Upon becoming financially independent, we decided to move away from the expensive San Francisco Bay Area. Although we’re currently enjoying life in Costa Rica, we will soon be driving Bruno back up to the US and need to figure out which cities are good candidates for living in.
To help us make this decision, I wanted to see which US cities have the lowest cost of living, are considered somewhat liberal, and also have mild winters.
After doing this research, below is the map I came up with. Cities with the lowest cost of living are identified on the map by lighter colored markers, while the more expensive cities have darker colored markers.
To build this list, I started by pulling the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for All Urban Consumers, which does a decent job of summarizing the cost of living, including housing, for all urban places with 2,500 inhabitants or more. I then sorted the list by CPI ascending, so the lowest cost cities are listed first. If you’re curious, here is a list of exactly what costs are included in the CPI.
Next, to identify places that are “somewhat liberal”, the least-terrible solution I could think of was to look up the 2012 Presidential Election results for each city and only include the ones where more than 50% of the vote were Democratic (Obama).
Finally, for selecting only “mild winter” locations, I looked up the average high/low temperatures for January and July. Cities that have an average January high of less than 40F (4.4C) were filtered out.
Finally, I added in a “Low Taxes Rank” for each of the states. I got this data from the Tax Foundation, which did a study on State-Local Tax Burdens for each state.
Here is the list sorted by CPI (ascending):
The great thing about the US is that it’s so big and varied. All of these cities have different people, cultures, weather, and geographies. If you’re looking to move soon, whatever your tastes are, I hope the above data can help you research those places that might fit you best!
For us, once we’re back in the US early next year, we’re going to head for the mountains of North Carolina and check out Asheville. At least, that’s the current plan. New ones are hatched daily!
If you’re curious enough to mess around with the data yourself, here is a link to the spreadsheet with all original data. If you make any changes or have any recommendations to make, please post in the comments section below!