The Most Affordable Cities in America: If You Don't Live In One, Maybe You Should

Still reeling from last week's announcement of the world's 10 most expensive cities? Forbes analysts are here with a reality check: now, they've calculated the most affordable cities in the United States. Maybe they'll give our recession-battered egos a little hope for ever attaining financial security in the future, eh?

But before we reveal the results — how did Forbes crunch the numbers? :

We started with America’s 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and Metropolitan Divisions (MDs), all with populations of 600,000 or more. Then we factored in housing affordability, using the Housing Opportunity Index from the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo. We also considered the cost-of-living index developed by Sperling’s Best Places, and factored in the cost of food, utilities, gas, transportation, medical expenses, and miscellaneous expenses.

Deciding where to live and how to weigh various factors in that decision is a matter of personal preferences and circumstances. However, this indexing method is easily defensible for using as a general rule: after all, who doesn't want or need things like housing food, utilities, and medical care? You may really care about some niche hobby or whatever. But, at the end of the day, no matter how many hot yoga studios or shoegaze post-rock bands or guinea pig breeders are in your area, if you can't first take care of the necessities of life, you can't enjoy the amenities.

As for the results: although a few cities had to be excluded from the index for lack of data, the individual winners are still definitely quite affordable, and the general regional trends still hold. The south is well-represented, with six southern cities making the cut (although not my hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, which I suppose has gotten cooler since I departed...). Somewhat unsurprisingly, though:

The Midwest dominates when it comes to affordability, with 11 metro areas making the list, including five in the state of Ohio alone: Cincinnati (No. 3), Dayton (No. 4), Akron (No. 6), Toledo (No. 11), and Columbus (No. 20). Michigan landed three cities on the ranks: Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Warren.

The northeast offers a few highly affordable cities — including the number one winner, Buffalo, N.Y. Counterintuitively, though, the western United States has no representatives on the list at all: while California's cities are obviously relatively expensive, it would have been reasonable to expect somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico at least to make the cut.

Still not sure whether you should spring for a more expensive city or settle for one of the most affordable? Check out this list of most creative U.S. cities, keeping in mind that the best places to live and work may not be the ones that are the cheapest (or priciest!) but the ones that offer you the opportunity to constantly learn new things.

America's Most Affordable Cities, According to Forbes (2014):

  1. Buffalo, New York
  2. Memphis, Tennessee
  3. Cincinnati, Ohio
  4. Dayton, Ohio
  5. Knoxville, Tennessee
  6. Akron, Ohio
  7. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  8. Louisville, Kentucky
  9. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  10. Warren, Michigan
  11. Toledo, Ohio
  12. Detroit, Michigan
  13. Birmingham, Alabama
  14. St. Louis, Missouri
  15. Virginia Beach, Virginia
  16. Jacksonville, Florida
  17. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  18. Tulsa, Oklahoma
  19. Tampa, Florida
  20. Syracuse, New York
  21. Columbus, Ohio