20 Best Cities to Live In When You’re Struggling to Pay Off Debt

best cities to live in

Getting out of debt can provide you with immense emotional and financial relief. But finding the extra cash to pay down your debt faster isn’t always easy.

Where you live plays a major role in how much money you can afford to put toward your debt. Ultimately, you’ll want to find a city where you can earn a decent living and have enough money left over to pay extra on your debt.

In our newest study, we put together a list of the best cities to live in to get out of debt faster. Find out if your city made the cut.

Finding the best cities to live in for paying off debt

To identify the best cities to live in for paying off debt, we needed to figure out how much disposable income a typical resident in a city would have to play with each year. Disposable income is the extra cash you’re left with after paying taxes and basic living expenses.

We surveyed 159 U.S. cities to find the following data points for each one:

  • Average annual wages
  • The federal, payroll, state, and local income tax burden for that city and income level
  • The cost of basic living expenses adjusted for local cost of living

Using this information, we calculated the amount of disposable income an average single earner in each city would have in a year. Then, we ranked cities based on where residents are more likely to have significant cash to put toward paying off debt.

We also found the unemployment rate and average VantageScore for each city. A low unemployment rate, sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is a sign of a healthy jobs market. And higher credit scores show that locals find it easier to keep up with their debt and maintain positive payment histories. Average VantageScores were reported by Experian in its 2016 State of Credit report.

Those two factors didn’t affect city rankings but were included for illustrative purposes.

20 best cities to live in to pay off debt

Moving to one of the nine states that don’t tax wages is one way to increase the cash you have available to pay off debt. In fact, we found in a recent state income tax study that relocating to a state with no income tax can save you an average of $1,977 per year.

Theses rankings prove that strategy is effective. Of the top 20 best cities to live in to pay off debt, half are located in states that don’t levy an income tax.

Cost of living also plays a major role in determining how much disposable income you have to work with. Nine of the top 20 cities have a cost of living that’s more than 10 percent cheaper than the national average.

Wages are one factor that seemed to have less of an influence. Only six of the 20 best cities have wages that beat the national mean of $49,630, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essentially, when it comes to income, it’s all relative to the costs earners will face. Here are the 20 best cities to live in to pay off debt faster, thanks to incomes that stretch further.

20. Gainesville, Florida

  • Average disposable income: $18,805
  • Average annual wage: $47,560
  • Average income tax burden: $8,715
  • Cost of living: 3.1 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 3.8 percent
  • Average credit score: 666

19. Amarillo, Texas

  • Average disposable income: $18,824
  • Average annual wage: $42,230
  • Average income tax burden: $7,509
  • Cost of living: 14 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 3.1 percent
  • Average credit score: 651

18. Phoenix, Arizona

  • Average disposable income: $18,839
  • Average annual wage: $47,540
  • Average income tax burden: $9,907
  • Cost of living: 6.2 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3 percent
  • Average credit score: 665

17. Kingsport, Tennessee

  • Average disposable income: $19,013
  • Average annual wage: $41,050
  • Average income tax burden: $7,241
  • Cost of living: 17.8 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 4 percent
  • Average credit score: 663

16. Dayton, Ohio

  • Average disposable income: $19,172
  • Average annual wage: $47,280
  • Average income tax burden: $10,768
  • Cost of living: 10.8 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 5 percent
  • Average credit score: 673

15. St. Louis, Missouri

  • Average disposable income: $19,212
  • Average annual wage: $48,240
  • Average income tax burden: $11,202
  • Cost of living: 9.6 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 4.1 percent
  • Average credit score: 678

14. Kansas City, Missouri

  • Average disposable income: $19,333
  • Average annual wage: $48,900
  • Average income tax burden: $11,398
  • Cost of living: 9 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4 percent
  • Average credit score: 675

13. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

  • Average disposable income: $19,349
  • Average annual wage: $45,280
  • Average income tax burden: $9,971
  • Cost of living: 15.1 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3 percent
  • Average credit score: 656

12. Columbus, Ohio

  • Average disposable income: $19,388
  • Average annual wage: $48,850
  • Average income tax burden: $11,396
  • Cost of living: 9.4 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3 percent
  • Average credit score: 670

11. Dallas, Texas

  • Average disposable income: $19,414
  • Average annual wage: $51,890
  • Average income tax burden: $9,990
  • Cost of living: 0.8 percent above national average
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9 percent
  • Average credit score: 657

10. Huntsville, Alabama

  • Average disposable income: $19,444
  • Average annual wage: $52,960
  • Average income tax burden: $12,529
  • Cost of living: 2.5 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 3.7 percent
  • Average credit score: 665

9. Knoxville, Tennessee

  • Average disposable income: $19,661
  • Average annual wage: $42,540
  • Average income tax burden: $7,578
  • Cost of living: 17.8 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 3.5 percent
  • Average credit score: 663

8. San Antonio, Texas

  • Average disposable income: $19,718
  • Average annual wage: $45,210
  • Average income tax burden: $8,184
  • Cost of living: 12.2 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 3.7 percent
  • Average credit score: 652

7. Memphis, Tennessee

  • Average disposable income: $19,723
  • Average annual wage: $42,940
  • Average income tax burden: $7,669
  • Cost of living: 17.2 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 4.2 percent
  • Average credit score: 642

6. Kalamazoo, Michigan

  • Average disposable income: $19,904
  • Average annual wage: $44,600
  • Average income tax burden: $9,767
  • Cost of living: 19.5 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 4.6 percent
  • Average credit score: 677

5. Austin, Texas

  • Average disposable income: $20,027
  • Average annual wage: $50,830
  • Average income tax burden: $9,643
  • Cost of living: 3.5 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 3.4 percent
  • Average credit score: 671

4. Des Moines, Iowa

  • Average disposable income: $20,094
  • Average annual wage: $49,420
  • Average income tax burden: $11,192
  • Cost of living: 10.9 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 3 percent
  • Average credit score: 694

3. Houston, Texas

  • Average disposable income: $20,422
  • Average annual wage: $52,870
  • Average income tax burden: $10,310
  • Cost of living: 2.3 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 5.2 percent
  • Average credit score: 659

2. Kennewick, Washington

  • Average disposable income: $20,938
  • Average annual wage: $52,580
  • Average income tax burden: $10,214
  • Cost of living: 5 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8 percent
  • Average credit score: 677

1. Durham, North Carolina

  • Average disposable income: $21,975
  • Average annual wage: $57,850
  • Average income tax burden: $14,823
  • Cost of living: 8.1 percent below national average
  • Unemployment rate: 4 percent
  • Average credit score: 665

Full study rankings

Below are the full rankings for all 159 cities surveyed for this study along with key data points. Cities are ranked from best to worst.

Rank City Disposable Income Average Annual Wage Income Tax Burden Cost of Living Index Unemployment Rate Average VantageScore
1 Durham, N.C. $21,975 $57,850 $14,823 91.9 4 665
2 Kennewick, Wash. $20,938 $52,580 $10,214 95 4.8 677
3 Houston, Texas $20,422 $52,870 $10,310 97.7 5.2 659
4 Des Moines, Iowa $20,094 $49,420 $11,192 89.1 3 694
5 Austin, Texas $20,027 $50,830 $9,643 96.5 3.4 671
6 Kalamazoo, Mich. $19,904 $44,600 $9,767 80.5 4.6 677
7 Memphis, Tenn. $19,723 $42,940 $7,669 82.8 4.2 642
8 San Antonio, Texas $19,718 $45,210 $8,184 87.8 3.7 652
9 Knoxville, Tenn. $19,661 $42,540 $7,578 82.2 3.5 663
10 Huntsville, Ala. $19,444 $52,960 $12,529 97.5 3.7 665
11 Dallas, Texas $19,414 $51,890 $9,990 100.8 3.9 657
12 Columbus, Ohio $19,388 $48,850 $11,396 90.6 4.3 670
13 Oklahoma City $19,349 $45,280 $9,971 84.9 4.3 656
14 Kansas City, Mo. $19,333 $48,900 $11,398 91 4.4 675
15 St. Louis, Mo. $19,212 $48,240 $11,202 90.4 4.1 678
16 Dayton, Ohio $19,172 $47,280 $10,768 89.2 5 673
17 Kingsport, Tenn. $19,013 $41,050 $7,241 82.2 4 663
18 Phoenix, Ariz. $18,839 $47,540 $9,907 93.8 4.3 665
19 Amarillo, Texas $18,824 $42,230 $7,509 86 3.1 651
20 Gainesville, Fla. $18,805 $47,560 $8,715 96.9 3.8 666
21 Raleigh, N.C. $18,775 $50,410 $11,965 96.1 3.9 665
22 Colorado Springs, Colo. $18,744 $49,450 $11,483 95.1 2.6 674
23 Beaumont, Texas $18,729 $47,030 $8,596 96.3 7.2 648
24 Springfield, Ill. $18,727 $49,430 $10,957 96.4 4.2 690
25 Omaha, Neb. $18,707 $46,490 $10,351 90.6 2.9 692
26 Cincinnati, Ohio $18,697 $48,130 $10,980 93.3 4.6 675
27 Detroit, Mich. $18,672 $51,500 $13,099 96.5 4.4 672
28 Jacksonville, Fla. $18,627 $45,140 $8,167 93.2 4.1 654
29 Richmond, Va. $18,550 $49,110 $11,413 95.4 4 667
30 Peoria, Ill. $18,537 $50,360 $11,296 98.7 5.3 690
31 Tampa, Fla. $18,473 $45,510 $8,252 94.7 4 670
32 Fayetteville, Ark. $18,424 $44,980 $9,929 89.1 2.7 663
33 Atlanta, Ga. $18,408 $50,720 $12,316 97.8 4.6 657
34 Salt Lake City, Utah $18,379 $48,850 $11,298 95.9 3.4 678
35 Charlotte, N.C. $18,370 $49,600 $11,653 96.9 4.2 661
36 Indianapolis, Ind. $18,308 $46,840 $10,806 92.4 3.8 660
37 Cedar Rapids, Iowa $18,305 $47,830 $10,752 95.1 3.6 701
38 Minneapolis, Minn. $18,257 $55,010 $13,709 104.8 3.4 707
39 Rockford, Ill. $18,243 $44,060 $9,493 88.7 5.7 672
40 Killeen, Texas $18,182 $40,700 $7,162 86 4.2 656
41 Nashville, Tenn. $18,138 $45,780 $8,312 96.9 2.9 664
42 Spokane, Wash. $18,060 $46,000 $8,362 97.7 5 687
43 Albuquerque, N.M. $18,027 $45,920 $9,794 94.1 6.1 657
44 Olympia, Wash. $18,014 $49,750 $9,291 104.2 4.6 692
45 Birmingham, Ala. $17,944 $46,440 $10,860 93.1 3.9 652
46 Huntington, W.Va. $17,943 $40,450 $8,604 82 6 651
47 Tucson, Ariz. $17,924 $44,560 $9,132 92.8 4.5 673
48 Roanoke, Va. $17,894 $43,650 $9,847 88.4 4 675
49 Tallahassee, Fla. $17,867 $44,130 $7,939 95.1 4 650
50 Rochester, N.Y. $17,860 $48,970 $11,333 98.7 4.9 691
51 Akron, Ohio $17,820 $46,430 $10,527 94.6 5.2 680
52 Corpus Christi, Texas $17,783 $43,810 $7,866 94.9 5.8 639
53 Waco, Texas $17,742 $41,380 $7,316 90 4.5 656
54 Fargo, N.D. $17,711 $45,610 $8,660 97.8 2 703
55 Tulsa, Okla. $17,704 $44,840 $9,848 92.8 4.9 653
56 Savannah, Ga. $17,681 $43,600 $10,099 88.7 4.5 642
57 Lincoln, Neb. $17,667 $44,500 $9,764 92.3 2.5 699
58 Pittsburgh, Pa. $17,601 $47,360 $10,598 97.9 5.2 692
59 Baton Rouge, La. $17,593 $44,460 $9,128 94.3 5 649
60 Charleston, W.Va. $17,565 $42,890 $9,268 89.7 5.4 651
61 Lubbock, Texas $17,561 $41,380 $7,316 91 3.6 646
62 Milwaukee, Wis. $17,547 $49,350 $11,522 100.7 3.9 685
63 Sioux Falls, S.D. $17,505 $43,180 $7,723 95.1 2.8 703
64 Evansville, Ind. $17,503 $42,660 $9,395 89 3.9 673
65 Wilmington, Del. $17,478 $54,310 $13,895 106.6 5.1 678
66 Winston-Salem, N.C. $17,383 $44,100 $10,028 92 4.3 665
67 McAllen, Texas $17,311 $34,930 $5,855 76 8 631
68 Jackson, Miss. $17,289 $41,820 $9,159 88.4 4.4 642
69 Denver, Colo. $17,226 $55,910 $13,960 110.7 2.2 687
70 Wichita, Kan. $17,224 $43,280 $9,200 92.9 4.8 672
71 Fort Worth, Texas $17,220 $46,520 $8,480 102.8 3.9 657
72 Cleveland, Ohio $17,216 $48,250 $10,922 101.2 6.8 680
73 Augusta, Ga. $17,215 $43,450 $10,057 91 5 642
74 Orlando, Fla. $17,214 $43,060 $7,696 96.4 3.8 665
75 Green Bay, Wis. $17,174 $43,620 $9,782 92.5 3 704
76 Appleton, Wis. $17,171 $44,070 $9,916 93.4 2.9 704
77 Boise City, Idaho $17,060 $43,040 $9,844 91.3 2.6 674
78 Chattanooga, Tenn. $17,013 $41,940 $7,442 95.2 3.9 658
79 Tacoma, Wash. $16,977 $49,360 $9,163 108.5 4.2 692
80 Cape Coral, Fla. $16,965 $40,420 $7,098 92.2 4.1 685
81 Manchester, N.H. $16,924 $51,920 $9,999 112 2.6 699
82 Mobile, Ala. $16,911 $42,810 $9,419 92.7 5.2 661
83 Greenville, S.C. $16,911 $42,290 $9,248 91.7 4 664
84 Albany, N.Y. $16,889 $52,340 $12,651 107.9 4.2 690
85 Gulfport, Miss. $16,882 $41,940 $9,192 91 5.1 651
86 Davenport, Iowa $16,879 $44,850 $10,021 96.8 4.5 688
87 Utica, N.Y. $16,853 $44,240 $9,955 95.5 4.8 687
88 Columbus, Ga. $16,835 $41,950 $9,627 90 5.7 643
89 Warren, Mich. $16,815 $50,630 $11,556 107 4.4 672
90 Harrisburg, Pa. $16,806 $47,220 $11,032 100.6 4.4 689
91 Louisville, Ky. $16,795 $44,270 $11,179 92.5 4.5 664
92 Topeka, Kan. $16,710 $43,010 $9,126 95.2 4 678
93 Little Rock, Ark. $16,624 $43,050 $9,376 95.1 3.2 655
94 Fort Wayne, Ind. $16,622 $42,250 $9,431 92.7 3.7 677
95 College Station, Texas $16,602 $42,070 $7,472 97.7 3.6 659
96 Provo, Utah $16,587 $44,200 $10,011 96.7 3.2 678
97 Hartford, Conn. $16,578 $58,400 $14,868 116.3 4.7 687
98 St. Cloud, Minn. $16,534 $43,610 $9,718 96.2 3.4 707
99 El Paso, Texas $16,502 $37,440 $6,423 87.9 4.8 648
100 Buffalo, N.Y. $16,477 $46,390 $10,582 101.4 5.2 688
101 Grand Rapids, Mich. $16,449 $43,610 $10,146 95.5 3.8 677
102 Charlottesville, Va. $16,421 $50,950 $12,119 108.4 3.5 700
103 York, Pa. $16,401 $43,310 $9,689 96.2 4.8 689
104 Springfield, Mo. $16,371 $39,490 $8,282 89.3 3.6 673
105 Madison, Wis. $16,354 $50,830 $12,109 108.5 2.4 702
106 Lafayette, La. $16,333 $39,350 $7,798 90.6 6 652
107 Virginia Beach, Va. $16,331 $46,470 $10,648 102.2 4.3 659
108 South Bend, Ind. $16,287 $42,660 $8,979 97 4.3 669
109 Nashua, N.H. $16,265 $53,990 $10,675 117.3 3.5 699
110 Deltona, Fla. $16,200 $38,010 $6,553 91.1 4.4 665
111 Reno, Nev. $16,131 $45,210 $8,184 106 4.1 657
112 Montgomery, Ala. $16,116 $40,660 $8,840 92.7 4.1 641
113 Columbia, S.C. $15,954 $43,220 $9,523 98.9 4.5 648
114 Fayetteville, N.C. $15,945 $41,190 $9,202 94.2 5.6 665
115 Shreveport, La. $15,927 $38,720 $7,633 91.6 6.1 640
116 New Orleans, La. $15,918 $43,410 $8,856 101.3 5.4 653
117 Wilmington, N.C. $15,905 $42,050 $9,446 96.2 4.1 667
118 Bakersfield, Calif. $15,848 $47,410 $10,214 107.8 9.4 639
119 Sacramento, Calif. $15,847 $54,690 $13,019 116.4 5.2 672
120 Allentown, Pa. $15,814 $46,590 $10,555 105.4 5.2 678
121 Brownsville, Texas $15,809 $34,350 $5,724 84.1 7.3 631
122 New Haven, Conn. $15,802 $55,480 $13,753 116.7 4.6 687
123 Las Vegas, Nev. $15,795 $43,480 $7,791 104.7 5.2 645
124 Lexington, Ky. $15,788 $43,620 $11,220 96.3 4 656
125 Lake Charles, La. $15,729 $39,490 $7,834 94.5 4.3 652
126 Baltimore, Md. $15,720 $54,920 $14,872 114.1 4.2 669
127 Newark, N.J. $15,627 $59,890 $14,332 123.4 4.8 686
128 Ogden, Utah $15,597 $43,260 $9,751 100.4 3.6 678
129 Elkhart, Ind. $15,567 $41,130 $9,185 96.3 3 669
130 Charleston, S.C. $15,460 $44,500 $9,902 103.9 3.8 655
131 Worcester, Mass. $15,419 $52,170 $12,513 114.8 4.1 685
132 Miami, Fla. $15,273 $46,120 $8,389 111.8 4.5 658
133 Asheville, N.C. $15,188 $40,330 $8,957 96.9 3.7 661
134 Anchorage, Alaska $15,145 $57,770 $11,909 125.8 6 670
135 Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA $15,095 $41,530 $10,037 97.8 5.8 681
136 Camden, N.J. $15,017 $51,070 $10,965 117.5 5.1 678
137 Philadelphia, Pa. $14,840 $53,590 $14,293 116.9 5.1 678
138 North Port, Fla. $14,730 $41,870 $7,427 107.5 3.9 670
139 Chicago, Ill. $14,467 $54,340 $12,745 122.5 5.3 679
140 Modesto, Calif. $14,452 $45,230 $9,573 111.7 7.5 672
141 Burlington, Vt. $14,308 $51,600 $11,447 120.9 2.5 697
142 Stockton, Calif. $14,140 $46,020 $9,800 114.5 7.5 672
143 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. $14,101 $45,890 $8,338 117.3 4.5 658
144 Providence R.I. $13,926 $51,100 $11,183 122.3 4.3 685
145 Framingham, Mass. $13,470 $64,930 $12,363 139.7 3.2 699
146 Portland, Ore. $11,797 $53,960 $14,482 131.7 4.2 684
147 Silver Spring, Md. $11,627 $64,210 $18,644 139.9 3.7 684
148 Boston, Mass. $11,279 $67,930 $18,463 145 3.5 699
149 Seattle, Wash. $10,805 $63,300 $13,714 146.9 4.2 692
150 Bridgeport, Conn. $10,652 $64,800 $17,309 145.7 4.5 687
151 Los Angeles, Calif. $9,261 $55,560 $13,371 146.6 5.1 670
152 Oakland, Calif. $9,246 $62,760 $16,363 150.4 3.9 699
153 San Diego, Calif. $9,183 $55,480 $13,339 146.9 4.7 678
154 Washington, D.C. $9,115 $68,880 $19,154 153.4 3.7 684
155 Anaheim, Calif. $7,994 $55,890 $13,507 152.4 5.1 670
156 New York, N.Y. $1,807 $63,320 $18,840 180.2 4.8 686
157 Honolulu, Hawaii $372 $51,080 $12,901 186 2.3 691
158 San Francisco, Calif. -$1,290 $76,160 $21,984 192.3 3.9 699
159 San Jose, Calif. -$12,027 $78,990 $23,172 228.3 3.9 699

Methodology

To generate these rankings, we surveyed the following data for 159 cities:

We surveyed more than the included 159 U.S. cities but excluded cities for which any of the above data points were unavailable. We also cross-checked city locations and in some cases substituted data points from neighboring cities within 50 miles.

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