Have you ever dreamed about moving to a country where it’s so cheap you could quit your job and live comfortably? Or are you ready to retire and thinking about foreign places where your Social Security benefits will stretch far?
Good news: According to a new GOBankingRates report on the best places to live in the U.S., it’s possible to live that dream right here at home. The company recently released a study identifying the best cities to live in the USA where you can get by on less than $1,500 a month.
Why $1,500? According to the Social Security Administration, that’s the average Social Security benefit a retired American gets per month—or $1,538.14, to be exact. But if you want to quit your day job and live off your savings and a side hustle here and there, $1,500 is also a pretty attractive (and attainable) figure.
To come up with the list of the six best places to live in the U.S., the data analysts at GOBankingRates tapped into several sources. First, they used ApartmentList’s April 2022 data to identify every city in the country that has an average monthly rent of $750 dollars or less for a one-bedroom apartment in 2022.
Next up, they identified the cost of living index for each of those cities (based on healthcare and grocery costs) using Sperling’s Best Places and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey.
To make sure that the locations are places someone would actually want to live, GOBankingRates used AreaVibes to rule out any spots falling below a livability score of 60.
Lastly, because the study was aimed at retirees, GOBankingRates reviewed the Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey to make sure each location had at least 10% of its population over the age of 65.
In the end, GOBankingRates identified six places across the country where you can live very well on less than $1,500 a month, whether you want to retire or just quit your job and live an easier life.
Here’s the list, starting with the cheapest monthly cost of living.
Total monthly cost of living: $1,385.63
Livability score: 67
Why: “Odessa, in western Texas, is known for its oil rigs, Friday night high school football and a working re-creation of William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre,” says GOBankingRates. The site MyMove.com reports that “people love living in Odessa for its parks and cowboy spirit.” It’s also got the lowest average monthly rent on the list of best places to live at just $487.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Total monthly cost of living: $1,397.29
Livability score: 80
Why: “Retirees who settle in Fort Wayne would find it affordable, as well as a great place to make friends,” says GOBankingRates, while U.S. News says it’s got a low cost of living, quiet neighborhoods and is “an excellent place to buy a house, start a career, launch a business and raise a family.” The average monthly rent is low at $634 a month, and healthcare costs are also low at just $453.83 a month.
St. Cloud, Minnesota
Total monthly cost of living: $1,404.64
Livability score: 68
Why: About an hour’s drive northwest of Minneapolis, St. Cloud is known for its sports teams, many nightspots and 95 parks, according to the site, Livability. The site Niche.com says it has “a small town feel with big-town opportunities.” You’ll find the lowest healthcare costs on the list, average $444.71 a month. One downside: Grocery costs are the highest on the list at an average of $328.43 a month.
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Total monthly cost of living: $1,446.59
Livability score: 69
Why: Set between Houston and New Orleans, Lake Charles offers tons to do—“from enjoying museums to water activities to wildlife experiences,” reports GOBankingRates. According to MoveTo.com, Lake Charles has big-city amenities but is still “a small town at heart, with plenty of locally owned businesses and mom-and-pop shops.” Healthcare costs are on the high side at more than $500 a month, but the average monthly rent makes up for it, coming in at less than $600 a month.
Total monthly cost of living: $1,483.75
Livability score: 66
Average monthly rent: $519
Why: According to MyMove.com, “people love living in Lawton for its reasonable cost of living and natural beauty.” Rent is affordable here, averaging $519 a month, and the city has the lowest grocery costs in the study at an average of $304.73 per month. But healthcare is not cheap, averaging $660.52 a month.
Total monthly cost of living: $1,485.48
Livability score: 65
Average monthly rent: $701
Why: The capital city of Michigan, Lansing is known for its “college town vibe and all four seasons of a Midwest climate,” according to GreatGuysMovers.com, as well as its friendliness and cultural diversity. The average monthly rent in state capital the highest of the cities on the list at $701. But groceries help balance that out at $308.45, the second-lowest on the list.