I’m sure Augusta, Ga., is really nice and all, but do you really want to live there? Isn’t it a better place to visit?
That’s a pretty significant distinction, although several cities on the former list made it on the latter.
The cheapest places to live aren’t necessarily the best places to live. Cities with super-low living costs can suffer from high unemployment, poverty and a lack of services. So while cost of living is an important consideration in choosing where you settle down, it’s equally important to gauge the strength of the local economy and the job market.
With this in mind, we set out to identify the most inexpensive cities where you would actually want to live, based on economic health and affordability. We started with the 100 cheapest cities in the U.S., based on cost of living, and then whittled the list down to the top 10. To do so, we required that each city have below-average living costs, high household incomes relative to the cost of living, and an unemployment rate that’s below the national average. It’s not all work and no play, however. We also looked for places that offer residents access to fun, low-cost things to do. Cities with populations below 50,000 didn’t make the cut.
While the cities are diverse in make-up and location, we’re happy to report that several Texas towns made the list, including Round Rock, Temple, Denton, and Corpus Christi.
I can see the allure to living in our neighbor to the north, Denton. It’s a liberal haven of a college town, with a fantastic music scene and is close to Lake Lewisville. Housing is affordable, too, and the schools aren’t bad at all. And Round Rock, just north of Austin, is close to the state capital and has tons of great retail and schools, too. Corpus Christi is a great spot on the Texas Gulf Coast, and is affordable for what you get, too.
The fact that Temple is cheap won’t come as a surprise to Kiplinger readers. The small Texas city, which is an hour’s drive from Austin, earned the ninth spot on our 2014 ranking of the 10 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In. On this list, Temple has the second-lowest overall cost of living and the second-lowest median home value, at a mere $113,200.
Transportation costs are low too, clocking in a full 14% below the national average. That’s welcome news to workers who commute to good-paying jobs at major area employers, such as Scott & White Health Care, which operates local hospitals and medical facilities; Fikes Wholesale, a fuel supplier; and Wilsonart, a laminate maker. A one-way trip on the city’s public transportation system, the HOP, costs just $1. There’s even an Amtrak station; tickets to Austin were recently selling for as little as $14 each way.
There’s a surprising amount to do in and around Temple, especially considering that it has the smallest population among the 10 cities on this list. Nearby Belton Lake is a playground for boaters and anglers. Culture lovers head over to the Cultural Activities Center for concerts, theater performances and art exhibits. Temple Mall, in addition to housing the aforementioned Macy’s, is also home to the only IMAX theater between – you guessed it — Austin and Dallas.
I don’t know many people taking Amtrak from Temple to Austin, but turns out there’s more to Temple than I thought.
What city do you think should have made it on this list?