Affording a place to live is always about more than just the rent. You have to account for other expenses that could drive your total cost of living even higher. It's especially discouraging when you see that rent is higher than the national average. Because when the rent is high, that means everything else is going to cost more too, right?
Not necessarily. Combining our rental price data with national cost of living data, we found cities where rent is high, but the overall cost of living is much more manageable – or even lower than average!
Here are eight places (in alphabetical order) where it's deceptively cheaper to live than you might think.
Chapel Hill is an attractive choice if you want a college town. The University of North Carolina is right there and Duke University and North Carolina State University aren't too far away.
At first glance, it might look a little expensive because rent is about 14 percent above the national average. Luckily, that's about the only thing that costs more than average. Especially notable is transportation, which is 22 percent cheaper than the average. When you add everything up, living in Chapel Hill is about 2 percent cheaper than the average cost of living.
Looking at rental prices alone, Chattanooga seems a little more expensive because apartment prices are about 8 percent higher than the national average. It's not a lot, but might give you pause if you're considering it as somewhere to live.
Everything else, though, is near or below average. Most notably, utilities are 10 percent cheaper. Average it all out and you're looking at a little more than 2 percent below the national average cost of living.
Just like most larger cities, you'll pay more for rent in Milwaukee. Apartment prices in this Wisconsin city are 29 percent above the national average. The prices aren't as steep as some major cities, but it's still a pretty large difference. Plus, healthcare costs are pretty high, which doesn't help.
However, the other costs in Milwaukee are below average, which makes living here more affordable than it might seem. Overall, it's just over 6 percent more expensive to live here than average.
New Orleans is one of the more unique cities in the country. There's a heavy French influence, festivals like Mardi Gras and the residents' dedication to avoid becoming like every other city.
Rent in New Orleans is 37 percent above the national average, but everything else you need costs a lot less. Most other daily necessities are right around average cost, with utilities actually being comparatively cheap. The overall cost of living in New Orleans is only 6 percent above average.
Orlando is a tourist town, so you can expect to pay a little bit more to live here. In fact, rent is more than 26 percent above the national average.
Dive a little deeper though, and it's not quite as bad as it looks. Cheap healthcare and transportation are noteworthy, and everything else is much closer to average. This brings the overall cost of living in Orlando to about 6.5 percent above the national average.
Raleigh is another up and coming area, with a couple of universities nearby and a booming technology industry. Rent is a little higher than average, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's an expensive place to live.
A lot of the city's growth can be attributed to the relatively cheap cost of living, especially compared to other cities with a growing tech industry. Everything other than rent is at or below the national average, which means it's actually 3.6 percent less expensive overall to live here. If you're looking for an affordable but growing job market, check out Raleigh.
Tampa is like both living on the beach and in a big city. That means it's going to be expensive, especially by Florida standards.
Rent is pretty high (19 percent above average) and groceries are moderately expensive (4 percent above average), but everything else is average or cheaper. Taken together, it's only 2.5 percent more expensive than the national average, making Tampa a far more affordable place to live.
Westminster is where you'd look if you want to be near Denver, but prefer more of a suburban feel. It's close enough you can take advantage of the city life, but not be in the center of all the hustle and bustle.
The rent here is 32 percent higher than average but seems most more manageable when you consider other costs of living. Utilities stand out the most, at 20 percent below average. With everything taken into consideration, the total cost of living in Westminster is only about 7 percent higher than the national average.
We took the 2018 end-of-year Cost of Living data from C2ER (The Council for Community and Economic Research) and combined it with rental prices from Apartment Guide and Rent.com inventory as of January 2019. The Cost of Living data includes prices for groceries, rent, utilities, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services. Our average rental costs are based on the price of a one-bedroom apartment in the 241 cities there was overlapping data in the Cost of Living report and the Apartment Guide and Rent.com inventory.