If you’re retiring in Colorado, “Rocky Mountain High” doesn’t have to describe your cost of living.
It certainly could, if you’re eyeing somewhere like Aspen (median home price: $3.03 million), Telluride ($1.9 million), Vail ($1.6 million) or even Durango ($695,000). Colorado’s stunning natural beauty, access to world-class outdoor activities and high demand make these and many other cities untouchable for a lot of us.
But what if you’re a couple looking to retire in Colorado with just Social Security to live on? The Centennial State has options for you, too.
GOBankingRates has rounded up the top 10 Colorado cities that offer the best blend of decent livability scores and budget-friendly cost of living. To come up with our list, we’ve analyzed data from the U.S. Census American Consumer Survey, Sperling’s Best Places, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Zillow Observed Rental Index, the Social Security Administration and AreaVibes.
As you review average total monthly living costs below, here’s a benchmark to keep in mind: The average monthly benefit for a couple these days is about $3,580, according to the Social Security Administration.
Read on for our countdown, plus a bit about each city in our top 10.
- Average rent: $1,583
- Average total monthly cost of living: $3,333
- Livability score: 71
Fruita is a city of about 13,000 residents, located near the Utah border in Mesa County. A mountain-biking haven, it also offers proximity to the Colorado River, the Book Cliffs and numerous outdoor activities. Groceries will run you about $412 a month.
- Average rent: $1,836
- Average total monthly cost of living: $3,571
- Livability score: 78
Larger cities like Colorado Springs (population: 475,000) don’t often make these lists, but its strong livability score and reasonable living costs make Colorado Springs an option for budget-conscious retirees. The fast-growing city’s average monthly rent is the highest on our list. On the bright side, you’re near Pikes Peak, numerous tourist attractions and — if you’re into it — dozens of microbreweries.
- Average rent: $1,768
- Average total monthly cost of living: $3,620
- Livability score: 79
Another fast-growing city, Federal Heights is located about 12 miles north of Denver. Its population increased about 25% between 2010 and 2020, with about 15,000 people living there these days. A month’s worth of groceries will run you less than $400 in Federal Heights, and its sub-$1,800 average rent makes it an option for couples living on Social Security alone.
- Average rent: $1,188
- Average total monthly cost of living: $2,919
- Livability score: 68
Clifton is an unincorporated community with about 20,000 residents in western Colorado, located about 10 minutes east of Grand Junction. Its livability score of 68 is the lowest on our list, but Clifton offers easy access to the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park, the Colorado National Monument and many other outdoor opportunities. Plus, it’s one of only two locations on our list with a monthly cost of living under $3,000 — with an average monthly grocery bill of less than $400.
- Average rent: $1,426
- Average total monthly cost of living: $3,167
- Livability score: 74
You’ll find Greeley in northern Colorado, in between Denver and Cheyenne, Wyoming. It’s the home of the Union Colony Civic Center (a hub for performing arts), Northern Colorado University and multiple opportunities for outdoor recreation. Retired couples on tight budgets may appreciate its average rent of less than $1,500.
- Average rent: $1,613
- Average total monthly cost of living: $3,480
- Livability score: 82
Northglenn’s livability score of 82 is the highest in our top 10. It incorporated just over 50 years ago and now offers its 38,000 residents easy access to walking and biking trails, as well as to Denver, which is just 15 miles to the south. A couple will spend about $400 a month on groceries in Northglenn.
- Average rent: $1,438
- Average total monthly cost of living: $3,172
- Livability score: 76
Located at the foot of Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs offers a resort-town feel at a lower price than more well-known Colorado cities. It boasts the popular Garden of the Gods-Manitou Park, a dozen mineral springs and a historic downtown. One of a handful of cities on our list with an average monthly rent below $1,500, it may be worth a look if you’re relying on just those Social Security checks. With fewer than 5,000 residents, Manitou Springs is the smallest city in our top 10.
- Average rent: $1,545
- Average total monthly cost of living: $3,261
- Livability score: 78
Mountain biking, golf, whitewater rafting and proximity to the red rocked Colorado National Monument are among the attractions that lure retirees and other visitors to Grand Junction. This city of about 65,000 is located about four hours west of Denver and four hours southeast of Salt Lake City. Grand Junction lands in the middle of the pack in our list when it comes to cost of living. But at less than $3,300 a month, it’s doable for many cost-conscious retirees.
- Average rent: $1,284
- Average total monthly cost of living: $3,014
- Livability score: 75
Pueblo claims to offer “Small Town Vibes Under Big Open Skies.” Located about 40 miles south of Colorado Springs, Pueblo has about 111,000 residents. Popular attractions include rock climbing, biking, strolling along the Arkansas Riverwalk and eating hamburgers doused in green chili. Plus, the average rent here is less than $1,300, and a month’s worth of groceries will cost you only about $375.
- Average rent: $1,050
- Average total monthly cost of living: $2,757
- Livability score: 73
Alamosa’s average rent and total monthly cost of living are the lowest in our list, and it’s livability score of 73 holds its own. It’s located in the state’s south-central region, about 230 miles southwest of Denver and 140 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Nearby attractions include the Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad.
Methodology: To find the best places in Colorado for a couple to live on only Social Security benefits, GOBankingRates gathered populations for cities in Colorado through the US Census American Consumer Survey. For each city, GOBankingRates checked cost-of-living indexes from Sperling’s Best Places across multiple expenditure categories including groceries, healthcare, utilities, transportation and miscellaneous. Each cost-of-living index was multiplied by each expenditure category’s national average cost as sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2022 consumer expenditure survey to find the expenditure costs in each city. The average rent for each city was sourced from the Zillow Observed Rental Index. Adding those figures to monthly expenditure costs provides the total monthly cost for living in each city. The average Social Security benefits per month were sourced from the Social Security Administration Monthly Statistical Snapshot and doubled to find a couple’s average Social Security benefits. Every city’s total monthly cost above the monthly Social Security benefits for a couple was removed. The livability index was sourced from AreaVibes, and all locations with scores below 70 were removed from consideration. The livability index was scored and weighted at 1.50, and the total monthly cost was scored and weighted at 1.20. Those scores were combined and sorted to find the best places in Colorado for a couple to live on Social Security benefits alone. All data was collected on and is up to date as of Oct. 6, 2023.
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