5 Best Cities for Cheapskates

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Wall Street titans flock to Manhattan's Upper East Side and Hollywood A-listers favor Beverly Hills, but here's a look at five locales America's biggest cheapskates will love.

"These are good cities for someone who's just starting out or who's looking for a quiet life," says Dean Frutiger of the Council for Community and Economic Research, which recently identified America's least-expensive cities as part of its annual Cost of Living Index study.

CCER, a suburban Washington, D.C., think tank, has been ranking U.S. cities' living costs every year since 2008.

Volunteers in communities across America reach out to local businesses to price a basket of nearly 60 goods and services, from toothpaste to two-bedroom apartments. CCER then weights each price according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics formula to estimate how much it costs the typical professional/managerial household to live in each locale.

Frutiger says America's least-expensive cities typically offer rock-bottom home prices and rents, as housing accounts for 26.5% of the study's weighted index.

"The overriding commonality among inexpensive cities is that they're not major urban areas," he says. "They're relatively big cities, but they're not the kind of 'destination' urban areas that everyone wants to move to, like New York or Boston."

Look below to check out the least-expensive communities in this year's rundown from among the 308 cities and counties CCER surveyed.

Prices reflect actual costs found last year on 56 items available in one or more neighborhoods popular with each community's professional/managerial class. Terms such as "average" or "lowest-priced" refer to how much a given item cost vs. what CCER found among all of the communities that it polled.

One caveat: The study didn't include property taxes, car insurance and some other significant household expenses.

Fifth-best city for cheapskates: Idaho Falls, Idaho
Cost of living:
14.4% below U.S. average

Located along the Snake River some 250 miles east of Boise, Idaho Falls makes the grade for cheapskates thanks mostly to the lowest housing costs for any community that CCER polled. Houses and apartments cost 34.6% below the U.S. average there.

The 56,800-population city also boasts 14.8% below-average grocery prices, 6.6% savings on utilities and 8.4% lower pricing on miscellaneous items such as haircuts and movie tickets.

On the downside, you'll save just 0.2% over average U.S. transportation costs  and will actually pay 0.7% above the national average for health care.

Fourth-best city for cheapskates: Memphis, Tenn.
Cost of living:
14.6% below U.S. average

Elvis Presley could afford plenty of his beloved fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches if he still lived in Memphis, as groceries there cost 11.8% below the U.S. average.

The River City, which placed fifth in CCER's rankings last year, also offers the 13th-lowest housing costs among communities the group surveyed. Local rents and mortgage expenses run 26.8% below the national average.

Memphis' 655,200 residents also pay 13.6% less than average on utilities, 10.9% below what's typical for transportation and save 7.6% on health care.

Lastly, locals enjoy the 22nd-lowest prices for miscellaneous items, paying 9% less than the average nationwide.

Third-best city for cheapskates: Norman, Okla.
Cost of living:
16.2% below U.S. average

Move to the University of Oklahoma's hometown and you'll save money Sooner rather than later.

That's primarily because Norman -- home to the famous Oklahoma Sooners college-sports teams -- boasts housing costs that run 27.6% below the U.S. average. That's the 12th-best showing of any community in CCER's poll.

Norman's 111,000 residents also pay the third-lowest prices for miscellaneous items, which run 13.8% below the national average.

Similarly, locals enjoy 16.8% below-average prices for utilities and 13.2% less for groceries, as well as 11.4% under the U.S. average for health care and a 3.9% discount on transportation.

Frutiger says college towns usually have high costs of living due to strong housing demand, "but Norman throws a wrench into that theory." Located just outside of Oklahoma City, the community has placed third on CCER's list of low-cost communities for two years running.

Second-best city for cheapskates: Pueblo, Colo.
Cost of living:
16.6% below U.S. average

Live in Pueblo and you'll have plenty of cash left over to buy some of Colorado's newly legalized marijuana, as the city boasts the ninth-lowest housing costs of any community that CCER analyzed.

Expect to pay 28.1% below the U.S. average for rent or mortgage if you move to Pueblo, which is some 100 miles south of Denver.

The city's 106,000 residents also benefit from 20.5% below-average costs for miscellaneous items -- the second-lowest level nationwide -- and pay the 21st-cheapest prices for health care (14.1% under the U.S. average). Locals also save 11.6% over what's typical for groceries and 1.1% on utilities and transportation.

Best city for cheapskates: Harlingen, Texas
Cost of living:
18.4% below U.S. average

This South Texas city has topped CCER's list of best locales for cheapskates for four years running.

Located just 10 miles north of Mexico, Harlingen hosts lots of low-priced outlet stores that cater to consumers on both sides of the border. That helps give the city the lowest cost for miscellaneous items among all communities polled, with such goods and services running 20.6% below U.S. average.

Harlingen's 65,000 residents also enjoy the fourth-lowest cost for groceries (19.1% less than average), eighth-tiniest pricing on housing (28.6% less than average) and 17th-cheapest costs for transportation (11% under what's typical). Similarly, locals pay 5.2% less than the national average for health care.

In fact, the only thing Harlingen residents pay more than average for are utilities  which cost 0.3% more than the U.S. norm despite the Lone Star State's legendary oil industry.

"One of the things that's always surprised me is that the index shows a lack of regionality in prices," Frutiger says. "Cheese isn't any cheaper in Wisconsin, peaches aren't any cheaper in Georgia and oil isn't any cheaper in Texas."

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