The lighter side of real estate

These Are The Most Affordable States In America

The most expensive states to live in might not be the ones you expected.

Laura Allan

112 articles, 1 comments

Most Stressed States Map

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Trying to find an affordable place to live can be a necessity—and a real pain. Everywhere feels expensive, and in the places where things don’t cost a fortune, you can’t always find a job or make that much money. What to do?

Well, for one thing, we here at the Movoto Real Estate Blog can help you out by determining which states are the easiest on your wallet. We’ve found affordable cities before, but now we’ll show you which of the 50 states offers the best deals for bargain hunters out there. The most affordable states are:

1. Iowa
2. Oklahoma
3. Kansas
4. Nebraska (tie)
4. Texas (tie)
6. Indiana
7. West Virginia
8. Arkansas (tie)
8. Kentucky (tie)
10. Louisiana

You can check the table at the bottom to see the full rankings of every state, and use the map above to see how your home state did compared to others. Surprised by any of these? Let’s look at the methods to our mathematical map-ness.

Our Methodology

To get these results for this Big Deal List, we did everything by the numbers. That meant turning to Sperling’s Best Places, the 2010 U.S. Census, and the Census’ American Community Survey for 2008 through 2012 for data in the following affordability criteria:

  • Adjusted Income (the higher the better)
  • Cost of Food Index (the lower the better)
  • Cost of Utilities Index (the lower the better)
  • Miscellaneous Cost of Living Index (the lower the better)
  • Median Home Price (the lower the better)
  • Unemployment Rate (the lower the better)

Using that data, we ranked the states in each category from 1 to 50, and then averaged each state’s rankings into an overall Big Deal Score. The place with the lowest number for that averaged score became our most affordable state, and that turned out to be Iowa.

Now that you know how we came up with the list, here’s the state-by-state summary, giving some perspective on the survey’s ups, downs, and interesting data points.

1. Iowa: Getting To The Heart Of Affordability In The American Heartland

It’s easy to afford nice things when you’re making more money, right? Well, with the sixth highest income, the seventh most inexpensive housing, and the fourth lowest unemployment, this state had savings galore. It’s no wonder it took No. 1 on our list.

2. Oklahoma: The Sooner You Get There, The Sooner You Can Start Saving

Oklahoma offered locals low costs of food, utilities, and the lowest miscellaneous costs of living in the nation. It also had quite a selection of affordable housing and low unemployment, with the slightly lower median income being the only reason it didn’t make No. 1.

3. Kansas: There’s No Place As Affordable As Home

It’s easy to afford the basics here, seeing as the place had the fifth highest income, the second least expensive food, and the fifth least expensive utilities. The only reason Kansas didn’t rank higher was its slightly higher miscellaneous costs of living.

4. Nebraska: Keeping Costs Down In The Cornhusker State

The utilities in this state may be a little higher, but they were still not unreasonable, and that was the only real drawback. The median income was high, the unemployment was low, and the miscellaneous costs of living tied for the lowest on our entire list.

4. Texas: Everything’s Bigger In Texas… Even The Savings

The cost of utilities here wasn’t the cheapest, but still scored in the top half of our ranking. More than that, the cost of food was the lowest on our list, the income was high, and median home prices were quite affordable. If you want big deals, they do seem to be bigger in Texas.

6. Indiana: Prices Will Leave You Saying Woo-Hoo! In The Hoosier State

If you’re looking for a reasonably priced home, this is the place to go. With high income and the eighth least expensive houses, living well here is very doable. The main reason this place didn’t rank in the top five was the slightly higher unemployment rate, at around nine percent.

7. West Virginia: Smaller Paychecks, But Huge Deals

The fine folks here didn’t make nearly as much as in other places, but the kind of savings they got definitely made up for it. The cost of food tied for the second lowest, the miscellaneous costs of living were low and, most notably, the home prices here were the very lowest on our list.

8. Kentucky: Decent Jobs, When You Can Get Them

The median income here was just okay, and the unemployment rate was a little high. Other than that, this place was all about affordability. The low cost of food, utilities, and miscellaneous necessities, as well as the very low home prices, all backed up that fact well.

8. Arkansas: When It Comes To Home Prices, This State Rules

Tying for No. 8 was a state with low costs of food, utilities, and housing. Miscellaneous costs of living were also very low for locals. The only potential problems here were the relatively lower income and the slightly higher unemployment rate.

10. Louisiana: Gonna Have Inexpensive Fun On The Bayou

Making it into our top 10 was a state with somewhat lower income, but also very low house prices and low unemployment. The costs of living, food, and utilities were also very low, with the cost of utilities in particular being the second lowest on our list.

11. Virginia: It’s For Lovers Of Savings

The houses here were actually kind of expensive, truth be told, but the rest of the savings were phenomenal. The cost of food and miscellaneous costs of living were very low, and the utilities costs weren’t completely unreasonable. Of course, it’s easy to afford things when you have the third highest income in the nation.

12. Utah: Busy Enjoying Savings In The Beehive State

In general, the scores here were just pretty solid. The median home prices here were a little higher than average, but the income was also the 13th highest, so it balanced out a little bit. Plus, the fourth least expensive utilities and 14th lowest unemployment certainly helped things.

13. North Dakota: The Roughrider State Is Easy On Utility Costs

A lot of scores here were pretty middle of the pack, including the cost of food and median income. However, this place also had low home prices, the lowest unemployment, and the very lowest cost of utilities in the nation. That’s certainly nothing to scoff at.

14. Tennessee: Agriculture And Commerce Don’t Mean High Prices In This State

The unemployment was a little high in these parts, and the adjusted income was just average, but there were still tons of savings to be had. From the seventh ranked cost of food and miscellaneous costs of living, to the fairly low home prices, there are deals to be had here.

15. Wyoming: The Equality State Is All About Job Availability

This state is wide open and beautiful, and they have some decent savings as well. The utilities were affordable, the income was the 16th highest, and the miscellaneous costs of living were low. The standout here, though, was the very promising third lowest unemployment rank.

16. Idaho: The Gem State Is A Diamond In The Rough For Low Food Prices

Besides the middle-of-the-pack scores in unemployment and home prices, Idaho actually has some good affordability if you know where to look. The cost of food was the ninth lowest and the cost of utilities was very affordable at the 16th lowest.

17. South Dakota: Cold In The Winter, But The Job Market Is Hot

This state had some rather middling scores in income, food, and utilities, but nothing too unreasonable. However, the low-priced homes and impressive second lowest unemployment rate really set this place ahead.

18. Ohio: High Income… But, Oh, That Unemployment

Ohio had a few ups and downs. The unemployment was a little high, as was the cost of utilities. However, the median income was the 14th highest and the median home price was the 15th lowest, and even the cost of food was reasonably affordable.

18. Missouri: Things Look Great Until You Show Me That Utilities Bill

Tied for No. 18, Missouri had some pretty high utilities prices. However, it also had reasonably priced homes, food, and miscellaneous costs of living. Even the median income was decent enough for many people to live off of.

20. Illinois: Livable Income In The Land Of Lincoln

We should start by saying that unemployment was pretty high here, so that dragged this place’s score down considerably. That being said, Illinois also offered reasonably priced food and miscellaneous costs of living. It was also notable that the median income was the second highest on our whole list.

21. Michigan: Great Lakes, Great Savings, And… Not-So-Great Unemployment

The cost of food here was the 12th lowest, the income was the 15th highest, and the median home prices were very affordable, ranking the 13th lowest. However, this place had the worst unemployment on our list, keeping it out of the top 20 affordable states.

22. Colorado: Rocky Mountain High Home Prices

This state did have a perk or two. The utilities were the 11th most affordable, and the income was pretty middle of the pack. However, the home prices here were awfully high, at well over $230,000, making this state a  little less affordable.

23. Wisconsin: At Least The Cheese Is Pretty Affordable

First in a tie for 23rd, Wisconsin had some areas that didn’t fare too well, namely the costs of utilities and miscellaneous costs of living. However, the rest of this place’s scores were mostly in the top half, with the food being fairly affordable and the unemployment being decently low.

23. Mississippi: Great Deals On Homes, If You Can Get That Paycheck

There are a few big plusses to living in Mississippi. The miscellaneous costs of living were low, the food was the sixth most affordable, and the median home prices were the second lowest in the nation. However, the unemployment was very high, and the income was very low.

25. Nevada: The Silver State Takes Bronze For Utilities

Most scores here were pretty fair, and Nevada scored in the top half for income and cost of food. The cost of utilities was even the third lowest in the nation. The main problem with affordability here was the second worst unemployment on our list.

The Most Affordable States In America

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26. Maryland: Where You Can Be Merry About Your Income, And Sad About Home Prices

This state was the first in a three-way tie for 26th, for some pretty apparent reasons. Things tended to be a little expensive here, with high-cost food, utilities, and homes. At the same time, the miscellaneous costs of living were low and the median income was the highest on our list.

26. Georgia: A Peachy Place, If You Can Find Employment

While the majority of categories in this state were in the top half of the rankings, and the income was reasonably high, there were a few problems too. The most noticeable problem was the very high unemployment, ranking in the bottom 10 for that category.

26. Alabama: At Least The Home Prices Are Sweet

Last in this three-way tie was Alabama. The problems here were mostly surrounding the high unemployment and low income, with utilities being a little expensive too. However, on the plus-side, the home prices were the sixth lowest, so at least something in this state was affordable.

29. Arizona: If You Can’t Stand The Heat…

While the scores here weren’t the worst, most were outside the top half of the rankings, with unemployment being the poorest ranking for this state. Though they weren’t perfect, this place at least had decent scores for utilities and miscellaneous costs of living.

30: Minnesota: Friendly People, Not-So-Friendly Costs Of Living

Let’s start with the good. The unemployment in this state was low, and the adjusted income was the seventh highest on  our list. Aside from those scores, though, Minnesota didn’t rank outside the bottom 20 in any category, making this place less than affordable.

31. Pennsylvania: Virtue, Liberty, And Some High Utility Bills

Admittedly, the income in this state was pretty high, but the cost of food and houses were only middling at best. On top of that, the unemployment was fairly high, and the cost of utilities was nearly impossible to afford.

32. New Mexico: Nothing New About These High Bills

On the upside of things, the cost of food wasn’t completely unreasonable, nor were the utilities or homes. On the other hand, the unemployment was a little high, as were the miscellaneous costs of living, and the income was the in the bottom 10 for its ranking.

33. Washington: My Expensive Home With Affordable Utilities

Affording a home here would be a bit of a problem, considering they scored within the 10 most expensive in the nation. The cost of food was also very high, and the income was mediocre at best. At least locals can take solace in their fifth least expensive utilities.

34. North Carolina: First In Fight, Not So Well-Ranked In Unemployment

The best you can say about the affordability of this state is that the utilities and homes weren’t completely unreasonable. More than that, though? The unemployment was very high, and the income was low enough to make many things downright unaffordable.

35. Montana: Big Sky Country Isn’t So Big On Savings

We’ll start by saying that the income here was dismal, as was the cost of food. The home prices and miscellaneous costs of living didn’t fare much better. The two advantages here were the 11th lowest cost of utilities and a low unemployment rate.

36. New Hampshire: Living Free Has Never Been So Expensive

The income here was high, and the unemployment was the seventh lowest on our list. Other than that, this place had problems. The biggest problems were probably the second highest cost of miscellaneous living expenses, and the very high cost of utilities.

37. Florida: At Least The Beaches Don’t Cost Anything, Right?

Florida may be pretty, but it comes at a high price. The adjusted income was fairly low, the food cost was fairly high, and the various costs of living were pretty unaffordable. The worst, though, was the third highest unemployment rate in our rankings.

38. Maine: Maybe They Call It Vacationland Because No One Can Afford To Live There

It’s a nice place to visit, but given the low income and high costs of food and utilities, it’s kind of a hard place to live in. On the upside, the home prices were pretty middling, and the unemployment rate was thankfully the 15th lowest in the nation.

39. South Carolina: You Could Afford A Home… If You Could Get a Job

Unlike our 38th ranked state, this spot actually had fairly high unemployment and fairly low income. Throw in very expensive costs of utilities and food, despite almost reasonable home prices, and you’ve got a fairly unaffordable place to call home.

40. Delaware: Decent Income, But Sky High Bills

This state did have two upsides, the first of which was a fairly low unemployment rate, and the second of which was a fairly high adjusted income. However, with incredibly high costs of food, utilities, and homes, that’s where the the good news ended.

41. Oregon: Being Busy As A Beaver Still Won’t Buy You Happiness

Affording just about anything in Oregon is pretty difficult. The adjusted median income was low, the home prices were high, and the unemployment was pretty difficult to ignore. The fact that the cost of food and cost of utilities were both in the more expensive half of our list was poor consolation.

42. Vermont: You Can Find A Job, But Not One That’ll Pay For Your Utilities

There is one upside to the affordability of this state, and that’s the unemployment, which was the sixth lowest on our entire list. Beyond that, though, this place still had expensive utilities, food, and an adjusted median income which is hard to look upon favorably.

43. New Jersey: Plenty Of Cash, But Way Too Much To Spend It On

Like Vermont, New Jersey did have one positive stat. The adjusted income here was ninth highest on our list, but that still wouldn’t be enough to deal with the third highest cost of utilities, the third highest home prices, and the very high unemployment.

44. Connecticut: Putting Food On The Table Is Harder Than It Sounds

It is true that the median adjusted income in this state was the 12th highest on our list. It is also true, though, that this place had the third highest cost of food, a very high cost of utilities, and even very high priced houses. It also didn’t help that the unemployment was pretty high too.

44. Alaska: Living Surrounded By White Snow Costs A Ton Of Green

Second in a tie for the 44th, Alaska is a beautiful but pricey place to call home. For example, this state had the second most expensive cost of food, very expensive utilities, and very expensive houses. The only upside here was that the unemployment ranked in the better half of our list.

46. Massachusetts: The Bay State Is Barely Affordable

If you’re looking for something positive about the affordability here, you can at least say that the unemployment wasn’t the absolute worst on our list. On the other hand, though, not a single ranking besides that scored out of the bottom 20.

47. New York: Bright Lights, Big Monthly Bills

Most affordability scores here were in the bottom 10 on our list, including the costs of food, utilities, and housing. The unemployment rate wasn’t the worst, but it was still fairly high compared to many other places. All told, this was just a pretty expensive state to call home.

48. Hawaii: Paradise Costs A Pretty Penny

You probably expected this place to be on our more expensive list, and it earned that ranking. The income, cost of food, cost of utilities, and cost of housing were all the worst on our list. This place’s only saving grace was that the unemployment was the eighth lowest on our list.

49. Rhode Island: Big Prices In Little Rhody

This cute little state had big bills for locals. The cost of utilities, food, and miscellaneous living expenses all ranked in the bottom 10 on our list. The home prices were very high, the adjusted income was very low, and the unemployment was ranked 36th out of 50. Yikes.

50. California: That Costs HOW Much?!

Where to begin? The home prices were the second highest, the adjusted median income was the second lowest, and all of the costs of living ranked near the bottom of our list. Even the unemployment was ranked in the bottom five. California is expensive and that’s all there is to it, especially in San Francisco.

At Least You Can Afford To Pay Attention

At least we assume you can if you’ve read over all these state stats. Still, there are affordable, and unaffordable, places in just about every state, and we can help you find them. After all, we sell houses when we’re not making maps like this, and we’re sure we can find a place that is right for your unique financial needs.

Most Affordable States In America

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posted on: December 3, 2014
234,194 views, 6 comments


  1. Ryan

    Please explain what “miscellaneous costs of living” includes… That rating category seems way too generic and could skew an entire data set fairly easily.

  2. Erwin Keus

    Every study is based off the gross income which is misleading in itself. Take ALL taxes out of the picture and then show me the results. What’s cash-in-hand will determine my decision. Nothing else!

  3. Leo

    Not reality. Least expensive to live is because no one wants to live there… Only because they have to. Born and raised on the coast of Southern California in Orange County, I moved to the Austin, TX area in 2008. Kept visiting back home on SoCal…. Moved back early 2011. While there are some enjoyable things there… Sorry, but even though SoCal is expensive, iyou get what you pay for! Never leaving again. Texas and other statesman this list I’ve been to can’t hold a candle to Southern California!.

  4. Jan

    I live in Iowa and winter in Florida now that I have retired. The best of both worlds. Iowa was a great place to grow up, low crime, great schools for an education.
    One of the best rankings for public education . Great people. Midwest values. Don’t knock it. We do not need people with a negative attitude.

  5. Steve

    Property taxes should be added to this picture, as well as any other major tax issues. Also, state income tax?

    What does “adjusted income” mean?

  6. adam

    Completely wrong look at how many middle class families have left California in the last 10 years.


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