The 25 Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2018

Which metro areas allow your paycheck to go further when it comes to housing costs?

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |April 10, 2018, at 12:01 a.m.

The 25 Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2018

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Find an affordable place to call home.

A daytime cityscape of Huntsville, Al.

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Your ability to live comfortably is a key part of deciding where you want to live. Based on a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. residents on how important certain factors are in determining where to live, U.S. News weighted value at 25 percent – one of the most important factors in calculating the Best Places to Live. We looked at what portion of the median annual household income went to the average cost to own or rent a home, plus the typical cost of utilities and taxes.

25. Boise, Idaho

25. Boise, Idaho

Warm sunlight of morning bathes the Idaho State Capitol dome

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Best Places to Live Rank: 23
Metro Population: 663,680
Median Annual Salary: $43,040
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.22 percent

Boise is the 25th-most affordable place to live. Residents keep nearly 74 percent of their income after paying for housing costs.

24. Anchorage, Alaska

24. Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska, United States Of America

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 42
Metro Population: 398,000
Median Annual Salary: $57,770
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.08 percent

The northernmost metro area out of the 125 ranked, Anchorage is Alaska’s center for commerce and industry. The median annual salary is also well above the national average, which is $49,630.

23. Charlotte, North Carolina

23. Charlotte, North Carolina

A view of Uptown Charlotte, NC, from Romare Bearden Park.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 22
Metro Population: 2,381,152
Median Annual Salary: $49,600
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 26.07 percent

Charlotte takes the No. 23 spot on the list, with residents paying just 26.07 percent of their household income for housing expenses. At $49,600, the median annual salary just about matches the national average.

22. St. Louis

22. St. Louis

Photo Taken In United States, Saint Louis

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Best Places to Live Rank: 89
Metro Population: 2,803,449
Median Annual Salary: $48,240
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.95 percent

Missouri’s largest metro area offers more affordability compared with other places in the U.S. of the same size. For instance, Baltimore and Tampa, Florida, can't match the 25.95 percent cost of living compared to household income that St. Louis offers.

21. Kansas City, Missouri

21. Kansas City, Missouri

Skyline

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Best Places to Live Rank: 58
Metro Population: 2,070,147
Median Annual Salary: $48,900
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.91 percent

This metro area that straddles both Missouri and Kansas is home to more than 2 million residents, but it still maintains greater affordability than most major metro areas. Kansas City residents use just 25.91 percent of their household income on housing costs.

20. Wichita, Kansas

20. Wichita, Kansas

A photograph of downtown Wichita, Kansas.

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Best Places to Live Rank: 81
Metro Population: 640,505
Median Annual Salary: $43,280
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.88 percent

While there are more than 600,000 residents in this Kansas metro area, Wichita maintains a small-town feel – and the cost to match. Residents need just 25.88 percent of their household income to cover rent or mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes.

19. Lafayette, Louisiana

19. Lafayette, Louisiana

Downtown Lafayette, Louisiana, USA

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Best Places to Live Rank: 107
Metro Population: 484,043
Median Annual Salary: $39,350
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.84 percent

Lafayette isn’t the only Louisiana metro area to make the Best Affordable Places to Live list. While income is low compared to the national average, the cost of living remains low as well.

18. Little Rock, Arkansas

18. Little Rock, Arkansas

Riverfront area of downtown Little Rock, Arkansas, on the Arkansas River on a sunny summer day.

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Best Places to Live Rank: 65
Metro Population: 727,371
Median Annual Salary: $43,050
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.77 percent

The capital of Arkansas is the 18th-most affordable place to live, with a blended annual household income, which includes household income for both renters and homeowners, of $52,745. After housing costs are paid for, Little Rock residents typically keep more than 74 percent of that in their pockets.

17. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

17. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Baton Rogue at sunset

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Best Places to Live Rank: 100
Metro Population: 824,667
Median Annual Salary: $44,460
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.71 percent

It may be ranked No. 100 on the overall Best Places to Live list, but Baton Rouge offers affordability. Baton Rouge residents spend just 25.71 percent of their income on housing costs.

16. Syracuse, New York

16. Syracuse, New York

view of the city of Syracuse, new york

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 48
Metro Population: 660,652
Median Annual Salary: $48,530
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.70 percent

This upstate New York metro area serves as a far more affordable living option compared to New York City, one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S. Syracuse is one of the few metro areas not located in Middle America in the 25 Best Affordable Places to Live list.

15. Louisville, Kentucky

15. Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville downtown skyline view with a park with trees in the foreground.  Picture taken during autumn.

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Best Places to Live Rank: 61
Metro Population: 1,269,550
Median Annual Salary: $44,270
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.55 percent

As the No. 13 Best Affordable Place to Live last year, Louisville has fallen back a few spots despite its income increasing compared to last year. But the area's cost of living has ticked up, too. Louisville residents spend 25.55 percent of their household income on living expenses.

14. Cincinnati

14. Cincinnati

Photo of colorful pubs and restaurants and old historic facades on Walnut Street in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

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Best Places to Live Rank: 49
Metro Population: 2,146,410
Median Annual Salary: $48,130
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.47 percent

Cincinnati residents spend slightly less than Louisvillians on housing costs. The typical cost of living is 25.47 percent of the household income.

13. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

13. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina

Durham, North Carolina Cityscape

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Best Places to Live Rank: 13
Metro Population: 1,786,119
Median Annual Salary: $52,669
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.38 percent

Referred to as the Research Triangle thanks to the plethora of research companies and major universities based in the area – including Duke University, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University – Raleigh and Durham ranks No. 12 for Best Affordable Places to Live. Raleigh and Durham residents spend just 25.38 of their household income on living costs.

12. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

12. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

Old historic city downtown of Lexington, Kentucky, USA

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Best Places to Live Rank: 21
Metro Population: 495,193
Median Annual Salary: $43,620
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.38 percent

Rooted in the equestrian industry, Lexington-Fayette has a deep connection to agriculture and is largely made up of farmland just outside the city centers. This keeps the metro area’s cost of living low, at just 25.38 percent of the household income.

11. Pittsburgh

11. Pittsburgh

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 57
Metro Population: 2,354,926
Median Annual Salary: $47,360
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.34 percent

Moving east to Pittsburgh, residents of the Steel City and its surrounding area spend just 25.34 percent of their household income on rent or mortgage payments and utilities.

10. Buffalo, New York

10. Buffalo, New York

Buffalo is the second most populous city in the state of New York, behind New York City.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 52
Metro Population: 1,135,503
Median Annual Salary: $46,390
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.26 percent

The second upstate New York metro area to make the top 25, Buffalo takes the No. 10 spot. Residents in the Buffalo area benefit from a low cost of living, with just 25.26 percent of the median household income spent on living expenses.

9. Minneapolis-St. Paul

9. Minneapolis-St. Paul

Minneapolis Downtown

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Best Places to Live Rank: 9
Metro Population: 3,488,436
Median Annual Salary: $55,010
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.06 percent

Minneapolis-St. Paul is the largest metro area on the 25 Best Affordable Places to Live list. Not only are residents spending a smaller portion of their household income on housing – just 25.06 percent – but they’re also bringing home more money as well. The median annual salary is $55,010.

8. Fayetteville, Arkansas

8. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Fayetteville

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Best Places to Live Rank: 5
Metro Population: 503,642
Median Annual Salary: $44,980
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.05 percent

Fayetteville continues to grow in population – having increased by 6 percent between 2012 and 2016 due to net migration alone – but the area maintains a low cost of living. Residents spend just over a quarter of their household income on housing costs.

7. Omaha, Nebraska

7. Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha downtown

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Best Places to Live Rank: 28
Metro Population: 904,834
Median Annual Salary: $46,490
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.05 percent

With a median annual salary of $46,490, Omaha comes in at the No. 7 spot. The largest metro area in Nebraska and coming in at No. 2 for affordability last year, Omaha has seen a slight increase in its cost of living. Residents spend 25.05 percent of their household income on housing.

6. Salt Lake City

6. Salt Lake City

Morning orange sky over Salt lake city utah

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Best Places to Live Rank: 15
Metro Population: 2,361,981
Median Annual Salary: $46,221
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 25.02 percent

Salt Lake City is a fast-growing metro area, but it has managed to maintain a low cost of living. Salt Lake City residents spend just 25.02 percent of their household income on housing.

5. Indianapolis

5. Indianapolis

Downtown Indianapolis skyline at twilight

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 55
Metro Population: 1,968,768
Median Annual Salary: $46,840
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 24.75 percent

Indianapolis isn’t the only Indiana metro area to crack the top 10 of the Best Affordable Places to Live list. Indianapolis residents spend just 24.75 percent of their household income on rent, mortgage payments, utilities and taxes.

4. Grand Rapids, Michigan

4. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids, MI, USA - June 7, 2007: People on the Pedestrian bridge over the Grand River in Grand Rapids MI

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 12
Metro Population: 1,028,173
Median Annual Salary: $43,610
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 24.6 percent

Money goes further in Grand Rapids than most parts of the U.S. While the median annual salary is below the national average of $49,630, the metro area makes up for it with residents spending just 24.6 percent of the household income on housing.

3. Des Moines, Iowa

3. Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa skyline from the summer of 2013. Taken from the Mercy Holiday Inn

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 4
Metro Population: 611,755
Median Annual Salary: $49,420
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 23.52 percent

Despite maintaining a low cost of living – just 23.52 percent of the household income – Des Moines, previously the No. 1 Best Affordable Place to Live for two years running, has been beaten out this year by two metro areas offering an even more affordable cost of living.

2. Fort Wayne, Indiana

2. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana Skyline, including Allen County Courthouse.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 40
Metro Population: 426,755
Median Annual Salary: $42,250
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 22.86 percent

Both Fort Wayne and the No. 1 Best Affordable Place to Live appear on the list for the first time. These smaller metro areas, both with fewer than a half-million residents, make it easy to cover housing expenses with the average household income.

1. Huntsville, Alabama

1. Huntsville, Alabama

A daytime cityscape of Huntsville, Al.

(Getty Images)

Best Places to Live Rank: 7
Metro Population: 440,230
Median Annual Salary: $52,960
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 22.56 percent

Huntsville is the most affordable place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. An above-average median annual salary and low cost of living mean Huntsville residents are keeping more in their pockets for other things. Just 22.56 percent of the median household income goes toward housing costs.

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Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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