Frutiger's group compiled its index by comparing average 2012 prices in more than 300 U.S. communities for everything from T-bone steaks to mortgages on four-bedroom houses. In all, the group looked at a basket of 56 goods and services weighted to represent what a typical white-collar household spends its money on during a given year. Frutiger says America's cheapest locales generally have bargain-basement mortgage or rental costs, as housing accounts for 27% of the group's weighted index. Still, he recommends consumers debating where to live look at not just at cost of living, but also at such things as local atmosphere and job opportunities. "Lots of people choose to live in
Cost of living: 14% below U.S. average Memphis is the most-populous community ever to make CCER's list of the top-five cheapest U.S. locales. The River City, which has placed fifth in CCER's study for two years in a row, scores well mostly because its 627,000 residents pay just 71.8% of the U.S. average for housing expenses.
Real-estate tracker Zillow ( Z) estimates that the median Memphis home costs just $61,000, up only 1.7% over the past year. (Zillow.com lists some 15,900 Memphis-area properties for sale.) Residents also pay 16.1% below-average prices for utilities, 9.1% less for transportation, 6.7% less for groceries and 2.1% under what the typical U.S. household spends on health care.