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McAllen ranks 3rd in lowest cost-of-living in the nation

By Jerold Leslie, The Street, June 4, 2012

Cheapskates of the world unite — you have nothing to lose but your spare change!

The 10 cities below offer the lowest cost-of-living levels of some 300 communities surveyed each quarter by the Council for Community and Economic Research.

“These are parts of the country that are incredibly inexpensive,” the council’s Dean Frutiger says. “Prices there are a lot less than [No.1 cost-of-living area] Manhattan.”

The council volunteers help compile cost-of-living figures for various cities by checking local prices every three months on some 60 goods and services, from doctor’s visits to T-bone steaks. The group then runs the numbers through a weighting system to give more prominence to things such as rent and mortgage bills.

There’s also a heavily weighted “miscellaneous” category that serves as a catch-all for everything from bowling prices to dry-cleaning costs.

If your idea of of the perfect date is using a two-for-one coupon at a Sunday matinee, click below to see the U.S. communities that offer the nation’s lowest cost-of-living levels. (There are three Texas entries, which are grouped.)

Each city’s score reflects how its living costs compares with the national average. For instance, a score of 90 means a community’s cost of living is 90% of the overall U.S. average.

All local property prices are from Realtor.com — the National Association of Realtors’ official property-listing site — and exclude mobile homes.

10) Pryor Creek, OK

Cost of living index: 86.3

“Oklahoma, Southwest Missouri, Texas — these places are incredibly inexpensive,” Frutiger says. “That whole section of country has traditionally been a big part of our top 10 list.”

Located some 45 miles northeast of Tulsa, Pryor Creek boasts the nation’s fifth-cheapest costs for miscellaneous items (12.3% below average) and 28th-best prices on health care (10.9% less than average).

The community also has discount prices on housing (21.4% below U.S. average), utilities (9% less than average), groceries (8.2% under average) and transportation (7.2% below the norm).

If you want to live in Pryor Creek, Realtor.com lists about 750 properties for sale there. Prices range from $10,000 for a one-bedroom home to $995,000 for a 3-acre estate.

9) Pueblo, CO

Cost of living index: 86.2

Pueblo offers below-average prices in all six categories the council tracks.

The city features the nation’s sixth-lowest prices for miscellaneous goods (12.8% below average), as well as its 15th-best housing costs (27.7% less than average).

Located some 120 miles south of Denver, Pueblo also offers low prices for health care (9.9% below average), transportation (4% less than average) utilities (3.5% under the U.S. average) and groceries (3.4% less than typical).

There are some 850 Pueblo homes listed on Realtor.com, from a $14,500 three-bedroom home to an $849,000 157-acre spread.

8) Conway, AR

Cost of living index: 86.2

Located in central Arkansas some 30 miles north of Little Rock, Conway offers the nation’s second-lowest health care costs (17.3% below national average) and third-best deal on miscellaneous goods (15.1% less than average).

Additionally, the community has cut-rate costs for housing (21% below average), utilities (11.7% less than average) and groceries (8.6% under the U.S. average).

That more than offsets transportation costs expenses that run 2.2% above the national average.

Realtor.com has about 440 Conway listings, from a $34,000 two-bedroom house to a $1.2 million 5-acre estate.

7) Ashland, OH

Cost of living index: 86

This city 60 miles southwest of Cleveland boasts the nation’s second-best prices for miscellaneous items, with costs running 16.3% below the U.S. average.

You’ll also get the 19th-best deal on housing (26.7% below average), as well as smaller discounts on utilities (11.7% less than average) and groceries (2.5% cheaper than average).

Ashland residents pay 3.9% more than average for health care, though, and 3.1% above average for transportation.

Realtor.com has about 225 Ashland properties listed for sale. Prices start at $20,000 for a two-bedroom home and run to $489,000 for a 39-acre estate.

6) Temple, TX

Cost of living index: 85.7 The Lone Star State hosts three of America’s 10 cheapest cities.

Temple, Texas — in the central part of the state roughly between Dallas and San Antonio — has below-average prices in all six categories researchers measured.

For openers, the city boasts the nation’s fourth-cheapest groceries (18.1% below average) and 12th-least-expensive housing (28.3% less than average).

You’ll also save money on transportation (8.2% below average), miscellaneous goods (7.9% less than average), health care (7% under the average) and utilities (0.1% below average).

If you want to take advantage of the city’s low prices, Realtor.com has some 560 Temple homes listed for sale, from $20,000 three-bedroom house to a $1.4 million French-style farmhouse.

5) Ardmore, OK

Cost of living index: 85.2

Prices in this community some 90 miles south of Oklahoma City trail the U.S. average in all six categories tracked.

For instance, Ardmore features the nation’s seventh-best prices for miscellaneous goods, with costs running 12.7% below the U.S. average.

The city also boasts the nation’s 13th-best health care prices (13.2% below average) and 14th-best utility charges (19% better than average).  Transportation also runs 10% below average, while groceries cost 5.8% less than average.

But the biggest savings come in housing, where prices run 21.9% below the national average.

Those interested in moving there with find some 200 Ardmore listings on Realtor.com. Prices start at $15,000 for a one-bedroom home and run to $1.2 million for a 34-acre spread.

4) Fayetteville, AR

Cost of living index: 84.6

It’s not surprising a city just 30 miles south of Wal-Mart’s (WMT_) hometown of Bentonville has one of the nation’s lowest cost-of-living rankings.

Fayetteville offers the 9th-lowest prices on miscellaneous items (11.1% below average), the 12th-best deals on transportation (13.6% cheaper than average) and the 17th-lowest prices on groceries (11.9% less than average).

But that all pales in comparison with how much you’ll save on shelter in Fayetteville, best known as the University of Arkansas’ home.

The city offers America’ 31st-lowest housing costs, with prices running 23.8% below U.S. average.

Realtor.com lists about 750 Fayetteville properties for sale, priced from $30,000 for a three-bedroom home to $4.8 million for a 320-acre estate.

3) McAllen, TX

Cost of living index: 83.8 McAllen boasts the absolute lowest housing costs of any city surveyed, with prices running 33.2%
below the U.S. average.

In south Texas just five miles north of Mexico, the 130,000-population city also has low retail prices, thanks to more than 40 local shopping malls. The so-called “City of Palms” has positioned itself as a shopping mecca for U.S. and Mexican citizens, so McAllen has the nation’s sixth-lowest grocery costs (16.4% below average).

You’ll also find the 21st-best prices on miscellaneous items (8.6% better than average), as well as good deals on utilities (7.3% below average), transportation (6.7% less than average) and health care (6% better than average).

If you want to move to McAllen, Realtor.com has some 560 homes listed for sale there, from a $28,700 two-bedroom house to a $1.8 million Spanish/Mediterranean-style estate.

2) Memphis, TN

Cost of living index: 83.7

Tennessee’s largest city offers below-average costs on all six categories that the Council for Community and Economic Research measures.

Utilities cost just 81.3% of national average, while miscellaneous goods are 10.2% below average, transportation 9.1% less than average, groceries 6.9% cheaper than average and health care discounted by 3.6%.

But it’s in real estate where the Bluff City really shines.  Housing in the 663,000-population locale costs 31.3% below national average — tying Winston-Salem, N.C., as the nation’s fourth-cheapest market.

There are some 4,400 Memphis properties listed for sale on Realtor.com.  Prices range from $2,000 for a three-bedroom home (yes, you read that right) to $4.6 million for a 102-year-old urban estate.

1) Harlingen, TX

Cost of living index: 82.8

This city in southern Texas just 10 miles from the U.S.-Mexican border is America’s cheapskate mecca, with a cost of living 17.2% below national average.

A city of some 65,000 people, Harlingen takes top honors mostly by virtue of having the nation’s lowest cost — 79.5% of U.S. average — for miscellaneous goods.

Located about 130 miles south of Corpus Christi and 30 miles west of the Gulf of Mexico, Harlingen also enjoys the fourth-cheapest transportation cost (83.8% of average) and places fifth for grocery costs (16.6% below average).

That more than offsets the city’s relatively high utility costs, which clock in at 102.1% of national average.

As for real estate, housing costs are 22.5% below U.S. average — the 51st-best showing nationwide. Realtor.com lists some 340 Harlingen properties for sale, priced from $23,000 for a three-bedroom home to $2.9 million for a 19-acre estate.

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