10 Affordable U.S. Small Towns With a Great Quality of Life

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Small towns scattered throughout the U.S. have a lot to offer when it comes to livability and affordability. For many people, especially those who’ve spent much of their lives in major metropolitan areas, smaller towns have a certain allure to them that makes them hard to resist.

On top of that, these places tend to have a lower cost of living than bigger cities. And considering how expensive many parts of the country are right now, this alone might be enough to consider moving to a smaller — and cheaper — location.

GOBankingRates has identified the top 10 most affordable small towns in the U.S. where you can still enjoy a high quality of life. If you’re thinking about making the move, here are the best options based on population, total annual cost of living, livability index, the median home value in May 2023 and more.

Iron Mountain, Michigan

  • Population: 7,516
  • Livability index: 74
  • Median home value: $125,935
  • Total annual cost: $21,474

Founded in 1879, Iron Mountain is home to the one of the world’s greatest iron mines, Chapin Mine. Groceries, transportation and miscellaneous expenses are below the average cost of living index. The annual grocery cost in Iron Mountain is $4,681, while the annual transportation cost is $4,557.

Leakesville, Mississippi

  • Population: 5,598
  • Livability index: 71
  • Median home value: $140,121
  • Total annual cost: $20,644

Located on the Chickasawhay River, Leakesville is a small town where everything from groceries to healthcare to utilities costs either less than or about equal to the national average. The annual cost of groceries is $4,943 there, while the annual health cost is $5,632.

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Whitestown, Indiana

  • Population: 9,529
  • Livability index: 72
  • Median home value: $363,865
  • Total annual cost: $20,855

Located just over 20 miles from downtown Indianapolis, Whitestown offers a quiet lifestyle but is close enough to the big city to meet all of your needs. Groceries cost $5,149 a year, while transportation costs about $5,046 annually.

Vineyard, Utah

  • Population: 11,579
  • Livability index: 72
  • Median home value: $582,703
  • Total annual cost: $20,635

One of Utah’s fastest growing towns, Vineyard still boasts an affordable lifestyle and small-town charm. Transportation, utilities and grocery costs are all well below the national average. Utilities, for example, cost $3,991 a year, while groceries run you about $4,965 annually.

Rutland, Vermont

  • Population: 15,934
  • Livability index: 80
  • Median home value: $222,834
  • Total annual cost: $22,114

Home to the Green Mountain National Forest, Rutland offers a superb amount of outdoor recreational activities and events. The town is also affordable, especially when it comes to transportation costs, which run you at about $3,597 a year. Though slightly higher than the national average, groceries are also affordable at $5,538 a year.

Taos, New Mexico

  • Population: 6,524
  • Livability index: 68
  • Median home value: $435,063
  • Total annual cost: $19,432

With a rich history and culture, Taos offers a great quality of life at a lower price point than most other towns in the country. Healthcare, grocery, transportation and miscellaneous costs are all lower here than what you’d find elsewhere. The annual cost of health is $4,607 in Taos, while groceries are $5,212 a year.

Cave Springs, Arkansas

  • Population: 5,224
  • Livability index: 72
  • Median home value: $484,080
  • Total annual cost: $20,124

While homes are more expensive in Cave Springs than in many other parts of the state, the overall low cost of living and high livability index might very well make up for that. Groceries cost $5,312 a year, while annual transportation costs only $4,926. At $5,010 annually, even healthcare is less expensive in Cave Springs.

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Cortland, New York

  • Population: 17,577
  • Livability index: 78
  • Median home value: $177,311
  • Total annual cost: $20,619

Located near the center of the state, Cortland offers a small town charm with affordable prices. Aside from healthcare, which has a cost of living index of 116.5, nearly everything else in the town is cheaper than the national average. The annual cost of transportation, for example, is $3,858. Groceries each year go for $5,180.

Branson, Missouri

  • Population: 12,579
  • Livability index: 74
  • Median home value: $294,206
  • Total annual cost: $19,491

With plenty to do, a high livability index and low overall cost of living, Branson ranks high on this list — and for good reason. In Branson, people spend $5,049 annually on groceries, $4,151 on utilities and $5,605 on healthcare costs.

New Ulm, Montana

  • Population: 14,052
  • Livability index: 82
  • Median home value: $212,754
  • Total annual cost: $18,124

New Ulm offers all four seasons and plenty of indoor and outdoor activities for individuals and families. It’s also ranked first on this list because of its affordable prices and high livability score. In this town, people tend to spend $3,318 a year on transportation, $5,106 on groceries, and $4,536 on health costs.

More From GOBankingRates

To find affordable U.S. small towns with a great quality of life, GOBankingRates gathered a list of popular towns in the US. The popular small towns were sourced from Realtor.com: “The 10 Most Affordable Small Towns Where You’d Actually Like to Live 2023 Edition”, U.S. News: “25 Popular Small Towns to Live in the US” and ArchitecturalDigest: “Most Beautiful Small Towns in America”. With the list of small towns, GOBankingRates filtered to only show towns with a population more than 1,000 and under 20,000. Factors were found for each city, including: [1] Cost of living over expenditure categories sourced from Sperlings BestPlaces, [2] Livability index sourced from AreaVibes and [3] the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey. For each cost of living index, the average expenditure cost sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey was multiplied to get an average annual expenditure cost. The livability index and the total annual expenditure costs were scored to find cities that are both cheap and have a high quality of life. The total score was ranked and the cities were sorted to show the highest quality of life and cheap living costs. All data is up-to-date as of July 7th, 2023.

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