When searching for a low-cost place to live, location is everything. As the nation's economic engine revs up and job opportunities open up throughout the country, many people are looking at their options. This may be a perfect time to relocate considering home prices and interest rates are back on the rise.
To help you determine which states are currently the most affordable — based on cost of living, housing affordability, the price of housing, energy, food prices and other prices of goods and services — one can turn to CNBC's exclusive annual America’s Top States for Business study.
One of its key categories of competitiveness is Cost of Living. Low costs attract domestic migrants and can give companies an edge when it comes to attracting workers. We rate all 50 states based on an index of prices for basic items.
Here are the 10 cheapest states, along with average prices for some items in the most expensive metro areas.
(Price data is based on the 2017 Annual Average Cost of Living Index by the Council for Community and Economic Research, C2ER.)
Indiana officially adopted the motto “The Crossroads of America” way back in 1937, originally referring to the intersection of U.S. highways 40 and 41 in Terre Haute. Also, they were probably already tired of trying to explain what “Hoosier,” the nickname for inhabitants of Indiana, means. Today, Indianapolis is the crossroads of no fewer than four Interstate highways (65, 69, 70, and 74). And the gasoline you’ll buy to drive those roads is a bargain — about 40 percent less than you would pay in Los Angeles. In recent years the state has landed thousands of new tech jobs luring job seekers nationwide.
2018 Cost of Living score: 41 out of 50 points (Top States Grade: A-)
Most expensive area: Bloomington
Average home price: $279,097
Half gallon of milk: $1.83
Ribeye steak: $12.64
Monthly energy bill: $150.52
Doctor visit: $75.18
Peaches were not always as abundant in Georgia as they are today. Farmers began substituting them for cotton after the boll weevil attacked their crops during reconstruction. And did you know that the peach is a member of the rose family? It’s true. If you choose to give your sweetheart a pound of peaches instead of a dozen roses, you must have an interesting relationship. But you will be glad to know that the pound of peaches will cost you just $1.40 in Savannah. In New York City, you’d pay $2.66. And that is not fuzzy math.
2018 Cost of Living score: 42 out of 50 points (Top States Grade: A-)
Most expensive area:·Atlanta
Average home price:·$290,041
Half gallon of milk: $1.98
Ribeye steak: $12.05
Monthly energy bill: $126.90
Doctor visit: $105.10
Now, Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers. Or at least it did have them. The band — officially named the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section but affectionately known as the Swampers — had already left the town in the northwest corner of the state by the time Lynyrd Skynyrd sang about them in the 1973 Southern Rock anthem “Sweet Home Alabama.” Today, Muscle Shoals has got some truly affordable staples. Think $2.75 for a loaf of bread, or 58 cents for a pound of bananas. Or think about $8.42 for a six pack of beer.
2018 Cost of Living score:·43 out of 50 points (Top States Grade: A-)
Most expensive area: Huntsville
Average home price: $243,562
Half gallon of milk: $1.71
Ribeye steak: $10.82
Monthly energy bill:·$155.88
Doctor visit: $93.11
Kansas is more famous for its beef than its namesake rock group. And that beef is a bargain in Topeka, where you can pick up a nice 16-ounce ribeye steak for just $10.49 a pound. In Manhattan (New York, not Kansas), that steak would cost you nearly $3 more per pound. Add a bottle of wine to your shopping cart in Salina, and it will cost you just $9.33. The same wine in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania, not Pittsburgh, Kansas) would cost you another two bucks, or about 20 percent more.
2018 Cost of Living score: 44 out of 50 points (Top States Grade: A)
Most expensive area: Topeka
Average home price: $273,940
Half gallon of milk: $1.95
Ribeye steak: $10.49
Monthly energy bill: $161.88
Doctor visit: $97.33
Legend has it that Missouri’s nickname, The Show Me State, was coined in 1899 by Congressman Duncan Vandiver. Speaking at a naval banquet, he reportedly said, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats.” Today, a pound of frozen Missouri corn will cost you around $1.25 in Columbia. A man’s cotton shirt in Joplin goes for just $16.09.
2018 Cost of Living score: 45 out of 50 points (Top States Grade: A)
Most expensive area: Columbia
Average home price: $292,049
Half gallon of milk: $2.14
Ribeye steak: $12.08
Monthly energy bill: $162.17
Doctor visit: $127.06
Comedienne Minnie Pearl was a fixture at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry in Tennessee for more than 50 years, always wearing her trademark frilly hat with a $1.98 price tag hanging from it. While we have no data on what that hat would cost today in Tennessee, we do know that if Minnie wanted to coif the hair under that hat in her hometown of Centerville, a visit to the beauty salon would cost her just $25.90. That compares to $61.20 in Los Angeles.
2018 Cost of Living score: 46 out of 50 (Top States Grade: A)
Most expensive area: Chattanooga
Average home price: $348,413
Half gallon of milk: $2.09
Ribeye steak: $12.04
Monthly energy bill: $132.07
Doctor visit: $128.20
The Wolverine State brought us the mass produced automobile, the Motown sound, and the 38th President of the United States (we know, Gerald Ford was born in Nebraska, but he grew up in Michigan). But for our purposes, let us consider the humble corn flake. Invented by the Kellogg brothers to serve at their Battle Creek sanitarium, corn flakes were supposed to — among other things — suppress harmful sexual urges. At some point, they dropped that selling point, and in 2017, Kellogg Company reported nearly $13 billion in sales. Today, you can get a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in Battle Creek for $2.99. A half-gallon of milk is just $1.51. Some bananas for your cereal? They’re just 52 cents per pound.
2018 Cost of Living score: 47 out of 50 points (Top States Score: A+)
Most expensive area: Detroit-Dearborn-Livonia Metro
Average home price: $295,582
Half gallon of milk: $1.73
Ribeye steak: $12.84
Monthly energy bill: $150.83
Doctor visit: $97.81
The Sooner State’s nickname comes from the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889, when the territory was opened to settlers with the firing of a starting gun. But some settlers jumped the gun, earning the Sooner moniker, and also helping popularize the expression “jumped the gun.” Today, Oklahoma property changes hands more conventionally, but the price is worth the wait. The average home price in Tulsa last year was about $219,000. That’s more than 50 percent below the national average.
2018 Cost of Living score: 48 out of 50 points (Top States Score: A+)
Most expensive area:·Tulsa
Average home price: $219,227
Half gallon of milk: $2.17
Ribeye steak: $10.80
Monthly energy bill: $147.64
Doctor visit: $109.67
“Woooooo, pig! Sooie!” The traditional phrase for calling a hog is also the official cheer for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. But while we are on the subject, did you know that pork sausage is remarkably inexpensive in Arkansas? It’s just $3.76 a pound in Little Rock, compared to $5.22 in Bethesda, Maryland.
2018 Cost of Living score: 49 out of 50 (Top States Score: A+)
Most expensive area: Little Rock
Average home price: $320,278
Half gallon of milk: $2.15
Ribeye steak: $11.69
Monthly energy bill: $140.50
Doctor visit: $121.67
The Magnolia State’s contributions to American business are many. A store owner in Vicksburg came up with the idea of selling the fountain treat Coca-Cola in bottles. Mississippi also brought us Pine-Sol, Borden’s Condensed Milk, and the padded toilet seat. Today, beset by budget woes, anemic economic growth, and a failing education system, Mississippi is not particularly competitive. That is, except when it comes to the cost of living. You can rent a two-bedroom apartment in Gulfport for just $778 per month. A comparable unit in San Francisco would set you back more than $4,000. So far, that cost advantage has done little to attract business — there are just too many other problems here. But maybe it’s a start.
2018 Cost of Living score: 50 out of 50 (Top States Score: A+)
Most expensive area: Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula Metro
Average home price: $214,317
Half gallon of milk: $2.32
Ribeye steak: $11.26
Monthly energy bill: $114.10
Doctor visit: $87.58