As the tough economic times continue in the U.S., many people are looking to cut down on their expenses by moving to more affordable cities and towns. But where to go? The Council for Community and Economic Research, a nonprofit group that provides information on local economic trends, recently compared the cost of living in 306 urban areas in the U.S. Based on the price of housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services, here is a look at the least expensive cities around the country to live in. The town with the nation's lowest cost of living is Harlingen, Texas, located in the state's southernmost tip and with a population of 74,950. The after-tax cost to maintain a standard of living enjoyed by the average company manager or other professional is roughly 17 percent lower than the national average. A pound of ground beef in Harlingen costs $2.35, compared with $3.30 nationally as of January, while a night out at the movies will run you $9. The average price of a home is $229,558.
Boasting a rich musical heritage, Memphis, Tenn., has a month-long festival each year called "Memphis in May" that attracts visitors from around the world. The average cost of a home here is $180,375, while the average two-bedroom/two-bathroom apartment rents for $726 a month. While housing prices are less expensive than in Harlingen, groceries are pricier. A pound of ground beef costs $2.60, for example. The cost of living in Memphis is 14.3 percent lower than the national average.
The average cost of a home in McAllen, Texas, the third-least expensive community in the country, is $178,000, while a two-bedroom/two-bath apartment rents for $708. The cost of living in McAllen, population of 130,831, is 16.2 percent cheaper than the national average.
Forbes Magazine recently named Fayetteville, Ark., one of the best places in the U.S. for "businesses and careers." An added benefit? It's affordable. The average home price is $228,200, and a two-bedroom/two-bath apartment goes for $543 per month. When food shopping, ground beef costs $3.22, and the average cost of a loaf of bread is $1.25. A trip to the movies will set you back a modest $8.70, compared with more than $12 in New York City. Fayetteville's overall cost of living is 15.4 percent lower than the national average.
With a population of roughly 35,000, Ardmore, Okla., serves as the primary retail shopping area for a seven-county area in southern Oklahoma. The average rent for a two-bedroom/two-bath apartment is $550 per month, and the average home is priced at $235,000. The cost of living in Ardmore, which is located between Dallas and Oklahoma City, is 14.8 percent lower than the national average.
The cost of living in Temple, Texas, located near the county seat of Belton, is 14.3 percent lower than the national average. A two-bedroom/two-bath apartment rents for an average of $656, while a typical home sells for $206,602.
Ashland, Ohio, has an unusual -- and welcoming -- nickname: "The world headquarters of nice people," according to a sign just outside the small city. About an hour from Ohio's largest cities, Cleveland and Columbus, the cost of living in Ashland is 14 percent lower than the national average. An average home costs about $217,000, while a two-bedroom/two-bath apartment costs a mere $523.
Conway, Ark., with a population of nearly 60,000, is a youthful city -- the median age is only 27. In a community where the median household income is $41,966, the average cost for a bottle of wine is $9.25, while a bottle of coke runs $1.64. The median home price is $230,199. Conway's cost of living is 13.8 percent cheaper than the national average.
Residents of Pueblo, Colo., not only benefit from a low cost of living, but also from a low state income tax rate of 4.63 percent. The average cost for a can of tuna is 83 cents, a head of lettuce runs $1.01, and a dozen eggs costs $1.62. Heading to the movies will cost you $8.50. The average home price? A modest $196,330. Pueblo ties Conway, Ark., with a cost of living that comes in at 13.8 percent less than national average.
Pryor Creek, Okla.
Located at the base of the Ozark Mountains, the scenic city of Pryor Creek, Okla., has a population of 9,173 and is home to America's largest rural industrial park. The average cost of half a gallon of milk is $2.03, while a dozen eggs costs $1.40. The cost of living in Pryor Creek is 13.7 percent lower than the national average.