Cheapest places to live in America – Topeka, KS for under $840 a month

A couple of weeks back I created a post about the cheapest places to live in America. As a result of that post I received a fair few comments but one of them in particular stuck out. A very nice lady called Lori Kite Smith left a comment asking where she could live for $840 a month. Here are some excerpts of her comment:

“Got any ideas where a 50 year old can live on her ss disabiliy check at approx $840.00 per month?”; “I own my car, a bunch of personal stuff, but no real furniture”; “I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I do have a cat”.

So I thought it would be interesting and do a little research to see how possible this actually was. Now I have to disclaim and say that without actually living in a place, I can’t confirm that my findings are correct. So feedback and comments would be much appreciated. I actually currently live in Montreal so don’t have a huge knowledge of the USA living situation so I turned to a couple of blogging buddies to ask their opinions and it seemed that the Mid West was universally agreed to be the most affordable part of the States. JK Swoopes of Im With Joe lives in Kansas, a Mid West place I know is cheap from my last batch of research. so I probed him with questions and decided to look into living for $840 a month in the town of Topeka. First a little about Topeka… topeka, ksTopeka is the capital city of Kansas and has a population of 122,377 (in the 2000 census). It sits on the Kansas River and the biggest employer is local gvernment. Aparently 1 in 5 people work for the governmet! Topeka gets it’s name from a Kansas tribal name meaning “a good place to grow potatoes”. This refers to prairie potato, a perennial herb that was a major food source for indigenous tribes. For more info check out the Topeka Wikipedia article. Starting Balance – $840

Renting a place: $315 ($525 left)

I had a little look around and on Ebay’s site and managed to find a fairly decent looking studio apartment for $315 a month including air conditioning, basic cable, dishwasher, garbage disposal and a fridge. The apartments are named Prospect Hills and are based just out of town…. they are even cat friendly. I am sure looking for a private rental or even a room in a large shared house that you could push this cost down even more!

Shopping for food: – Est $100 per month ($425 left)

This is a hard thing to judge but I know that I can feed myself here in Montreal for $25 a week. I also have experienced lower prices in the parts of the States that I have been to. The average price for a loaf of bread in the Mid West was $0.896 in 2000 (Source: Even with the rising food prices, talking to Joe it seems that you can get a loaf for around $1. Here is a sample shop from an online natural food and supplement store… i know it’s not complete or totally healthy but it shows that even in a natural store you can get quite a lot of food for under $20. Woodstock Farms Organic Diced Bsl&Grl Tomatoes 14.5 OZ x3 $5.37 DeBoles Arti Spaghetti 8 oz x1 $2.39 Organic Valley Shelf Stable Whole Milk 33.8 oz x1 $3.49 Tree of Life Wheat Bran Org 12 OZ x1 $1.99 Bavarian Bakery Organic Flaxseed Bread 17.6 OZ x1 $4.49 TOTAL: $17.73 If you find a cheaper store to shop at and go crazy with couponing you will definitely be able to bring your food costs down very low.

Feeding and keeping a Kittie: $26 ($399 left)

kittieLooking at a Kansas City online pet store, I found these reasonable prices: Cat Tails Reg Litter 25# Price: $5.99 Iams Adult Cat Foodlamb & Rice 8# Price: $19.99

Gas: $53 ($346 left) currently reports gas at around $3.50 a gallon in Topeka, my figure of $53 a month is based on a car averaging 30 miles a gallon. And a travel distance of approx 15 miles a day.

Car Insurance: $65 ($281 left)

According to Insurance USA the 2003 car insurance average for Kansas was $777. I assume this average is was made higher by young drivers and large engined gas guzzlers so I think it’s safe to say it will still cost you around that amount for a small car.

Other Bills est $150 ($131 left)

Again this is another area which is hard to judge. You seem to be able to get broadband for around $20 and my JK advised me that electricities should come under $100 so I have settled on a round $150.

What to do with the leftover $131

There is no doubt to be other living expenses. I have just outlined some of the main ones. All of which could be cut, I think, if desperate. Being Frugal is hard but can be worthwhile and is at times very necessary. However you may have the need and wish to have some fun at times in your life so it’s also good to know what you can do in the way of entertainment in your local area. Here are some frugal things I managed to find in Topeka.

Keeping yourself Frugally Entertained

Topeka isn’t a huge city but it does seem to have a fairly high density of restaurants, bars, movie theatres and various other things that cost money. Obviously if done right you can enjoy the benefits of having all thsi around. You can visit a bar at happy hour for a quiet pint or a restaurant for the mid week lunch specials. There are also a bunch of museums and historical societies. Becoming a member, getting a small job or just helping out may be a great way to join in these activities for free. There is also plenty of history around Topeka to catch up on. A quick search on the web unearths plenty of building to visit and you could easily create your own walking tour. Museums include: The Kansas Museum of History, The Combat Air Museum and the Mulvane Art Museum. The surrounding country side and parks are idyllic and provide great places to relax, exercise and picnic. The official Topeka website offer more things to do and detailed information about the city. Thanks for reading. If you see any mistakes or if I have missed anything major please let me know. This case study has been produced mainly for interest so please don’t rely on it for accurate information. I have never lived in Topeka and my info came from searching the web.

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Hey, I'm Forest, owner and writer at I used to be a graphic designer but now I travel a fair bit and blog for a living. I love all the standard other stuff such as movies, music and socialising :).

26 thoughts on “Cheapest places to live in America – Topeka, KS for under $840 a month”

  1. i live in topeka and it is cheap i used to live in florida what a diffrence. my mom has a nice 1 bedroom here all bills paid $240.00 a month cat friendly. gas is $3.64 ,milk $3.89, bread 0.89,my mom drives a small truck her insuance is $41.00 a month, tags $58.00 a year, $1.50 movie theater, $3.00 zoo i have a 3 bedroom house with attached garage $600.00 a month wich is on the higher end average is $450.00 electric $45.00 gas $ 90.00 phone cable & internet $65.00 water and trash $38.00 food for 5 people $480.00 i am a certified nursing assistant i make $10.55 an hr u can get rental listings with prices at thats our local paper hope this helps

  2. I have a friend going to college in New Mexico- $200 month for a 1400 sq foot home; balconies, fireplaces, granite countertops and all… I was impressed.

    I’m American but now live in Cabo San Lucas, where I moved from Puerto Vallarta. In Cabo, we actually bought a villa and rentals are quite pricey but in Puerto Vallarta- very nice condos for $400 a month and up, just a few blocks from the beach. Food and utilities are next to nothing. $30 dollars a week will fill your fridge for 2 ppl.

    Inland rentals (by inland, i mean still walking distance to the beach) start at $200 and go up. Then, as an expat there are numerous tax benefits (great for bloggers and web publishers such as myself.)

    On $850 a month, you could live a near-lavish lifestyle!

  3. @ Susan, thank you so so much for the comment… It’s great to have some cofirmation on the cheapness from a real Topekan…. My estimates were all based on research so could not confirm them for sure.

    @ Jenni, Thanks for the tip offs…. I found many cheap places through the US and had to target one for this post… There are so many REALLY cheap places to lie outside of the US but often they are low in the earnings potential too.

  4. There are a lot of place in the U.S. where you can live on the super cheap. A lot of it depends on giving up various luxuries, and realizing that you don’t have to have everything. I live in Flint, MI, and I’m paying $375 a month rent for a three bedroom house. Will be moving shortly, a block away, to buy a house that is seller financed on land contract for $375 a month. With utilities and food and such, I live on less than $800 a month. You just have to know how to do cheap, be willing to live in the not-ritzy areas, and not be focused on brand names and having it all.

    Roses last blog post..Meat

  5. HELP ME ! I would like some info from anyone, please.
    We want to get out of Southern California ! We are self employed here, 2 kids, 11 and 17. We will be selling everything we have and can in these terrible CA times of ‘going under’….and want to move and ‘start over’.
    BUT WHERE? We would love something not too cold and not too hot. Not too much rain and possibly no horrible tornadoes etc. We will have money to get started, may be open a little grill-bbq place? Or something….. We are not sure. But, where???? We can not take this high priced, overtaxed, over-concided SoCal no more…. :( How about Topeka? Is it people friendly? Kids and pets friendly? Easy going or fast track? Someone….please let me know at:

  6. Hi Ina B,

    I compiled this post from internet research and sadly have never been. The post ha gotten good and bad comments so I am not honestly sure.

    Maybe try and find a Topeka forum and ask people who live there.

    I wish you best of luck in these hard times… I am struggling too up here in Montreal.

    Sorry I could not be more solid with my info.

  7. i’m a student at washburn (the university here in topeka) and i live pretty comfortably in my fraternity at around 500 dollars per month
    i could do 450 pretty easily

    1. Hey Darris, that is awesome to know…. This article is quite old now so it’s good to know it’s keeping it’s affordability.

  8. I just moved from Topeka and agree it is cheap living. A fair sized city with good entertainment zoo, theaters etc., great symphony. It is family friendly. Draw back, it is redneck to the umpteenth degree. If you are not a Bush or Palin fan you are on the outside looking in. There should be a sign at the city limits, “Free thinkers keep out!”

    1. Hey Ray, This can be a problem is an area does not fit you socially or politically but I am sure there must have been some free thinkers hiding in the darkness :)….. I actually generally find USA a little out of whack with my beliefs but still manage to find like minded people when I am there. Politics can become very draining though!

  9. am international student complete 2 years in detroit-MI ..forced to stop stdying because of living expensis – insurance – and many other expensis .
    even being sick and need 6 – 8 months treatments from stomach pain because of all above.
    now i want to continue and start again . i wish that reading about topeka.
    need your advise .. thanks

    1. Hey Kreiker, I don’t know how it is to study in Topeka. You may want to look at moving somewhere in mid USA or even down to Texas, Austin seems to be cheap and lively and I am sure has many college options.

      Good luck.

  10. I am 52 years old and am currently living with some elderly parents who need my help. And I do not make a lot of money (close to $30,000 a year), so we are helping each other, by living together!

    However, I realize there will be a time, when I will have to move on, but I have no idea where I can afford to live comfortably on what I make a yea!.

    I also have 2 cats and I am finding there are not a lot of places here that are pet friendly in the Pinehurst, NC area. So, while living here, I am saving like a mad woman and also exploring and researching the cheapest places to live in the future!

    I like cultural things, like fine arts, but I don’t have to live right in the city. In fact, I would prefer to live in a smaller community, but close to an art museum, because I think a smaller town would be safer for a single person, such as myself and I still want to enjoy an artistic environment, like we have here. Also, I’d like the shorter commute to work, since I’d also like to save on gas money!

    If you have any ideas, on cheaper communities to live that are pet friendly and also cultural, I’d love to hear about those places!

    And I want to thank you for creating such a beneficial website! In hard economic times, I’m sure there are gobs of people like me, who have interest in the information you are providing and sharing with others!

    You are a God send!

    1. Hey Mary Lou Thomas, wow thanks for the compliment!

      I can’t think of specific places but you may want to check out some smaller college towns. They often have cheaper rents because of students and a higher level of cultural events. Maybe some of the other commenters here can help more.

  11. Hi, unfortunately I had to move back to Topeka after I lost my last job in KC. I went to high school here and left shortly after to be an international flight attendent. Over the course of my employment with the airline I was based in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Miami. I liked all of those places very much…which made it that much more difficult having to move back to Topeka. I know where the “Prospect Hills” apartments are and they are horribly crime ridden. In fact, the city has an atrociously high crime rate. Most “affordable” rentals here are substandard at best…and full of crime. This town is bleak. It’s VERY ugly and run down (visually). I would never recommend anyone to live here. I can’t wait to leave here. Kansas City is only an hour away and there are many very nice, clean, well kept, SAFE and affordable rentals there…and the city is vibrant and clean.

    1. Hi Jennifer, interesting to get an inside perspective. This post was written maybe 2 years ago now so maybe things have gotten much worse :(. What kind of crime seems to be prevalent?

  12. I was going to ask….are these cheap places Safe to live in?
    I am originally from the Akron Canton area in Ohio…….there are many CHEAP places to live .But it is not Safe or clean :0(

      1. Topeka, I am telling you from personal experience, Sucks. It is sooo boring, and apartments are ghetto at best. I lived there in hell for almost a year, when my husband was working in the area temporarily. This was a couple years back, and I have to drive there from KC occasionally still for work purposes, you literally feel the life being sucked out of you as soon as you get off I-70. I have also lived in Lawrence, KS when I was a student, transferred to UMKC for graduate work, and lived in the greater KC area for 15+ years, quite happily. We owned a home while I was married, and after separating I found a three bedroom house, not apartment, in a very safe neighborhood in Olathe, KS for $600. I love Olathe, it is very safe there are numerous police every day so if that freaks you out, maybe not a good idea, but I like them patrolling the blocks, its kind of down-home type. There are all people here in KC, all types, not just “rednecks” because I certainly aint one lol!! (Aint is used here as a joke). There are lots of shopping and dining options, and in other areas of town, even downtown Olathe, you can find single apartments in the 350-400$ range. Topeka is a $h_t hole imo, it is a real drag. Lawrence is a college town but there are also plenty of families it has really sprawled out over the past few years.

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