Underrated and Affordable: 9 'Best Value' Cities, According to Working-Class Americans

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Sean Pavone/istockphoto

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Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Bang For Your Buck Cities

It’s not often that mid-sized Midwestern cities get to shine. But in a recent thread on Reddit’s r/PovertyFinance — a working-class forum that focuses on frugality — Middle America outshined the coasts with its high concentration of “best value” cities. All of these underrated metros offer a cheaper cost of living than the U.S. average, and yet many of them boast big-city amenities: good jobs, top-rated universities, arts, and culture.

Rochester, Minnesota

Rochester, Minnesota

Population: 119,737

Cost of Living Index: 92.5

Average One-Bedroom Apartment: $990

With the prestigious Mayo Clinic at the heart of its economy, Rochester is a small Midwestern city dominated by the medical industry. The city continues to grow, in part because lawmakers and investors have poured money into a 20-year economic development plan that aims to make the city a biotech hub.

pittsburgh,pennsylvania,usa : 8-21-17. pittsburgh skyline at sunset with reflection in the water.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Population: 303,207

Cost of Living Index: 91.9

Average One-Bedroom Apartment: $1,060

If you make $100,000 or more in the City of Bridges, then you can “live like a king,” according to one Redditor who has spent a lot of time in Pittsburgh. Although its booming steel industry has collapsed since the 1970s, the economy remains strong thanks to the city’s robust healthcare and education sectors. The city is also home to 10 Fortune 500 companies, from the Kraft Heinz Company to Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Detroit Aerial Panorama

Detroit, Michigan

Population: 645,658

Cost of Living Index: 88.7

Average One-Bedroom Apartment: $850

Like Pittsburgh, Detroit’s economy is a shadow of its former self, though automakers like Chrysler and General Motors still support thousands of jobs. Still, Motor City is appealing, Redditors say, because of its size and cheap housing market. For families looking for a safer environment — Detroit ranks in the top 10 for homicides — commenters recommend the city’s suburbs.

Kansas City Missouri Lake Skyline
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA skyline on the White River
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Indianapolis, Indiana

Population: 880,104

Cost of Living Index: 84.9

Average One-Bedroom Apartment: $920

Indianapolis offers all the perks of a mid-sized metro while also managing to be affordable. Major industries include trade, transportation, utilities, and professional services, and the city is also home to three Fortune 500 companies: Elevance Health, Eli Lilly and Company, and Corteva. But before you pack your bags, you should know that the weather is dreadful — hot summers, cold winters, and lots of temperature swings are common.

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Greensboro, North Carolina

Population: 295,483

Cost of Living Index: 82.7

Average One-Bedroom Apartment: $960

If you find Raleigh and Charlotte too expensive — Redditors say that both areas are expensive “hot spots” — consider Greensboro as a more affordable North Carolina alternative. One Greensboro local says that you can live anywhere in town as long as you make around $70,000 a year. Trade, transport, and utilities keep the economy afloat, and manufacturing will get a boost once Toyota completes its electric and hybrid vehicle battery factory in 2025.

Related: The 20 Safest Big Cities in the U.S.

Downtown St. Louis Beyond the Arch
Art Wager/istockphoto

St. Louis, Missouri

Population: 302,787

Cost of Living Index: 82.7

Average One-Bedroom Apartment: $820

As a home to seven Fortune 500 companies, a renowned university, and a surprisingly walkable city center, there’s no wonder why this Midwestern city made Redditors’ lists. “Cost of living is great. Your rent goes further here,” a St. Louis resident shares in a different thread, adding that buying a house is possible before the age of 30.

Related: 12 Small Towns Known for Being LGBTQ-Friendly

Peoria Illinois Night Skyline
Dan Reynolds Photography/istockphoto

Peoria, Illinois

Population: 113,672

Cost of Living Index: 73.9

Average One-Bedroom Apartment: $760

While many Americans might struggle to find Peoria on a map, multiple Redditors recommended the city because of its affordable housing. Out of all the cities on our list, it has the cheapest average rent, and if you’re starved for big-city energy, it’s an easy two-hour drive to Chicago. The tradeoff: “The winters suck, but that’s like half the country.”

Related: 22 Cities Where You Can Live Car-Free

Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Cleveland, Ohio

Population: 374,861

Cost of Living Index: 72.3

Average One-Bedroom Apartment: $770

Cleveland also has its fair share of fans on Reddit, where locals praised the mid-sized city for its cheap housing, abundance of free activities, and lakeside beaches. But the city isn’t without its problems. One Cleveland local writes that crime, racism, and the city’s drivers are all downsides, though they ultimately like the city. It’s “nice,” they add, but also “complicated.”

Related: The Coldest and Warmest Cities in Every State