Where can I live cheaply?
May 6, 2011 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Cheap living + possibility of a job = where in the US?

This is simple. Given no other requirements, where in the continental US could I live *very* cheaply (say...rent under $300/mo for a small cottage-type house with a small yard) and also be able to find a job to pay for my super cheap living? Any job is fine... childcare, grocery stores, waiting tables, whatever. I'm just curious to know if this exists.
posted by youcancallmeal to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Small towns and exurbs for the most part I imagine. Chances are you would need a car too then, which will make it a bit harder especially if you don't yet have one.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 4:27 PM on May 6, 2011

google results for "Cheapest standard of living usa"
posted by greta simone at 4:29 PM on May 6, 2011

Yeah, I can google. I'm looking for specific, recent examples that are a) really cheap and b) have a job market of some decency.
posted by youcancallmeal at 4:31 PM on May 6, 2011

I've been told by some friends who moved there, that North Dakota is immensely affordable and there are jobs. They live in the northeast part of the state.
posted by lazydog at 4:34 PM on May 6, 2011

Do you need cheap for a reason, or are you just looking for a place that you can get a job and survive? Costs of living generally scale with wages, so your best bet is living near a small city and commuting from the country, that way you can get the city wage and beat the city cost of living.
posted by dflemingecon at 4:49 PM on May 6, 2011

The five states with unemployment under 6% (as of March 2011):

ND - 3.6%
NE - 4.2%
SD - 4.9%
NH - 5.2%
VT - 5.4%

Per the Cost of Living Index for Q4 2010, these states (lower = cheaper, 100 = US average):

NE - #8, 91.09
ND - #19, 95.91
SD - #26, 98.53
NH - #40, 116.68
VT - #42, 120.38

It's either Nebraska or North Dakota. Personally I'd take Nebraska based off of the difference in winters: death in 5 minutes exposure vs. death in 15 minutes exposure.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:49 PM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

You may be interested in reading Mortgage Free, which is mostly about self-sufficiency and building your own house (think: an introduction to homesteading). He goes into strategies for finding affordable land in the book.
posted by kdar at 5:07 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

In Garfield County, Oklahoma, the unemployment rate was 3.7% as of March. You can buy a two bed one bath house for under $30,000. If you can pass a drug test and have a clean criminal record, you can and will find a job. It will probably not be the job you really want, but you can find full time work at slightly above minimum wage. This is one of the few parts of the country where minimum wage comes very close to a reasonable living wage for a single person.

Most of Oklahoma falls under similar terms other than the southeast part of the state which has disproportionately high unemployment and Oklahoma City/Tulsa area which probably won't hit quite that low on rent. Still, over half of the state qualifies for what you want. The same goes for large parts of the Midwest. You do get trapped into low wage jobs which are not often fulfilling and benefits are minimal if there are any. The political climate skews very far right in most of these areas. If you're looking for a place where you can work 40 hours a week and live frugally so you have spare time to write a novel or write a major code project, welcome to Garfield County or one of the many similar Midwestern communities.
posted by Saydur at 5:46 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, another vote for Oklahoma. I was in OK recently for work and a couple local friends I met up with while I was out there mentioned that the economy's doing well, job-wise, and it's pretty cheap to live there. (They also said that meth was a major problem. Can't say I'd be interested in living there, but if you're just worried about living costs and employment, it might be a sweet spot.)
posted by pie ninja at 6:06 PM on May 6, 2011

Sorry my answer was flippant. I figured what there would be a large pool of rural or exurban areas to choose from. I assumed, probably wrongly, that there would be plenty of areas that would be comparable to the areas where a lot of the people from rural areas who I happen to know are from, which is, sure enough.... North Dakota.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 7:02 PM on May 6, 2011

I pay $272 per month for a 3 bedroom bi-level with water, sewer and trash included. A 1 bedroom in my community would be at least $25 less per month. This is in Southwest Ohio in a suburban area (Dayton). Note that this deal is atypical for our area; it is a member-owned housing community with no special requirements save an application, credit approval, entrance interview and a waiting period (for a unit to become available) . Oh and a $3000 equity payment up front (refundable upon leaving the community).

Jobs in the area are typical of any average sized city. Professional service positions may be hard to come by but your average low income stuff is no problem (food service, cashier, telephone marketer, etc).

PM me for specifics if you're interested in pursuing this.
posted by sprocket87 at 9:27 PM on May 6, 2011

Come over to Meadville PA. We're right by the Ohio border, and the cost of living would definitely work for you here. Unemployment is on its way downward, but for the low end I think you could find something that would let you make ends meet. Property is ridiculously cheap around here, particularly in the countryside. Our first house right in town, three bedrooms, nicely redone, was $500 a month for our mortgage. Obviously, you could find a cheaper place.

Wherever you land, a great way to find a job is to be a newspaper carrier. We're always looking for reliable people. The hours are a bit hard, and it's 7 days of the week in most places, but the pay isn't really too bad. I'm continually shocked at how few people we have willing to do this work given how many people are unemployed. No benefits, because it's contractor work, but it leaves your days free for whatever (another job or child care) and is a great source of extra income.
posted by dellsolace at 6:06 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Omaha, NE totally rocks in this regard. There is more than one Fortune 500 company headquartered here, and the job market is almost always pretty strong. (TD Ameritrade, Con Agra, Union Pacific, to name 3). Warren Buffett is from here!

Housing is low to average compared to the rest of the nation. Obviously the sketchy areas are uber cheap, if you're willing to live in that area. I'd guess a moderate apartment in an average area of town will cost around $500 for a one or two bedroom. But you can also rent entire houses for around $1000. As far as purchasing a home, we're feeling a little of the slump, but it's not nearly as bad as the rest of the country. There are deals to be found. At the height of the market is when we bought our house (ouch!), but we're talking a 5 bedroom, 3 bath house with almost 4k SF and a cul de sac location with almost 1/3 of an acre for less than $225,000.

So get your butt over here! Check out careerlink.com for NE/Omaha specific job listings. Memail me when you get here and we'll have you over for dinner :)
posted by wwartorff at 8:58 AM on May 7, 2011

I'd like to recommend the Tri-Cities (Richland, Kennewick, Pasco) of eastern Washington. Unemployment is low here, largely because of the government money that flows into the Hanford area, Pacific Northwest National Lab and other projects. Lots of outdoorsy things to do--hiking, skiing, boating--lots of nice local wine and produce, Portland and Seattle are about 4 hours away, and 300+ days of sun a year (Seattle, in the western part of the state, gets most of the rain). The last apartment I rented was a 2-bedroom with a balcony for $525, though you can go cheaper than that; a coworker of mine rents a duplex in Richland for $550, and I've seen 1-bedroom apartments in Kennewick for $350. You'd need a car or a bike, though, as the area is very spread out; my honey bikes from our house in Pasco to his job at PNNL (about 12 miles each way), and almost all of the ride is on bike trails that run along the Columbia River.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:17 PM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

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