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The cities on our least-expensive list all have housing prices well under $250,000; homes in one city average less than $200,000. Overall cost of living in these metro areas falls 15% to 20% below the national average.
We ranked the least expensive places to live using data from the U.S. Census (metropolitan statistical areas only) and the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, which is assembled by the Council for Community and Economic Research. The index measures relative prices in several categories, including consumer goods, housing, transportation, utilities and health care, to come up with a composite score for each city. The national average is 100. So a score of 80, for example, indicates that the cost of living is 20% below the national average. (For perspective, the most expensive city in the survey –- New York, N.Y. — is 218, indicating that the cost of living is 118% higher than the national average.) Population and median household income data are from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.