America's most affordable cities

[Editor's note, December 2012: This CNBC article was one of the most read and shared stories on Yahoo! Homes all year. Many of our readers weren't inclined to pick up stakes and move to these inexpensive locales, though; as commenter Darren said, "Are these places you would actually want to live in?" We'll let you be the judge.]

The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) has released its third-quarter data for 2012, in which it ranks 304 urban areas according to average local costs. Among the components were: food items, home purchase or rental, clothing, utilities, services, health care, and other expenses.

Not much has changed on the top of the list in the last few quarters' reports: New York City still holds down the most expensive spot at 229.6 — more than twice the national average cost of living. Brooklyn again took second place at 180.2.

Yet down the list where the least expensive cities are, there is more turnover. Here's a countdown of the top five most affordable urban areas, including some of the cheapest products they offer.

To see the rest of the top 10, go to 


5. Memphis, Tenn., pictured below

Memphis has a rich musical heritage and is the city Elvis Presley called home. But you don’t have to be a rock star to live there — the average cost to buy your own Graceland (albeit smaller and probably with less carpeting on the walls) is the lowest of all these top 10 urban areas. The cost of living is 85.6 percent of the national average.

In Memphis, you can get these things for relatively cheap:

New Home Price: $192,914
Optometrist: $73.29
Canola Oil (48 ounces): $2.90

4. Pueblo, Colo., pictured below

Pueblo is a semi-arid desert city in the Rocky Mountains and is one of the top steel producers in the country. The cost of living is 85.1 percent of the national average.

Pueblo's cheapest prices include:

A visit to the dentist: $67.19
Movie (new release, Saturday night): $8.50

3. Ardmore, Okla., pictured below

Midway between Oklahoma City and Dallas, Ardmore has major employers like Michelin, Mercy Memorial Health Center, and Valero Refinery. The cost of living in this south central Oklahoman oasis is about 84.2 percent of the national average.

Feast your eyes on Ardmore's cheap pricing for the following:

Parmesan (8-ounce canister): $3.14
Coca-Cola (2 liters): $1.21
Phone (private residential line): $20.50/month
Dry Cleaning (men's suit): $7.16

2. Norman, Okla.

Located just 20 miles south of Oklahoma City, Norman is the state’s third-largest city and home to the National Weather Center. The cost of living is 80.9 percent of the national average.

Norman also offers near rock-bottom prices for the following:

Hamburger (McDonald's Quarter Pounder): $3.25
Shampoo (15 oz. bottle): $0.80
Newspaper (daily and Sunday subscription): $9.00/year
Beer (six-pack of Heineken's): $7.63

1. Harlingen, Tex., pictured below

Harlingen is designated a Certified Retirement Community, and it's a year-round destination for those fleeing colder climates. It’s in the southernmost part of Texas (not far from the No. 6 least-expensive urban area, McAllen). Its standard is 79.5 percent of the national average.

Harlingen's claim to cheap pricing includes the following:

T-Bone Steak: $8.31/pound
Ground Beef: $2.55/pound
Sausage (1 pound): $3.00
Chicken (whole uncut): $0.79/pound
Tomatoes: $1.95/pound
Sandwich: $3.31
Washing Machine Repair (home service call): $39.38/hour

To see the rest of the top 10 most affordable cities in America, go to