35. Norman, Oklahoma
> Median household income: $49,210
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 4.20%
> Median home value: $154,700
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 151.8
> Average commuter travel time: 22.3 minutes
None of the best cities to live in have a lower cost of living than Norman. And Norman is not just a cheap place to live, it is also a good city for job seekers, in large part due to a very low unemployment rate of just 4.2% last year.
The local housing market has also been relatively strong in recent years, with home values rising 5% between 2010 and 2012. The city also had a very low violent crime rate, with just 152 such crimes per 100,000 residents, well below the national rate of 387 violent crimes per 100,000 people.
Norman is the third-largest city in Oklahoma, with more than 115,000 residents. It is also home to the University of Oklahoma, whose Norman campus has roughly 22,000 students. Norman is also just a short drive from Oklahoma City.
34. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
> Median household income: $61,917
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 4.30%
> Median home value: $151,500
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 153.9
> Average commuter travel time: 20.3 minutes
Broken Arrow is the largest suburb of Tulsa, and Oklahoma’s fourth-largest city, with a population of more than 100,000. Buying a home in Tulsa County, in which a substantial portion of Broken Arrow is located, is also relatively inexpensive, with a typical home payment costing just 16% of the county’s median income.
In addition to a relatively low cost of living, Broken Arrow also offers residents a strong job market. Employment rose by more than 5% between 2011 and 2013, while the city’s unemployment rate was just 4.3% last year. The city also continues to expand its downtown arts and entertainment neighborhood, called the Rose District, “to provide a pedestrian-friendly space to better accommodate events with fewer traffic lanes, wider sidewalks, midblock crossing and comprehensive landscaping,” according to the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
33. Quincy, Massachusetts
> Median household income: $58,051
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 6.40%
> Median home value: $341,900
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 427.8
> Average commuter travel time: 33.4 minutes
Quincy was the birthplace of two presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams. The city is just a short distance from Boston, and many residents commute into the city for work. Nearly 21% of residents commuted by public transit, one of the highest rates in the nation.
Quincy had one of the nation’s lowest rates of property crime, with less than 1,700 incidents per 100,000 people, well below a national rate of more than 2,900 incidents. There were also no murders in Quincy in 2012. The city is somewhat of an outlier among the top-rated cities because its median income was $58,501, well below that of the state as a whole. However, Quincy has a lower cost of living than other Boston suburbs, such as Cambridge and Newton, and is less expensive than living in Boston itself.
32. Nashua, New Hampshire
> Median household income: $64,359
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 5.90%
> Median home value: $230,400
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 234.8
> Average commuter travel time: 24.7 minutes
Nashua’s unemployment rate was 5.9% in 2013, well below the national rate of 7.4%. Low unemployment is partly due to the 1.8% expansion in total employment between 2011 and 2013.
Additionally, city residents are well educated. More than 43% of adults over 25 had at least a college degree, and local students considerably outperformed other students in the state. The region’s well-educated populace seems to have access to high-paying jobs, as a typical household in Nashua earned well above the national median in 2012.
Nashua’s winter and summer temperatures are relatively moderate for the Northeast, ranging from 20 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to 80 degrees in the summer. More moderate temperatures allow residents to take advantage of outdoor activities, like Hillsborough County’s 16 golf courses, two nature parks, and ski resort.
31. Longmont, Colorado
> Median household income: $58,789
> Unemployment rate, 2013: 6.00%
> Median home value: $249,600
> Violent crime per 100,000 residents: 211.4
> Average commuter travel time: 21.9 minutes
Longmont, located in Boulder County, has a number of attractive qualities. Residents have easy access to hiking and biking trails, as well as to several large craft breweries — including Left Hand Brewery and Oskar Blues — that are based in the city. Residents can also go skiing in the area, at Eldora Mountain Resort, or travel to a number of top ski destinations just a few hours from Longmont.
While homes in Boulder County were less affordable as of 2013 than they had been in previous years, Longmont is hardly an expensive place to live. The city’s cost of living is only slightly higher than that of the U.S. overall. Also, the median real estate taxes on a home in Longmont amounted to just over 0.6% of the median home value in 2012, among the lowest rates in the U.S.