affordable-living

Best cheap cities for raising a family 

April 15, 2014 at 5:08 PM ET

Americans thinking about having a family can expect to spend close to a quarter-million dollars to raise each child to the age of 18, according to a 2013 government estimate. If the total seems shocking, consider moving to a community where it’s less costly to live. To give your search some direction, Cheapism.com compiled a list of 10 affordable cities in which to grow a family.

We began our research with the 52 mid-size U.S. cities ─ those with populations between 300,000 and 1 million. Using data from Sperling’s Best Places, we assessed four primary factors, assigning each equal weight: a cost of living index that accounts for the cost of housing, food, transportation, utilities, health care, and general expenses (e.g., entertainment and clothing), with 100 as the national average; per-student spending by the school district; violent crime (rates of murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault); and median household income. 

To a lesser degree, our methodology factored in city sales tax rates, unemployment, share of residents with a commute less than 15 minutes, share of married residents with children, and a comfort index that reflects afternoon summer temperatures and humidity. 

Raleigh-Durham, N.C., a low-density, wide-ranging urban area, has repeatedly performed well on Forbes' list of the best cities for jobs.
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Raleigh-Durham, N.C., a low-density, wide-ranging urban area, has repeatedly performed well on Forbes' list of the best cities for jobs.

5. Raleigh, N.C.

  • Cost of living index: 102
  • School spending/student: $4,421
  • Median household income: $56,691
The national nonprofit GreatSchools ranks Raleigh the top large city for public schools. Parents can choose among magnet programs, charter schools and traditional high schools, including three with International Baccalaureate programs. Median household income is relatively high and crime is low.

4. Wichita, Kan.

  • Cost of living index: 87
  • School spending/student: $4,679
  • Median household income: $48,325

Wichita offers quick commutes, low sales tax, low cost of living and below-average unemployment, although the summers can get hot. The city, which has been known as “Cowtown” and the “Air Capital of the World,” remains a hub of aircraft manufacturing despite the departure of Boeing. Wichita is home to many museums, parks and theaters, in addition to several universities, shopping malls and an international airport.

3. Virginia Beach, Va.

  • Cost of living index: 114
  • School spending/student: $5,341
  • Median household income: $63,453

Virginia Beach is endowed with more than 35 miles of beaches, nearly 160,000 acres of parkland and nearly five playgrounds for every 10,000 residents, according to the ParkScore rating system developed by the Trust for Public Land. The cost of living is high, but that’s offset by high median income, low unemployment and low sales tax. The violent crime rate is lower here than in any other city we researched.

2. Colorado Springs, Colo.

  • Cost of living index: 100
  • School spending/student: $4,392
  • Median household income: $53,854

Colorado Springs claims one of the lowest violent crime rates among the 52 cities we looked at. The cost of living is on par with the national average and nearly one-third of residents commute less than 15 minutes each way. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Vanguard School 141 among the nation’s high schools. The city is home to beautiful parks, the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

1. Omaha, Neb.

  • Cost of living index: 87
  • School spending/student: $4,875
  • Median household income: $49,352

Residents of Omaha enjoy a much lower than average cost of living alongside a moderate median family income. Omaha is the largest city in Nebraska and residential developments have sprung up near the downtown waterfront during the past decade.

To see the rest of the list go to Cheapism.com.

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