Most Affordable Places To Live In Tennessee For 2020


We used data and science to determine which places in Tennessee 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 Tennessee.

You don’t get named the Tennessee ‘Tight’-ans if you’re not located in a state that’s affordable. And folks, there are plenty of affordable cities in The Volunteer State.

Yes, learning the value of the dollar is important, but you don’t want to stress about it daily when looking for an affordable Tennessee neighborhood, a job that will make your momma proud, the best bathtub Tennessee moonshine, and that good ‘ol fashioned hometown Tennessee appeal.

Most people think that Tennessee cities are only filled with a bunch of fancy Nashville country singers, people who walk, not run, in Memphis, and a bunch of Chattanooga Moon Pie fanatics. And if you ask any Tennessean, they will say that their corner of the country capital of the world is the best. Heck, there’s a reason people like Elvis and Dolly set up shop here.

While we think it has a little something’ to do with the great Tennessee people and good country Tennessee livin’, the economically savvy in Tennessee know that to be truly be the best, the state must have the nicest, most affordable places to call home.

Tennessee cities have a lot to offer to all income levels; and surprisingly, there are cities in this great state that won’t break your bank. So, grab yourself a slice of pecan pie and some Tennessee Whiskey, and read on.

The 10 Most Affordable Places To Live In Tennessee For 2020

1. RockwoodRockwood, TN

Population: 5,419
Median Household Income: $33,039

Rockwood is not only our most affordable city in The Volunteer State, the locals call it “The Place to be in Tennessee.” And that, folks, is because of the great people that live here and the fact that they are the 13th most affordable place to buy a home.

Located just off the 40 along the Clinch River, Rockwood is a must see for anyone looking to relocate to Tennessee.

2. LewisburgLewisburg, TN

Population: 11,638
Median Household Income: $40,736

If you head 50 miles South of Nashville and stop 52 miles North of Huntsville, Alabama–right smack dab in the middle Tennessee–you will land in our second most affordable place, Lewisburg.

Lewisburg’s big claim to fame, outside of being our sixth cheapest place to buy a home, is that they are truly “The Center of Southern Middle of Tennessee.”

3. ManchesterManchester, TN

Population: 10,561
Median Household Income: $49,383

If you’ve ever been to the Bonnaroo Music Festival, you know that there are many reasons to pack up a moving truck and move to Manchester in Coffee County.

However, we think that the main reason that you should move to Tennessee’s third least expensive city is that the median income here is $49,383 making it the ninth most affordable place to buy a home.

4. BolivarBolivar, TN

Population: 5,002
Median Household Income: $35,442

Just a couple of steps northeast of Memphis is the fourth cheapest place to live in Tennessee, Bolivar.

Bolivar made the biggest jump up our list, moving 35 spots North. Not only did this little city of 5002 residents make its mark as the 22nd most affordable place to buy a home in Tennessee for 2020, it was named for the South American revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar.

5. DunlapDunlap, TN

Population: 5,083
Median Household Income: $44,773

If you want to buy your forever home in Tennessee’s fifth cheapest place to live, Dunlap, you’re going to have to make at least $44,773/year. But don’t worry, this city in Sequatchie County scored an 8/10 on our SnackAbility index for jobs and the current unemployment rate in this Tennessee gem is well below the national average.

6. LexingtonLexington, TN

Source: Public domain

Population: 7,735
Median Household Income: $43,288

Located on the banks of Beech Lake is our sixth most affordable place to live in Tennessee, Lexington.

Lexington’s “where the North meets the South vibe” is only one of the great things about this city of 7735 because this place is also our 16th most affordable place to rent. So, if you just want to test the waters in this lake town, renting is a great option.

7. MunfordMunford, TN

Population: 5,998
Median Household Income: $73,364

If you know you want to move to Tennessee, but you don’t quite have the funds to buy a home, you should definitely give Munford a look. This city in Tipton County is the third cheapest in terms of income to rent ratio.

We have a feeling, however, that after you experience Munford’s low cost of living you will change your rental situation to a permanent one, and Munford will need to add one more to their current population of 5998 happy residents.

8. Hartsville/trousdale CountyHartsville/Trousdale County, TN

Population: 9,573
Median Household Income: $52,864

The eighth cheapest place to live in Tennessee, Hartsville, checks all the boxes. It’s super affordable, it has great schools, and there are a bunch of fun things to do here that won’t break your bank.

The median home prices in Hartsville are on the pricier side at $133,200, but it’s the 11th best city to rent. So, turn that frown upside down because Hartsville is doable if you can find a job that pays close to $52,864/year.

This charming city with only 9573 residents is one of the best kept secrets in Trousdale County.

9. Union CityUnion City, TN

Source: Public domain

Population: 10,478
Median Household Income: $33,461

You might want to have a job before you choose the ninth most affordable place to live in Tennessee, Union City. The unemployment rate here is way above the national average.

But, don’t let this scare you. You’d be doing yourself a favor if you moved to the UC because this city has a lot to offer. Discovery Park of America is located here and some of the best Tennessee BBQ at Bad Bob’s BBQ.

10. PortlandPortland, TN

Population: 12,539
Median Household Income: $55,829

And bringing up the rear is Tennessee’s tenth cheapest place to live, Portland. You’ve probably heard of Portland already because this Tennessee city is always in the headlines. They are one of Tennessee’s best cities for singles, one of the state’s best cities for families, and now they’re on the map for being one of the most affordable.

And, folks, we just think they’re bees knees because they are the 11th best place in Tennessee for home price to income ratio.

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

Map Of The Cheapest Places To Live In Tennessee
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 Tennessee 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 96 places in Tennessee that have more than 5,000 people.

The place with the lowest cost of living in Tennessee according to the data is Rockwood. You can download the data here.

There You Have It Mr. Or Mrs. Tennessee Cheapskate

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

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

  1. Athens
  2. Sevierville
  3. Crossville

For more Tennessee 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.