If living the beach life is your retirement dream, but you don’t want to spend a fortune every month, you’ll be glad to know it’s still possible to make it happen without leaving the U.S.
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To determine the best beach cities to live on a budget, GOBankingRates used Sperling’s Best Places to research the cost-of-living index scores for groceries, utilities and healthcare. Next, it used 2020 customer expenditure data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find the annual cost for these expenses in any given city, coming in at $2,600 or less.
Average monthly rent for each of the best beach cities was sourced from ApartmentList, whereas livability scores, which had to be 65 or higher, were gathered from AreaVibes. Also, cities had to have a population that included 10% or more over the age of 65, according to the Census Bureau.
A few cities — such as Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia — would have made the list, but their livability scores were just below the minimum of 65. Other cities, like San Diego and Virginia Beach, were excluded because their total monthly expenditures exceeded $2,600. Read on to find out more about the best beach cities to retire on $2,600 a month — most of which are located in one particularly sunny state.
6. Jacksonville, Florida
- Total monthly expenditures: $2,393.49
- Livability score: 69
Monthly groceries and healthcare in Jacksonville are below the national average at $347.53 and $539.55, respectively. However, utilities are 2.8% higher than the national average at $324.08
You’ll also pay an average cost of $1,182 to rent a one-bedroom apartment here, which is neither the highest nor lowest in the study.
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5. Corpus Christi, Texas
- Total monthly expenditures: $2,189.11
- Livability score: 69
You’ll get the most bang for your buck in this Gulf Coast city. Its total monthly expenses are the lowest in the study. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom in Corpus Christi is just $984, which happens to be the lowest rent expense in the study.
The city also has the lowest monthly grocery cost at $325.11, which is about 7% under the national average. Monthly healthcare costs and utilities are neither the highest or lowest at $561.78 and $318.72, respectively. Even so, those costs are only 1.1% above the national average.
4. Fort Myers, Florida
- Total monthly expenditures: $2,591.54
- Livability score: 72
Fort Myers has the highest total monthly expenditures in the study, coming in right under $2,600. Rent is $1,271, the second-highest in the study, and monthly healthcare costs are 17.3% higher than the national average at $651.80.
However, utilities are the second-lowest in the study at $307.37.
3. Clearwater, Florida
- Total monthly expenditures: $2,577.68
- Livability score: 74
If you’re an older retiree looking to be among your peers, you’ll be in good company in this Tampa Bay area city. According to the study, 22.8% of the population in Clearwater is 65 or older.
However, you’ll pay a bit more to live here — total monthly expenditures are the second-highest in the study. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is the highest in the study at $1,315, and groceries utilities and healthcare all hover above the national average, though not by much.
2. Panama City Beach, Florida
- Total monthly expenditures: $2,329.94
- Livability score: 76
Panama City Beach has the highest livability score in the study. The average rent for a one bedroom is the second-lowest in the study at $1,099 per month. And monthly healthcare expenses are 3% below the national average at $539.00 per month.
However, the monthly cost for groceries is $358.74, or 2.4% above the national average, and monthly utilities are the highest in the study at $333.53 — 5.8% above the national average.
1. Melbourne, Florida
- Total monthly expenditures: $2,382.80
- Livability score: 75
Melbourne’s livability score is exceptional at 75 — ranking the second-highest in the study. The average one-bedroom rent is $1,201 and monthly grocery costs are $350.68, which are neither the highest or lowest in the study.
Monthly healthcare costs, however, are 5.6% below the national average at $524.55, and monthly utilities are the lowest in the study at $306.74.
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Methodology: For this study, GOBankingRates found the best beach cities by looking at Travel + Leisure, Thrillist, and U.S.News and World Report, to find the best beach cities to retire on a budget of $2,600 dollars or less. GOBankingRates used ApartmentList June 2022 data to find each beach cities (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 $2,600 or less. In order for a city to be qualified for the study, it had to have a livabilty score of 65 or higher as sourced from AreaVibes and its population had to be 10% or more over the age of 65 according to the Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. 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 July 18, 2022.