Savannah, Georgia, riverfront promenade at sunrise.

City Guide

Top 5 Most Affordable Places to Live in the U.S.

By Bri Hand | Jan 24, 2022

Moving to a new city brings with it a new set of questions—which restaurant is going to become your neighborhood standby? What bar has the best live music? Where can you find the smoothest oat milk latte in town? 

But “Is this in my budget?” shouldn’t be one of them. The most affordable places to live in the U.S. blend excitement and accessibility, offering vibrant food and nightlife scenes, rich culture, and low living costs.  

To that end, this guide compiles five affordable cities in the U.S. to consider when planning your next move, along with factors to consider before taking the plunge: 

  1. Fort Wayne, Indiana
  2. Savannah, Georgia
  3. Decatur/Hartselle, Alabama
  4. Lynchburg, Virginia
  5. Winston-Salem, North Carolina 

Let’s get started!

1. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Fort Wayne’s living expenses clock in at 20% lower than the national average, making it an ideal go-to if you’re looking for affordable living and quintessential midwest culture. If you’re considering Fort Wayne as a place to live, factor in its:

  • Livability: According to the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, which sets national averages at 100, housing costs in Fort Wayne are rated 58.4. Grocery prices are locked in at 91.4, Healthcare at 79.7, utilities at 90.7, and transportation at 81.5.
  • Culture: You won’t be sacrificing a great place to live for affordability—Fort Wayne boasts one-of-a-kind museums like the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, which features over 5,000 works by American artists and an unparalleled collection of cut glass and Indiana Impressionist works. You’ll also have the natural world right at your fingertips—explore the protected wetlands of the Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve or visit the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory to take in the beauty of their tropical gardens, complete with a waterfall.
  • Cuisine: When it comes to food, Fort Wayne offers diverse cuisines and traditional midwestern staples. Nosh on coffee-crusted New York strip with caramelized shallot butter at The Gas House, indulge in duck tamale and churros at Proximo, or stop for brews and bites at Conner’s Rooftop.

2. Savannah, Georgia

Are a balmy climate and Southern charm more your speed? Savannah, Georgia, is world-renowned for its beauty and artsy culture—and living among its famous Spanish moss trees is more affordable than you might think! Think Savannah could be the place for you? Consider this area’s:

  • Culture: The southern town of Savannah offers numerous film theaters, art shops, and galleries like Jepson Center for the Arts to satisfy those looking for a sophisticated pastime. The open-air City Market, located in the Historic District, is also a go-to for delicious restaurants and street musicians. If you’re on the lookout for an affordable place and a vibrant culture, Savannah might be the city for you. 
  • Cuisine: Known for the beauty of its well-preserved historic homes as well as its proximity to the Georgia coast, Savannah also offers an incredible food and drinks scene. Visit the Ghost Coast Distillery to sample handmade spirits in Georgia’s first distillery since Prohibition, or get a taste for authentic Southern cooking when you try the fried chicken or gumbo at Cotton and Rye.

3. Decatur/Hartselle, Alabama

If you’re ready to make “Sweet Home Alabama” your reality, the Decatur/Hartselle area delivers both affordability and natural beauty. This place offers:

  • Livability: At 16% more affordable than the U.S. average, the living expenses in the Decatur/Hartselle area make it accessible to all types of budgets. You’ll find that costs are all-around lower here—rent, housing, groceries, and gas prices each rank below the national average. 
  • Culture: Once you’ve settled into your new home, get ready to explore the great outdoors! Hartselle is home to the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, which offers over four miles of trails as well as incredible birding opportunities—over 100,000 migrating birds make it their home each winter. History buffs will jump at the chance to encounter The Battle for Decatur, a four-day Civil War re-enactment held over Labor Day weekend. 
  • Cuisine: You’ll love being able to enjoy fresh local produce at Reeves Farm, which sells delicious peaches, strawberries, plums, watermelons, tomatoes, and sweet corn, as well as homemade ice cream, jams, and pickled veggies!

4. Lynchburg, Virginia

Lynchburg, which is surrounded by seven prominent hills, offers affordability and an eclectic collection of African-American and southern culture. You’ll love this place’s:

  • Livability: Lynchburg, Virginia, is 11% more affordable than the national average, with housing costs that are 19% lower than the national average. The average rent in Lynchburg is only $782. Goods and services also clock in at 7% lower than other parts of the country. 
  • Culture: The “City of Seven Hills” has a thriving small-business scene with a college town feel. It’s home to a number of colleges and universities, including the University of Lynchburg and Randolph College. It’s also a history lover’s dream, home to both Appomattox Courthouse, the official site of the end of the Civil War, and Poplar Forest, a National Historic Landmark that was once Thomas Jefferson’s personal retreat. Opera on the James hosts live opera performances, too. 
  • Cuisine: Dine on southern favorites at Market on Main, which offers fried green tomatoes, Reubens with housemade pimento cheese, and gravy-smothered biscuits. Then, wash it all down with an apple cider mimosa. 

5. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

What’s not to love about Winston-Salem? You’ll enjoy year-round warm temperatures as well as one of the buzziest art scenes North Carolina has to offer. Winston-Salem may be the place for you if you factor in its:

  • Livability: Whether you’re cheering on the Winston-Salem Dash at Truist Stadium or hitting the shops at Hanes Mall (the largest mall in North Carolina), you’ll love Winston-Salem’s small city feel and artsy culture—all at an affordable price point. When it comes to monthly rent, everything from studios to three-bedroom apartments maxes out at $1,000 a month. That’s because Winston-Salem is ranked in the top 25 most affordable cities in the U.S., beating out its neighbors in Raleigh and Charlotte, as well as big cities like Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. 
  • Cuisine: Dine under golden chandeliers and barn-inspired decor at Ryan’s Steak Chops & Seafood, where you can find delicious eats like French onion soup, pan-seared scallops, and chocolate peanut butter pie. Sweet Potatoes, located in the downtown arts district, is the epitome of southern soul food. Owners Vivián Joiner and Stephanie Tyson serve up their crowd-favorite fried green tomato and okra basket alongside sweet potato cornbread, biscuits and molasses, and Miss Ora’s fried chicken.

Factors to consider before making the move

An area’s affordability comprises more than the average cost of rent prices. Depending on what part of the country that you live in, prices for basic necessities like food or gas can vary. When considering your next big move, it’s smart to take a look at the big picture to determine the most wallet-friendly destination. 

The Council for Community and Economic Research has developed a way to weigh all of these factors to determine an area’s affordability, called the ACCRA Cost of Living Index. The index includes:

  1. Cost of grocery items
  2. Housing prices
  3. Utilities
  4. Transportation costs
  5. Healthcare
  6. Other miscellaneous items

These factors together give cities a score that indicates how affordable they are to live in. In addition to referencing the ACCRA Index, you should also consider aspects like:

  • Would you have to pay for airfare to visit family?
  • What is the average cost of transportation?
  • Are there ample career opportunities available in your field in the area?
  • Will your income be able to cover your expenses?
  • Does the city offer plenty of what you’re interested in at a range of price points—whether that’s great sports teams, world-class culture, or the hottest restaurants?

All of these factors need to be considered together—you don’t want to find yourself saving on rent just to live in an area further from the heart of downtown if you love to spend your Friday nights bar-hopping and visiting the latest restaurant openings. It’s essential that you find an affordable city that’s still compatible with your lifestyle. 

Land somewhere affordable with Landing

What do the five most affordable places to live in the U.S. have in common? They each offer a unique variety of cultural attractions, local eats, and economical living options without the expensive price tag.

Landing’s network of furnished apartments across the country makes affordability that much more affordable with no application fees, security deposits, or additional rent upfront. You can spend less time worrying about logistics and more time exploring your new digs. Keep cash in your pocket with Landing and browse our available apartments today!

About the author

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.