How would you describe your perfect town? Bucolic. Quaint. Active. And don’t forget affordable. We’ve found six beautiful U.S. cities where the cost of living is lower than the national average and the state income and sales tax won’t take a chunk out of your wallet.
State Sales Tax: 8.8%
No state personal income tax
Cost of Living: 6 points lower than average
From Victorian-era to modern-contemporary architecture, Spokane’s distinctive neighborhoods give the city its diverse, multidimensional personality. From its early roots as a fur trading post, Spokane has evolved from small town to big city with a thriving downtown, robust cultural scene and notable lilac flowers, which earned it the nickname “The Lilac City.”
With shows straight from Broadway at the INB Performing Arts Center, iconic exhibits at the Smithsonian-affiliated Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and the Spokane International Film Festival – a.k.a. SpiFF – for film fanatics, Spokane has a little something for every cultural buff.
The Spokane Winery Association’s 26 family-run wineries may be smaller than their Willamette Valley cousins, but they still have a few award winners and some bubbly, to boot! If wine’s not your thing, Spokane boasts incredible outdoor adventures to keep you busy in and around its 76 regional lakes, including whitewater rapids, skiing, camping and, of course, golfing. For more information, go to visitspokane.com.
State Sales Tax: 4.3%
Tax Rate Range: Low – 2.0%; High – 5.75%
Cost of Living: 13 points lower than average
If you’re looking for a star of a town, look no further. Situated in a valley beneath the statuesque Blue Ridge Mountains is the charming town of Roanoke. Its bucolic treasures include 26 miles of greenways with bicycle and pedestrian trails linking the city’s downtown to its surrounding natural splendor. Plus, the town is literally overlooked by an 88.5-foot-high illuminated star – the Mill Mountain Star – giving it the nickname “The Star City of the South.”
With art galleries, a planetarium, a lively music scene featuring local and nationally known musicians and more than 60 restaurants and cafes, Roanoke’s town center hums with life. If you’re looking for outdoor entertainment, Roanoke also plays host to the widest variety of festivals in the region, including Roanoke Festival in the Park, The Virginia Championship Chili Cook-Off, Big Lick Blues Festival and the Strawberry festival to name a few, thanks to a special events committee local to the town. For more information, go to visitroanokeva.com.
State Sales Tax: 4%
Tax Rate Range: Low – 1.0%; High – 6%
Cost of Living: 4 points lower than average
Best-known for its sprawling cypress and oak trees throughout its 22 public squares and parks, Savannah is one of Georgia’s crown jewels. Harking back to its antebellum past, the city’s cobblestone streets and stunning, romantic homes, like The Mercer House, gives history buffs a peek into the city’s rich past. And with more than 75 boutiques, galleries, artists’ studios, restaurants and pubs lining River Street residing in restored cotton warehouses, it’s clear that Savannah’s modern incarnation pays homage to its past.
As the “artistic heartbeat” of the city, Savannah College of Art and Design fuels its eclectic arts exhibits and a plethora of galleries. Plus, Savannah’s laid-back charm and fun-living attitude has made it host to one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day Parades, which draws visitors from all over the country to revel in the merriment that is uniquely Savannahian. For more information, go to visitsavannah.com.
State Sales Tax: 6%
Tax Rate Range: Flat rate of 3.07%
Cost of Living: 12 points lower than average
You may want to consider investing in a Terrible Towel if you move to Steel City. More than just home to the Pittsburgh Steelers and their six Super Bowl rings, Pittsburgh’s eateries have landed it on Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food.” Its diverse neighborhoods boast curb appeal with plenty of shops and restaurants. And its striking waterfront skyline is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, even though the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t won the World Series since 1979, their stadium – PNC Park – is considered the “perfect” ball field and ranked one of the best in the country by ESPN.
With free lawn bowling within Frick Park’s 561 acres during the summer, a renowned symphony orchestra and its more than 446 bridges – possibly more than any other city in the world – Heinz ketchup’s hometown may be worth a look. For more information, go to visitpittsburgh.com.
State Sales Tax: 6%
Tax Rate Range: Low – 2.0%; High – 6.0%
Cost of Living: 12 points lower than average
Kentucky’s Derby City is more than just Churchill Downs. Louisville is a town that produces. From nearly one-third of the world’s bourbon to the official bats of Major League Baseball (yes, that Louisville Slugger) and 90 percent of the country’s disco balls, Louisville’s got it made, literally.
For outdoor enthusiasts, the Louisville Loop makes it a biker’s paradise with more than 100 miles of trails encircling the city and connecting neighborhoods and parks, including the 6,000-acre Jefferson Memorial Forest – the nation’s largest urban forest.
If you’re a history buff, the Old Louisville neighborhood is home to one of the largest preservation districts in the nation and has one of the country’s most renowned collections of Victorian-era architecture.
Perhaps most importantly, Louisville is a foodie haven with more than 2,500 restaurants that span cafes and coffee houses to restaurants and bourbon lounges, if you’re into that sort of thing. For more information, visit gotolouisville.com.
State Sales Tax: 7%
Tax Rate Range: Flat rate of 3.4% of federal adjusted gross income
Cost of Living: 8 points lower than average
Known as “The Athens on the Prairie,” Columbus is an unexpected architectural gem on the outskirts of the country’s bread basket. Home to buildings listed as National Historic Landmarks and designed by masters of modern architecture, including I.M. Pei, Robert Venturi and Eero Saarinen, Columbus makes for one of the most distinctive towns in America.
Less than an hour away from downtown Indianapolis and only 30 minutes away from state parks and wildlife, Columbus is easily accessible to great shopping and the great outdoors. Plus, with a roller derby league that’s a force to be reckoned with — The Terrorz of Tiny Towns — and an ice cream parlor that’s a destination unto itself, Columbus has its fair share of quirkiness and small town charm. For more information, visit columbus.in.us.