If you’re struggling to get by each month, I’ve got news for you: Cutting out that daily latte isn’t going to help much.
What will help? Moving somewhere cheaper.
J.D. Roth, the founder of Get Rich Slowly, said these kinds of big changes — rather than all the tiny ones — are the key to making financial gains.
“Where you choose to live has a greater effect on your long-term financial success than almost any other factor,” Roth wrote. “How much you earn is sometimes more important (not always), in which case cost of living is a close second.”
Thanks to the folks at Apartment List, who publish a monthly report of median rents across the U.S., we’ve got a list of the most affordable cities right here.
10 most affordable cities (in terms of cheap rent)
Open to considering a new city for your home?
“If you’re willing to change locations, you can supercharge your purchasing power and accelerate your saving rate,” wrote Roth.
For inspiration, check out the following 10 affordable cities, which have the cheapest rent in the USA.
1. Wichita, Kansas
Kansas might be most famous for basketball (or perhaps The Wizard of Oz), but Wichita is the largest city in the state — and it sits at the top of this list for having the cheapest rent in the country.
Known as the “Air Capital of the World,” Wichita is home to major employers such as Cessna, Spirit Aerosystems, and Hawker Beechcraft. Also not to miss? The annual Tallgrass Film Festival and Wichita River Festival.
Median one-bedroom/two-bedroom rent: $565/$750
2. Toledo, Ohio
Just south of the Michigan border sits Toledo (named after the city in Spain). It’s right along the Maumee River, so you can enjoy fishing, walking, and an abundance of parks.
Its two universities, Bowling Green State and University of Toledo, are big employers, as are area hospitals.
Another benefit? It’s only an hour south of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a Delta hub, which makes it easy to go on fabulous vacations with all the money you’ll save on rent!
Median one-bedroom/two-bedroom rent: $580/$759
3. Fort Wayne, Indiana
Want to catch a game at the No. 1 minor league baseball stadium in the country? You’ll find it in Fort Wayne. You also can enjoy the city’s award-winning parks system, which boasts 86 parks and 56 playgrounds.
As for work, General Motors has a large factory here. You also can find the headquarters of Sweetwater, a music technology company, as well as Steel Dynamics, Inc.
Luggage and handbag company Vera Bradley is headquartered here too. So if you love paisley, this might be the place for you.
Median one-bedroom/two-bedroom rent: $592/$753
4. Fayetteville, North Carolina
If you’ve heard of Fayetteville, that’s probably because it’s home to the military bases of Fort Bragg and Pope Field. They’re the two biggest employers in the area; in addition to 50,000 service members, they employ 10,000 civilians.
This large military presence brings $4.5 billion into the economy each year, which has allowed the historic downtown to be revitalized with shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
Median one-bedroom/two-bedroom rent: $610/$754
5. Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Also in the balmy state of North Carolina, Winston-Salem is quickly growing into a hub of the biotech community. Jobs that pay well and cheap rent? That’s a win-win!
More importantly, though, it’s also the home to Krispy Kreme HQ. I can’t guarantee you’ll find better doughnuts here than other places, but one can hope.
As for where you could live, several of the city’s old tobacco and textile factories have been converted into trendy loft apartments.
Median one-bedroom/two-bedroom rent: $628/$766
6. Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincy is my favorite city in the Buckeye State. Right along the Ohio River, it has a fun waterfront scene and is home to several major sports teams. It also has a hopping craft beer industry.
Don’t miss the American Sign Museum, which offers a fascinating history of the signs we pass every day but never give a second thought to.
The biggest employer here is Kroger HQ. It has 400,000 employees!
Median one-bedroom/two-bedroom rent: $630/$829
7. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Can you believe a state capital is on the list of the most affordable cities? Located in the middle of the country, this big city retains its cowboy feel. Bonus points: The schools and weather are great here!
For jobs, you have not only the state government and University of Oklahoma but also the headquarters of Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, and Sonic Restaurants.
Median one-bedroom/two-bedroom rent: $631/$807
8. Columbus, Georgia
Hate winter and snow? Then it might be time to pack it up and head south.
Columbus is great for people who love the outdoors, with activities year-round. The highlight is the Chattahoochee River, which has a 15-mile park along its banks as well as man-made whitewater rapids.
The city’s largest employer is Fort Benning, a U.S. Army base that employs 40,000 people. Aflac also has nearly 4,000 employees.
Median one-bedroom/two-bedroom rent: $634/$760
9. Cleveland, Ohio
I guess it’s time to move to Ohio; Cleveland is the state’s third city on this list.
Cleveland is a nice little city that’s home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a bustling waterfront district, and a slew of major league sports teams.
Healthcare is the dominant industry, with three major hospitals employing more than 50,000 people. Also located just outside the city is Progressive HQ.
Median one-bedroom/two-bedroom rent: $636/$793
10. Tulsa, Oklahoma
You probably don’t know this, but Tulsa has its own symphony, ballet, and opera.
It also has the gorgeous Philbrook Museum of Art and several theaters and music venues. It’s a wonderful choice for lovers of culture on a budget.
Thanks to the headquarters of Williams and Oneok, the oil and gas industry is a big player in Tulsa. The parent companies of Dollar, Thrifty, Alamo, and National rental cars also call this city home.
Median one-bedroom/two-bedroom rent: $638 / $824
For the full list of the most affordable cities in the U.S., visit Apartment List.
Should you move to a more affordable city?
If you’re not sure what to do, it might be time to break out the calculator.
The national median rent, according to Zumper, is $1,149 per month. So let’s use that as an example. If you moved to Wichita, where the median rent is $565 per month, you could save more than 50 percent: $584 per month.
That adds up to a whopping $7,008 per year — money you could use to fund your retirement, save for a house, or pay off your student loans. (See just how quickly you could do it with our student loan prepayment calculator.)
“Cost of living can wreak havoc on your pursuit of financial freedom,” wrote Roth. “Or it can help you achieve your goals sooner than you thought possible. The choice is yours.”
That being said, it’s important to check on your salary potential in these markets as well as your tax burden. If you’d experience a significant decrease in your income or an increase in your taxes, it might not be worth it. You’ll need to make calculations based on your individual situation.
Of course, quality of life comes into play too. If you love the mountains, don’t move to Indiana. If you hate the heat, don’t move to Georgia.
With this post, our goal isn’t to say you must move to Kansas if you want to save money. Instead, we want to encourage you to think about the bigger-ticket items that significantly affect your budget.
Other major ways to save money or create wealth include:
- Increasing your income by changing jobs or asking for a raise
- Selling your car and instead bicycling or walking to work
- Trying a no-shopping ban for a year
Remember: Sometimes, it’s not just the small stuff that counts.
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