The United States is an exceptional place to live, but the “Land of Opportunity” isn’t always affordable. With bills, insurance, rent payments and day-to-day expenses, the costs can add up quickly, and you could find yourself spending more than you’d like. It’s a common situation, and many people struggle. That’s why we’re taking a look at ten of the least expensive states to live in across the U.S.
While it’s always interesting to explore the data, however, keep in mind that there are pros and cons to any state or region. We ranked these and the most expensive states to live in by relative buying power* to give you a good idea of cost of living, of course. But income and job opportunities still greatly affect an individual’s experience in any location. Even moving from one city to another within the same state can give you a completely different experience, so make sure to do your research on affordable cities as well.
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Let’s dive into the 10 least expensive states to live in:
Among all the states on this list, Mississippi ranks first in terms of regional price parity, or RPP, at 86.4. A median gross rent of $740 is appealing to those who are searching for reasonable prices. Plus, with a median income of $41,754, you’ll find that housing is well within your budget.
As for attractions in Mississippi, music lovers will enjoy the “birthplace of blues” for its rich culture, and naturalists will savor the amazing landscapes which inspired some of America’s finest authors.
Alabama is a close second behind Mississippi, with an RPP just 0.2 points above its neighbor at 86.6. While the median gross rent is $7 higher at $747, the median household income is $46,257. These are promising figures, should you choose to move and search for jobs.
As you look, you’ll enjoy the state’s wide range of cultural and social attractions. These include historical reenactments and museums which honor the Civil Rights movement and the individuals who made it possible. Birmingham is an especially prominent city to check out, whether you’re a tourist or a potential resident.
Ranking third in RPP at 86.9, Arkansas is an affordable state for those who want a lower cost of living. The median gross rent rests at a comfortable $709, while the median household income comes to $44,334. This strikes an appealing balance if you’re looking to save your money for future investments.
As you’re adding to your retirement fund, you’ll spend a lot of time outdoors, savoring the state’s beautiful forests, mountains and parks, among other fantastic attractions.
4. West Virginia
West Virginia has an RPP of 87.6, which is higher than the previous three states, but its median gross rent deserves attention. At only $681, housing is affordable, and the median household income of $43,385 is also considerable when compared to other places on this list.
You’ll also find incredible attractions in West Virginia, “almost heaven” with its snowy mountains and perfect for snowboarders and skiers searching for new slopes.
The “Bluegrass State” has a marginally higher RPP than West Virginia at 87.8, though it makes up for this small discrepancy with a higher median household income. Residents of Kentucky make an average of $46,659, which is a strong figure given its low median gross rent of $713.
If you settle down in Kentucky, you’ll be close to the country’s best bourbon distilleries, to say nothing of the breweries, wineries and other attractions which make this state so memorable.
6. South Dakota
The RPP in South Dakota rests at 88.3, and while this is higher than the previous five states, its median gross rent and household income are some of the best for those with a strict budget. You can expect to pay $696 for housing while earning an average of $54,457.
More than that, South Dakota is full of fun things to see and do, featuring 56 state parks and recreation areas which showcase its majestic mountains, glittering lakes, broad prairies and lush forests.
Oklahoma’s RPP comes to 89, with a median gross rent of $766 and a median household income of $49,176. These figures might make you hesitate, but there’s a lot that makes Oklahoma worthwhile. Oklahoma City and Tulsa are both prominent cities that attract plenty of opportunity, after all.
Plus, residents of Oklahoma have a variety of attractions and activities to explore, with amazing art and entertainment districts, fun festivals and zoos and aquariums for young children.
Ranking at number eight on this list, Ohio has an RPP of 89.3, only moderately higher than Oklahoma. However, its median gross rent and household income are better at $764 and $52,334 respectively.
Beyond these enticing numbers, Ohio is an excellent option if you’re hoping to start a family. Its wide range of attractions include zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and a diverse variety of museums. Better yet, Columbus prominently features as an excellent up-and-coming city. Whether you like country or city living, there’s a region of Ohio that fits your tastes.
Iowa has an RPP of 90.2, but it also boasts the highest median household income of any other state on this list. Residents of Iowa earn an average of $56,247, and with a comparatively low median gross rent of $740, you’ll have no trouble budgeting for housing costs.
If you’re curious about things to see and sites of interest in Iowa, you won’t be disappointed, as the “Hawkeye State” boasts wineries, breweries, boutiques and shopping centers for a fun day out on the town.
Concluding the list, Indiana takes the tenth spot with an RPP of 90.3, only 0.1 point above Iowa. As for the median gross rent and household income, they’re slightly worse at an average of $782 and $52,314 respectively.
Indiana redeems itself with a long list of cultural and social amenities for both individuals and families, including the world-famous Indianapolis 500, which draws motorsports fans from far away to experience the very best of racing. The higher housing costs account for bustling, up-and-coming centers of business like Indianapolis.
The Least Expensive States to Live in
The United States is the “Land of Opportunity” for a reason. Though the cost of living is high in many areas of the country, you have options. We’ve detailed 10 of the least expensive states to live in for those on a limited budget.
Whether you’re looking for a metropolis or a country experience, these states have you covered. Curious as to where your state falls on the list? Let me know below!
*This list is based on the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ Real Personal Income for States and Metropolitan Areas in 2016, which makes the comparison more manageable. Each state’s median household income comes from the American Community Survey Brief for Household Income in 2016. And the median gross rent by state derives from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American FactFinder for 2017.