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5 Of The Best (And More Affordable) Places To Live In America

The weather and fun overall vibe are bonuses!

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gif_of_5_inexpensive_cities_to_live_at_in_the_united_states_1440x560, north carolina, south carolina, arizona, tennessee, nebraska
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I grew up in New York City and until the age of 18, I didn’t realize that most people in the country didn’t live in a squished apartment with noise flowing in from the top, bottom and sides, guarded by 24-hour doormen. It was only when I moved to Illinois that I realized how much I’m obsessed with affordable housing, backyards and the lack of neighbors literally over my head. You may not get to control much in your life, but you can decide where to live — and we have some suggestions. After combing countless lists of great places to live, we found spots across the country that ticked the following boxes: inexpensive cost of living, relatively good weather (I love Chicago winters, but I understand that most people don’t), a great school system and a fun overall vibe.

Franklin, Tennessee

This adorable city is small-town living at its best. The entire downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places, so you’ll spot Victorian storefronts, period buildings and unique spots throughout the entire main street. Franklin, which is about 25 minutes south of Nashville, hosts festivals or events nearly every weekend. But if you want some peace and quiet, you can head to one of the largest outdoor spaces in the state, Bowie Nature Park, 700 acres (about the size of Central Park) filled with forests and lakes. The Williamson County school district is one of the best in the country, Vanderbilt University Medical Center is close by and the cost of living is low.

Greenville, South Carolina

Greenville is a beautiful, walkable city that has so much to offer, from the mountains to the diversity to the cost of living. The city hosts tons of cultural events, and has a massive performing arts center, a 17,000-seat arena, and it’s home to the Greenville County Museum of Art. Many people move to Greenville because of the low cost of living, but there’s so much more to this city than that (Yahoo just ranked it as one of the top 10 coolest cities with the lowest cost of living in the United States). There’s the 20-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail waiting to be hiked or biked, plus a 400-acre wildlife preserve. And at Paris Mountain State Park, you can camp, kayak or just explore the outdoors. Greenville annually hosts about 300 events, ranging from festivals to concerts to sports, so there’s always something to do — and you’re likely to actually do it because the weather is so good year-round.

Gilbert, Arizona

A quick caveat: It’s incredibly hot here in the summer, so skip ahead if that’s not your jam. But if you like hot weather, golfing, food (the abundance of farms in Gilbert have contributed to some of the best restaurants here, including Joe’s Farm Grill, which was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) and history, this is where you need to live. Gilbert, with a population of about 250,000, is home to five golf courses — a draw for golfers from across the country. Historians adore this tiny city’s Gilbert Historical Museum, which chronicles local history. There are also shows at the Hale Centre Theatre Arizona, an excellent school system. It’s also an incredibly kid-friendly place to grow up: rated the Gilbert subdivision Power Ranch the most kid-friendly place in America, while named Gilbert the safest city in Arizona.

Omaha, Nebraska

There’s a very low cost of living here, and there are four seasons — though it’s not as bad as other areas of the Midwest (we’re looking at you, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin). Many of the people who live in Omaha are families, so there is a lot to do for kids, including great schools. Omaha is one of the largest cities in America, and with that comes hospitals, universities, sports, a massive zoo and lots of entertainment options.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte has weather that's never too extreme and an affordability index of 29 percent (residents need to spend just 29 percent of their income on housing). The median home sale price here is only $298,000, and the schools are very good. But that’s not all. Charlotte essentially has everything you could dream of, including tons of golf courses, lots of sports, amphitheaters, concerts, great food, a plethora of cultural activities, and recreational opportunities at the nearby Lake Wylie and Lake Norman. A southern unicorn? Check. The city also was ranked as the 9th most diverse large city in America in 2021.