The state of Tennessee is consistently ranked within the top 10 cheapest states to live in America. With a cost of living index of 89.49 being 11% lower than the national average, Tennessee, as a whole, is an exceptional option for anyone searching for affordable living. But what if you want to go one step further and live in the cheapest town or city within the state?
In this article, we are going to list the top 11 most affordable places to live in Tennessee. As you read, you will learn the core basics of each location regarding their cost of living, population, community types (ex. suburban, urban, rural), and more. This will allow you to confidently choose the location that best suits your lifestyle, economic status, and other defining factors.
Starting off our list is the city of Murfreesboro, located in Rutherford County, Tennessee, about 30 miles from the country hub and Music City of Nashville. The city has frequently been dubbed one of the best places in the state to live, which might explain its 3.46% annual population increase.
Here, the overall cost of living is around 3% lower than the national average, and those who call it home can take advantage of the exceptional academic institutes, such as Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), study the region’s Civil War history, and enjoy a vibrant nightlife.
|Average Rent||$1,052 per month|
|Average Home Value||$238,000|
Compared to some of the thriving city’s on this list, Johnson City is a bit more quaint, with a relatively small population that grows by 0.22% annually, making it an excellent choice for anyone who prioritizes privacy and peace.
This is further aided by the region’s natural beauty and pleasant climate. In terms of affordability, Johnson City’s cost of living is an estimated 18% lower than the national average. However, housing costs can be a bit steep when considering the average adult’s hourly wage is $21.43, which is 21% below the national average of $27.07.
|Average Rent||$755 per month|
|Average Home Value||$167,500|
Located in Montgomery County, Tennessee, is the energetic college and military town of Clarksville, home to Austin Peay State University and Fort Campbell U.S. Army base. This is another highly praised city where young adults tread, which is likely the reason behind the region’s exceptionally affordable housing and low-interest mortgages. Population here has an annual increase rate of 1.09%, and the median age is 29.6 years, so if you’re looking for a young, lively, cheap place to live, it’s here.
|Average Rent||$961 per month|
|Average Home Value||$154,300|
If you already live in Tennessee, odds are you’ve heard of Chattanooga, if not for its affordability, then for its exceptional natural beauty. Nestled between the Appalachian Mountains and Walden’s Ridge, this city has all the convenience and vibrancy of a metropolitan community with the splendors of nature at its fingertips.
Because of this highly sought-after balance, populations here have been steadily increasing sing the 80s, with a current average growth rate of 0.48%.
People of all walks of life will thrive here thanks to its affordable and ample resources and low cost of living that has frequently placed it amongst the top 100 cities to live in America. Just make sure you have a great pair of hiking shoes if you’re going to make Chattanooga your home- there’s so much natural beauty to explore here!
|Average Rent||$859 per month|
|Average Home Value||$167,50|
If the nature aspect and affordability of Chattanooga caught your eye, but city living isn’t really your style, we highly recommend considering La Follette. This stunning suburb is located in the Cumberland Mountains and has an intimately small population.
Although the region has a significantly lower median income and average home value, and its population has been steadily decreasing by -1.24% (which some might see as a bonus), it boasts a cost of living that is about 23.7% lower than the national average, making it a cheap nature retreat.
|Average Rent||$614 per month|
|Average Home Value||$77,000|
Those of you searching for a highly historic location or one that is affordable with the smallest population possible can start packing your bags for Rockwood. Despite its population being over 1,000 people smaller than La Follett, Rockwood has a higher home value, median income, and lower average rent.
Rockwood was originally an old mining town that has been transformed into a calm, quaint area filled with museums, and antique shops, that also host music festivals and auto/motorbike shows for some cultural entertainment. The population has been declining by -0.32% annually, but with low rents and associated figures such as these, we wouldn’t be surprised if those rates start increasing very soon.
|Average Rent||$596 per month|
|Average Home Value||$83,200|
Ah, yes. The Tennessee gem that is Memphis. Considering this city’s sheer size in are and population, we’d understand if you were surprised to find it anywhere near this list of most affordable places in the state. But it’s true! Memphis living is affordable… and there’s no shortage of delicious Memphis style BBQ. It’s a win-win.
Against all odds, homes here are worth a pretty penny, rent isn’t unreasonably high, and its overall cost of living is 18% lower than the national average. This makes it the ideal choice for city lovers who want that NYC feel, since its closest competitor, Nashville, has a cost of living that is slightly higher than the national average and 14% higher than the state average.
|Average Rent||$901 per month|
|Average Home Value||$101,800|
The small town of Portland, Tennessee is a great choice for individuals who want that rural-suburban mix but still want access to city resources within a reasonable drive (inhabitants can reach Nashville within an hour).
Agriculture is a common priority here, which is evident in the region’s many wineries and annual festivals. Although it might not seem like Portland has a lot to offer at first glance, more and more people are moving out there (annual population growth is 1.47%) to take advantage of its calm scenery and cost of living that is 10% lower and a housing cost that is 26% lower than the national average.
|Average Rent||$850 per month|
|Average Home Value||$144,500|
If you couldn’t tell by the figures below, Farragut is relatively wealthy, with an average household income that is more than double the national average of $67,521 (as of 2020). It also boasts an exceptionally low poverty rate of 3% and has an annual population growth of 3.44%.
The suspected reason for this, apart from the town’s peaceful suburban feel with lakefront towns and activities, is because it is a hotspot for retirees. While there are plenty of families living here, the average age in Farragut is 47.9 years old. So, if you’re searching for a place to retire with a significantly sized community and reasonable cost of living, this might be the place for you.
|Average Rent||$1,120 per month|
|Average Home Value||$370,400|
The town of Alcoa has been consistently dubbed not only one of the cheapest places to live in the state of Tennessee but the whole country as well. Its 2022 cost of living index is estimated at 85.2%, making it 15% lower than the national average. Located 15 miles south of Knoxville, this town is another great option for any outdoors people who want to explore the Appalachian range but wouldn’t mind a day trip to the city on occasion.
|Average Rent||$796 per month|
|Average Home Value||$137,800|
Finishing off our list is the highly underrated city of Oak Ridge. Although it is often listed as one of the best places to live in Tennessee, we think Oak Ridge’s ideal location, intriguing history, and exceptional affordability should place it on more people’s radars. This is another highly recommended option for retirees and families.
However, thanks to its low rental rates, in addition to other costs of living resources and, there is a significant population of young professionals (typically individuals in their late 30s) that are drawn here with the intent to settle down and build their careers.
|Average Home Value||$155,800|
While this is far from a comprehensive list of cities and towns in Tennessee that offer exceptionally low costs of living, it is a diverse listing of places you can start as you search for the ideal, affordable place to stay.
Remember that Tennessee is a relatively affordable state compared to the rest of the nation. So, as long as you avoid expensive locations like Brentwood, Franklin, and Nolensville, you’re probably doing better than most.