Penny Pinching Paradise: The Cheapest City in America

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There is a place, in these United States, where a loaf of bread will cost you 90 cents. Where a gallon of gas will set you back $2.65. Where you can rent a two-bedroom house for $450 a month. And that place is Harlingen, Texas, pop. 65,000.

Runners-up for the cheap-city title included Pueblo, Colo., Pryor Creek, Okla., and Cookeville, Tenn. Meanwhile the most expensive urban areas were, predictably, parts of New York City, Honolulu and San Francisco.

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Bloomberg Businessweek analyzed data on more than 340 urban areas to determine that Harlingen, a city in the Rio Grande Valley where the cost of living is about 18% below average, was the cheapest of the bunch. (Note: These are urban areas, so the “cheapest city” is merely that, rather than the absolute cheapest locale.) The not-too-surprising corollary is that the residents also have some of the lowest incomes in the country; their average was $31,720 in 2010, compared with a U.S. average of $44,410. They also have high poverty rates and an unemployment rate of 9.4%, neither of which is likely to bring a smile to the face.

So perhaps the best way to take advantage of Harlingen is to make your fortune, buy the biggest house in town and live out the winter of your life on the cheap. Just keep in mind that it’ll be old-fashioned, slow livin’ (as evinced by the rather sparse community calendar for July).

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