Stretching the dollar is a national pastime, and the residents of some of America's most affordable cities have a leg up on everyone else when it comes to saving money. From tire changes to doctor visits, the costs of almost every good and service varies between different cities. In some cities, the cost of living is so high that even millionaires struggle to make ends meet. For the cities on this list, however, even seniors on a fixed income can enjoy a comfortable life without shopping for dinner in the pet food aisle.
In compiling this list, AreaVibes concentrated on cities with at least 200,000 residents for the year 2015. We compared the average prices of a variety of items in every major city to arrive at our final decision; our algorithm took into account the prices for goods and services, groceries, health care, housing, transportation and utilities. The cities were then compared to state and national averages.
- 1. Laredo, TX
Located just across the river from Mexico, Laredo is a large Texan city that thrives on international trade with its southern neighbor. Laredo's good trade situation helps its residents enjoy a noticeably lower cost of living, giving the city an overall cost of living index that's almost 25% less than the national average. At local grocery stores, residents can expect to find steak at $7.45 and potato chips around $2.50, considerably lower than prices in other parts of the country. Residents also save big on health expenses, including doctor visits. Learn more about Laredo, TX cost of living.
- 2. Buffalo, NY
Buffalo, New York, has its perks and its downsides. Although crime is quite high in the city, the cost of living is cheap. The city's average cost of living is a whopping 35% lower than the rest of the state. Most basic food staples, including potatoes and coffee, cost about a dollar less than in comparable areas around the country. Other essentials, including clothing and toothpaste, tend to cost significantly less than in the rest of the state and the country. Learn more about Buffalo, NY cost of living.
- 3. Detroit, MI
Long-suffering residents of Detroit, Michigan, have had to endure the bankruptcy of their city and a significant crime problem. The cost of living, however, is one of the benefits of living in the city, allowing residents to save money for other purchases. The grocery store is the star of Detroit's low cost of living; with the exception of fine cut meats, grocery store purchases are anywhere from 3% to 30% cheaper than the national averages. Wine, for example, costs about $5.75 in Detroit and $8.17 on average in the rest of the country. Learn more about Detroit, MI. cost of living.
- 4. Fort Wayne, IN
Fort Wayne, Indiana, is the state's second-largest city, with over 250,000 residents. The city offers a strong economy with a number of industries represented, including defense, transportation and hospitality. Residents are able to push their dollar further in Fort Wayne, especially when it comes to housing needs. Rent and home prices are below the average for the state, and home insurance and utility payments are also affordable. Nationwide, homeowners pay an average of $1,081.03 for homeowner's insurance, but Fort Wayne residents pay only $827.9 for comparable policies. Residents also experience a variety of savings at the grocery store, including milk priced 37% lower than the national average. Learn more about Fort Wayne, IN cost of living.
- 5. Memphis, TN
As the Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll, budget-conscious residents of Memphis, Tennessee, can find plenty to sing about in their city. Memphis' cost of living index is 6.6% less than the state average and 16% less than the national average. Family favorites at the grocery store, including potato chips and pizza, are cheaper compared to prices nationwide. Homeowners also see savings each month on their insurance and electricity bills; most residents pay about $20 less for their electricity bill than the national average. Learn more about Memphis, TN cost of living.
- 6. Lubbock, TX
Lubbock, Texas, is a city known for economic opportunities and wears its nickname of Hub City with pride. Although wages are below the average for Texas and the nation, the city's residents find savings in their daily life. Essential services, such as haircuts, are inexpensive compared to the national average. Residents of Lubbock can show off their teeth when they smile, with both toothpaste and dental services costing less than in other parts of the country. Housing is another perk of life in Lubbock; homeowner's insurance costs almost 20% less than the country's average. Learn more about Lubbock, TX cost of living.
- 7. Birmingham, AL
The city of Birmingham, Alabama, has plenty to offer its citizens. Residents enjoy a strong local economy thanks to Birmingham's position as one of the most important business centers in the southern United States. The city also offers pleasant weather, good schools and a low cost of living. Health care, utilities and trips to the beauty salon are just some of the inexpensive services residents can find in Birmingham. The average cost of a visit to the doctor is $86; the national average is $105.03. Birmingham residents also save about five dollars on veterinarian bills compared to residents of other parts of the United States. Learn more about Birmingham, AL cost of living.
- 8. Des Moines, IA
With so many insurance companies calling Des Moines, Iowa, home, it's no surprise that residents save just over $100 on their insurance bills over the national average. That's not the only savings, however; the grocery store is full of plenty of deals for savvy shoppers. Wine, for example, costs about two dollars less than it does in the rest of the country. Other staples, including eggs and ground beef, are also inexpensive, helping growing families save on their regular meals. Residents can also expect savings on some services, including visits to the dentist and the optometrist. Learn more about Des Moines, IA cost of living.
- 9. Shreveport, LA
Located on the border of Texas and Arkansas, Shreveport is Louisiana's third-largest city. The state of Louisiana's cost of living index is 90, with Shreveport at 86. Broken down by category, the most significant difference between the city and the nation are in utilities and health care. Electricity is 25% cheaper in Shreveport than the country's average, and visits to doctors and dentists are 10 or more dollars cheaper. Over time, these small savings can really add up for the city's residents. Learn more about Shreveport, LA cost of living.
- 10. San Antonio, TX
Sunny skies and an affordable cost of living draw newcomers to San Antonio, Texas. The city is home to almost 1.5 million people, making it the biggest city on this list. Most goods and services are more expensive in San Antonio then in the rest of Texas, but the city makes up for it with affordable health care, insurance and electricity. Gasoline also runs cheaper; the average price is 11% lower than the national average. The grocery store also offers expansive savings, ranging from steak to frozen meals. Learn more about San Antonio, TX cost of living.
Check out the AreaVibes Best and Worst Places to Live list for real-time, up-to-date and interactive top 100 best and worst list of cities. The report is sortable, and it allows you to filter by population and by category as well as your preferred state.