The 25 Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2021-2022

·12 min read

Find an affordable place to call home.

When choosing a new place to live, the cost of living is a major consideration. Based on a survey of more than 3,600 U.S. residents on the importance of various factors in determining where to live, U.S. News weighted value at 23.74% -- making it one of the key metrics used to calculate the Best Places to Live ranking. To pinpoint the most affordable places on the list, we looked at the proportion of the median annual household income that goes toward the average cost to own or rent a home, including the typical cost of utilities and taxes. Here are the Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S.

25. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Best Places 2021 Rank: 107
Metro Population: 854,318
Average Annual Salary: $46,210
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.86%

After ranking No. 9 among the Best Affordable Places in Live in 2019, Baton Rouge has fallen back in the last couple years -- to No. 24 in 2020 and No. 25 this year -- after a slight increase in the cost of living. Baton Rouge residents spend 20.86% of the area's median household income on housing, which is still very low compared to many major metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Baton Rouge.

24. Syracuse, New York

Best Places 2021 Rank: 63
Metro Population: 652,416
Average Annual Salary: $52,140
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.83%

This upstate New York metro area serves as a far more affordable living option compared to New York City, one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., and is one of just a handful of places on the list not located in the Midwest or the South. Syracuse residents spend 20.83% of the area's median household income on housing costs.

Learn more about Syracuse.

23. Kansas City, Missouri

Best Places 2021 Rank: 57
Metro Population: 2,124,518
Average Annual Salary: $51,630
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.81%

This metro area that straddles Missouri and Kansas is home to more than 2 million residents, but it still maintains greater affordability than most major U.S. metro areas. Kansas City residents dedicate just 20.81% of their household income to the cost of living.

Learn more about Kansas City.

22. St. Louis

Best Places 2021 Rank: 99
Metro Population: 2,805,190
Average Annual Salary: $51,750
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.79%

St. Louis beats out its fellow Missouri metro area, Kansas City, by just a couple hundredths of a percentage point. St. Louis is Missouri's largest metro area and offers more affordability compared with other places in the U.S. of the same size. For instance, Baltimore and Tampa, Florida, can't match the 20.79% cost of living compared to household income that St. Louis offers.

Learn more about St. Louis.

21. Youngstown, Ohio

Best Places 2021 Rank: 125
Metro Population: 581,846
Average Annual Salary: $42,260
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.69%

With a little more than a half-million residents, the Youngstown metro area has a cost of living that requires 20.69% of the median household income. Still, Youngstown is experiencing rapidly rising home prices like much of the rest of the country. In fact, real estate information company Zillow reports that the median home value for the Youngstown metro area was $121,926 in May, which is more than 18% higher than a year prior.

Learn more about Youngstown.

20. Louisville, Kentucky

Best Places 2021 Rank: 77
Metro Population: 1,257,088
Average Annual Salary: $47,010
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.68%

Louisville is the No. 20 best affordable place to live in 2021, falling three spots from No. 17 in 2020. That doesn't mean the metro area isn't affordable, however. With an average individual annual salary of $47,010, Louisville residents spend just 20.68% of their household income on living expenses, and the metro area is edged out by the next place on the list by a very small margin.

Learn more about Louisville.

19. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

Best Places 2021 Rank: 33
Metro Population: 510,647
Average Annual Salary: $45,430
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.68%

The Lexington-Fayette metro area is best recognized for the horse farms that surround Lexington. While people living in Lexington or Fayette benefit from city amenities, the agricultural setting helps keep the cost of living low. Lexington-Fayette residents spend 20.68% of the area's median household income on housing costs.

Learn more about Lexington-Fayette.

18. Spartanburg, South Carolina

Best Places 2021 Rank: 24
Metro Population: 307,617
Average Annual Salary: $44,920
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.63%

While living in a metro area like Charleston, South Carolina, might be pricey, the cost of living in other parts of the Palmetto State, like Spartanburg, are much more manageable. Spartanburg is located in the northwestern part of the state, and residents spend just 20.63% of the area's median annual household income on housing.

Lean more about Spartanburg.

17. Buffalo, New York

Best Places 2021 Rank: 70
Metro Population: 1,130,175
Average Annual Salary: $50,780
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.59%

Ranking No. 70 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Buffalo ranks much higher for affordability. This upstate New York metro area has long maintained a low cost of living for its residents. People who live in the Buffalo area spend just 20.59% of the median household income on living expenses.

Learn more about Buffalo.

16. Greenville, South Carolina

Best Places 2021 Rank: 38
Metro Population: 895,942
Average Annual Salary: $44,860
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.52%

Ranking No. 38 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Greenville enjoys a low cost of living with residents spending just 20.52% of the median household income on housing. A steadily growing number of people are benefiting from the low cost of living: Greenville's population grew by 4.41% due to net migration between 2015 and 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Greenville.

15. Omaha, Nebraska

Best Places 2021 Rank: 25
Metro Population: 931,779
Average Annual Salary: $50,550
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.42%

With an average annual salary of $50,550, Omaha takes the No. 15 spot among the most affordable metro areas. The largest metro area in Nebraska has seen a slight decrease in the cost of living compared to last year, with residents spending just 20.42% of their household income on housing.

Learn more about Omaha.

14. Kalamazoo, Michigan

Best Places 2021 Rank: 51
Metro Population: 262,745
Average Annual Salary: $48,230
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.39%

More populous metro areas Detroit and Chicago are each just a few hours from Kalamazoo, but this western Michigan metro area benefits from being a bit off the beaten path. The average individual annual salary in Kalamazoo, at $48,230, is below the national average of $53,490, but residents benefit from a cost of living that's just 20.39% of the area's median household income.

Learn more about Kalamazoo.

13. Cincinnati

Best Places 2021 Rank: 44
Metro Population: 2,201,741
Average Annual Salary: $51,410
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.25%

Cincinnati residents spend slightly less than residents in Kalamazoo on housing costs. The typical cost of living is 20.25% of the median household income. Cincinnati's average annual salary is $51,410, about $2,000 below the national average of $53,490, but a $1,400 increase in the metro area's average salary from the year prior.

Learn more about Cincinnati.

12. Indianapolis

Best Places 2021 Rank: 66
Metro Population: 2,029,472
Average Annual Salary: $51,060
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.14%

Indianapolis is one of three Indiana metro areas on the 25 Best Affordable Places to Live list for 2021. Indianapolis residents spend just 20.14% of their household income on rent, mortgage payments, utilities and taxes.

Learn more about Indianapolis.

11. Peoria, Illinois

Best Places 2021 Rank: 87
Metro Population: 406,883
Average Annual Salary: $52,790
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.09%

As is apparent throughout the list, Midwestern metro areas often offer a low cost of living, and Peoria is no exception. Residents of this central Illinois spot spend just 20.09% of the median household income on rent or mortgage payments, plus property taxes, utilities and other housing costs.

Learn more about Peoria.

10. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Best Places 2021 Rank: 4
Metro Population: 514,259
Average Annual Salary: $47,600
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.97%

Fayetteville's population continues to grow, increasing by 6.22% between 2015 and 2019 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Still the area maintains a low cost of living. Residents spend less than one-fifth of their household income on housing costs, and only a few thousandths of a percentage point more than the next place on the list.

Learn more about Fayetteville.

9. Pittsburgh

Best Places 2021 Rank: 71
Metro Population: 2,331,447
Average Annual Salary: $51,550
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.97%

Pittsburgh moves up to the No. 9 spot after ranking No. 10 in 2020. Located in western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh enjoys a more affordable cost of living than Philadelphia to the east. Residents of the Steel City and its surrounding area spend just 19.97% of their household income on rent or mortgage payments and utilities.

Learn more about Pittsburgh.

8. South Bend, Indiana

Best Places 2021 Rank: 88
Metro Population: 321,739
Average Annual Salary: $46,480
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.9%

This small Indiana metro area located just south of the state line with Michigan manages to keep housing costs low for residents, requiring just 19.9% of the area's median household income to cover the cost of living.

Learn more about South Bend.

7. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Best Places 2021 Rank: 34
Metro Population: 1,062,392
Average Annual Salary: $47,010
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.84%

Money goes further in Grand Rapids than in most parts of the U.S. While the average annual salary, at $47,010, is below the national average, metro area residents spend just 19.84% of the area's median household income on living expenses.

Learn more about Grand Rapids.

6. Green Bay, Wisconsin

Best Places 2021 Rank: 21
Metro Population: 319,401
Average Annual Salary: $47,400
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.83%

Among northern metro areas that offer a low cost of living, Green Bay might be the best option for you. Green Bay residents spend just 19.83% of the area's median household income on housing costs. With a little over 300,000 residents, Green Bay is the second-smallest metro area in the 25 Best Affordable Places to Live, after Spartanburg.

Learn more about Green Bay.

5. Des Moines, Iowa

Best Places 2021 Rank: 13
Metro Population: 680,439
Average Annual Salary: $52,890
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.71%

Des Moines has long been known for its low cost of living -- and has scored high in the Best Affordable Places to Live ranking since its inception in 2016. Des Moines residents spend just 19.71% of the median annual household income on living costs. Low housing costs have helped steadily attract new residents to the area as well: The Des Moines area population increased by 3.6% between 2015 and 2019 due to net migration, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Des Moines.

4. Hickory, North Carolina

Best Places 2021 Rank: 52
Metro Population: 366,678
Average Annual Salary: $41,840
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.71%

This metro area in North Carolina's Catawba Valley offers a small-town atmosphere that is seeing growth from larger metro areas within a couple hours' drive, including Charlotte and Asheville. Hickory residents enjoy a lower cost of living than the more populated parts of the state and spend just 19.71% of the median household income on housing, just a few thousandths of a percentage point more affordable than Des Moines.

Learn more about Hickory.

3. Quad Cities -- Davenport-Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline-Rock Island, Illinois

Best Places 2021 Rank: 86
Metro Population: 381,175
Average Annual Salary: $47,550
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.54%

This metro area straddles the state line between Iowa and Illinois, and residents of both states benefit from an overall low cost of living in the Quad Cities area. Residents throughout the area, which includes Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, spend just 19.54% of the median household income on housing.

Learn more about the Quad Cities.

2. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Best Places 2021 Rank: 73
Metro Population: 406,305
Average Annual Salary: $46,810
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.13%

Fort Wayne has fewer than 500,000 residents, but those residents benefit from being able to spend less on housing than all but one of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. The cost of living in Fort Wayne is just 19.13% of the area's median household income.

Learn more about Fort Wayne.

1. Huntsville, Alabama

Best Places 2021 Rank: 3
Metro Population: 457,003
Average Annual Salary: $55,980
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 18.82%

Huntsville is the most affordable place to live out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for the fourth year in a row. An above-average individual annual salary and low cost of living mean Huntsville residents are keeping more money in their pockets to devote to other things. Just 18.82% of the median household income in Huntsville goes toward housing costs.

Learn more about Huntsville.

The Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. include:

-- Huntsville, Alabama.

-- Fort Wayne, Indiana.

-- Davenport-Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline-Rock Island, Illinois (Quad Cities).

-- Hickory, North Carolina.

-- Des Moines, Iowa.

-- Green Bay, Wisconsin.

-- Grand Rapids, Michigan.

-- South Bend, Illinois.

-- Pittsburgh.

-- Fayetteville, Arkansas.

See the full rankings.

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