It's well known that California, New York and Hawaii are pretty expensive places to live: housing prices are way above average, and even basic services can cost a lot more than in other parts of the country. If you're looking for a place where goods and services are more affordable, it's not only useful to know which places to avoid it's also best to know which places to seek out. But, how do you know which states will allow you to stretch your dollar the most? (For more, check out The Most Affordable Cities To Live In.)

TUTORIAL: Buying A Home

There are different ways to judge where you'll get the most for your money. CNBC gave it a shot by rating the best states for business. Basically, CNBC ranks the states that are best for doing business according to several categories, including the workforce, quality of life, economy and cost of living. Specifically within the cost of living category, the top five ranked states are Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas.

But why are these states so inexpensive? Here's a look at how these five places fare regarding different statistics and cost of living breakdowns.

Cost of Living by Item
A great way to illustrate the cost of living in a certain area is to compare how much certain common items and services cost from place to place. has a cost of living comparison calculator that allows users to choose two cities, or metropolitan areas, and see how costs for certain things compare to each other. Instead of trading commodities online, this sheet takes you through how you invest in commodities in your everyday life. Here's a breakdown of the five states mentioned above:

Typical home price: $258,942
Hair cut: $12.88
Gallon of gas: $2.64
Half-gallon jug of milk: $1.60
Ibuprofen: $8.55

Typical home price: $209,386
Hair cut: $10.61
Gallon of gas: $2.54
Half-gallon jug of milk: $1.67
Ibuprofen: $8.91

Typical home price: $238,980
Hair cut: $12.41
Gallon of gas: $2.54
Half-gallon jug of milk: $1.98
Ibuprofen: $8.60

Typical home price: $245,801
Hair cut: $10
Gallon of gas: $2.63
Half-gallon jug of milk: $2
Ibuprofen: $8.54

Typical home price: $232,059
Hair cut: $17.54
Gallon of gas: $2.61
Half-gallon jug of milk: $2.29
Ibuprofen: $8.91

Because the calculator is based on areas and not states, the state capital or a major, populated area was chosen for each state. While it's used to represent the state, it's not representative of the entire state's costs or an average of the state's prices. (To read more, on the cost of living, see What Will The Cost Of Living Be In 2012?)

Instead of breaking it down by item, if you look at the average cost of living in 2010 in various urban areas as reported by the United States Census Bureau, of the lowest 15 indexes for cost of living, only three of the cities aren't found in the five states being discussed. Texas dominates the list, accounting for four cities of the 15 (Harlingen, McAllen, Brownsville and Wichita Falls), with Oklahoma following with three cities represented on the list.

Consumer Price Index
The Consumer Price Index (CPI), is a measure of the weighted average of prices of a basket of consumer services and goods, including food, transportation, etc. How is this relevant? Well, while the government's cost-of-living-index reflects both the change in prices for goods and services and the environmental or governmental factors that may affect the consumers' well-being, the CPI mainly portrays the change in prices alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

It's not as comprehensive, but it's still worth looking at to see how the CPI differs across the country in comparison to the national CPI. The CPI for All Urban Consumers, as reported by the BLS, was 226.23 in November 2011, but the CPI measurements also breakdown into regional indexes. The CPI for the Southern region of the U.S. (which includes the five states being addressed) was 219.961 in November 2011, a noticeably smaller number compared to the national index. Compare both of these numbers to the Northeast, which had an index of 242.652 in the same month.

The Bottom Line
When looking at the government data to confirm certain claims about the cost of living, it seems Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas are inexpensive to live in compared to other areas of the U.S. If you're considering moving, or you want to know the details about a certain area of the country and its cost of living data compared to other states or cities, researching can be extremely beneficial. When relocating, considering this sort of information can make a huge difference in predicting and choosing what kind of a financial lifestyle you encounter. (For related reading, see How Moving Can Affect Your Finances.)

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Have Commodities Bottomed?

    Commodity prices have been heading lower for more than four years, being the worst performing asset class of 2015 with more losses in cyclical commodities.
  2. Retirement

    The 5 Best Retirement Communities in Austin, Texas

    Discover five of the most desirable retirement communities for seniors located in the Austin/Georgetown metropolitan area in Texas.
  3. Budgeting

    6 Cost-Effective Tips for Raising Your First Child

    The excitement of welcoming your first child to your family shouldn't prevent you from making good cost-effective decisions.
  4. Budgeting

    5 Ways to Date on a Budget

    Dating on a budget doesn't have to be boring. Try these 5 tips to find the best dates on a budget.
  5. Budgeting

    7 Kids Items You Should Never Buy Used

    Buying secondhand items is a great way to save money, but these seven kids items should not be bought used.
  6. Investing

    10 New Apps That Help Budget For Expensive Cities

    From platforms for saving money to those that account for side jobs, mobile apps are changing spending habits and income generation in urban areas.
  7. Budgeting

    How to Save Money on Your Disney Vacation

    Understand why Disney Parks are attractive vacation destinations and why they are expensive. Learn five money-saving tips for Disney vacations.
  8. Budgeting

    How Cooking At Home Can Save You Real Dough

    Cooking at home saves time and money but most importantly, it could even help lower future health costs.
  9. Personal Finance

    Money Matters on Campus: Attitudes & Aptitudes

    Financial trends among college students are a cause for concern, prompting a renewed emphasis on financial instruction.
  10. Home & Auto

    Why Housing Costs Shouldn't Exceed 30% of Your Budget

    Financial experts will argue that there’s no problem with allocating 50% of your net income to housing, but that barely leaves enough money for living comfortably. Reducing housing expenses to ...
  1. Who decides to print money in Canada?

    In Canada, new money comes from two places: the Bank of Canada (BOC) and chartered banks such as the Toronto Dominion Bank ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are the best ways to sell an annuity?

    The best ways to sell an annuity are to locate buyers from insurance agents or companies that specialize in connecting buyers ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Is Argentina a developed country?

    Argentina is not a developed country. It has one of the strongest economies in South America or Central America and ranks ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Are Social Security benefits adjusted for inflation?

    Social Security benefits are adjusted for inflation. This adjustment is known as the cost of living adjustment (COLA). For ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How does the trust maker transfer funds into a revocable trust?

    Once a revocable trust is created, a trust maker transfers funds or property into the trust by including them in a list with ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!