The 20 Cheapest Places to Live in 2021

If there is one good thing that came out of the pandemic it was discovering how easy it is to work from home. Many employers even stated they will never return to pre-pandemic office days, including Dropbox, Shopify, Twitter, and Upwork. This means employees can pretty much work from anywhere and has sent people in expensive cities like New York and Los Angeles packing up and moving to less-expensive destinations.
If you have the flexibility to work from home indefinitely, maybe it is time for you to reevaluate where you live. There are states and cities with a lower cost of living happy to welcome you — and helping you stretch your income further than ever.
Look at it this way: New York City has the highest average rent of any city in the country, according to the annual report by Apartmentguide.com. A 2-bedroom apartment averaged $4,927 in January 2021. If you follow the popular rule of thumb and dedicate 30% of your household income to rent, your monthly income needs to be around $16,500 per month, or $198,000 per year, whether that is combined with your partner or a roommate.
Now, the cheapest average 2-bedroom apartment, according to Apartmentguide, is $763 in Wichita, Kansas. Does Wichita have all that New York has? Of course not! But the rent is more than six times lower! What could you do with the additional $4,164 – nearly $50,000 per year – by living in a city with a low cost of living?
So, where are the cheapest cities in the country that offer low housing costs, affordability in required daily expenses, and good quality of life? The results are in and these are the best places to be right now.

Insights

First, let’s highlight the national averages so you know where you fit in — above or below — and why those on this list are good bets.
  • National average monthly rent: Studio $1,641, 1 bedroom $1,711, 2 bedroom $1,972, 3 bedroom $2,012, as of June 2021
  • National average price of gas, per gallon: $3.162 as of August 23, 2021
  • National Cost of Living Index: 104.63, from November 2020
  • National Grocery Index: 103.34

20 Cheapest Places to Live in 2021

We took a look at not only the cheapest rent but the average cost of living, gas prices and groceries in each state. And then, because it doesn’t matter how low the cost of living but whether you have a job, we also looked into each city’s unemployment rate. The following are the 20 cheapest cities in the U.S.
Tucson

20. Tucson, Arizona

  • Population: 548,073
  • Average monthly rent: $1,044
  • State gas prices: $3.009
  • State cost of living: 97
  • State Grocery Index: 96.9
  • Unemployment rate: 7.4%
This city surrounded by the Sonoran Desert and mountain ranges is a year-round playground for adventure lovers.
Albuquerque

19. Albuquerque, New Mexico

  • Population: 560,513
  • Average monthly rent: $1,167
  • State gas prices: $2.741
  • State cost of living: 87.5
  • State Grocery Index: 100.9
  • Unemployment rate: 7.3%
Tired of snow or rain? Albuquerque receives 310 days of sunshine each year.
Memphis

18. Memphis, Tennessee

  • Population: 651,073
  • Average monthly rent: $1,215
  • State gas prices: $2.574
  • State cost of living: 88.7
  • State Grocery Index: 93.3
  • Unemployment rate: 7.4%
The birthplace of rock and roll and the home of the Blues, this vibrant city is filled with live music.
Greensboro

17. Greensboro, North Carolina

  • Population: 296,719
  • Average monthly rent: $1,026
  • State gas prices: $2.575
  • State cost of living: 94.9
  • State Grocery Index: 96.6
  • Unemployment rate: 6.7%
North Carolina’s cities have been experiencing a boon as of late with newcomers and corporations arriving for its low costs and temperate weather.
San Antonio

16. San Antonio, Texas

  • Population: 1,547,253
  • Average monthly rent: $1,167
  • State gas prices: $2.501
  • State cost of living: 91.5
  • State Grocery Index: 88.9
  • Unemployment rate: 6.4%
One of the most popular cities for tourism in Texas, San Antonio’s River Walk has become the heart of the city.
Baton Rouge

15. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

  • Population: 220,236
  • Average monthly rent: $1,132
  • State gas prices: $2.472
  • State cost of living: 93.9
  • State Grocery Index: 100.4
  • Unemployment rate: 6.1%
The second biggest city in Louisiana is a college town overlooking the Mighty Mississippi River.
Arlington

14. Arlington, Texas

  • Population: 398,854
  • Average monthly rent: $1,235
  • State gas prices: $2.501
  • State cost of living: 91.5
  • State Grocery Index: 88.9
  • Unemployment rate: 6.3%
Forget Dallas and Fort Worth, Arlington is becoming the hottest place to live in northern Texas.
Winston Salem

13. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

  • Population: 247,945
  • Average monthly rent: $1,158
  • State gas prices: $2.575
  • State cost of living: 95.9
  • State Grocery Index: 96.6
  • Unemployment rate: 5.9%%
You get two cities for the price of one in this artistic and industrial hotspot.
Tulsa

12. Tulsa, Oklahoma

  • Population: 401,190
  • Average monthly rent: $898
  • State gas prices: $2.586
  • State cost of living: 87
  • State Grocery Index: 95.5
  • Unemployment rate: 5.6%
Once the “Oil Capital of the World,” Tulsa is the second largest city in Oklahoma – and birthplace of Route 66.
Lubbock

11. Lubbock, Texas

  • Population: 258,862
  • Average monthly rent: $875
  • State gas prices: $2.501
  • State cost of living: 91.5
  • State Grocery Index: 88.9
  • Unemployment rate: 5.6%
This small city was home to Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings and remains a music and arts scene to this day.
Gilbert

10. Gilbert, Arizona

  • Population: 254,114
  • Average monthly rent: $1,029
  • State gas prices: $3.009
  • State cost of living: 97
  • State Grocery Index: 96.9
  • Unemployment rate: 5.2%
Just outside of Phoenix, enjoy the spoils of the city without the price.
DowntownLexington

9. Lexington, Virginia

  • Population: 323,152
  • Average monthly rent: $1,141
  • State gas prices: $2.648
  • State cost of living: 100.7
  • State Grocery Index: 96.1
  • Unemployment rate: 5.0%
This college town is filled with a youthful energy and things to do.
Jacksonville

8. Jacksonville, Florida

  • Population: 911,507
  • Average monthly rent: $1,283
  • State gas prices: $2.716
  • State cost of living: 97.9
  • State Grocery Index: 100.4
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8%
Northern Florida’s most populous cities provides city life and beaches that are far cheaper than its South Florida counterparts.
Louisville

7. Louisville, Kentucky

  • Population: 617,638
  • Average monthly rent: $1,295
  • State gas prices: $2.569
  • State cost of living: 90.9
  • State Grocery Index: 91.6
  • Unemployment rate: 5.0%
The home to the Kentucky Derby, Louisville is surrounded by horse country and Southern charm.
Toledo

6. Toledo, Ohio

  • Population: 655,057
  • Average monthly rent: $949
  • State gas prices: $2.701
  • State cost of living: 90.8
  • State Grocery Index: 98.7
  • Unemployment rate: 5.5%
An industrial city, Toledo was called The Glass City and manufactured much of America’s glass.
chesapeake

5. Chesapeake, Virginia

  • Population: 244,835
  • Average monthly rent: $1,276
  • State gas prices: $2.648
  • State cost of living: 100.7
  • State Grocery Index: 96.1
  • Unemployment rate: 4.6%
You’ll have boundless ways to enjoy water in this city the FBI named one of the five safest in the U.S.
Fort Wayne

4. Fort Wayne, Indiana

  • Population: 270,402
  • Average monthly rent: $1,077
  • State gas prices: $2.501
  • State cost of living: 91.5
  • State Grocery Index: 88.9
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9%
Sports lovers will love the number of amateur sports leagues as well as year-round festivals.
Lincoln

3. Lincoln, Nebraska

  • Population: 289,102
  • Average monthly rent: $1,318
  • State gas prices: $2.765
  • State cost of living: 90.8
  • State Grocery Index: 95.5
  • Unemployment rate: 2.9%
The capital of Nebraska, the Midwest state remains a safe and low-cost place to live.
OK City

2. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

  • Population: 655,057
  • Average monthly rent: $944
  • State gas prices: $2.586
  • State cost of living: 87
  • State Grocery Index: 95.5
  • Unemployment rate: 4.8%
This capital city is filled with museums, entertainment district and city parks.
Wichita

1. Wichita, Kansas

  • Population: 389,938
  • Average monthly rent: $763 (40% lower than the national average)
  • State gas prices: $2.569
  • State cost of living: 89
  • State Grocery Index: 92
  • Unemployment rate: 4.3%
You’ll find this thriving city in between Kansas City and Oklahoma City, giving you three cities to enjoy.

Methodology

The data we compiled includes Apartmentguide’s Rent Report, February 2021, which features the average rent costs for a 2-bedroom apartment based on January 2021 numbers. For the Cost of Living Index by State 2021, which uses numbers from November 2020, data was collected by the Council for Community & Economic Research (C2ER) survey. AAA provided the per-state gas prices, as collected on Mach 7, 2021. Unemployment data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2020.
This list does not include median home prices, crime rates, healthcare, income tax, or public school data. If you are considering a big move to enjoy the lowest cost of living, you may want to research this additional data in our highlighted affordable places to ensure it meets all of your requirements.
Images: Shutterstock, Lexington, Virginia

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