For most Americans, the bulk of household spending comes in four areas: rent, utilities, healthcare and groceries. If you can keep these four spending categories under $3,000, you can live off a fairly limited income — in some cases, even on just a Social Security check.
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Arizona has long been popular with seniors due to its warm climate and low overall costs. To determine the 10 best cities in Arizona where one can retire on $3,000 monthly, GOBankingRates used cost data from Sperling’s Best and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey. For the most part, cities on the list had monthly costs below the national averages of $350.33 for groceries, $555.67 for healthcare, $315.25 for utilities and $1,405 for one-bedroom rent.
All in all, most cities on the list were able to beat the $2,626.25 total of these average monthly expenses. Livability scores from AreaVibes and the percent of the population 65 and older also factored into the rankings, which are presented here in reverse order, with the most desirable city appearing last.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,527.70
- % of population 65 and older: 10.8%
- Livability: 75
Home of the Arizona State Sun Devils, Tempe is also a mecca for those looking to live on the cheap. Monthly expenditures on groceries, utilities, healthcare and one-bedroom rent are well below the national average of $2,626.25, and the city has a very high livability score to boot.
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- Monthly expenditures: $2,761.70
- % of population 65 and older: 24.4%
- Livability: 69
Scottsdale is very attractive to seniors, as demonstrated by its the 24.4% of its population that is 65 or older. Total monthly expenditures aren’t particularly low — in fact, they are the highest among the top 10 Arizona cities — and that keeps the city out of the top 5.
Yet, seniors continue to flock to the city, which posts a good livability score and dubs itself “The World’s Finest Golf Destination.”
- Monthly expenditures: $2,369.13
- % of population 65 and older: 11.9%
- Livability: 73
Glendale residents enjoy a good livability score of 73 and low one-bedroom rents, at just $1,196 on average. This is nearly 15% below the national average. Grocery and healthcare costs are also below average, by 3.3% and 7.8%, respectively.
Pro football fans can enjoy watching the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals here, while every February and March baseball fans flock to the city to see the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox play at one of the largest Spring Training facilities in the country.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,063.13
- % of population 65 and older: 14.8%
- Livability: 65
If you live in the Arizona desert, where temperatures typically climb over 100 degrees for an astonishing 111 days per year, you should expect to see high utility bills. This isn’t the case in Tucson, where the monthly utility bill runs just a hair below the national average, at $313.36 vs. $315.25.
The big savings in Tucson is in healthcare costs, which come in a whopping 18.5% below the national average. Tucson is also blessed with the lowest one-bedroom rent of the top 10 Arizona cities, at $962 per month.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,694.78
- % of population 65 and older: 12%
- Livability: 85
Chandler has an extraordinary livability score of 85, but even so, its percentage of seniors sits at a below-average 12%. Groceries and healthcare are below-average in terms of cost, and even utilities run only about 1.6% above national norms. One-bedroom rents, however, are among the priciest in the state, at $1,515 per month.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,645.20
- % of population 65 and older: 9.7%
- Livability: 87
If quality of life is your most important characteristic, look no further than Gilbert, Arizona. The city boasts the best livability score among the top 10 AZ cities, at an outstanding 87. Costs overall are fairly low as well, coming in right about at the national average.
However, perhaps surprisingly, the city has a relative scarcity of seniors, with just 9.7% age 65 and older, far below the national average of 16.0%.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,456.08
- % of population 65 and older: 16.6%
- Livability: 77
Total monthly expenditures in Mesa run about 6% below the national average, with groceries and healthcare running 2.8% and 7.8% below average, respectively. Even the cost of utilities in Mesa isn’t excessive, running a measly 0.1% above average. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment is a quite modest $1,288.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,692.05
- % of population 65 and older: 17.1%
- Livability: 83
Goodyear’s utility costs are the highest among the top 10 Arizona cities, running 5.9% above the national average. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment is also about $100 above the national average. However, this is countered by below-average healthcare and utility costs and a very solid livability score.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,704.85
- % of population 65 and older: 17.5%
- Livability: 83
Not to be confused with Peoria, Illinois, the Arizona version has an extremely high livability score, a large 65 and older population and grocery and utility costs well below the national average.
Peoria actually has the highest total expenditures of any city on the list for the combination of groceries, healthcare, utilities and one-bedroom rent, but you can still live in the city and enjoy all of its amenities for well under $3,000.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,682.95
- % of population 65 and older: 23.1%
- Livability: 84
For the 150,000 or so residents that call it home, it’s no surprise at all that Surprise, Arizona ranks #1 when it comes to the best Arizona cities to retire on $3,000 per month. Utilities and one-bedroom rents are actually higher than the national average in Surprise, but a host of other benefits and amenities boost it to the top of the rankings.
Healthcare and grocery costs are quite low, and the city’s livability score of 84 is off the charts. It’s no wonder that 23.1% of the city’s residents are 65 and older, well above the national average of 16.
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Methodology: For this study, GOBankingRates found the best cities in Arizona to retire on $3,000 dollars or less. GOBankingRates used ApartmentList June 2022 data to find the cheapest cities in Arizona in terms of (1) average 2022 monthly rent for a 1 bedroom apartment. GOBankingRates then used Sperling’s Best to find the cost of living index for every city on the list, looking at (2) grocery, (3) utilities and (4) healthcare index scores. Next, GOBankingRates used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey to find the annual expenditure amount for both grocery (“food at home”) and healthcare costs for people aged 65 and older in order to find how much a person 65 and over would spend on groceries and healthcare in each city on a monthly basis. GOBankingRates then added monthly housing, grocery and healthcare costs together to find where a person 65 and older could survive on $3,000 or less. In order for a city to be qualified for the study, it had to have a livability score of 65 or higher as sourced from AreaVibes. For final rankings all qualified cities were ranked by (5) total monthly expenditures, (6) % of population over 65 and (7) livability with the lowest score being best. Factor (7) was weighted 1.5x. All data was collected on and up to date as of August 1, 2022.