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The Best 25 Cheapest Places to Retire (or Live) in U.S.

Cheapest Places to Retire (or Live) in America
Written by Irina Vasilescu

We all look forward to retirement, but as the time nears, many of us worry whether we will make ends meet. We may find ourselves thinking about ways to make and save money during retirement, and one of these could be looking for a city with a lower than average cost of living.

If this thought has been depressing you, you can cheer up. Using various statistical data from numbeo.com, we found the cheapest cities to live in the US. The good news is that you’re not going to find yourself in a bleak environment. On the contrary, the cheapest cities to retire (or live) in the US include some really cool places where you will be able to enjoy having a bit of extra free time on your hands.

The figures we’re quoting here are the rental for a one bedroom apartment outside the city center and the average per person expenditure before rent.

1. Springfield, MO

Cheap Place to Retire: Springfield, MO

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $5571.48
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3179.16

In Springfield, you’re surrounded by the beauty of the Ozarks, and there are plenty of gorgeous parks and trails for the active lifestyle. You get the benefits of metropolitan living, plus easy getaways into nature. Depending on your age and income, your social security benefits may be partially taxed, but with such a low cost of living, it’s well worth considering this city as a place to call home during retirement.

2. Athens, GA

Cheap Place to Retire: Athens, GA

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $7190.04
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $2755.06

Apart from offering low cost living, Athens offers a $65,000 tax break for retirees who are getting a little extra income. You’ll also find that there’s no tax on social security money, and that property taxes are lower than usual. And if you do want to spend time in a larger city, Atlanta is only about an hour’s drive away.

3. Reno, NV

Cheap Place to Retire: Reno, NV

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $9645.84
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $2528.64

There’s plenty going on in and around Reno, and if you want to escape the city, Lake Tahoe is just down the drag. You may face temptation if you’re into gambling, because Reno’s casinos are famous! However, if you can avoid pouring all your spare cash into gambling, you’ll be able to live comfortably, and social security is not taxed at all.

4. San Antonio, TX

Cheap Place to Retire: San Antonio, TX

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $8901.36
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $2528.62

San Antonio is just gorgeous, and so is the weather. Add to that tax-free Social Security payments and pensions and reduced tax on regular income. You’ll be raring to make the move, and you’re sure to get settled in fast! Now, you can relax and enjoy your retirement – there’s plenty to see and do in Reno.

5. Tucson, AZ

Cheap Place to Retire: Tucson, AZ

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $6795.96
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $2758.20

If you like sunshine and the outdoors but still want to live in the city, Tucson offers you a great lifestyle. It’s one of the sunniest in the US and just outside the city, you can find some pretty impressive wilderness areas. You will pay tax on extra retirement income, but you won’t have to worry about tax on Social Security.

6. Boise, ID

Cheap Place to Retire: Boise, ID

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $8106.72
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3026.52

Hiking, biking, pro sports, and theatre are just some of the activities that will keep you busy when you decide to get out and about in Boise. It’s one of the safest cities in the US, and the public transport system is extensive. You’ll be able to hang onto all your Social Security money too – there’s no tax on this type of income in Idaho.

7. Oklahoma City, OK

Cheap Place to Retire: Oklahoma City, OK

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $7513.44
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3395.16

It’s modern, it’s sleek, and its thrifty: Oklahoma City is a great place to live, and the cost of living is low too. Again, there’s no tax on Social Security, and there’s an additional tax break on extra retirement income. If you’re thinking of buying a property rather than renting, the sales tax is steep – but after that, the property tax is low.

8. Mobile, AL

Cheap Place to Retire: Mobile, AL

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $7626.00
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3303.24

If you choose Mobile as your home, you’d better like rainy weather. Then again, a lot of folks do like the rain, and the freshness of the air afterward. Plus, all that rain makes the landscape green and lush. If you don’t mind the rainfall, you’ll be as happy as a lark. And if you’re thinking of doing a bit of post-retirement partying, its Mardi Gras is fantastic. As for your social security money, there is no tax to pay.

9. Albuquerque, NM

Cheap Place to Retire: Albuquerque, NM

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $7877.04
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3120.60

You’ll find yourself in one of the sunny states, and we found that Albuquerque is one of the cheapest places to live. It will get hot during summer, but winters aren’t particularly cold, and the city is known for its spas and golf courses.  Hot air ballooners love Albuquerque too. Ready for adventure? It could be just the thing. Unfortunately, there is tax on social security, but that’s offset by the low cost of groceries.

10. Shreveport, LA

Cheap Place to Retire: Shreveport, LA

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $8250.00
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3712.68

If you’re hoping for a calendar packed full of events to attend, the Shreveport is bound to please. With festivals, sporting events, the Barksdale Air Force Base Air Show, and the popular Mardi Gras to name but a few, you may find yourself dashing from one thing to the next. When you need a little quiet, there are always the art galleries and museums, and getaways into wilderness areas are always an option. Wondering about tax? Your Social Security income will be tax exempt.

11. Huntsville, AL

Cheap Place to Retire: Huntsville, AL

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $7603.68
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $2991.72

With its gorgeous historic districts, museums to suit just about every area of interest, and more parks and state parks than you may have imagined, plus festivals galore, there’s something for everyone in Huntsville. Your social security is safe from taxation, and those low grocery prices can’t be ignored.

12. Salt Lake City, UT

Cheap Place to Retire: Salt Lake City, UT

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $9740.04
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3065.16

Few cities in the world could have such magnificent mountain vistas as Salt Lake City. It’s a great skiing destination, and the mountains look at their best when covered with snow. It doesn’t seem to offer any incentives specifically for seniors, but it does have a low cost of living and those mountain views. Make sure you choose a home where you can admire them from the comfort of your lounge or patio.

13. Phoenix, AZ

Cheap Place to Retire: Phoenix, AZ

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $9309.24
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $2970.84

Settle in the Valley of the Sun and enjoy fine weather and a city full of cultural activities. Spend weekends admiring the Painted Desert or explore the other sights of Alabama from a central location. All of this, and no tax on your Social Security payments too. That should cover a few day trips!

14. Kansas City, MO

Cheap Place to Retire: Kansas City, MO

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $8285.04
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3283.92

One of the hassles with moving to a cheaper city is distance from kids and other family members, but Kansas City meets them all halfway with a central location. You can save on transport thanks to a good municipal bus system and the ride-sharing bikes you can find at convenient locations. However, you may have to pay higher taxes here, especially if you have additional sources of income, so do your math first.

15. Madison, WI

Cheap Place to Retire: Madison, WI

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $9480.00
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3126.96

Enjoy an attractive cityscape and Madison’s proximity to the lakes. The city has made plenty of provision for this with more parks and trails than you might ever have imagined. Business Insider awarded it tops for quality of life – sounds good to us! And before we forget to mention it: Wisconsin is one of the states where Social Security retirement benefits aren’t taxed.

16. Rochester, NY

Cheap Place to Retire: Rochester, NY

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $9480.00
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3126.96

When you choose Rochester, public pensions and your Social Security money are tax-free. If you have additional income, you only pay tax after the first $20,000. Add to that nearby Lake Ontario, and you’re looking at an attractive prospect.

17. Ann Arbor, MI

Cheap Place to Retire: Ann Arbor, MI

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $10876.30
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3220.44

Better known as a college town with a young population, Ann Arbor is also a great place to retire. And if you’re a sports fan, there’ll be lots of local action to keep you entertained. Social Security isn’t taxed, and there are loads of free activities to enjoy.

18. Gainesville, FL

Cheap Place to Retire: Gainesville, FL

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $10876.30
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3471.84

The city of Gainsville markets itself as a place where culture and nature meet. The University of Florida ensures that there’s lots of action for the young at heart, and Lake Alice offers a tranquil setting for day trips. Just watch out for the alligators! Your Social Security is all yours with no tax. We’re definitely moving away from the very cheapest places to live, but quality of life also counts!

19. Dallas, TX

Cheap Place to Retire: Dallas, TX

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $10672.30
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3063.00

Rentals are quite high in Dallas, but that’s offset by the low cost of groceries and loads of free things to do. Enjoy quiet suburban living with easy access to all the amenities of the big city. Remember, everything is bigger and better in Texas! Everything, that is, but your tax bill. Your Social Security isn’t taxed here.

20. Fort Myers, FL

Cheap Place to Retire: Fort Myers, FL

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $9533.28
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3599.88

Historically, many notable people have made fort Myers their home. The gorgeous climate led Thomas Edison to make it his winter home, but you can enjoy it all year. Enjoy plenty of historical attractions and watch the NBA stars of the future at the City of Palms Classic. Apart from the year-round warmth, you’ll also enjoy tax-free Social Security.

21. Fort Wayne, IN

Cheap Place to Retire: Fort Wayne, IN

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $6660.00
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3770.64

This historic city is a joy to live in. Apart from its habit of repeatedly winning national awards for its civic services and amenities, the city offers multicultural festivals including the Johnny Appleseed Festival and the Three Rivers Festival. Sports fans will find that there’s an action-packed sporting calendar. You can count on your Social Security income not being taxed.

22. Tulsa, OK

Cheap Place to Retire: Tulsa, OK

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $7391.16
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3578.28

If days spent fishing are your or your partner’s idea of the ultimate retirement, then Tulsa should be on your list of possible places to retire to. Golfers will also have no shortage of option, but even if you just love pretty views and time spent outdoors, this city will suit you well. And, yes, your Social Security is free from tax.

23. Cincinnati, OH

Cheap Place to Retire: Cincinnati, OH

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $8331.72
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3237.60

There’s a strong German heritage in this city, and the skyline is a familiar sight in movies and TV programs. As a bustling metropolis, there’s no shortage of services although public transport outside the city center isn’t that comprehensive. One warning: the hilly terrain might not suit you unless your mobility is good. That having been said, your Social Security is tax free.

24. Knoxville, TN

Cheap Place to Retire: Knoxville, TN

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $7074.60
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3016.56

Enjoy all the benefits of living in a modern city which still maintains its historical monuments. When you want to get back to nature, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is nearby. Use it as an added incentive to get your kids to come and visit you. Once again, retirees aren’t taxed on Social Security income.

25. Salem, OR

Cheap Place to Retire: Salem, OR

  • Average yearly apartment rental: $8853.36
  • Average yearly grocery spending: $3318.12

Another award winner when it comes to quality living, Salem is also a relatively low cost of living city. The amenities are world-class, and health care is tops. Your Social Security money isn’t taxed, property tax is lower than most cities, and there’s no sales tax.

Making the Final Choice

Naturally, you will want to be within easy reach of your loved ones, and moving is a big step. Think things through, discuss it with your kids, and weigh up all the pros and cons.

We’ve noticed that the list of cheapest cities also varies from year to year. The very cheapest ones seem to more-or-less maintain their rankings, but the slightly costlier cities may fall right off the top 25 list in a year. We’ll keep you updated.

If you’re ready to be footloose and fancy-free, you can enjoy a brief sojourn in one of these cities, or you can even check out some of the world’s cheapest countries. Expats can live very well indeed in some of the world’s loveliest cities. Why not take a year or two and head off on an adventure? Retiring needn’t limit your horizons.

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The Best 25 Cheapest Places to Retire (or Live) in U.S

About the author

Irina Vasilescu

Irina Vasilescu is our crafty designer. She joined the team three years ago and is also involved in the writing process.

1 Comment

  • I’m saving this post, not that I can retire now, but we always talk about retiring where our kids can visit us and vacation for free. Thanks for the facts! I know someone who got a terrific deal on a home in Fort Myers and she loves it there. That would probably be my first pick.

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