolis

MN

$144.18

$55.88

$2.70

$137.70

$1,435.28

$331.65

$2,104.69

Atlanta

GA

$151.66

$64.57

$2.73

$139.23

$1,473.98

$312.65

$2,142.09

Aurora

CO

$75.56

$63.50

$2.59

$132.09

$1,575.00

$302.49

$2,148.64

Charlotte

NC

$167.16

$58.54

$2.56

$130.56

$1,425.53

$368.37

$2,150.16

Anchorage

AK

$223.01

$109.14

$3.20

$163.20

$1,223.81

$451.59

$2,170.75

Nashville

TN

$157.68

$70.45

$2.60

$132.60

$1,540.90

$291.13

$2,192.76

Sacramento

CA

$204.69

$61.11

$3.56

$181.56

$1,483.75

$345.28

$2,276.39

Philadelphia

PA

$145.61

$67.50

$2.98

$151.98

$1,501.57

$424.84

$2,291.50

Denver

CO

$124.01

$57.21

$2.62

$133.62

$1,648.67

$336.28

$2,299.79

Austin

TX

$154.52

$59.83

$2.48

$126.48

$1,660.45

$320.04

$2,321.32

Anaheim

CA

$146.67

$58.44

$3.52

$179.52

$1,618.81

$321.24

$2,324.68

Portland

OR

$172.72

$63.27

$3.26

$166.26

$1,554.28

$370.14

$2,326.67

Santa Ana

CA

$134.00

$71.00

$3.43

$174.93

$1,771.43

$238.50

$2,389.86

Chicago

IL

$132.10

$61.03

$3.09

$157.59

$1,803.75

$341.31

$2,495.78

Miami

FL

$115.37

$60.38

$2.79

$142.29

$1,836.71

$358.70

$2,513.45

Long Beach

CA

$145.61

$59.58

$3.51

$179.01

$1,846.88

$353.95

$2,585.03

San Diego

CA

$131.66

$65.05

$3.65

$186.15

$1,970.93

$312.07

$2,665.86

Honolulu

HI

$201.78

$56.64

$3.54

$180.54

$1,767.62

$461.74

$2,668.32

Irvine

CA

$146.67

$58.44

$3.52

$179.52

$2,006.52

$330.49

$2,721.64

Seattle

WA

$153.50

$65.17

$3.42

$174.42

$1,993.53

$399.76

$2,786.38

Los Angeles

CA

$145.61

$60.00

$3.73

$190.23

$2,159.31

$343.95

$2,899.10

Washington

DC

$123.57

$67.58

$2.93

$149.43

$2,263.02

$451.43

$3,055.03

Jersey City

NJ

$178.95

$65.36

$2.66

$135.66

$2,374.27

$345.26

$3,099.50

Boston

MA

$147.15

$62.97

$2.85

$145.35

$2,420.26

$435.78

$3,211.51

Oakland

CA

$142.21

$65.00

$3.45

$175.95

$2,481.65

$347.33

$3,212.14

San Jose

CA

$123.86

$63.36

$3.65

$186.15

$2,555.85

$359.85

$3,289.07

New York

NY

$142.84

$62.77

$3.05

$155.55

$3,126.35

$468.60

$3,956.11

San Francisco

CA

$123.22

$66.62

$3.88

$197.88

$3,396.62

$426.26

$4,210.60

Sources

1. University of Nebraska–Lincoln, “About Lincoln

2. Commerce Lexington, “Major Regional Employers

Joe Roberts
Written by
Joe Roberts
Joe Roberts is a professional writer with a degree in writing studies and over four years of copywriting experience. He previously worked at Overstock.com, where he wrote about furniture, home decor, and moving. Joe has moved all over Utah, so he knows his way around a moving truck—and he spends his time (and money) expanding his personal library so it will be even heavier next time he moves.