New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco. These three cities couldn’t be more different, yet they all have one major thing in common. They top the lists for most desirable cities. All across the U.S. right now, in this very moment, millions of people are plotting and planning to move to one of these three locations. And why wouldn’t they? They’re absolutely jam packed with major opportunities and exciting experiences. Los Angeles is where the talented artists of tomorrow flock to with stars in their eyes. San Francisco and the Bay Area are home to the disruptive tech startups and the young accidental millionaires. The Big Apple is, arguable more than any other city, the very symbol of the American Dream.
Yet these cities have something else in common as well; something far less romantic: they’re ridiculously, insanely, out of control, off the wall, rocker, and handle, utterly bonkers expensive to live in. NYC, LA, and SF definitely have a lot going for them, and it’s true that high property values are the price you pay for wanting to live where everyone else wants to be. But you don’t have to have to take up residence in a closet sized apartment to enjoy good culture, and you don’t have to pay out the wazoo for opportunity. These are the top cities in America to live in that have plenty to offer, but will cost you neither an arm nor a leg.
Chattanooga sounds like the kind of place Bugs Bunny talks about needing to have taken a left turn in instead of a right, but despite its colorful name the city is a hotspot of trendy culture. When people think “hip” they tend not to think Tennessee, but Chattanooga is changing all that. The city of about 200,000 is the kind of place where you’ll find coffee shops that double as bicycle repair centers, a revitalized downtown section filled with cool small restaurants, bars, and pubs, and an energetic counterculture vibe. Take those fun features, add in a highly active outdoor adventure community, and you’ll start to get an idea of what makes Chattanooga so great. And that doesn’t even include “The Gig” which is Chattanooga’s citywide fiber optic, super speed Internet network. Download speeds clock in at 1 gigabit in a single second which is fast enough to download every Lord of the Rings movie in super high definition within 3 minutes. The Gig is one of the main reasons why Chattanooga has a booming economy which includes significant venture capital investment and tech.
Zillow places the average home value of Chattanooga at $120,900, and the Economic Policy Institute states that a single adult could comfortably get by in the city with a budget of $452 per month on housing. In New York City, that number is $1,153.
Jersey City, New Jersey
If the South isn’t your speed, and you absolutely need to be in a city like New York then you should live there. You just shouldn’t live exactly there. Jersey City admittedly has had a rough go at it in the past, and it can’t seem to escape the stigma of its adverse history, but its present is far removed from the reputation that bogs it down. Today, Jersey City is a vibrant community that has the same flavor of establishments, artists, and businesses as a typical Brooklyn neighborhood. Jersey City is also a financial hub, and home to headquarters from companies like Chase, Citibank, and Merrill Lynch earning it the nickname of Wall Street West. The city is as walkable as New York with a convenient light rail system and a fleet of taxi cabs which are much cheaper to take than their NYC counterparts. Best of all, Manhattan is just a hop away on the PATH train which makes New York easily and quickly commutable. People call Jersey City “the 6th borough” for a reason. Life is good right across the Hudson. And much more affordable.
The median home value in Jersey City is $340,500 and the cost of living for housing for one adult per month is $990.
It’s probably not at the top of your travel list, but if you ever went to Madison, Wisconsin, what you’d find is a population of some of the most content people in the country. The reason for that is simple: Madison consistently tops the lists for livability, safety, education, and happiness. In Livability’s top 10, it grabs first place. CNNMoney says it’s the best place to start a small business. The entrepreneur spirit is alive and well in Madison. Over 53,544 businesses in Madison have fewer than 10 employees making Madison startup heaven because a low cost of living makes business ownership far less daunting there. Also, due to the strong local economy, which is based heavily in research and development, tech, and upper education, Madison’s unemployment peaked at only 3.5% at the height of the recession when the national rate was well over 10%. But the strength of Madison’s business sector is only one part of the story. Madison is a major foodie city, and regularly makes the podium for its restaurants alone. Its lively downtown section regularly plays host to events, festivals, and an annual mega block party that draws tens of thousands from across the state. Madison is also one of the greenest cities, and has more parks per capita than any other city in the nation; not to mention an abundance of popular lakes and rivers for exciting recreation on the water. Madison is the kind of place that goes through lengths to give its residents every reason to smile, and few to frown.
The Median home value in Madison is $206,000. $620 per month is the cost of living for housing for one.
The Steel City. Resiliency may be Pittsburgh’s greatest strength. Pittsburgh is one of the few areas in the nation where home values not only didn’t plummet, but actually rose. Unlike other America factory cities that were thrown into decline during the deindustrialization of the 70s and 80s, Pittsburgh endured and evolved. Today, it’s successfully cultivated itself into a center for research and technology with companies like Google, Apple, and IBM operating within the city. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s many abandoned factories became the perfect locations for startups to set up renovated, modern office spaces. “The Burgh” is home to over 1,600 tech firms which generate over 20.7 billion dollars in tax revenue for the city each year. In addition to a booming economy, Pittsburgh isn’t short on nightlife, and the city has more bars per capita than any other city in the nation. These are just some of the many reasons why Pittsburgh has been ranked by entrepreneur.com as the best city for entrepreneurs as well as making the top 10 on CBS Moneywatch’s top 10 best cities for millennials.
Affordability is the name of the game in Pittsburgh. It’s been ranked as the most livable city in the US and, due to the abundant career opportunities, stellar college and university system, and low cost of living, it was voted the 2nd best city to “achieve the American Dream”. Median home value in Pittsburgh is $105,600. The cost of living for housing for a single adult is $551 per month.