10 Cheapest Small Cities in America

10 Cheapest Small Cities in America. Small-city living has plenty of perks: light traffic, a strong sense of community and a slower pace of life. Perhaps best of all, there’s the cost of living, which typically is lower in small cities than in expensive big cities.

To get a better sense of what inexpensive small-city living really has to offer, we compiled a list of the 10 cheapest places to live in America with populations of 10,000 to 50,000 people. Our rankings is based on the Council for Community and Economic Research’s (C2ER) calculations of living expenses in 256 urbanized areas.

Please note! We recommend you to review the pros and cons before packing to relocate to one of the 10 cheapest small cities in America. Check if low cost of living is attractive, know if it can be offset by issues such as scarce jobs, small paychecks or a lack of things to do in the area, more importantly consider the crime rate before moving.

Ponca City, Oklahoma:

Ponca City
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  • Cost of living: 12.1% below U.S. average
  • City population: 24,424
  • Median household income: $43,291 (U.S.: $61,937)
  • Median home value: $93,700 (U.S.: $229,700)
  • Unemployment rate: 7.8% (U.S.: 11.1%)

Ponca City traces its lineage back to the days of the Land Run of 1893, when pioneers decided to build a town in north-central Oklahoma near the Arkansas River and a freshwater spring. Not long after its founding, enterprising oil men successfully drilled wells in the area, and Ponca City remains an oil city till date.

The area’s largest employers include energy companies such as Schlumberger (SLB), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Phillips 66 (PSX).

Household incomes are well below the national median, but housing is a heck of a deal. The median value of a Ponca City home is just $93,700. Nationally, it’s almost $230,000. Indeed, total housing costs are 32% lower than what the average American pays, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Cost of Living Index. Residents also catch a break on health care, which is 12.4% less expensive.

Danville City, Virginia.

Danville City
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  • Cost of living: 12.7% below U.S. average
  • City population: 41,512
  • Median household income: $36,301
  • Median home value: $91,100
  • Unemployment rate: 11.8%

Danville city sits on the southern border of Virginia about 70 miles south of Lynchburg, which happens to be one of the cheapest small cities in the U.S.

Once a textile, railroad and tobacco hub, Danville has pivoted with the changing economic times. Today, the area’s major employers include Goodyear Tire & Rubber (GT), regional medical center Sovah Health and Nestle (NSRGY).

Median income runs well below the national average, but helpfully, a dollar goes pretty far. Residents pay almost 22% less for housing-related costs, including rents and mortgages, than does the average American, according to the Cost of Living Index. Transportation costs are about 16% cheaper in Danville, and locals enjoy significant savings on groceries and health care, too. Are you looking for a budget lifestyle? Danville city is here for you.

Benton Harbor, Michigan

Benton Harbor
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  • Cost of living: 12.8% below U.S. average
  • City population: 9,920
  • Median household income: $20,232
  • Median home value: $66,100
  • Unemployment rate: 14%

Benton Harbor sits by the shores of Lake Michigan about 50 miles west of Kalamazoo, which is one of the cheapest cities in the U.S. The small town’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s home to Whirlpool (WHR), the global manufacturer of washers, dryers, refrigerators and a range of other home appliances.

But despite being host to a Fortune 500 company, Benton Harbor offers a cost of living that’s almost 13% below the national average.

True, median income is far below the U.S. level, and the unemployment rate is higher than the national rate. Poverty and crime are also high in Benton Harbor – factors that contribute to a median home price that’s an eye-popping $163,600 below average. Meanwhile, housing-related costs, including rents and mortgages, are 34% cheaper in the city.

Meridian, Mississippi

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  • Cost of living: 14% below U.S. average
  • City population: 38,602
  • Median household income: $32,807
  • Median home value: $83,700
  • Unemployment rate: 10.5%

Meridian was rebuilt from 1890 to 1930 after being almost totally destroyed in the Civil War. As a result, it has not one but nine registered historic districts. The Highland Park Dentzel Carousel, dating back to 1909, is one of the more whimsical ones.

Meridian’s other claim to fame is as the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers, known as the “Father of Country Music.” Music remains a centerpiece of Meridian’s cultural scene to this day.

Today, the federal government plays an important role in its economic life, as Naval Air Station Meridian and Key Field are two of the largest employers the city boast with.

The city’s cost of living stands 14% below the U.S. average, led by comparatively cheap housing costs. Indeed, housing expenses are a third lower than what the average American pays.

Burlington, Iowa

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  • Cost of living: 14.6% below U.S. average
  • City population: 25,127
  • Median household income: $45,841
  • Median home value: $90,100
  • Unemployment rate: 12.1%

Burlington sits on the Mississippi River, about 165 miles east of Des Moines. Manufacturing has long been a staple of the area economy, but a number of major employers have left over the years. Today, top employers include Great River Health System and American Ordnance, which makes ammunition for the U.S. military.

Although utilities in Burlington are about 11% more expensive than the national average and health care costs are roughly in line, inexpensive housing is where Burlington really shines. Housing-related costs are 35% cheaper compared to what the average American pays. Rents, on average, are 40% lower than the national average.

True, median incomes are $16,096 less than the national average, but then, the median home price is cheaper by roughly $140,000.

Martinsville, Virginia

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  • Cost of living: 15.6% below U.S. average
  • City population: 13,101
  • Median household income: $33,224
  • Median home value: $86,800
  • Unemployment rate: 14.3%

The little Virginia city, which is an hour’s drive south of Roanoke, lays claim to the Martinsville Speedway of NASCAR fame. Racing enthusiasts laud the short track for its tight turns and intimate seating.

Beyond the track, manufacturing has always been central to the area’s economy, and although a number of firms have moved on over the past decades, factory work remains important. Major employers include Eastman Chemical (EMN), a manufacturer of plastics, and Monogram Foods.

Martinsville has a rich history dating back to colonial times, and the town boasts multiple historic districts and historic sites including the John Waddey Carter House and the Dry Bridge School.

The low cost of living. Housing expenses in Martinsville are 34% below the national average. Fittingly for a racing town, gasoline is about 5% cheaper.

Salina, Kansas

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  • Cost of living: 17.5% below U.S. average
  • City population: 47,230
  • Median household income: $48,079
  • Median home value: $121,500
  • Unemployment rate: 6.9%

The small town of Salina sits at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 135, about 90 miles north of Wichita and 180 miles west of Kansas City.

Manufacturing and health care are among the town’s most important industries. Major employers include Schwan’s Company, the maker of Tony’s frozen pizza; Great Plains Manufacturing, which serves the agricultural industry; and the Salina Regional Health Center. Salina is also home to several institutions of higher education, including the University of Kansas School of Medicine Salina Campus and Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.

This economic mix is producing both low unemployment and low living costs. Housing expenses are about 36% below the national average, according to the Cost of Living Index. Groceries are cheaper too, running about 15% lower than the national average.

Utility bills, In Salina, is 2.3% higher than the U.S. average.

Statesboro, Georgia

Statesboro Georgia
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  • Cost of living: 18.3% below U.S. average
  • City population: 31,001
  • Median household income: $26,750
  • Median home value: $113,500
  • Unemployment rate: 10.0%

As home to the flagship campus of Georgia Southern University, Statesboro offers many of the benefits of college-town living but at exceedingly affordable prices. Thanks to its status as an academic hub, cultural attractions tied to the local university include a performing arts center, symphony, museum, planetarium and botanic gardens.

Another perk? The charming city of Savannah is just an hour’s drive to the southeast.

Although the university is the area’s largest employer, manufacturing jobs also play an important part in the local economy.

Looking at the cost of living, housing is nearly 30% cheaper in Statesboro, while health care runs almost 20% below average.

Tupelo, Mississippi

Tupelo Mississippi
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  • Cost of living: 18.6% below U.S. average
  • City population: 47,230
  • Median household income: $48,079
  • Median home value: $121,500
  • Unemployment rate: 12.1%

Tupelo’s biggest claim to fame is being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. The town, 100 miles southeast of Memphis’s Graceland, has held an Elvis Festival for 21 years running.

The cost of living in this small city is way down. Electric and gas bills are about 12% lower than the national average, according to the Cost of Living Index. Housing is almost 35% cheaper and groceries go for 17% less.

For residents not making a living as Elvis impersonators, major employers include North Mississippi Health Services, Cooper Tire & Rubber (CTB) and BancorpSouth (BXS), which is headquartered in Tupelo.

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