David J. Brantley

Moving can be a difficult process, but when you love where you’re going, it can be a real treat. Finding some of the cheapest, but best, places to live can be simple with a little research and a lot of patience. Here are a few of the top picks of the best and cheapest places to live in the United States:

Eden Prairie, MN

Perhaps it’s the plethora of jobs, abundance of employers, or low levels of unemployment, but Eden Prairie tops CNN’s list of “Best Places to Live” [1]. In addition to their many employment opportunities, Eden Praire is also rich in potential for outdoor fun. The surrounding low hills and bluffs are interwoven with hiking and biking trails. There are several lakes nearby, so there’s lots of swimming and ice skating fun to be had.

With a population of 64,000 Eden Prairie is considered an edge city, and it’s location just 11 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis, means residents are never too far from a major metropolis [1]. But before you start packing, keep in mind that Minnesota is not the easiest state to live in. The winters are long and cold, with average winter temperatures as low as – 15.4*F [2].

Despite the long winters, Eden Prairie is home to some of the healthiest people in the nation. This could be due to their peace of mind resident’s fees, and the ample opportunities they have for physical exercise.

Columbia/Ellicott City, MD

The second community on CNN’s list is actually two cities: Columbia and Ellicott City, MD. Combined, these cities only have an unemployment rate of 5.2% [3]. The major employers include the National Security Agency and the Fort Meade Army Base, and with Baltimore and D.C so close by, there are plenty of employment opportunities. Those larger cities also boost the town’s diversity and encourage strong area schools.

Beyond the benefits for families, Columbia and Ellicott also have one of the lowest foreclosure rates in Maryland [3]. Columbia, in addition to offering a variety of housing options, is also home to a major music venue, the Merriweather Post Pavilion, which has recently hosted big names like Animal Collective, the Black Eyed Peas and Steely Dan. Ellicott also boasts their own cultural fun: the Chesapeake Shakespeare company puts on shows throughout the summer. Beyond indoor entertainment, Columbia also has plenty of parkland for outdoor recreation. Even with the heavy traffic, these two cities could be great places for families to grow, and flourish.

Newton, MA

Despite being divided into 13 “villages,” Newton is united by it’s small-town New England charm and family-friendly atmosphere. With Boston College, Newton-Welesley Hospital and Greater Boston less than 45 minutes away, it’s no wonder the unemployment rate is only 6.0% [4].

With plenty of highly ranked schools, Newton can be a great place for kids to live and get a top-notch education, while the numerous parks, playgrounds, and shopping districts mean there’s rarely a lack of activities for young people.

Hefty home prices might put a cap on affordable housing [4], but Newton’s high employment rate means that living in this idyllic location isn’t necessarily out of a potential resident’s reach.

Bellevue, WA

With dramatic scenery and a growing population, Bellevue is a beautiful, booming town. Employers like Microsoft, Expedia, Verizon and T-Mobile have helped the jobless rate weather the recession, keeping it at a low 5.8% [5]. With steady, strong employment numbers, this city has been able to support their real-estate market, keeping housing prices healthy.

If you’re looking for a small city with a lot of dramatic scenery and outdoor activities, then Bellevue could be a perfect spot for you. With Lake Washington on the west, and Lake Sammaish on the east, there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy water sports. The nearby hills and mountains also have numerous hiking and biking paths that residents have embraced with gusto.

Bellevue also hosts a strong educational, cultural, and arts community. The city has many strong schools, including five that have been listed in the top 100 schools in the nation [5]. Children can also visit the KidsQuest Children’s Museum and explore the exhibits, space houses and discovery areas. For adults, the Bellevue Arts Museum, the Arts and Crafts Fair, Sculpture Exhibition and the annual Strawberry Festival can all be great fun.

McKinney, TX

For a city with low crime, beautiful buildings and plenty of employment opportunities, McKinney, Texas is tough to beat. With its quickly growing population and historical roots, this town outside of Dallas could be a laid-back, lovely place to live.

At 7.8% [6], McKinney has a jobless rate that stis lower than the national average, and with growing businesses, McKinney residents get to skip the hour commute to Dallas. But that hour drive means that the hustle and bustle of a big city is never too far away.

Although the big city is only a short jaunt away, McKinney is a quiet city with a cozy community feeling: plenty of parks, golf courses, and historic locations. Even with all these amenities, housing prices have remained low [6], and the town has continued to grow over the past decade. For a family, this friendly town could make a great location.

Making the decision to move is never easy, but if you’re moving for the right reasons, it can be one of the wisest choices you make. Figure out what your top priorities are, and make your decision about where to move based on what city fits your criteria best. Sometimes, the cheapest, but best, places to live are in unexpected locations. Keep your eye out for places that you think will suit your family best.


1. Mangla, Ismat. “Best Places to Live: Eden Prairie.” August (2010): n. pag. Web. 6 Jul 2011. <http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bplive/2010/snapshots/PL2718116.html>.

2. “Monthly Averages for Minneapolis, MN”. The Weather Channel. http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/USMN0503. Retrieved October 2007.

3. Rosato, Donna. “Best Places to Live: Columbia/Elicott City.” August (2010): n. pag. Web. 6 Jul 2011. <http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bplive/2010/snapshots/PL2419125.html>.

4. Braverman, Beth. “Best Places to Live: Newton, MA.” CNN Money August (2010): n. pag. Web. 6 Jul 2011. <http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bplive/2010/snapshots/PL2545560.html>.

5. Levine, Jessica. “Best Places to Live: Bellevue, Washington.” August (2010): n. pag. Web. 7 Jul 2011. <http://realestate.yahoo.com/promo/100-best-places-to-live-in-america-2010-edition.html>.

6. Richardson, Vanessa. “Best Places to Live: McKinney, Texas.” August (2010): n. pag. Web. 7 Jul 2011. <http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bplive/2010/snapshots/PL4845744.html>.

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3 Comments Guest on Jul 21st 2011

3 Responses to “Cheapest (but best) Places to Live”

  1. krantcents says:

    The best place to live is wherever you are happy. It is not limited to a particular stat, city or anything else.

  2. I lived in Columbia, MD at one time. Couldn’t wait to get out of that place. Moved 20 miles NW and am much happier.