Cheapest States to Live in
Jobs are plentiful today, but the cost of living is high. If you’re contemplating relocating to a more affordable part of the country, there are several factors you should consider. The average costs of food, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services, are the six elements that the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) studies to produce its popular Cost of Living Index, a quarterly report. (C2ER is recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average American household spends about $66,928 on food, housing costs, utilities, transportation, insurance and entertainment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
So which states are currently offering the most affordable living? Our list of the eight least expensive states below is based on C2ER’s 2022 third-quarter COLI report, which incorporates data voluntarily provided by 265 urban areas. The index doesn’t measure inflation or unemployment rate, and its quarterly reports can’t be compared, as each study is based on whichever urban areas elect to participate in any given quarter, a number that regularly fluctuates.
Before you make your move, you’ll want to look at other financial considerations, including the cost of insurance, property taxes, state income tax and average salaries, to name a few. But it’s not strictly about money. You’ll also want to make sure you’ll enjoy the weather in your new locale, for example, and that it offers quality health care, good schools and handy shopping.
So think of our list as a starting point if you’re looking for the eight cheapest states to live in, starting with the one with the lowest cost of living. We include the median price of a single-family home and gas prices but not transportation and healthcare costs.
Mississippi’s cost of living is about 16 percent lower than the national average, making the Magnolia State a real bargain. However, salaries are also the lowest in the nation, according to ZipRecruiter. (The median household income in the state is $49,111 while the national average is $69,021). Mississippi is known as the birthplace of American blues music, is a major player in the farm-raised catfish industry and is home to the vast majority of the 444-mile (714-kilometer) Natchez Trace Parkway, a beautiful, historic recreational route.
- Median home price: $141,900 (median home price in the U.S. is $440,300)
- *Average monthly grocery bill: $807 (Jackson)
- Price per gallon of regular gas: $3.01
* Grocery bills are based on prices in each state’s most populous city, noted in parentheses. Amount assumes a family of four, including two children.
The second-cheapest state, Oklahoma, is more than OK, with a low cost of living 13 percent below the national average. This is the place to enjoy rodeo and cowboy culture. Oklahoma is also home to the second-largest Native American population in the U.S., with more than 500,000 Native Americans calling the state home — totaling more than 13 percent of its population. The iconic Route 66 once ran through Oklahoma, too.
- Median home price: $146,600
- Average monthly grocery bill: $766 (Oklahoma City)
- Price per gallon of regular gas: $3.06
The cost of living in Kansas, home to the stunning Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and Flint Hills National Scenic Byway, is also around 13 percent below the national average. Move here, and you’ll be able to experience the Wild West in Dodge City, immerse yourself in fields of sunflowers every summer, and follow the yellow brick road at Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz in Liberal.
- Median home price: $177,400
- Average monthly grocery bill: $747 (Wichita)
- Price per gallon of regular gas: $3.04
‘Bama’s cost of living is about 12 percent lower than the national average, making it a great potential home state, especially for college football fans. Alabama has also one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. The state is home to the famous Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, where attendees learn what it takes to be an astronaut, an experience that includes time flying a jet simulator.
- Median home price: $165,200
- Average monthly grocery bill: $814 (Birmingham)
- Price per gallon of regular gas: $3.14
Georgia is the fifth-cheapest state in the U.S., with a cost of living 11.4 percent lower than the national average — except in its most populous city, Atlanta. Here, the cost of living is about 5 percent higher than the national average. So, a smart move is to settle in another city and head to Atlanta when you want to take in some civil rights history or visit the World of Coca-Cola museum. Georgia’s Springer Mountain, incidentally, is the southern terminus for the famous Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
- Median home price: $240,400
- Average monthly grocery bill: $811 (Atlanta)
- Price per gallon of regular gas: $3.23
Ohio’s cost of living is about 10.6 percent below the national average. It’s also the seventh-most populous state in the country. Among the attractions are the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
- Median home price: $179,700
- Average monthly grocery bill: $790 (Cleveland)
- Price per gallon of regular gas: $3.47
The Midwestern state of Iowa is a great place to reside, as living costs are slightly lower than Ohio’s. It’s also known for having one of the highest public high school graduation rates in the nation — 92 percent in 2018-2019. The Field of Dreams movie site is in Iowa, as are the bridges of Madison County and the famous Amana Colonies, a German Pietist settlement-turned-tourist attraction.
- Median home price: $161,700
- Average monthly grocery bill: $777 (Des Moines)
- Price per gallon of regular gas: $3.23
8. West Virginia
The Mountain State comes in at No. 8 on the affordability scale, with living costs 10 percent lower than average. Move here and you’ll have plenty of access to beautiful scenery and lots of charming small towns. However, while housing prices are the cheapest in the nation, the poverty rate is also high.
- Median home price: $114,600
- Average monthly grocery bill: $764 (Morgantown)
- Price per gallon of regular gas: $3.41
Sources: C2ER via Ramsey Solutions, Rocket Homes, the Economic Policy Institute, AAA