GREAT AMERICAN BARGAINS
Finding an affordable town where you'd actually want to live is hard enough when you've got a partner. With only one income, no one to split the bills with, and none of the tax benefits that married couples enjoy, singles have it harder. The good news is, there are plenty of cool, cheap, up-and-coming towns and small cities waiting for you from the Southeast to the West Coast to the Rust Belt. None is perfect, but if you're romantically unattached and ready to take a chance, you can carve out a nice life for yourself in any of these places on the cheap.
In Salina, the $44,398 median annual household income is low compared with the national median of $59,039. But the cost of living is 15.3 percent lower than the national average, and a one-bedroom rental costs an average of just $548 per month compared with the national average of $825.
Come for the cheap housing, but stay for the town's strong focus on the arts, culture, and entertainment, including free live music during the weekly Friday Night Live event downtown, as well as a healthy menu of outdoor undertakings, including hiking and biking. You'll find plenty of inexpensive dining and drinking options, with a growing craft beer scene, and don't miss the Cozy Inn, an iconic lunch counter that's been serving burgers since 1922.
Thanks to the town's status as home to Arkansas State University, singles will find plenty to do in Jonesboro — and plenty of money with which to do it. With a cost of living that's 13.2 percent below the national average, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is just $527 a month, which is low even by Arkansas standards; the state is much cheaper than the country as a whole.
Health care is cheap, unemployment is low, and the culture, entertainment, and bustle of Memphis is about an hour away by car. Jonesboro also offers arts, culture, and nightlife of its own, and ongoing projects are helping to revitalize the downtown area.
Jonesboro isn't the only place in Arkansas that's potentially attractive to singles on a budget. There are reasons the population of Fayetteville is growing at such a clip, not the least of which is the fact that the average cost to rent a one-bedroom is only $547 a month. The overall cost of living is 8.6 percent lower than in the country as a whole.
There's a smaller percentage of singles there compared with the national average, but not by much, and the town feels energetic, thanks to the University of Arkansas and a median age that skews young. Surrounded by the Ozark Mountains, Fayetteville is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking for like-minded adventurers. There's also a first-rate performing arts center, as well as a thriving food scene and plenty of live music venues and festivals throughout the year.
Huntsvilleis among the cheapest of America's 125 most populous cities. The median annual salary comes in at nearly $53,000 a year, and singles in Huntsville get to hang on to a much heftier chunk of that paycheck than the general population, with average rent under $650 a month and an overall cost of living 8.6 percent lower than the national average.
One of the fastest-growing metro areas in the state, the city boasts a happening arts center, several breweries, and an educated population. Thanks to an ongoing renaissance, the downtown area offers an increasing number of dining, shopping, and apartment options. Improvements in recent years have also made it more bike-friendly and walkable.
KEANSBURG, NEW JERSEY
Keansburg is a small, historic town on the Raritan Bay coast of the Jersey Shore. With an average rent of $1,220 a month for a one-bedroom, it offers singles the chance to scoop up their slice of a shore town in one of the most coveted areas of the world — the New York City metro region — at a fraction of what surrounding communities cost.
The town is centrally located to area hotspots and home to a locally famous amusement park. The beach has skyline views and hosts free concerts and movies throughout the summer. Keansburg is a little pricier than the country as a whole, but it's a steal by New York City standards.
Shreveport is a blend of three unique and independent but interconnected cultures. Known as Ark-La-Tex, the town marks the intersection of Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Young singles will enjoy the $813 average monthly rent and an overall cost of living that's 17 percent below the national average — and 7 percentage points lower than the state average, which is already cheap compared with the country as a whole. One drawback for transplants is that you can't please all the town's rabid NFL fans at the same time: If you choose to root for the Saints, Shreveport's many Cowboys fans will hate you, and vice versa.
Known as a friendly and welcoming community, Shreveport offers a wealth of options for live music and the arts and plenty of attractive green spaces with biking and walking trails, as well as a rich culinary scene and a burgeoning microbrewery movement.
Youngstown is one of the many Rust Belt cities devastated by the collapse of the steel industry and related manufacturing in the 1970s. However, the town is on the mend, according to U.S. News & World Report, with a new generation of businesses, bars, and restaurants springing up in the city's once-desolate downtown. Wages are still low and poverty is still high, but adventurous singles can get in on the ground floor and catch Youngstown on the way up, while enjoying a cost of living that's about one-third cheaper than the national average. A one-bedroom apartment there rents for just $536 a month.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find 4,400 acres of lakes, bike and hiking trails, golf courses, and plenty of historic sites to explore throughout the metro area. There are also plenty of options for arts and culture, thanks to the Butler Institute of American Art and the DeYor Performing Arts Center, among others. Recent years have also seen an influx of craft breweries, distilleries, and wineries, as well as a growing restaurant scene.
CEDAR CITY, UTAH
The $40,582 median household income in Cedar City is low compared with the national average, and lower still compared with the wealthy state of Utah — but the tradeoff is cheap housing and a low cost of living. Average monthly rent for a one-bedroom in this city is just $640 — and about $100 less in the larger metro region.
The quality of life here is high for singles. Utah is an outdoor paradise known for its rugged beauty, and Cedar City is no different. But the town also has a booming arts and theater community, a year-round farmers market, and nightlife and festivals spread across a unique calendar of events.
WICHITA FALLS, TEXAS
Texas is home to some of the cheapest towns in America, but they're not all great places to meet people and start a life. An exception is Wichita Falls, where unemployment is low, the average one-bedroom apartment rents for just $623, and the overall cost of living is more than 23 percent cheaper than the national average. Singles will quickly cotton to the town's theater and arts scene, many restaurants, biking trails, craft breweries, gourmet coffee shops, and scenic beauty.
Home to more than 640,000 residents, Wichita is indisputably a city, but singles flock to Wichita for its small-town charm — and small-town prices. Living expenses are low, particularly in terms of housing. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom is still less than $600, and the overall cost of living is more than 15 percent lower than the national average. Singles are bound to fall in love with the city, which is brimming with nightlife, restaurants, culture, arts, and unique local businesses.
From hiking and fishing on the Maumee River and Lake Erie to visiting the Toledo Museum of Art and the city zoo, there are plenty of fun ways for budget-minded singles to spend their days in Toledo. The average monthly rent is just $527 — about $300 less than the national average — and the overall cost of living is low. Along with outdoor activities, there are plenty of restaurants, concerts, and other nightlife options in the area.
To call Memphis a "town" is a bit of an understatement, but with fewer than 653,000 residents, much of the city famous for jazz, blues, and country music has a small-town feel. Singles will delight in the limitless menu of entertainment, arts, culture, food, and sports — not to mention the $718 average monthly rent, which is more than $100 below the national average.
Young singles will find themselves especially at home in Augusta: More than one in four residents is under 20. Known for the world-famous golf tournament that bears its name, the Bible Belt city is surprisingly diverse, thanks to an Islamic center, several synagogues, and a Hindu temple. The cost of living, however, is the main draw. The monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is just $631. There are plenty of places to take in live music and art, as well as activities for lovers of the outdoors. The Augusta Riverwalk along the Savannah River offers two parallel paths to stroll and farmers markets and jazz concerts in the summer.
ROCHESTER, NEW YORK
A unique blend of industry and academia, the Rochester metro region is home to several major universities and cultural institutions, but it's a blue-collar town at heart. While the $55,538 median household income is on par with the country as a whole, the cost of living is nearly 18 percent below the national average. Rent is a low $683 a month on average.
Many of the historic buildings in downtown Rochester are being transformed into lofts and workspaces, which can be a great option for singles new to the city. Summer brings plenty of festivals, outdoor amusements, and time spent in 3,500 acres of parks, while winter sends people to nearby ski slopes and sledding hills.
WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA
Forbes lists Winston-Salem as one of the top 100 places in the country for business and careers. Frugal singles will like the cost of living, which is 16 percent below the national average, as well as the puny $585 rent check the average resident has to write every month. Not only is Winston-Salem affordable, it's bursting with arts, culture, outdoor activities, and quality health care. While the area is known for its small-town Southern friendliness, there's also an international sensibility and diverse population, which have given rise to a thriving culinary scene and year-round festivals. Winston-Salem's population is also relatively young, thanks in part to the metro area's institutions of higher education.
The median age in Fulton is a relatively low 33, and although the household income is more than $41,000 a year, the average rent is among the cheapest in the country: just $480 a month. Groceries, health care, utilities, and transportation are all cheaper in Fulton than in the nation as a whole. There's plenty to do, and an influx of new faces reminds residents that they live in a Central Missouri tourist town.
FORT WAYNE, INDIANA
At just $560 a month, the average rent is cheap in the quiet neighborhoods of Fort Wayne, which has fared much better than many of its Rust Belt neighbors in the post-manufacturing landscape. The town is known for its vibrant music scene and festivals, as well as its theater, arts and dance culture. The downtown and riverfront areas are also undergoing a revitalization, with new living options that have attracted a younger population who want to live near buzzy new restaurants, breweries, and shops.
Although Washington, and the Northwest region in general, is one of the most desirable destinations in the country, rents have stayed low in Spokane — $611 on average for a one-bedroom — making the city an attractive choice for singles who have their eye on the West Coast but don't want to pay West Coast prices. Mountains and lakes anchor the city's natural beauty, and from wineries and breweries to shops and the arts, there's plenty to keep singles occupied between adventures.
For people who love nearby Portland but have been priced out of the hip destination city, Salem is a steal in terms of rent — still just $620 a month for a one-bedroom — although the cost of living is a little bit more expensive than in the nation as a whole. Relaxed, yet vibrant and culturally rich, Salem is an ideal spot for singles with West Coast dreams. Nature lovers will enjoy the areas numerous parks and gardens, while Riverfront Park makes for a great stroll or run. The celebrated wineries of the Willamette Valley are only a short drive away, as is the rugged Oregon coast for quick getaways.
A one-bedroom apartment in Sacramento runs an average of $776 a month, which isn't exactly cheap — unless you compare it to the national average of $825 and the California average of $1,142. California's capital city puts singles just a few hours from destinations like Pacific beaches, Lake Tahoe, and San Francisco. In recent years, young professionals have helped lead a population boom not seen since the Gold Rush. In the middle of the Central Valley, America's produce basket, single foodies can enjoy restaurants offering locally grown fare and locally produced wine and beer.
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
The median household income in Grand Rapids is high — creeping up toward $59,000 a year. But with an average monthly rent of just $690, housing is cheap. For singles looking for work, Forbes ranks the city No. 41 in the entire country for businesses and careers. A healthy job market, affordable housing, and plenty of options for outdoor activities have attracted a young population in recent years, helping to make this Michigan city one of the best places in the country to live, according to U.S. News and World Report. A thriving craft brewery scene is also a big draw.
ALBERT LEA, MINNESOTA
Older singles looking for a good place to move or even retire should consider Albert Lea, Minnesota, where the median age is nearly 44. Although the median household income is a little low, at $42,000, the cost of living is nearly 20 percent cheaper there than in the country as a whole. Budget-minded singles will delight in the quaint, quiet town's status as one of the few on this list with sub-$500 rent, at an average monthly rate of $492.
When Lafayette was named the happiest town in America by MarketWatch in 2014, the town's residents were not surprised. Not only is it brimming with arts and entertainment, but a unique blend of Cajun, Creole, and traditional Southern culture make Lafayette a magnetic destination. Average monthly rent of $718 makes it as affordable as it is desirable.
Realtor.com named Lexington one of the best affordable small towns in America. Although the town boasts a median household income over $50,000, singles will bask in the sub-$500 rent which totals an average of just $482 for a one-bedroom. Factor in sub-3 percent unemployment and Lexington becomes a great place for singles not just to live but also to work.
Another small, tight-knit town that singles should consider if they crave the quaint, rural charm of the Midwest is the town of Spencer. You can still rent an apartment there for well inside $500 — $462 a month on average. The savings go beyond just housing The cost of living in Spencer is a full 17 percent lower than the national average.