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If you've never paddled Flathead Lake or had a bison burger in Bozeman, then you've not experienced what the good people of Montana already know; they have some of the best, most affordable fun in the country.
But, you're going to need a little more than affordable fun if you're looking to move your life to Montana on a budget. You're going to need a good job and a map to navigate Montana's cost of living.
We're pretty sure there isn't a bad place to build your dream cabin in Montana, but there are some places that are super expensive. So, HomeSnacks thought that we'd give you the ultimate Montana life hack: a list of the most affordable places to live in Big Sky Country for 2020. How did we determine that most affordable places in Montana? We consulted Montana's most recent census data. We also looked at cost of living, home prices, and the recent crime statistics for places with 1,000 or more residents.
The competition was fierce to say the least. Many of the Treasure State's top ten most affordable places boast great home prices, safe neighborhoods, and good jobs. Any one of these Montana places would be a great place to enjoy life while saving money. Montana's most affordable places also frees up cash for the fun 'Montana' things to do and see. Like, scoring tickets to Livingston's Roundup Rodeo or catching a powder day in Whitefish. So, want to know where the cheapest places in Montana are to live? Read on.
It's simple economics, folks. When you choose to live in one of Montana's most affordable places, you're choosing to live where your Montana dollar will go the furthest. And that, friends, makes perfect sense.
So, what's the most affordable place to live in Montana for 2020? The most affordable place in Montana would be Colstrip according to the most recent Census data.
To see how your city compared, take a look at the list below.
And if you already knew these places were cheap, check out some more reading about Montana and the cheapest places in the country:
The 10 Most Affordable Places To Live In Montana For 2020
Colstrip's Homesnacks accolades just keep on coming: first we named it the safest place in Montana, then the best place to live overall, and now, it's earned the title of most affordable city statewide. Colstrip doesn't have the cheapest homes or lowest rent in Montana, but what it does have is a well-paid population and low unemployment. The median income in Colstrip is $87,188, about 65% higher than Montana's average. So when you see a home for sale in Colstrip for only $118,400, you know it's a good deal. In fact, of all the places in Montana, folks in Colstrip spend the least amount of their earnings on homes, by a massive margin. The median rent in Colstrip is $883, which is good enough to give Colstrip the third best rent to income ratio in the state as well. If you're stuck looking for free things to do in Colstrip, fear not, because the walleye, pike, and bass fishing at Castle Rock Lake is out of this world.
The median income in Colstrip comes in at $87,188 and the median home value is $118,400 for 2020.
Located in the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeastern Montana, Wolf Point ranks as the second least expensive place to call home in the state. Wolf Point hosts the Wild Horse Stampede, "the Grandaddy of Montana Rodeos," so if you're a fan of cowboy stuff, you're in luck. If you decide to settle down in Wolf Point, a home will set you back around $101,700, the second lowest price in Montana. Wolf Point also has the fifth best home price to income ratio statewide. If you're not sure about committing to a mortgage, the rent in Wolf Point goes for about $575/month. As a bonus, Wolf Point is also one of the best cities for singles in Montana, so you won't have to break the bank looking for love here.
The median income in Wolf Point comes in at $44,276 and the median home value is $101,700 for 2020.
Located in northeastern Montana in the heart of grain and cattle country, Scobey ranks as the fifth cheapest place to call home in Big Sky Country. One of the premier spots for both big game and bird hunting, hunters from all over make Scobey a destination. Homes in Scobey go for around $120,500, which is about 80% less than the statewide average, while the median rent is $570/month. More important than the actual cost, though, is the fact that Scobey is in the top five statewide for housing to income ratios, regardless of if you're buying or renting.
The median income in Scobey comes in at $53,182 and the median home value is $120,500 for 2020.
We turn now to one of the principal economic hubs of northeastern Montana for our sixth most affordable city statewide, Glasgow. The median home price in Glasgow is $138,800, which is actually the most expensive you'll see on this list. However, because Glasgow is one of the richest places in Montana, with a median income of $62,300, folks here don't have any trouble paying off their mortgages. In fact, Glasgow residents pay the third lowest percentage of their income on homes in Montana. And if you just want to try Glasgow out without making a major commitment, you're in luck. The median rent in Glasgow is a measly $479/month, which is nearly a third of the average rent in Montana. That's good enough to give Glasgow the best rent to income ratio in the state.
The median income in Glasgow comes in at $62,300 and the median home value is $138,800 for 2020.
Next up on our list of uber-affordable spots in Montana is Malta. You can buy a home in Malta for about $126,000 and get a place to rent for around $607/month. Combining those factors with Malta's median income of $45,242 puts Malta in or around the top ten statewide for housing to income ratios. Malta is also home to the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum, which is great for a day out with the kiddos or a "wine and dino" date night with your partner.
The median income in Malta comes in at $45,242 and the median home value is $126,000 for 2020.
We're taking our first trip into southwestern Montana to reach our eighth most affordable city, Anaconda. Whether you want to catch kokanee salmon at Georgetown Lake or shred some powder at Discovery Ski Area, Anaconda is sure to bring endless entertainment to those of an outdoorsy inclination. Renting in Anaconda will cost you about $546/month, while buying a home here will set you back around $120,300. Renting in Anaconda is slightly more affordable than buying, since Anaconda has the tenth best rent to income ratio in Montana
The median income in Anaconda-Deer Lodge County comes in at $41,783 and the median home value is $120,300 for 2020.
Baker is a bit of an oddity on this list; with a median home price of $150,000 and a median rent of $705/month, the city has the priciest homes and second priciest rent of all the cities listed here. But, thanks to a strong economy, with rock-bottom unemployment numbers and a median income of $53,750, Baker's still super affordable. Both renters and buyers enjoy the 11th best housing to income ratios in the state. Baker is also home to the O'Fallon Historical Museum, where you can learn more about the history of eastern Montana and see the world's largest steer, free of charge.
The median income in Baker comes in at $53,750 and the median home value is $150,000 for 2020.
Rounding out our list of most affordable places to live in Montana is Deer Lodge, a city about an hour outside of Helena. For a city of just 2976 people, there's a lot going on in Deer Lodge, but our number one pick to get the quintessential Montana experience would be the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, where your can be a cowboy for the day. With all this activity at such a low price, it's no wonder we named Deer Lodge one of the best cities for families in Montana. Homes in Deer Lodge go for around $118,400, the eighth lowest in Montana.
The median income in Deer Lodge comes in at $41,332 and the median home value is $118,400 for 2020.
Lewistown is a city in and the county seat of Fergus County, Montana, United States. The population was 5,901 at the 2010 census. Lewistown is located in central Montana, the geographic center of the state, southeast of Great Falls. First planned in 1882, it was the site of an 1880s gold rush.
The median income in Lewistown comes in at $42,247 and the median home value is $111,700 for 2020.
The median income in Conrad comes in at $43,810 and the median home value is $117,900 for 2020.
How We Determined The Most Affordable Places To Live In The Treasure State For 2020
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 2014-2018 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 Montana 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 49 places in Montana that have more than 1,000 people.
The place with the lowest cost of living in Montana according to the data is Colstrip. You can download the data here.
There You Have It Mr. Or Mrs. Montana Cheapskate
If you're looking at the cost of living numbers in Montana, this is an accurate list of the most affordable places to live in Montana for 2020.
Here's a look at the most expensive cities in Montana according to the data:
- West Yellowstone
For more Montana reading, check out:
The Most Affordable Places To Live In Montana
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