One of the most popular articles on Frugal Zeitgeist is about the Cheapest Places To Live. Since publishing that article and a few similar articles (see related posts below for more info) I have received many comments and emails regarding how great it is to live in Texas on a budget. Texas came in at number 2 on my original post but I thought it would be awesome to publish some of the readers real experiences, as I have never been to Texas, and go into a little more detail.
Reader Comments and Mail About Cheap Living In Texas:
Comments from previous blog posts:
“I found Texas to be very reasonable I had a PULTE premiere home built for $188000. The taxes were $4400 every thing else was inexpensive beer in a restaurant was between 2.50 and 3.00 mexican food was good and cheap. people were friendly and didn’t beep the horn if you didnt jump at a light. there is no state tax but off the book jobs don’t exist. Car insurance was half the price of New York and electric was less than New York.”
– Kevin M
(Kevin also mentioned some bad things about the schools and cops but that’s a personal thing to judge I guess!
“I currently live in Texas, born and raised, and the housing is extremely cheap here. I work in the culinary industry, and have been recently looking for a place up north to broaden my experience. From what I’ve seen, the cost of living is just ridiculous. I guess it’s just because I’m used to everything being so cheap down here, but I’m seriously starting to reconsider, because I wont have much cash left over at the end of the month for anything other than eating, and gas money. Some of the other comments kind of put Texas in a bad light though. I have done a lot of traveling, and I’ve found that generally speaking the people here are very nice. It’s a family friendly atmosphere, and it’s very community based. I also am an Atheist, and even though most people here are Christian I have never in anyway felt pressured to adopt Christianity. Of course you might find someone every now and then that wants to strike up an argument, but I’ve found that if you just say you would rather not talk about it because it only causes stress, they will generally agree and you can go back to having a good time. Also, with the “corrupt” police issue, I can say from experience that police here are not corrupt. They are however very strict, and can at times be overly intimidating. If you don’t break the law, you wont have anything to worry about. One of my best friends that lived down here for most of his life recently moved up to Maine, and he said that the police up there were much worse. Overall it’s a very friendly place to live, and I plan on staying.
P.S. I almost forgot about the heat issue. Yes it does get hot…it’s Texas. There are only a few days a year that it can really get to you though, and there is no shortage of swimming pools with plenty of people willing to share them. Personally I would rather deal with a few hot days at the pool, and a nice tan, than an entire winter of painful cold, and messy snow”
Email sent to me:
Jason who left the comment above also sent me a really insightful email after I asked him for more info.
“I’m really glad that you are interested in doing a followup on Texas. I can’t really give you specific information on anything, but I can give you some prices from some of my personal experiences, and some approximations from people I have known. I currently live in a small city called Weatherford just about 20 miles west of Fort Worth. Right now I’m living in a 3 bed, 2 bath 1700 square foot home with 12ft. ceilings on a 1/2 acre lot, which I know we payed $122,000 for. It’s about 3 blocks away from the city center in a good neighborhood, so it would be one of the more prime locations. As far as apartments go, I just moved out of a 2 bed, 2 bath 972 square foot apartment with washer and dryer included in Dallas for $700 total, so I alone was only paying $350 a month. What really dropped my jaw though was what I saw on HGTV. There was a family (husband, wife, and 4 kids) living in a cramped apartment, and paying over $1300 a month. That was bad enough, but the show was about them wanting to move out to a house in the suburbs. So they start looking around at houses with an average of 1400 square feet, and they are listed at approximately $500,000. This blew my mind because they were actually happy about it, and you can get a house that sized here for $100,000. They were talking about how spacious it was, and the whole time I couldn’t help wanting to tell them what they were missing. I had a friend in high school whose family was considered one of the most wealthy in the city, and they had a 4 bed, 3 bath 5186 square foot house with a 2 story guest house, tennis court, swimming pool, 2 sand volleyball courts, a pond, and a fort for the kids that cost them $500,000. I know it probably sounds like I’m making that up because it’s so over the top, but I’m not. So you can see why I was so blown away seeing people settle for such a cramped space, when they could have had, and deserved so much more for the same price. I know that comparing prices to New York isn’t very relevant because they are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, but I’m still in a slight amount of shock about that. Back on topic. From what I have seen, small to medium sized cities are the cheapest, with a much nicer environment. The big cities can be a little more expensive, but still generally cheaper than most. If you go too small you can run into more of what people want to avoid about Texas. Cities ranging from 20,000 to 150,000 people are definitely the way too go. They are friendly, and thriving cities with lower costs than the big ones. There are quite a few small cities around Texas, including one 5 miles out of Weatherford that aren’t being effected by the recession at all, and are actually improving. I’ve been considering using some of my culinary funds to start up a real estate development side project, and that would be the perfect place to do something like that.”
Is Texas Really One Of The Cheapest Places To Live?
The current minimum wage in Texas is $7.25 but it rises and falls with the federal minimum wage. A 35 hour work week would bring you $1,087 in a 30 day month (pre tax). Luckily Texas has no income Tax so you just have to pay the Feds and total sales tax only works out to about 8.25% which is pretty cool.
Rentals.com shows homes for rent in Houston (which should be one of the most expensive areas) at as low as $300 per month for a studio and many 2-3 bed available in the $800-$1200 range.
Homes.com shows many 2-3 bed homes in Houston available for as low as $50,000. I am not sure these homes are fantastic but it seems you can certainly pick up a nice place for around $100,000 (please correct me if I am wrong here).
Most people I talk to report groceries to be much cheaper than up north and entertainment such as alcohol, restaurants and cinema seems to be very affordable.
Texas, it seems, is indeed an affordable place to live and you may even be able to scrape by on minimum wage if you live alone.
Negatives of Budget Living in Texas
It’s likely that the best budget places to will also be in the less desirable areas and not in the major cities with the better job options. A few people have reported that the police are very hard ass (but you’re not going to do anything wrong, right?) and some areas report higher crime than USA average.
The biggest complaint is the heat! I am currently living in Cairo, Egypt and I can really feel for Texan’s who grew up dealing with this crazy heat every summer of their lives. Texas experiences most of the summer in the 80-100 range which is pretty darn hot. Howver this past winter they did get some unusual amounts of snow.
Finding the actual cheapest place to live is not possible as so much is relative. However Texas seems fairly affordable in the scheme of things but I have never spent anytime there to be sure…. This is where you come in.
I would love to get your thoughts and comments or anything, just mail me firstname.lastname@example.org or ideally leave a comment below.
I will be on vacation until April 10th, all comments will be answered on my return, unless I find time to pop into an Internet cafe