The 10 Coolest Cities with the Lowest Cost of Living in the U.S.

Sure, you could find the absolute cheapest city in the country, pack up all your things and head out. But even if your money goes a long way, if there’s nothing around, you’ll have nowhere to spend it. What about the food? The drinks? The arts? The entertainment? For some, we want the best of both worlds. So, we cross-referenced data from the Council for Community and Economic Research's Cost of Living Index (for reference, the U.S. cost of living benchmark average is 100, so anything under that is good) with some qualitative analyses (like, is there anything to do in these towns?) to find the happy meeting place of the coolest and most affordable cities in the country. Here are our ten picks. OK, now you can pack your bags.

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cool affordable cities greenville
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10. Greenville, Sc

Cost of Living Index: 91.9

Charleston, who? Another city on this list that has the best of both small-town and big-city perks, Greenville has all that quintessential Southern charm at a much more affordable price. (For reference, Charleston’s cost of living is 100.) Right in the foothills of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, this South Carolina city not only has a taste of the outdoors within city limits (in the form of a 21-mile path that weaves in and out of parks and downtown), but it also has access to some of the most mesmerizing parks in the state, like the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Sports fans will relish the dualling college football rivalries of the region (Clemson University and University of South Carolina), and art and food lovers will have more than enough to consume as Greenville has become somewhat of a haven for creatives with its nice weather and friendly prices.

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cool affordable cities indianapolis
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9. Indianapolis, In

Cost of Living Index: 90.9

Home of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the eponymous Indy 500, this Midwestern city definitely has that vroom-vroom spectacle going for it. But the Indy 500 is only once a year, and Indianapolis, with a population over 2 million, has a lot more to offer year-round—a revived downtown center, a burgeoning culinary scene and one of the most underrated outdoor public spaces in the country. For real: The 26-mile Monon Trail, converted from a former rail path, takes you past eateries, breweries and bars all the way from downtown to Sheridan in central Indiana. If you walk or bike the whole thing, you’ll pass through “alt” neighborhood, Broad Ripple, with cafes, pubs and galleries. But it’s the city’s affordability that might have you staying awhile.

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cool affordable cities huntsville
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8. Huntsville, Al

Cost of Living Index: 90.3

If Huntsville sounds familiar, that might be because the city was home to the NASA team that designed the Saturn V—ya know, the rocket that sent astronauts to the moon. NBD. So it’s no surprise that today, with the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, the city has become a home to other defense and aerospace firms, and locals wear that nerd-badge proudly. Learn about space exploration at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, or keep things down to earth at the Huntsville Botanic Garden. But it’s not all right brain here. The Alabama town has seen lots of growth in the cultural side of things, from a craft beer trail to the Lowe Mill District, a massive arts and entertainment facility. And though Huntsville may be one of the more expensive cities in Alabama, it’s still nearly a solid ten points below the national average.

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cool affordable cities green bay

7. Green Bay, Wi

Cost of Living Index: 89

It might be time to rethink your opposition to wearing that foam cheese hat; Green Bay, Wisconsin’s affordability and flourishing small-town-meets-metropolitan scene will make you a Packers fan through and through. Even if you never set foot in Lambeau Field, right across the street is Titletown, a shopping center-meets-massive playground with ice skating and tubing in the winter months that will have you appreciating the pigskin. But it’s not all football. Home to two college campuses, it’s no wonder the Midwest city also happens to have a very cool craft beer scene. And though northern Wisco winters might already have you shivering, the summers are worth waiting for when the Fox River buzzes with activity (both in and out of the water) and the great outdoors thaw out for ample hiking and biking trails.

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cool affordable cities des moines
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6. Des Moines, Ia

Cost of Living Index: 88.2

Iowa is so much more than all those rows of corn in Field of Dreams, although, OK, there are lots of cornfields. But Des Moines is a not-so-hidden gem amid the stalks. Not only is the cost of living well below the national average, but housing prices are affordable, and the city is undoubtedly, dare we way, cool? (When Politico writes about your coolness factor, you know you’re officially an “it” city.) While its city center has the historic flair—early 20th-century colonial and Tudor-style homes—the energy in Des Moines is anything but stale. The tech and startup boom of the last ten years has drawn a bustling energy to the city, enough to dub 6th avenue “Silicon Sixth.” Move over, Silicon Valley.

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cool affordable cities savannah
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5. Savannah, Ga

Cost of Living Index: 87.7

Apparently Southern hospitality can come your way at way below the national average. You’ll get more than you imagined in the Port City—the draping moss of the oak-lined streets, charming public squares and plenty of ghost stories to keep you entertained. Beyond the historic charm of this Georgian city is its cultural renaissance. Open-container laws mean evening strolls in the artist-friendly Starland District with an artisanal cocktail in hand, and the influence of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) means a streaming influx of creative minds, bringing a welcoming (and affordable) balance of old-world and next-gen culture to the mix.

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cool affordable cities oklahoma city
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4. Oklahoma City, Ok

Cost of Living Index: 86.6

Get your kicks on Route 66—or at least spend a couple a nights in the capital of the state (and unofficial cowboy capital of the country). It has a lot more going for it than you might think: a lively downtown replete with a river walkway, handsome architecture and, according to chef and OKC native Danny Bowien, some of the best “deep-fried Americana, messy Tex-Mex and Vietnamese” food in the country. The Paseo Art District is an especially noteworthy little boho part of the city, with more than 80 artists, galleries, restaurants, boutiques and other shops to bop about in. But we keep going back to the fact that everything from housing prices to movie tickets are way under the national average. Yeehaw, partner.

Airbnbs to try before you move:

cool affordable cities fayetteville
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3. Fayetteville, Ar

Cost of Living Index: 85.5

Climbing to #8 in U.S. News and World Report’s best places to live list, this sleeper city is now center stage, and for good reason. Though its cost-of-living composite index is a whopping 14.5 points below average, Fayetteville has so much to offer…especially if you love football. It’s got the Ozark Mountains, state parks, a booming arts and live music scene, and did we mention football? Oh right, a little school you might have heard of called the University of Arkansas calls Fayetteville home. So, even if you’re not painting your face cardinal and white and cheering for the Razorbacks, a big academic institution means culture, art and finally auditing that Tibetan 101 course you’ve always wanted to.

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cool affordable cities knoxville
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2. Knoxville, Tn

Cost of Living Index: 83.1

Right smack between the ever-popular destinations of Asheville and Nashville is this city that sits on the Tennessee River. Once dubbed the “scruffy city,” the moniker isn’t quite as sticky as it once was, considering all the food and culture that’s popped up in the area. Cute eateries dot the walkable Market Square, and art lovers can wander Strong Alley for street art or move things inside to the free Knoxville Museum of Art. And yes, the city has a hip speakeasy bar, which by default means it’s officially “cool.” But c’mon, it’s Knoxville’s one-of-a-kind landscape on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, that means access to views, hikes and that requisite breath of fresh air when you need it most.

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cool affordable cities kalamazoo
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1. Kalamazoo, Mi

Cost of living index: 76.8

Equidistant from both Chicago and Detroit (about 150 miles to either big metropolis), is the southern Michigan city of Kalamazoo. With the lowest cost of living composite index on this list, from groceries to housing (and a relatively low state income sales tax), you’ll find your dollar can probably go further here than other Mitten-state enclaves, like Ann Arbor or Grand Rapids. But what gives Kalamazoo the “cool” factor? The ‘Zoo is unique. It’s a mid-sized city that packs both a small-town and big-city punch—so you get your chili cook offs, farmers markets and your visual and performing arts too. Yes, you can have it all.

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Executive Editor, Frazzled Mom, Bravo-Holic

Dara Katz is PureWow's Executive Editor, focusing on relationships, sex, horoscopes, travel and pets. Dara joined PureWow in 2016 and now dresses so much better. A lifestyle...