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These Are The 10 Most Affordable Places In Illinois

If you’re planning on moving to Illinois, find out where you can live without going broke.

David Cross

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As a Midwestern state, it might be easy to assume that Illinois is among the most affordable places in the country. Yet Illinois is comprised of almost 58,000 square miles, so it would be risky to make the assumption that all of Illinois is affordable. In short, some places in The Prairie State are going to be more affordable than others. But which places?

As part of an on-going series, Movoto Real Estate is going state to state to find not only the best places, but also the most affordable. Today we take a look at Illinois, home to more than 12,8802,000 people. After analyzing more than 200 places in the state across a number of criteria, Chatham was crowned the most affordable, or the place you’re most likely to keep cash in your wallet. Of course, Chatham wasn’t the only place where folks can stretch their bucks.

Here are the 10 most affordable places in Illinois:

  1. Village of Chatham
  2. City of Washington
  3. Village of Morton
  4. City of Springfield
  5. City of East Peoria
  6. City of Quincy
  7. City of Kewanee
  8. City of Pontiac
  9. City of Pekin
  10. City of Moline

How did Chatham make it to the No. 1 spot? What made Kewanee just the 7th most affordable place on our list? Keep reading for a virtual tour of our top 10 ranking. Before this, however, here’s a breakdown of how we created our list, because we didn’t just pick these places out of thin air.

How We Found The Most Affordable Places In Illinois

To create our ranking, we used Census data to find the each place in Illinois with a population of more than 10,000. This came to 219 places, including villages, cities, and Census-Designated Places. Once we had these locales, we ranked each one across six criteria, with the lowest number being the best. We then took the average of all these ranks to create our Big Deal Score. The place with the lowest average rank across our criteria–Chatham–was crowned the most affordable. Here are the criteria we used:

  • Food costs
  • Utility costs
  • Miscellaneous costs
  • Median home price
  • Unemployment rank
  • Adjusted median income

Data for our criteria came from a number of sources, including Sperling’s Best Places, AreaVibes, and the U.S. Census (2010). The adjusted median income takes a locations’ median household income and divides it by its cost of living. We then multiplied this number by 100 to create an adjusted income we believe reflects a household’s actual earnings. Our miscellaneous rank included an area’s the cost of clothing, restaurants, repairs, and entertainment.

One more thing: If you don’t see your city below, jump to the bottom of this article for an expanded list.

1. Chatham

Chatham, IL

Source: Wikipedia user Maliwhite10

This village in Sangamon County took the No. 1 spot on our list thanks to its rankings in three categories: food, utilities, and unemployment rate. Residents of Chatham spend less on food than the national average. According to our analysis, the area scored a 92 for food costs, which is 8 points below the national average. For comparison, places in Illinois where food costs are the most were 9 point above the national average. In other words, greens cost more greenbacks.

As for utilities and the locale’s unemployment rate, Chatham energy costs scored a 76, much lower than the national average of 100, while its unemployment rate of 7.3 percent was good enough to take the No. 8 spot for this criterion, tying with the state’s capital, Springfield.

2. Washington

Washington, IL

Source: Flickr user neighborhoods.org

This city in Tazewell County has one of the smaller populations on our top 10 ranking. Hopefully it’s resident won’t mind us spreading the word that it’s a among the most affordable places to move to in Illinois.

Overall, Washington ranked well because of its low cost of food and for its unemployment rate. Food costs in Washington are lower than the national average. As for the unemployment rate, it stands at 7.5 percent.

3. Morton

Morton, IL

Source: Village of Morton

Part of the Movoto gang wonders if Morton’s food costs are so low because of the influx of pumpkins the village has every year. Of course, we know better. This, however, doesn’t change the fact that Morton’s food costs were one of the main reason it made out list. The cost of food in Morton was low enough to earn it a fourth place among the cities we looked at, tying it with several other places.

But what kept Morton out of the top two? The village’s median home price. A home in Morton is priced at $169,700, which earned the area a No. 72 ranking for this criterion.

4. Springfield

Springfield, IL

Source: Wikipedia user Éovart Caçeir

Springfield, the largest place in our top 10 with more than 115,000 people, took the No. 1 spot in two categories: food and utilities costs. The city also ranked well because of its unemployment rate compared to the rest of the places on our list.

But as the state’s capital, should Springfield have placed higher? That depends. Springfield fell flat in one particular area. Springfield’s adjusted median household income, which we calculated to be about $51,100, earned the city a rank of 160 for this criterion.

5. East Peoria

East Peoria, IL

Source: City of East Peoria

Another place in Tazewell County, East Peoria is home to more than 23,000 people, all of whom can agree that it is among the most affordable places in Illinois. East Peoria ranked well for its cost of food and low unemployment compared to other places in our analysis. Food costs in East Peoria are 7 points lower than the national average, so if you’re ever here swing by the grocery store. As for the area’s unemployment rate, it’s 7.5 percent, which is lower than the national average.

Where East Peoria went south was for its adjusted median income, just $53,812, low enough to rank it No. 143 out of 219.

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6. Quincy

Quincy, IL

Source: Wikipedia user Smallbones

Illinois’ Gem City is the second largest city in our ranking, though Springfield, the largest city is substantially larger. Maybe we’ve found one reason so many people call the area home–it’s affordable.

Quincy scored well in three categories, and poorly in one. The city has the lowest unemployment rate of the places we looked at with just 6.3 percent of it’s population without work. The costs for entertainment and clothing in the area, marketed in our miscellaneous criterion, is the third best, while energy costs are the 12th best. While Quincy is nearly perfect, we’d be remiss not to point out that its adjusted median household income, $44,531, is low enough for a No. 196 rank for this criterion.

7. Kewanee

Kewanee, IL

Source: Wikipedia user Billwhittaker

Kewanee is another place in our top 10 list that missed out on placing higher because of income. While in other top 10 rankings this might seem low, remember we looked at 219 places. This city in Henry County ranked especially well in three categories—home values, miscellaneous costs, and unemployment rate.

A home in Kewanee is valued at $61,400, low enough for a 2nd place in this category, while the city’s unemployment rate is 7.1 percent, or the fifth best. Finally, where Kewanee really shined was for the cost of miscellaneous items. For this criterion, the city took the No. 1 spot. So if you’re looking for some entertainment and shopping, Kewanee is the place to go.

8. Pontiac

Pontiac, IL

Source: Wikipedia user IvoShandor

Pontiac ranked well in most of our criteria, though its highest rank came in the miscellaneous category, something of a trend in the final places on our list. Here the city took the No. 12 spot. Utilities were also a high point for the city. Pontiac’s utilities costs scored a 99, which is 1 point below the state average. However, remember that the places with the highest utilities costs, Danville, is 15 points above the national average.

As with other places on our list, Pontiac’s adjusted median household income kept it from placing higher. Our analysis shows that households in the area make $52,298 a year when cost of living is taken into consideration. Where did this land Pontiac for this criterion? No. 152.

9. Pekin

Pekin, IL

Source: Wikipedia user Ammodramus

Why, oh why is Pekin in our top nine? We’d love to say it’s because of the annual Marigold Festival, but this isn’t a list of the most beautiful places in Illinois. This city near central Illinois broke the top 10 thanks to low food and utilities costs, as well as a relatively svelte unemployment rate when compared to the other places on our list.

The cost of food in Pekin is 7 points below the national average, while utilities costs are just one point below. Still, cheaper is cheaper. Finally, the city’s unemployment rate is 7.5 percent, low enough to take the No. 10 spot for this criterion.

10. Moline

Moline, IL

Source: Wikipedia user Kepper66

Utilities costs in Moline were low enough to earn the No. 4 spot for this criterion. The cost of heating and cooling in this area is 15 points lower than the national average. As for miscellaneous costs—the cost of clothing, restaurants, repairs, entertainment, and other services—is 6 points lower than the national average, low enough to rank No. 12 for this category.

The Least Affordable Places In Illinois

Now that we’ve taken a look at the most affordable places to live in Illinois, what are the least affordable places in Illinois, the places where money just flies out of your pockets? In descending order: Hinsdale, Glen Ellyn, Westmont, Elmhurst, and finally, the least affordable, Downers Grove, which scored poorly in nearly all categories. What a downer.

(click to enlarge table)

Most Affordable in Illinois

Least Affordable Places in IL

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posted on: January 31, 2014
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