The 8 Cheapest Cities to Live in the U.S.

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In tough times, it may be worth shopping around for the lowest prices. Real personal income gains have remained low during the recovery period, millions of Americans are still out of work, and the cost of living is edging ever upward.

Inflation, as measured by the consumer price or personal consumption expenditures index, is typically the primary gauge that people use to determine if prices are increasing. However, a national average masks region price differences within the U.S. that can be staggering. We already showed the most expensive places to live in the U.S. based on research conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and now, here are the least expensive:

1) Dalton, Georgia

Dalton, Georgia

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rustytanton/

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To put it lightly, Dalton received the short end of the stick during the financial crisis. Headline unemployment in the metropolitan area peaked at 13.6 percent in January of 2011, and has only fallen to 10.2 percent as of April 2013. This compares against the national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent. In addition to high unemployment, as of 2011, real per capita personal income in the region was just 65 percent of the national average.

It’s minor consolation, but data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that average prices paid by consumers for the mix of goods and services consumed in the area are about 15.3 percent below the national average. Sperling’s places the overall cost of living in Dalton at 92.8 percent of the national average. Median home cost is just 46 percent the national average, although homes are depreciating in the region. Property tax is well below the national average.

2) Michigan City-La Porte, Indiana

Michigan City-La Porte, Indiana

Home of the lighthouse, Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cncphotos/

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Michigan City, which anchors LaPorte county in Indiana, is also plagued with high unemployment. As of April 2013, the headline jobless rate was 10.2 percent — a significant improvement from 12.0 percent in January, but still among the top in the country.

The BLS data show that average prices paid by consumers for the mix of goods and services consumed in the area are about 15.7 percent below the national average. Sperling’s puts the overall cost of living in Michigan City at 86.7 percent the national average. Median home cost in the city is about 57.8 percent the national average, and the property tax rate is below the national average.

3) Sandusky, Ohio

Sandusky, Ohio2

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/33954075@N07/

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The headline unemployment rate in Sandusky, Ohio, for April 2013 was 7.0 percent, below the national average of 7.6 percent. The BLS data show that average prices paid by consumers for the mix of goods and services consumed in the area are about 16.4 percent cheaper than the national average. Sperling’s data show that the overall cost of living in Sandusky is about 87 percent the national average. The median cost of a home is about 65 percent the national average, but property taxes are slightly higher than average.

Fun fact about Sandusky: In 2011, Forbes ranked the area its number one place to live cheaply.

4) Jonesboro, Arkansas

Jonesboro, Arkansas

Home of the Red Wolves, Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nwlynchphotos/

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The headline unemployment rate in Jonesboro is just 6.5 percent, which is strong compared to the national average. The BLS data show that average prices paid by consumers for the mix of goods and services consumed in the area are about 16.4 percent below the national average.

Sperling’s data show that the overall cost of living in the area is 87 percent of the national average. Median home cost is about 64 percent the national average, while property taxes are well below average.

5) Cape Girardeau-Jackson, Missouri-Illinois

Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ohiostate/

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Unemployment in the Cape Girardeau-Jackson, Missouri-Illinois, metropolitan area is just 5.9 percent. The BLS data show that average prices paid by consumers for the mix of goods and services consumed in the area are about 17.1 percent below the national average. Sperling’s data show that the overall cost of living in the area is 92 percent of the national average. Median home cost is 76.6 the average, and property tax is well below average.

6) Danville, Illinois

Danville, Illinois

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/grifray/

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Unemployment in Danville is 8.9 percent. BLS data show that average prices paid by consumers for the mix of goods and services consumed in the area are about 17.5 percent below the national average.

Sperling’s data show that the overall cost of living in Danville is 85 percent the national average. Median home cost is just 41 percent the national average, although home values are generally depreciating. Property tax is above average.

7) Morristown, Tennessee

Morristown, Tennessee

Circa 1965, Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/autohistorian/

Unemployment in the Morristown metropolitan area was 9.7 percent as of April 2013. The BLS data show that average prices paid by consumers for the mix of goods and services consumed in the area are about 17.7 percent below the national average.

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Sperling’s data show that the overall cost of living in Morristown is 89 percent the national average. Median home cost is 67 percent of the national average, and property tax is well below average.

8) Jefferson City, Missouri

Jefferson City, Missouri

State Capitol, Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ensignbeedrill/

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Unemployment in Jefferson City, Missouri, is an admirable 5.2 percent. The BLS data show that average prices paid by consumers for the mix of goods and services consumed in the area are about 19 percent below the national average.

Sperling’s data show that the average cost of living in Jefferson is 96 percent the national average. Median home cost is 83 percent the national average, while property taxes are below average.

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