50 Cities Where You Can Actually Afford to Live Alone on a $45K Salary

published Nov 6, 2019
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If you’re single, odds are you probably want to live alone. Good luck trying to afford it. Renting a one-bedroom apartment by yourself can get pretty costly, especially if you’re tied to a place like San Francisco, where the average rent for a one-bedroom ran $3,650 a month as of September 2019, according to Zillow data (Co-living is a trend for a reason!)

Don’t need to be in SF? Take a deep breath. I have good news: Of the 100 most-populated cities in the United States, you can afford to live solo in fifty of them if you make $45,000 a year—which is about $7,000 less than the 2018 national average wage, according to the Social Security Administration. We found this out by calculating the expert-recommended housing budget of $1,125—30 percent of a gross salary of $45,000—and comparing it with Zillow’s most recent rent index for a one-bedroom apartment in the city.

Turns out, $1,125 actually goes a pretty long way in most states: In the top ten cheapest cities, you can score the average one-bedroom for $754 or less. With so much wiggle room in your budget, maybe splurge on a ritzier pad. Or better (worse?) yet—throw that money at your student loans.

El Paso—$754

In this home of Southwestern style, you only need to spend $754 on rent. That leaves you with plenty of cash to decorate the place, too. Draw inspiration from the beautiful desert landscapes and scenic drives that surround El Paso.


If you’re tired of the same ol’ same ol’, head to Memphis for a dose of wild style. You can bask in the auras of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash in this musical city where blues, rock, and soul are all at home. Don’t forget to grab some barbecue!


Greensboro has an up-and-coming arts scene, plus more parks, gardens and museums than you can visit in a month. Come for the hip vibe, stay for the chill, welcoming people.

9. Mobile, Alabama—$730

Rent is pretty cheap in the land of battlefields, battleships, and forts. With a swim in the Gulf of Mexico just a short drive away, Mobile is a relaxed and outdoorsy place to call home.

While Oklahoma City is known for cowboy culture, it’s also a big hub for the arts and sciences. With outdoor spaces, gardens, art museums, and more, you’ll never run out of things to do in OKC.

7. Tucson, Arizona—$709

Situated between Saguaro National Park and Mica Mountain, Tucson is a wonderland of natural beauty. What could be better? (No outdoor allergies here!)

St. Louis is more than just the gateway arch. It’s a thriving city with diverse neighborhoods and plenty to do, from the City Museum (a gigantic playground that has adult nights) to the Missouri Botanical Gardens (one of the best in the world.)

5. Tulsa, Oklahoma—$672

Another contender in the Midwest, Tulsa has a thriving arts scene and is home to the old Route 66.

4. Wichita, Kansas—$666

Wichita is the birthplace of Pizza Hut and White Castle, so your midnight junk food cravings are set. Even though the first electric guitar was played in Wichita in 1932, it’s easy to get some peace and quiet in this low-key city.

Easy-going Fort Wayne is in the middle of everything—just a drive from Chicago, Indianapolis, and the Great Lakes. This town of farm-fresh produce and three rivers gives you plenty to do outside.

2. Lubbock, Texas—$638

Home to Buddy Holly and fossil digs, Lubbock gives you time to slow down. Come for the country music, stay for the—matadors? Yup. That’s Lubbock.

1. Toledo, Ohio—$621

Toledo sits on the western tip of Lake Erie. Toledo has a little bit of everything you could want—shopping, restaurants, nightlife, arts and nature—all without the big city price tag.

Not ready to move across the country? There are still some things you can do to find a nice place close to the action.

One way to cut costs is to look at the amenities of the apartments themselves.  In Orlando, Florida—a town that, with an average one-bedroom rent of $1,156, just barely misses the affordability cutoff—a lot of the places on the market are “luxury” apartments. Be honest with yourself. Will you use all those extra bells and whistles?

“Do you really need a full gym, Olympic-sized pool, jacuzzi, spa, steam room, sauna, tennis courts, parks, dog parks, lake views, and… well, you get the point,” says Mauricio Rezende, an Orlando real estate agent. “I’ve seen some single-bedroom luxury apartments over $1,800 a month. That’s the equivalent of a $265,000 mortgage payment with zero down payment.”

Instead, Rezende recommends making a list of your must-haves. That way, you’ll know where to splurge and where to save.

“The most powerful step renters can take to bring down costs is broadening their geographic horizons,” says Jeff Tucker, an economist with Zillow. “In many hot rental markets, savvy shoppers can save several hundred dollars a month by opting for a quieter neighborhood or town a little further from the hot spots for restaurants and nightlife.”

Where else can you afford to live on $45K? Take a look at these 50 other cities:

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