Most Affordable Places To Live In North Carolina For 2020

We used data and science to determine which places in North Carolina go easy on your wallet.

Editor’s Note: We updated this article for 2020. This is our sixth time ranking the cheapest places to live in North Carolina.

When you think of affordable, does it take you back to your childhood?

Do you remember your mom making you wear your sister or brother’s old clothes?

Most people think that North Carolina’s cities are filled with a bunch of fancy shrimp and grits restaurants, snobby Tar Heel fans, and a plethora of wealthy tobacco plantation owners.

While all this might be true for some North Carolina cities, the NASCAR fans and BOGO lovers of North Carolina would beg to differ. North Carolina’s cities have a lot to offer to all income levels; and surprisingly, it is actually extremely affordable. If you ask any North Carolinian, they will say hands down that North Carolina is one of the best states in the country. And in order to be one of the best, they have to have some of the nicest, most affordable places to call home, right?

Now, don’t get your hand-me-downs in a bunch. Just because North Carolina is affordable, doesn’t mean it’s all Dollar Store ‘cheap’. It means the cost of living is doable. And that means that you have more money to do the fun stuff that the Tar Heel State has to offer: like renting a summer beach house in the Outer Banks or taking a snowboarding trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

So, grab yourself some of great granny’s sweet tea and a basket of hush puppies and read on to see where the cost of living is the lowest.

The 10 Most Affordable Places To Live In North Carolina For 2020

1. HamletHamlet, NC

Source: Public domain

Population: 6,362
Median Household Income: $36,681

Where North Carolina State HWY 74 meets North Carolina State Hwy 177, is our most affordable city in the Old North State: Hamlet. This little North Carolina gem is fourth when it comes to home price to income ratio. We are not surprised considering they have such a strong economy led by a railroad hub with an emphasis in manufacturing and warehousing.

Now if a job in manufacturing is not your thing, it seems there will always be a need for train conductors. And with a median household income close to $36,681, we’re sure you’ll find Hamlet super inviting and super affordable.

2. Sawmills

Population: 5,159
Median Household Income: $44,401

The second most affordable city in North Carolina for 2020 is Sawmills. Kudos to the “Biggest Little Town in the Foothills’. They have held strong at number one from last year to become a Caldwell County gold star city.

Located in the northeastern corner of The Tar Heel State, agriculture and forestry have kept their economy moving in right direction. The median income in this town is around $44,401 with average home prices up around $108,800. Sawmills scored off our charts scoring an 8/10 on our affordability scale. They are the sixth most affordable city when we looked at home price to income ratio.

3. KingKing, NC

Population: 6,885
Median Household Income: $63,913

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 third most affordable city in North Carolina, King, has made the list. But not the only reason for this north-central Tar Heel city to crush our snackability scale. King received an 8/10 on our snackability scale: the highest score on our top ten list.

Major employers like Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Novant Health, and Wake Forest University, help to keep King’s median household income competitive and the city affordable.

4. WintervilleWinterville, NC

Population: 9,546
Median Household Income: $72,584

Located in Pitt County, Winterville ranks as the fourth cheapest cities in North Carolina. Home prices are pretty steep in Winterville, with a median price tag of $159,400. But Winterville also has plenty of high-paying jobs that’ll make coming up with the cash seem like a piece of cake. In fact, for the ratio of home price to income, Winterville ranks as the best in the state. Even if you decide to rent in Winterville, the income to rent ratio ranks as the #5.0 spot in North Carolina.

All this extra expendable income is part of the reason we named Winterville one of the best places to live in North Carolina.

5. Archdale

Population: 11,538
Median Household Income: $52,117

Just a stone’s throw from Trinity is our fifth most affordable city in North Carolina: Archdale. You don’t have to live on ramen noodles and the McDonald’s dollar menu to afford this little North Carolina treasure. This city in Guilford/Randolph County is our 18th most affordable city for home ownership in line with median income.

Once a city with an agricultural-based economy, this Archdale has gravitated towards the traditional with most jobs, now, in manufacturing, healthcare, and tech services. We get why your city’s motto is ‘Crossroad of Progress’.

6. MarionMarion, NC

Population: 7,839
Median Household Income: $35,277

Marion, North Carolina’s gateway to the West, is our sixth most affordable city in the Tar Heel State for 2020. Marion scored an 8/10 for affordability on our snackability scale, and we think it has something to do with the fact that their median income is pushing $35,277.

When residents aren’t busy cheering on their hometown hero, Coach Roy Williams, during UNC’s basketball season, they are working in one of Marion’s very profitable industries that includes healthcare, education, and retail. If affordability equals happiness, we’re pretty sure you’ll want to call the city ‘Where Main Street Meets the Mountains” your next happy home.

7. Trinity

Population: 6,621
Median Household Income: $52,255

Trinity is one of the coolest Tar Heel cities. It’s also our seventh most affordable city in North Carolina for 2020. Trinity’s overall HomeSnacks snackability was an 8/10! Not surprising considering their employment status and degree of affordability both scored off the charts. Busy people don’t have time to waste their money on nonsense.

Why is Trinity super affordable? They are the world’s largest manufacturers of bedding products. And if we know anything about bedding testers, they know proper thread count. More importantly, proper thread count can make or break a solid work day. With a $52,255/year median income, we’re pretty sure the residents in Trinity are getting their rest.

8. NewtonNewton, NC

Population: 13,005
Median Household Income: $42,320

Newton ranks as the eighth most affordable city in North Carolina, mostly thanks to its relatively cheap homes. Folks in Newton earn a median income of $42,320 and pay $107,700 for homes on average. This gives Newton the 13th best ratio of home price to income in the state. Renting in Newton isn’t as attractive, as the median rent is $730, which is fairly steep given the city’s median income. In any case, with loads of parks to choose from, you can have fun in Newton without spending a dime.

Newton is located about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte.

9. Ayden

Population: 5,112
Median Household Income: $38,182

You won’t have to subsist on Jimmy Dean and ramen noodles to save money in Ayden, the ninth cheapest place in North Carolina. You will, however, have to get on board with eating tons of collard if you don’t want to embarrass yourself at the Collard Festival’s collard eating contest.

You can find plenty of places to rent for under $600/month in Ayden, so you can try the town out for a year to see if you like it without spending a fortune. The median home price in Ayden is 108,100 and the median income is 38,182, giving Ayden a solid ratio of home price to income.

Ayden wasn’t even in the top 40 cheapest places to live in North Carolina last year, so this jump up to the #9 spot is quite impressive.

10. NashvilleNashville, NC

Source: Public domain

Population: 5,523
Median Household Income: $54,505

Nashville, North Carolina is NOT like Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville, North Carolina is super safe and super affordable. Nashville is small city located 36 miles East of Raleigh in north-central North Carolina. This little city in Nash County is our tenth most affordable city in the Tar Heel State for 2020.

This city that claims to be ‘The Original Town of Nashville,’ scored an 8.5/10 in affordability on our snackability scale with a 7/10 for jobs. Jobs in manufacturing, healthcare, and waste management support Nashville’s economy. Nashville’s $54,505/year median income provides stability, affordability, and some extra cheddar for a beach trip or two.

How We Determined The Most Affordable Places To Live In The Tar Heel State For 2020

Map Of The Cheapest Places To Live In North Carolina
The two most important things to think about when it comes to being able to afford if you can live comes down to:

  1. How much do money do I make?
  2. 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 North Carolina 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 132 places in North Carolina that have more than 5,000 people.

The place with the lowest cost of living in North Carolina according to the data is Hamlet. You can download the data here.

There You Have It Mr. Or Mrs. North Carolina Cheapskate

If you’re looking at the cost of living numbers in North Carolina, this is an accurate list of the most affordable places to live in North Carolina for 2020.

Here’s a look at the most expensive cities in North Carolina according to the data:

  1. Boone
  2. Kill Devil Hills
  3. Asheville

For more North Carolina reading, check out:

About Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar has been in the real estate business for almost ten years now. He originally worked for Movoto Real Estate as the director of marketing before founding HomeSnacks.

He believes the key to finding the right place to live comes down to looking at the data, reading about things to do, and, most importantly, checking it out yourself before you move.

If you've been looking for a place to live in the past several years, you've probably stumbled upon his writing already.

You can find out more about him on LinkedIn or his website.