Paoli, Indiana doesn't look so bad anymore...
August 19, 2004 6:50 AM   Subscribe

The 60 best cheapest places to live in America.
posted by PenDevil (45 comments total)

 
Rich Karlgaard, author of the list and publisher of Forbes, has published Life 2.0: How People Across America Are Transforming Their Lives by Finding the Where of Their Happiness from which most of the list was taken.
posted by PenDevil at 6:54 AM on August 19, 2004


I'm not sure how Portland, OR managed to make it into a list of "Bargains" (Bohemian or not). I love Portland. In the 8 years I lived in Seattle I made about 3 distinct attempts to try to relocate there (once with my band, and the other two times professionally). Even in boom times it seemed impossible to find a job without taking a 15% pay cut from Seattle, and rent and other living expenses were just as high. Since 2001, it has been ravaged by high unemployment, but from what I had gathered from friends that researched relocating there last year, it seems that little has changed. Regardless, it will always be my favorite small city in America, even if I never live there.
posted by psmealey at 7:04 AM on August 19, 2004


Why didn't they just include Tashkent or Ulan Bator? They're less remote than some of the places Forbes chose.

And some of the places that aren't remote I can state are awful from personal experience. Albany? I can smell its bus terminal from Boston on a hot day.

Cleveland is pretty nice, and so are Wisconsin and Minnesota. But if Forbes loves Idaho and friggin' Texas so much, why doesn't it marry them?
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:13 AM on August 19, 2004


Man, was that a crappy UI or am I just dense. What ever happened to just giving people a nice list on one page?
posted by jester69 at 7:15 AM on August 19, 2004


I'm not so sure how Austin got on the list either. If a $312,000 house price (Austin, TX) indicates a cheap place to live, I'd hate to see expensive. I've lived in Austin for almost 15 years now (and in the general area my whole life), and recently, I've decided it really isn't all that cheap a place to live at all. I still like it here though, so until I can move to New Zealand, I'm not going anywhere.

BTW, you can get many wonderful houses in Austin for well below $312K, but you might actually have to live IN the city and not out in the suburbs (and it won't be a spanking brand new house with a pool in the back yard). But no one seems to want to live IN the city anymore. There are about 6 really great older houses in good shape that have been on the market for over a year and under $125,000, but we are sort of "downtown-ish" so no one has been looking at them.

Oh, and having a major university in your home town is only a good thing in one of two situations: you are either attending it or teaching at it. Otherwise, it's a pain in the butt.
posted by Orb at 7:16 AM on August 19, 2004


Athens' music scene zapped onto the national radar screen in recent years with such homegrown bands as R.E.M, the Indigo Girls and the B-52s.

Recent years? Wow.
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:17 AM on August 19, 2004


SACRAMENTO? BOHEMIAN? Yeah right.
posted by Eekacat at 7:17 AM on August 19, 2004


Man, was that a crappy UI or am I just dense.

No, it was crappy. I gave up after I couldn't get past Birmingham, AL in "Steroid Cities." Their target attributes behave strangely. Must be geared towards popup-jaded AOL users.
posted by brownpau at 7:18 AM on August 19, 2004


psmealy, I agree, and how they could have *Ashland* and *cheap* in the same thought. Well it's beyond me. Maybe outer Medford. . .

It IS a crappy format and I gave up on it before very long.
posted by Danf at 7:19 AM on August 19, 2004


Even crappier, they're set by default to slide show mode. I was reading about one city and suddenly the window advances to the next one without so much as a by your leave!
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:20 AM on August 19, 2004


Branson, MO? I guess if your quality-of-life requires easy access to Mel Tillis concerts.
posted by fungible at 7:24 AM on August 19, 2004


Forget idaho: Bismarck N.D.? It's like living in the Gobi desert, but full of really white people. There is NOTHING there, or even remotely nearby. It is ridiculously flat & either ungodly hot, or ungodly cold. yeck.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:26 AM on August 19, 2004


Cleveland a "bohemian bargain"? Gah. My company at the time asked me to move there about 5 years ago. I talked to a few residents around my age, and no one could really say anything except "it's not as bad as it used to be" and "there are some great suburbs." I've walked around downtown at night on multiple occasions, and it's dead dead dead. Sure, there are some bars in the Flats, and, yes, there's a good symphony and a museum or two, but eveyone I know with any gumption has gotten the hell outta there.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:30 AM on August 19, 2004


Before the big-city-or-nothing types wail on the link even further I should mention the list is skewed to people with families who are looking to cut down on 2 hour commutes to work in order to actually have some time to spend with their kids.
posted by PenDevil at 7:34 AM on August 19, 2004


i'll say a good word for hendersonville nc ... my mother lives there and it's really quite nice

and punta gorda fl? ... well, not anymore, i'm afraid
posted by pyramid termite at 8:32 AM on August 19, 2004


Were there any cities with a house price under $200,000? I don't think so. Yeesh. Not my idea of "cheap."

Yeah, Punta Gorda made me laugh.
posted by JanetLand at 8:37 AM on August 19, 2004


I see Baltimore's HBO-based ad campaign (aka The Wire) continues to draw folks in to a city whose cosmopolitan shell rests lightly on a yolk of poverty and serious social problems.

That and there's not a whole lot to do in the Inner Harbor. Or places to park. The only thing Bohemian about that city is the beer.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:48 AM on August 19, 2004


Ann Arbor, "CHEAP"?? Good lord, people. I moved to Chicago FROM Ann Arbor and was able to afford twice the apartment in a significantly better neighborhood. My wife and I even eventually bought ourselves a place, something that we'd never have been able to do without moving to Ypsilanti or Plymouth.

Ann Arbor only appears cheap if you're from New York, like half the U-M population.
posted by 40 Watt at 9:00 AM on August 19, 2004


I see Baltimore's HBO-based ad campaign (aka The Wire) continues to draw folks in to a city whose cosmopolitan shell rests lightly on a yolk of poverty and serious social problems.

I second that.

I practically spewed coffee all over my monitor when I saw Baltimore listed as a Bohemian Bargain. It is neither of those things. But poverty and social ills it has in spades.
posted by QuestionableSwami at 9:04 AM on August 19, 2004


Branson, MO? I guess if your quality-of-life requires easy access to Mel Tillis concerts.
Sadly, Mel isn't here full time anymore. He does shows occasionally in town, though.

That being said, it is a nice area, and relatively cheap living expenses. Much more to offer than your average Missouri town with a population less than 10,000. Not a bustling metro area of course, but it works for me.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:12 AM on August 19, 2004


jesus that may be the actual worst website ever. i cannot find the fucking list! ARg.

I live in Greensboro, NC. 2 hours from the mountains, 2 hours from the beach, 1 hour from RTP. I live in a 2000 sq foot home in an old neighborhood that cost 130k. I can ride my bike downtown to work.

NC has lots of great little cities that are cheap to live in.
posted by glenwood at 9:30 AM on August 19, 2004


I live in Austin and I love it, but it is the most expensive place to live in Texas. Even Houston and Dallas have lower housing costs than Austin. And frankly, I think that "average" of $312k is pretty low.

Orb, just out of curiosity, where are those cool old houses that are in the city? I would love to find something like that. Averything I've seen downtown is 600k or more..
posted by j at 9:45 AM on August 19, 2004


SACRAMENTO? BOHEMIAN? Yeah right.

My thought exactly. Sacramento is "bohemian" to about the same degree that it is a suburb of San Francisco.

i cannot find the fucking list!

There isn't one; it's some weird little slideshow gadget that only shows you one city at a time.

Before the big-city-or-nothing types wail on the link even further I should mention the list is skewed to people with families who are looking to cut down on 2 hour commutes to work in order to actually have some time to spend with their kids.

Ahh, well, that was their mistake - everyone knows you have to wait to have kids until you retire, if you want any chance at an interesting, fulfilling life.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:49 AM on August 19, 2004


Ummm, if you want cheap housing and growing cities, why don't you just move to Canada? :-D

I can easily find quality housing within 30 minutes of Canada's busiest city (Toronto) that's under $150k US. If you don't mind what/where you're living in, you could probably get a place for about $75k US.
posted by shepd at 10:12 AM on August 19, 2004


Gawd, not Hendersonville... they play muzak from speakers blasting along Main Street and the have one of the highest per-capita rates of sex offenders in the Southeast. I suppose if you're at the brink of death, it's pleasant enough, what with its quaint overpriced antique shops and pig races. I think that approximately one democrat lives in town. Surprisingly, two almost as equally affordable towns within the same geogrpahic radius (but much funkier, more diverse and ecologically friendly) were left out: Boone and Asheville.

Hell, they may be on there, but I couldn't stand the UI anymore either.
posted by moonbird at 10:49 AM on August 19, 2004


Iowa City, eh? Anyone know the place?

Ummm, if you want cheap housing and growing cities, why don't you just move to Canada?

Recommendations?
posted by rushmc at 10:54 AM on August 19, 2004


I think that "average" of $312k is pretty low.

Agreed. We were living in an apartment on the south-side (78704 Not just a zip code - a way of life.) and wanted to buy a house in that same area having lived there for 12 years, but ... in that area (run down as it was) houses were already going for a quarter million bucks last year. And they were no better than the one we finally got on the north-central side for under $100k (needs a little work but not too much - HUGE yard, nice neighbors). Some of the houses our real estate agent kept trying to show us were TINY, with no yards at all, almost in the 'burbs and yeah ... well over $300k. Well over.

j: I'll email you later with some information about the location.
posted by Orb at 10:55 AM on August 19, 2004


Me three (or is eight) on hating that UI.

I also (more substantively) dispute the premise. People don't buy $650,000 houses in Suffolk County and ride the LIRR for 2 hours roundtrip every day because they love New York culture. They do it because all those cheap cities are cheap for supply/demand reasons, most of important of which is low salaries.

Every time I've looked at opportunities in "cheap" areas, I've always concluded that I'm financially better off working in NYC even net of the bill to live within commuting range.
posted by MattD at 11:02 AM on August 19, 2004


Shepd -- Shhhhhhh!!

And I can attest to Lincoln, NE's porch-style, cheap living.

Here's the list (PLACE/CITY POP/HOUSE PRICE):

PORCH-SWING COMUNITIES HAPPY HOOTERVILLES IQ CAMPUSES STEROID CITIES BOHEMIAN BARGAINS TELECOMMUTING HEAVENS
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:18 AM on August 19, 2004


(Dammit, preview took away all my hard-spaces. Sorry!)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:19 AM on August 19, 2004


Ann Arbor, MI 579,000 $377,000

Whoa, Ann Arbor has nowhere close to 579,000 people. They're only off by 460,000+.
posted by gyc at 11:30 AM on August 19, 2004


Hmm. For that one it says, "Metro Area" which may just be everything including the burbs. But still, that's a huge discrepancy.

Also, I'd like to add that I think their housing price numbers are way off, in both directions. There's no way that the average home in Lincoln, NE costs $245,000. For that kind of money you could get a very nice place. It's more like $150,000.

And if the average price for a roof over your head in Boulder, CO is over $500,000, the nice people over at Forbes need to re-examine their definition of "CHEAP".
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:46 AM on August 19, 2004


Thanks for the list Civil_Disobedient! You rock.
posted by shoepal at 12:03 PM on August 19, 2004


...the nice people over at Forbes need to re-examine their definition of "CHEAP"

Not for their target audience they don't.

But this isn't supposed to be simply a median home price anyway. Look at their methodology page, the house price is for somthing they call a "median professional class home":

Our price cutoff was $500,000 for a median professional-class home. Just what is a "median professional class home"? We considered it to be a 2,500-square-foot house on a quarter-acre lot, with new amenities such as kitchen, bathroom, flooring, windows and paint--located in a nice neighborhood.
posted by pitchblende at 12:09 PM on August 19, 2004


the nice people over at Forbes need to re-examine their definition of "CHEAP"

it's all relative. what do you think the income of the average Forbes' subscriber (or rack buyer) is?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:18 PM on August 19, 2004


Ummm, if you want cheap housing and growing cities, why don't you just move to Canada? :-D

Because they would pay me in Canadian dollars.

Gawd, not Hendersonville... they play muzak from speakers blasting along Main Street...

But I did have some really good mole enchiladas on the highway leading out of town. In that area, I think Waynesville, N.C., is where it's at, if you want a town smaller than Asheville

Paoli, Indiana...

Oh, and why is this page titled "Paoli, Indiana..." Having actually visited there during my Bloomington days (for a two-night "vacation" if you can believe it! — I just asked my wife what we did there and she said, "Try to find a place to eat and end up at Wendy's, right?"), I'm kinda curious... I hear the skiing is good in winter, tho... ;)
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:26 PM on August 19, 2004


I have to agree that these guys are on crack. Boulder? CHEAP? Denver and Colorado Springs aren't real cheap, either, but the inclusion of Boulder is particularly egregious. Even towns NEAR Boulder are more expensive than other Denver metro areas. Durango, well, maybe. Never lived there. But I've lived in Denver, Colorado Springs and Boulder and they are in no way cheap.
posted by Shoeburyness at 12:55 PM on August 19, 2004


Yeah, Z, I left out Waynesville and Black Mountain, both are great.
posted by moonbird at 2:38 PM on August 19, 2004


it's all relative. what do you think the income of the average Forbes' subscriber (or rack buyer) is?

Significantly lower than the income the average Forbes' subscriber would like to be perceived as having. Forbes always sort of struck me as being targeted squarely at the white suburban bling-bling crowd. "Ha ha, I'm so rich I think Austin's cheap." Dumbasses.

I do have to agree in a qualified way with their assessment of Pittsburgh, however - the city is cheap, pleasant to live in, and reasonably unboring.
posted by Vetinari at 2:59 PM on August 19, 2004


Ummm, if you want cheap housing and growing cities, why don't you just move to Canada? :-D

I would if I had any skills that Canada needed/wanted. Why can't my pretty face be enough?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 3:17 PM on August 19, 2004


Their UI was designed, apparently, with one purpose in mind - to put as much advertising real estate in front of the viewer as possible. I mean, damn.
posted by FormlessOne at 3:43 PM on August 19, 2004


Boy, it's a good thing they put my hometown on there. There totally weren't enough people moving there before this article came out.
posted by willpie at 4:16 PM on August 19, 2004


Why aren't there any Canadian cities listed? I'm pretty sure we're in America.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:19 PM on August 19, 2004


Madison is probably the most expensive place to live in the state of Wisconsin. I do think (despite the fact that I wouldn't mind moving), Milwaukee's starting to catch on, especially among chicago people.
posted by drezdn at 10:26 PM on August 19, 2004


Thanks for posting a list, Civil. That UI had me losing interest about a milli-second after finding Austin. I can't believe McAllen is on it too. I lived there for a very brief while once, and it sucked.

willpie: Oh yeah, see Austin used to be a really cool place to live (now it's just sort of cool), and then it started getting listed on all these lists of super places to live. Everyone moved here, and now it's starting to suck. Such is the way of the world. I always hate seeing Austin getting on these lists. It means more people from far away places are going to decide it's better than where they are now, they'll move here, and then they'll do their best to make it just like the place they left.

I had a conversation with a recent Austin arrival a few years ago, and she said she'd moved here because it was so green and had so many trees. Two years later I ran into her at a city council meeting about putting in some new roads, and she was on the side saying "chop down the trees, we need more roads." Umm ... yeah. So much for green and trees.

Hey, J ... I emailed you at the addy listed on your profile.
posted by Orb at 5:13 PM on August 20, 2004


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