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Photograph: Courtesy Visit Indy

The cheapest places to live in the U.S.

The cheapest places to live in the U.S. in 2024 offer ways to elevate your lifestyle without depleting your bank account

Clara Hogan
Written by
Clara Hogan
Written by
Alexa Harrison

Life is expensive these days, from buying groceries to going out to restaurants to paying rent. In fact, the cost of rent has been skyrocketing, with rates going up in more than half of counties across the nation since 2020. As workers re-evaluate priorities, there's growing attention to the places that offer low housing costs while still paying workers well—and without sacrificing vibrant culture, immersive museums and award-winning restaurants. 

So what are these cities we speak of? A recent report from RentHop evaluated median incomes and median rents to identify the cheapest places to live across the U.S. for single renters. While some are to be expected—bustling cities in the heartland and away from the pricey coasts—others are more surprising, including newer tech hubs like Seattle and Austin. Here are the top 10 cheapest places to live in the U.S., according to the study.

Cheapest places to live in the U.S.

Wichita, KS
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Wichita, KS

With a median rent of just $565 for a studio (comprising only 17.6 percent of median single income), Wichita, Kansas, is the cheapest rental city in America. 

And the denizens here breathe easier just by living here. The air pollution here is 95 percent better than in the rest of the country, hence its "Air Capital of the World" moniker. There are several ways to get active or enjoy the outdoors, including biking one of the more than 100 paths, visiting one of the almost 200 parks, or even stopping by the vibrant food truck scene for cheap eats.

Speaking of food, Wichita gifted the world with White Castle and Pizza Hut, and the latter is immortalized with a free museum. Head over to Wichita State University, and you will find the original hut filled with memorabilia from the brand’s early days. The Keeper of the Plains is one of Wichita's best features, loved by locals and visitors alike, a 44ft tall steel sculpture of an American Indigenous man situated where the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers converge downtown. Created by Wichitan and Native American artist Blackbear Bosin, this artwork is free to enjoy, and several come every evening when a ring of fire surrounds the statue for 15 minutes.

Minneapolis, MN
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis is the most populous city in the state of Minnesota and has its origins as the 19th-century lumber milling and flour milling capital of the world. It forms "Twin Cities" with the neighboring state capital of St. Paul, the birthplace of Prince and Bob Dylan, and offers an endless slew of local breweries and oh-so-delicious restaurants with several big-name chefs bringing star talent to the Twin Cities. Bisected by the Mississippi River, it's known for its parks and lakes. Minneapolis is also home to many cultural landmarks like the Walker Art Center, a contemporary art museum, and the adjacent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, famed for Claes Oldenburg's "Spoonbridge and Cherry" sculpture.

Colorado Springs, CO
Photograph: Shutterstock/John Hoffman

3. Colorado Springs, CO

While Denver seems to get most of the limelight, Colorado Springs is quietly winning. While its median studio rental is at $910, this place has plenty going for it: a strong sense of community, it’s pet-friendly, and staying fit is a priority for many. With endless trails, falls, and near-perfect weather year-round, it’s easy to do. Pikes Peak is the most famous landmark in the area, with the option to summit the 14,000ft by car and make a day of it or take the Broadmoor’s Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway for a slower ride through nature. The only downside is that you only get 40 minutes at the summit before returning to the bottom. A man-made marvel is the Royal Gorge Bridge Park, which features the country’s highest suspension bridge, constructed in 1929. Access to the park is $30, and getting across the bridge can take 5-15 minutes if walking without stopping. Keep your sneakers on and head west of the city to Manitou Cliff Dwellings, comprising ancestral Puebloan ruins dating back to 800 to 1000 years old that first opened to the public in 1907. Guests can explore the ruins for $12 per adult. The museums contain pottery, jewelry, tools, weapons, and other ancient artifacts.

Afterward, while walking around Manitou Springs, taste the water the city is named after. The Native Americans who settled in this area believed the healing spirit, Manitou, was in the springs. Today, public water fountains tap into all eight natural springs. Last year, free music returned to the region in the form of Classic Tuesdays with music by members of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, the First & Main Concert Series, Jazz in the Garden, Pikes Peak Jazz, and Swing Society’s Jazz in the Parks. 

In case you missed it, word got out about how cool Ohio is. At a median studio rent of $849 per month, you’ll have some extra cash to explore what Columbus has to offer. For starters, the Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens has the biggest private collection of Chihuly glass in a botanical garden. From January to October, Chihuly Nights takes over. This after-dark programming is included in the $22 admission and allows guests to wander through the gardens to view the glass lit up among the Conservatory’s biomes and plant collection.

Topiary Park is a quirky outdoor downtown excursion that blends art and nature, where you can feel like you’re picnicking in a painting—specifically within Georges Seurat’s iconic A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Be sure to stop by the popular German Village, a historic neighborhood that dates back to the 1800s when German immigrants settled here. There are several German restaurants to check out and follow that up by grabbing a scoop at Jeni’s Ice Cream, a Columbus original.

Seattle, WA
Photograph: Courtesy Viator

5. Seattle, WA

The Emerald City is not an entry you'd typically expect to see on a list like this, given it's a hub to so many tech giants that are responsible for ruining the economy. But unlike that other West Coast tech hub, Palo Alto, you don't need to win the Megamillions lottery to afford a one-bedroom apartment. A median rent studio pad here is $1,450 and the rent cost as a percentage of income is 20.9 percent. (For the sake of comparison, in NYC it's 71.1 percent.)

Seattle has it all; museums, iconic buildings, a revolutionary musical history, fantastic restaurants, and some of the best coffee shops in the country. Yes, it rains more often than an English summer, but that's just a handy excuse to nip inside for a shot of culture, caffeine or both. Plus, when the weather is good, those parks are a real thing of beauty.

At $775 median monthly rent and a rent cost of 21.5 percent of one's income, Albuquerque remains one of the cheapest places to live in America after topping the list in 2023. One of the best things about New Mexico is the sunsets, and this city is no exception. Residents enjoy around 300 days of sunshine and blue skies every year, and the Sandias Mountains to the east turn watermelon pink at dusk. The city sits 5,000ft above sea level, and one of the best ways to take in the scenery is via the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway. Round trip adult tickets are $29 for the  15-minute journey as riders ascend to the mountains’ 10,378ft crest, and five dormant volcanoes on the west side round out the magical nature. Albuquerque’s near-perfect weather conditions make it a prime location for hot-air ballooning, and it even holds an international festival each year.

As for free and cheap things to do closer to the ground, the KiMo Theatre has a rich history, with architecture steeped in Pueblo Deco styling, and the programming includes everything from ballets and movie screenings to artist discussions and concerts. Historic Route 66 is also nearby, and on a particular stretch of the old highway, the road sings. Referred to as The Musical Highway and installed in 2014 as part of a partnership between the New Mexico Department of Transportation and the National Geographic Channel, it encourages drivers to go the speed limit. 

Tulsa, OK
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Tulsa

7. Tulsa, OK

A blooming arts scene anchors Tulsa, with the Philbook Museum of Art, the interactive Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium, the DECOPOLIS Tulsa Art Deco Museum, and the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art. And Tulsa residents get all it all with a cost of living that rivals other cities on this list. Median rent here clocks in at just $734 for a studio apartment. 

Tulsa is full of quirky spots, too, such as the self-proclaimed "Center for the Universe" and the Gaudi-esque architecture of The Cave House, a former chicken restaurant you can tour today for $15. Locals enjoy an impressive slate of programming at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, which has hosted Michael Buble, Kelly Clarkson, and more; in 2024, Tina - The Tina Turner Musical, Moulin Rouge! The Musical and MJ are featured. 

Indianapolis, IN
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Indy

8. Indianapolis, IN

Sports fans looking for affordable cities in the U.S. will score in Indianapolis. Called the "Racing Capital of the World," this Midwest city is home to both the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500. If racing isn't it, the Indianapolis Colts and the Indiana Pacers reside here, too. And you can afford season tickets with median rent comprising just 21.9% of median income (a studio apartment clocks in at $758.50 per month). 

Non-sports fans will love Indy, too, with a bustling mix of art museums (the 152-acre campus of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields), stunning parks (the massive White River State Park, which houses numerous museums, green spaces, and a waterfront Canal Walk), and activities (The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is the world's largest). The famous "Hoosier Hospitality" extends to the city's dining scene, where you'll find warm welcomes at innovative restaurants like the beloved brunch spot Milktooth and any of a number of craft breweries, including Upland and Metazoa, which also features an on-site dog park.

Austin, TX
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Austin

9. Austin, TX

Another city that might seem surprising to find on this list, and yet despite a recent influx of techies, Austin continues to remain an affordable option for renters: The median rent for a studio sits at just 23.1 percent of the medium income.

Residents have numerous reasons to set roots here. The "Live Music Capital of the World" is home to hundreds of venues, from dive bars to historic concert theaters to outdoor spots that play home to festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. Add in an award-winning restaurant scene, from the famous Franklin Barbecue and Interstellar BBQ, to new power players like Birdies. When you're not noshing, there's no shortage of outdoor activities, such as a dip in the uber-popular Barton Springs Pool (where a young Robert Redford learned to swim), park of the 350-acre Zilker Park, a centrally located urban park.

Moving to Austin? Be ready to embrace the "Keep Austin Weird" mantra, which is still visible day to day in the city's quirky festivals, decor, and funky approach to life.

Omaha, NE
Photograph: Courtesy Visit Omaha

10. Omaha, NE

There's a reason one of the world's richest people and a notorious penny-pincher, Warren Buffet, has lived in his hometown of Omaha for the last 68 years: Your dollar goes far. With a median studio rent of just $835 per month, Omaha has a lot of value for a modest price and is celebrated for its family-friendly nature. 

For starters, the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is one of the top-rated globally and features the world's largest indoor desert and a massive indoor rainforest. The Omaha Children's Museum is a favorite, too, with a focus on STEM and interactive exhibits. Add in incredible parks, a culinary scene marked with history (the Rueben was reportedly invented here), and a robust immigrant community. And baseball fans look forward to the College World Series, held here annually. 

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