When you think of California, what comes to mind?
The seals in the SF bay?
The warm beaches and beautiful mountains?
What about America’s tech center that brings us everything we need to survive, from computers to iPhones?
California is a state that is unlike many others. It is America’s largest state, with enough enticing features to make anyone want to live there. Whether you like catching the latest wave on the California beaches, trying your luck in casinos, or even hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, it is a state that has a little something for everyone.
If you are considering hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, you can join the infamous fans of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild, and have your bunch of exciting adventures while backpacking.
Desert-trails aside, California is one of America’s most coveted states, so why doesn’t everyone just move there? One reason is quite obvious: California is expensive. As much as California is known as one of the most exciting places to live in America, it is also known as one of the most expensive.
So is there any hope for those who don’t have an incredibly large cash flow to live there? Luckily, HomeSnacks had the same question and has found the answer.
Obviously, San Francisco and Los Angeles are not on this list, but that doesn’t mean you will be missing out on all of the good California fun.
If you want to live cheaply in California, you won’t be living on the coast, but that doesn’t mean you will be that far from it.
If you want to live near the Mexico border and have international date nights, you could try out Imperial, California. Or if you want to be closer to the coast, you could try our winner, Taft, California.
Interested to see how these cities ranked top 10? Keep reading to learn about how we crunched the numbers and to see why these cities are so affordable.
And if you already knew these places were cheap, check out some more reading about California and the cheapest places in the country:
How We Determined The Most Affordable Places To Live In The Golden State For 2019
The two most important things to think about when it comes to being able to afford if you can live comes down to:
- How much do money do I make?
- How much do I have spend to live there?
You need to understand your costs in the context of how much money you make.
For example, if the median household earns $100,000 and spends $40,000 on housing it’s actually cheaper to live there than a place with a median income of $50,000 and housing costs of $21,000. You might spend more on housing, but you have more money overall to play with.
With that example in mind, we derived several statistics from the latest Census American Community Survey 2013-2017 around incomes and costs. They are:
- Median Home Price / Median Income (lower is better)
- Median Income / Median Rent (Higher is better)
- Median Home Price
We added simply median home price because high home prices generally correlate with higher expenses for all costs related to homes (heating, electricity, etc).
You can then compare these metrics in each of the places in California to figure out which is the least expensive.
What you are left with is a “Cost of Living Index” by taking the average rank of each of these metrics for each city.
So we used that cost of living index in order to rank all of the 427 places in California that have more than 5,000 people.
The place with the lowest cost of living in California according to the data is Taft.
The 10 Cheapest Places To Live In California For 2019
The most affordable city in California for 2019 is Taft. Kudos to Taft, they have been the Golden State’s most affordable city two years in a row.
Located in the foothills of Kern County, at the extreme southwestern edge of the San Joaquin Valley, this city’s oil and natural gas industry have been keeping this city ‘booming’.
The median income for Taft is close to $52,000. This allowed Taft to grab the 6th most affordable city in California in terms of home price to income ratio title, too.
Do we think Taft has managed to keep their city so affordable because of the backing of the locally operated Standard Oil? Maybe.
Either way, seems like they’re keeping their townies employed and their economy strong.
The median income in Taft comes in at $51,370 and the median home value is $150,100 for 2019.
Our second most affordable city in California for 2019, Ridgecrest, is nestled between the Sierra Nevada, Cosos, Argus, and El Paso mountain ranges.
Once a farming community, Ridgecrest’s residents now find themselves working at a testing Naval Station and the Cerro Coso Community College to offset their cost of living.
We know why you scored an 8/10 on our snackability scale for affordability, Ridgecrest. It shouldn’t be difficult to meet your cost of living head on with the median income hanging above $60,000.
So do yourself and your wallet a favor, and get-a-movin’ to this affordable Kern County city.
The median income in Ridgecrest comes in at $60,794 and the median home value is $169,500 for 2019.
Where the 7 meets the 8 down by the US/Mexico border, is our third most affordable city in California: Holtville.
This little California gem is 4th when it comes to home price to income ratio. We’re not surprised it’s so affordable. And we definitely think it’s because they have such a strong agricultural economy with an emphasis on carrots. Yes, carrots. Holtville is “The Carrot Capital of the World”.
Not only is the carrot industry strong in Holtville, but so is the sunshine. And since sunshine makes people happy, and obviously motivated, we’re pretty sure you’ll want to call the affordable Holtville home.
The median income in Holtville comes in at $43,341 and the median home value is $150,800 for 2019.
Coalinga, California’s “Sunny Side of the Valley,”, is our fourth most affordable city in the The Land of Milk and Honey for 2019.
This city in Fresno County is the 7th most affordable city in terms of home to income ratio and 29th cheapest for rent to income ratio. Holding strong as our fourth most affordable California city two years in a row, we’re pretty sure the residents in Coalinga know a good deal. More importantly, those numbers scream buy, don’t rent.
But who wouldn’t want to buy a home where agriculture, oil, and cannabis are keeping the median income around $55,000?
Just think of all the weed you can buy with that cheddar! #CoalingaMakingWeedGreatAgain
The median income in Coalinga comes in at $54,605 and the median home value is $161,100 for 2019.
With the economy doing so well, people are moving now more than ever. Might we suggest California’s fifth most affordable city for 2019: Imperial?
This city in Imperial County on the US/Mexico border scored an 8.5 on our snackability scale: the highest for any city in the top ten. According to our data, they should be California’s poster city for affordability, housing, and safety.
This El Centro-burb knows how to make their ‘dolla holla’ with year-round golf, dune buggying, and camping.
And you know what else Imperial’s residents know? Apparently a good deal when they see it because they are the second most affordable city for home price to income ratio.
The median income in Imperial comes in at $85,163 and the median home value is $209,200 for 2019.
We’re pretty sure everyone has heard of Firebaugh, California by now. Not only are they our sixth most affordable city in California for 2019, but they are also California’s fourth Best City to Buy a House for 2019. (Trust us, it’s worth a google.)
Once an old gold mining town, this city in Fresno County is now being supported by alfalfa farming.
And the alfalfa business must be strong, because the median income is up above $41,000.
Now if alfalfa farming isn’t your shtick, but living in the oh so affordable Firebaugh is, we heard “‘The Jewel of the San Joaquin [River]” is alway looking for river guides.
The median income in Firebaugh comes in at $41,365 and the median home value is $150,700 for 2019.
You don’t have to live on ramen noodles and cereal to live in our seventh most affordable city in California for 2019: Willow.
This city in Glenn County is not only the furthest Northern California city on our list, but they scored an 8/10 for housing and a 7/10 for affordability on our snackability scale.
And if you know anything about California, to find anything affordable North of Fresno is quite the feat.
So if you are looking for an affordable California city with small town charm and a “how the West was won” vibe, hurry on over to Willows.
The median income in Willows comes in at $50,429 and the median home value is $191,200 for 2019.
Just East of San Diego, on the California/Arizona border, is our eighth most affordable California city, Blythe.
This ‘Hub of Southern California’ is home to the greatest percentage of young folks (25 to 44) concentrated into one city on our list. And if we’ve learned anything about Millenials, they know a good deal.
We also know that age group probably wasn’t drawn to this affordable Riverside County city for their love of the desert, but to work at one of the largest cannabis facilities in North America: the Palo Verde Center.
What we’re confused by, however, is Blythe’s median income only topping out at $39,840??? #Hmmmm
The median income in Blythe comes in at $39,840 and the median home value is $134,000 for 2019.
For a city to be truly hip, it needs to be affordable….and it doesn’t hurt to have “King” in its name. So it goes for our ninth most affordable city in California for 2019: Kingsburg.
Located on the Kings River in Fresno County, this city scored an 8/10 for affordability and an 9/10 for diversity. We think that makes Kingsburg pretty hip.
When Kingsburg residents aren’t busy preparing for their annual cool, super hip, Swedish Festival, they can be found earning the dream with top employers like the Kingsburg School District and the Kingsburg General Hospital.
Kudos Kingsburg! You keep working on “Preserving Your Past and Working Towards Your Future”.
The median income in Kingsburg comes in at $62,832 and the median home value is $236,000 for 2019.
If your city has a Walmart supercenter, you can bet you are living where it’s affordable; and we might add, convenient.
This is only ‘one’ of the reasons our tenth most affordable city in California, Hanford, made the list.
Hanford’s low cost of living runs deep. Local employers in trucking, healthcare, and education help keep the residents in this Kings County city with cash in their pockets and an affordable roof over their head. Heck they scored an 8/10 for housing on our snackability scale.
Hanford’s population is growing by leaps and bounds. So if affordable, central California living is on your bucket list, don’t wait, cuz the word is out.
The median income in Hanford comes in at $55,327 and the median home value is $192,900 for 2019.
There You Have It Mr. Or Mrs. California Cheapskate
If you’re looking at the cost of living numbers in California, this is an accurate list of the most affordable places to live in california for 2019.
Here’s a look at the most expensive cities in California according to the data:
- Santa Cruz
- San Marino
For more California reading, check out:
- These Are The 10 Best Places To Retire In California
- These Are The 10 Best Counties To Live In California
- 10 Safest Places In California