Retirement is a time of frugality for many, since other than Social Security and pension payments, many folks don't have much money coming in. If you're not rooted to a specific location, you are free to move to where the living comes cheaply, like the 10 small towns on this list.
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For this study, GOBankingRates considered small towns with populations of less than 30,000 where you can retire on a budget of $2,300 or less, using data from ApartmentList. We also used Sperling's Best to find the cost-of-living index for every city on the list and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey. We then added monthly housing, grocery and healthcare costs together to find where a person 65 and older could get by on the $2,300 budget.
Equally important was a city's livability score -- the cities on this list had to have a score of 65 or higher as sourced from AreaVibes. When all was said and done, three states dominated the list. Keep reading to find out just how little it costs to live in these small towns.
15. Waite Park, Minnesota
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $1,073
Monthly expenditures: $2,204
Livability score: 66
In Waite Park, nearly 21% of the population is aged 65 or older. And here, you'll pay only $362.38 in monthly grocery costs and $442.30 in monthly healthcare, the latter which is the lowest in the study.
14. Winona, Minnesota
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $934
Monthly expenditures: $2,140
Livability score: 73
Healthcare costs aren't as low as Winona, but they are still about $60 a month below the national average at $528.42. Here, expect to spend about $362 for groceries and $315 for utilities, both of which are about 3.5% below monthly national costs.
13. Reading, Ohio
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $1.036
Monthly expenditures: $2,245
Livability score: 83
In Reading, nearly 17% of the population is age 65 or older. Healthcare costs average $523.74 per month, which is on the lower side in the study.
12. Carnegie, Pennsylvania
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $1,026
Monthly expenditures: $2,256
Livability score: 80
In Carnegie, your paycheck won't be stretched overly thin by the cost of healthcare, which is $519.63. Utility costs are a bit pricey at $337.53 per month, which is above the national average.
11. Austin, Minnesota
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $701
Monthly expenditures: $1,887
Livability score: 71
In Austin, rents are cheap and that helps to keep monthly expenditures at a very reasonable level. The costs of groceries, healthcare and utilities sit below the national average, with healthcare costs more than 10% less.
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10. Steubenville, Ohio
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $692
Monthly expenditures: $1,964
Livability score: 70
In Steubenville, more than 19% of the population is 65 or older. Monthly utilities average $330 per month, which is above the national cost. Rents, however, average just $692, which is about one-third of the national standard and one of three locales in the study where it costs less than $700 a month for a one-bedroom place.
9. West Mifflin, Pennsylvania
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $1,119
Monthly expenditures: $2,290
In Seabrook, monthly expenditures are almost $400 less than the national average. Here, while healthcare is a decent chunk of expenses, at $513.44, other expenses are low, like $352.09 in monthly grocery costs.
8. Greensburg, Pennsylvania
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $872
Monthly expenditures: $2,073
Livability score: 71
Of the three Pennsylvania locations to rank in the study, Greensburg comes in with the lowest monthly expenditures in the state. Among the residents of Greensburg, which sits in the Pittsburgh metro area, 22.1% of them are 65 and older.
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7. Wheeling, West Virginia
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $794
Monthly expenditures: $2,104
Livability score: 71
In Wheeling, nearly a quarter of the residents - 24% of them - are 65 and older, the highest number in the study. While the overall monthly costs sound low, an average of $656.13 month will go to healthcare, one of the highest amounts in the study and 12% over the national average.
6. Jamestown, North Dakota
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $737
Monthly expenditures: $2,040
Livability score: 82
Despite the cold winters in North Dakota, utilities average just $289.50 per month, making it one of the best values in this category in the study. You'll need those savings, however, to cover healthcare costs, which come in at 10.9% above the national average at nearly $650 per month.
5. Willoughby, Ohio
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $1,016
Monthly expenditures: $2,189
Livability score: 86
The rent in Willoughby is higher than in all but one of the five Ohio locations on the list, but you'll make up for it with healthcare expenses. The $490.34 monthly average is the second lowest in the study and 16% below the national average.
4. Tiffin, Ohio
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $797
Monthly expenditures: $1,932
Livability score: 84
Grocery costs average $269.07 per month in Tiffin, the only sub-$300 town in the study, and 28% less than the national average. That's a benefit for the 18% of the population that is 65 or older.
3. Newton, Iowa
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $650
Monthly expenditures: $1,965
Livability score: 82
Newton's affordable $650 average rent - the lowest in the study -- helps to make up for high costs of healthcare and utilities, which exceed the national average by 4.6% and 6.4%, respectively.
2. Weirton, West Virginia
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $889
Monthly expenditures: $1,983
In Parma Heights, which has the highest percentage of people age 65 and over at 20%, you'll pay the cheapest rent of all the cities on the list, and other expenses are also reasonable. You'll pay $457.87 in monthly healthcare costs, and $297.28 in monthly utilities.
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1. Ashland, Ohio
Average rent for 1-bedroom: $690
Monthly expenditures: $1,896
Livability score: 87
It's no wonder people 65 and older move to Ashland for retirement. Ashland has rents less than $700, expenses in the grocery, healthcare and utilities categories below the national average, and a livability score of 87, the highest in the study.
Jami Farkas contributed to the reporting of this article.
Disclaimer: Photos are for representational only.
Methodology: For this study, GOBankingRates found the best small town (population less than 30,000) cities to retire on a budget of $2,300 a month or less. GOBankingRates used Zillow's February 2023 data to find every small town in the U.S. that has an (1) average 2023 monthly rent of $1,250 or less. GOBankingRates then used Sperling's Best to find the cost-of-living index for every location on the list, looking at (2) grocery, (3) utilities and (4) healthcare index scores. Next, GOBankingRates used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey to find the annual expenditure amount for grocery ("food at home"), healthcare, and utilities costs for people aged 65 and older to find how much someone in that age range would spend on necessities in each city on a monthly basis. GOBankingRates then added monthly housing, grocery, healthcare, and utilities costs together to find where a person 65 and older could survive on $2,300 or less. In order for a city to be qualified for the study, it had to have a livabilty score of 65 or higher as sourced from AreaVibes and its population had to be 16.8% (the national average) or more over the age of 65, according to the Census Bureau's 2021 American Community Survey. For final rankings ,all qualified cities were ranked by (5) total monthly expenditures, (6) % of population over 65 and (7) livability with the lowest score being best. Factor (7) was weighted 1.5x. All data was collected on and up to date as of April 5, 2023.
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