With 5 livable cities – Ames, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Des Moines and West Des Moines – Iowa is not only consistently ranked as a “cheap” state but it has the most livable larger cities. Waukee and Ankeny, two smaller cities in Iowa, are rated high in the best places charts, too. With a relatively moderate climate (just have to watch out for those tornadoes) and central US location, it’s the place to be.
Median household income: $48,075
Number of households: 1,216,765
Greensboro, Chapel Hill, Ashville and Durham rank high in livability and the state’s overall affordability make this the second cheapest and best state to live. Pick Apex if you prefer a small town. The state is home to dozens of colleges generating an intense interest in college sports. And the climate favors yearlong golf. Though the summers are sultry, there’s plenty of ocean shoreline to cool off on. Just think – you can vacation in your home state.
Median household income: $54,082
Number of households: 3,132,013
Bozeman, Helena and Missoula top the list of livable cities. Montana is ideal if you like a slower pace, love nature (the state is home to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks) and have an independent spirit – because that’s the way Montanans are. Weather varies across this large, mountainous state but generally, it’s not too extreme.
Median household income: $45,456
Number of households: 405,508
Charleston and Greenville are both beautiful and highly livable cities in this warm southern coastal state. It’s steeped in history with many of the Civil War era plantations still intact. Yes, hurricanes hit the state during the season but they always seem to escape the worst of it. Nearby vacation spots Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach and over a dozen major universities (including the Citadel) offer lots of places to explore.
Median household income: $44,625
Number of households: 1,768,255
Chattanooga and Knoxville rate as highly livable. And Memphis generally makes the top of the low cost of living lists for major US cities. Plus there’s Spring Hill for those who prefer the small town life. Tennessee is also home to country music capital Nashville – a great place to vacation. The center of the state is the most populated with the east dominated by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the west home to the Gulf Coastal Plains. Summers can be sticky but the mild winters make year round outdoor activities possible.
Median household income: $44,140
Number of households: 2,468,841
Columbia and St. Louis (also one of the lowest cost of living cities in the US) are tops in livability even with the cold winters and hot, humid summers. St. Louis is the meeting place of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The famous Ozark Mountains occupy much of the southern part of the state. Residents are said to be friendly and easy going and tend to pick up the characteristics (including accent) of any one of the bordering 8 states.
Median household income: $47,333
Number of households: 2,358,270
Other cheap states with livable cities to check out:
Most livable big city: Lexington
Low cost of living city: Louisville
Most livable big city: Fayetteville
Low cost of living city: Jonesboro
Most livable big city: Columbus
Most livable small town: Evans
Most livable big city: Huntsville
Most livable small town: Pelham