If you envision a retirement filled with warm days and breezy nights watching the sun set along the shore, Florida has plenty of appealing destinations — even if you’re on a budget.
In fact, a GOBankingRates study identified 10 Florida locations where you can live on less than $2,500 a month, including the cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment, groceries, utilities and healthcare in areas popular with retirees. With the cost of living averaging $2,626 a month nationally, Florida offers some bargain locations that are beautiful to boot.
So, if you’re close to retirement age, which cities in the Sunshine State should land on your list to consider? Start with these 10 spots.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,469
- Percent of population 65 and older: 12.4%
- Livability: 70
The city that is less than 15 miles from Walt Disney World has an average one-bedroom apartment cost of $1,255, which is $150 lower than the national average. Even though the percentage of people 65 and older is second-lowest on the list, many in that age group can be found at Disney, whether they’re reliving their youth or spending time with their grandchildren.
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- Monthly expenditures: $2,489
- Percent of population 65 and older: 12.8%
- Livability: 75
Located halfway between tourist destinations Orlando and Daytona Beach, Sanford is the home of the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens. It has an annual grocery cost that matches the national average of $4,204, but residents of the city still pay less than the national average in monthly expenditures — $2,489 compared with $2,626.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,393
- Percent of population 65 and older: 13.8%
- Livability: 69
The only Florida city on the list with an NFL franchise, Jacksonville is tied with Gainesville for the second-lowest monthly grocery cost — $348. As the state’s largest city (about 955,000 residents), Jacksonville has a livability rating of 69, the second-lowest such number on the list. However, the attractions there — including the NFL’s Jaguars and St. Johns Town Center — help in its desirability factor. Jacksonville also has the most shoreline of any Florida city.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,262
- Percent of population 65 and older: 11.3%
- Livability: 65
The home of the University of Florida boasts the lowest average cost for a one-bedroom apartment on the list — $1,015, which is nearly $400 under the national average. The percentage of 65-and-older residents is the lowest on the list at 11.3, but you’ll spend an average of only $2,262 per month to live in Gainesville, the lowest figure on the Florida list and nearly $400 below the national average.
6. Panama City Beach
- Monthly expenditures: $2,330
- Percent of population 65 and older: 16.7%
- Livability: 76
The mesmerizing sugar-white sand beaches draw plenty of vacationers to Panama City Beach, but it has just 12,000 full-time residents. The monthly cost of $334 for utilities tops that category, but the low rent ($1,099) for a one-bedroom apartment makes up for it.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,383
- Percent of population 65 and older: 20.9%
- Livability: 75
The cost to live in Melbourne is higher when it comes to renting an apartment; it’s one of four cities on the list with an average monthly rent of $1,201 for a one-bedroom unit. But Melbourne makes up for it when it comes to healthcare — the city is tied for lowest cost on the list — and it also has among the lowest utility costs. With 20.9% of the population 65 or older, you should meet plenty of other retirees to spend time with along Florida’s Space Coast.
4. Palm Bay
- Monthly expenditures: $2,369
- Percent of population 65 and older: 18.8%
- Livability: 80
Just south of Melbourne along the Atlantic Ocean is Palm Bay, an affordable option for Florida retirees. The costs of rent ($1,189 monthly average), groceries, healthcare and utilities all are lower than the national average. If you’re a retiree who loves the outdoors, Palm Bay has the beaches and golf, of course, plus plenty of places to run and ride a bike.
3. Winter Garden
- Monthly expenditures: $2,339
- Percent of population 65 and older: 14.1%
- Livability: 85
If you retire to Winter Garden, plan on having plenty of visitors. It’s just 14 miles from downtown Orlando, where the kids and grandkids can enjoy all of the theme parks on their trip to Florida. The livability score of 85 is second-highest on the list and reflects just how much there is to do in Winter Garden, known for its acclaimed weekly farmers market and cultural attractions.
- Monthly expenditures: $2,401
- Percent of population 65 and older: 22.2%
- Livability: 82
If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll appreciate the sporting history of Lakeland, which has been the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers since 1934 — the longest relationship between a team and a spring host city in baseball. At an average cost of $360 per month, groceries in Lakeland cost more than all but one city on the list, but it still costs less to eat at home than to splurge on ballpark food.
1. Port Orange
- Monthly expenditures: $2,497
- Percent of population 65 and older: 24.6%
- Livability: 87
Located south of Daytona Beach on the Atlantic coast of Florida, Port Orange seems like a retiree’s dream, with an 87% livability score and plenty of activities for people 65 and older. To get outdoors, you can choose from plenty of parks to walk, sit by the shore or tour historic sites, including the Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens. Port Orange has the highest average monthly apartment cost of the cities on the list at nearly $1,300, and it also has the highest number of residents 65 and older, at nearly 25%. At that rate, there will be plenty of organized activities for retirees and the chance to meet some new friends.
Methodology: For this study, GOBankingRates found the best cities in Florida to retire on $2,500 a month or less. GOBankingRates used ApartmentList’s June 2022 data to find the 30 cheapest cities in Florida in terms of (1) average 2022 monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment. GOBankingRates then used Sperling’s Best Places 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 in that age group 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 $2,500 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 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) percentage 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 25, 2022.
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