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​Cheapest Places to Live in Texas, 2021

By: Susan Finch
July 14, 2021

Texas is famous for its mouth-watering barbeque, honky-tonk music, and hot steamy weather. It's also a surprisingly affordable place to live. You can still find all of the culture, dining, and attractions you're looking for without breaking the bank. Ready to become a year-round snowbird on a budget? Discover some of the cheapest places to live in Texas.

1. Odessa

  • Population: 123,334
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $671
  • Median Household Income: $63,847

Odessa was founded in 1881 when the Texas and Pacific Highway arrived. Its location served as a water stop and cattle shipping point but flourished when the townspeople discovered oil during the late 1920s. Beyond the oil business, Odessa worked to diversify the energy it produces and constructed a wind farm, coal pollution mitigation plant, and plans are in place to create a small nuclear reactor.

Newcomers settle in Odessa for its solid job economy, energy industries, and nearby universities and colleges. Odessa is home to the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, and Odessa College. The median age in Odessa is 31-years-old, making it an ideal location for young professionals and families. College students looking to expand their academic horizons are also welcome.

Energy is the big industrial player around Odessa, while oil and gas are the backbones of Odessa's economy. The surrounding Permian Basin is the number one producer in the U.S. Retail and grocery, construction, and service industries like restaurants are also vital employers in the region. With such a low cost of living and no personal income taxes, Odessa is also a great place to start a small business.

Odessa is primarily a bedroom community with a quiet vibe, but there are attractions, art, and culture to keep you busy. The Ellen Noel Art Museum and Presidential Archives and Leadership Library offer a creative and historical look at the area. The nearby Music City Mall provides a multi-screen movie theater, major department stores, and an indoor ice skating rink. In a city with multiple colleges and universities, there's always a watering hole or diner nearby.

2. Midland

  • Population: 146,038
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $848
  • Median Household Income: $79,329

Midland was established in 1881 on the Texas and Pacific Railway and rapidly grew during the oil booms. The economy flourished under the influence of petroleum but became a regional telecommunications and distribution center. Midland has gone through its ups and downs with oil booms and busts but continuously ranks as one of the best and cheapest places to live in Texas.

People move to Midland for job opportunities in petroleum and a reasonable cost of living. It's also a kid-friendly choice for families. The city's median age is 32 and boasts a relatively young vibe. The area is also home to Midland College and draws college students to its professional pilot training program and a degree in applied technology.

Midland's economy is going strong, with the most significant opportunities in oil and gas. The city is also home to the Bush dynasty. Retail, healthcare, education, and construction are also big employers around Midland. Downtown is known as "The Tall City," with a handful of tall buildings welcoming the workforce, but the oil bust in the 80s scrapped plans to expand its sky-high presence.

With an affordable cost of living, locals have more disposable income to spend. Sports are a local favorite around Midland, although there are no major league teams. Newcomers and long-time locals root for the Double A-affiliate, Minor Pro Football League, soccer, and rugby. There are also some cultural stops around Midland. The Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale, Midland Community Theatre, and the Museum of the Southwest offer a mix of live entertainment, history, and art.

3. Amarillo

  • Population: 199,371
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $878
  • Median Household Income: $52,725

Amarillo grew to prominence in 1890 as one of the world's busiest cattle-shipping points. The city housed a grain elevator, milling, and feed-manufacturing center. But it wasn't until the discovery of natural gas in 1918, and oil brought a commercial frenzy to the area. At one point, Amarillo was once the sole producer of commercial helium in the world. Today, the U.S. The National Helium Reserve is stored in the Bush Dome Reservoir at the Cliffside facility.

Amarillo is rapidly growing and experiencing economic and urban development. The city is ushering in new hotels and multi-use buildings, alongside the development of downtown's dining and entertainment district. The median age in Amarillo is 34, and its urban resurgence attracts millennials and young professionals looking for an affordable place to live with a strong job market.

Rising graduates and millennials come to Amarillo for its strong job market and urban amenities. Energy, food processing, health services, and manufacturing are some of the largest employers around the city. Amarillo College offers a 2-year associate's degree, and the nearby West Texas A&M University renowned for its business, management, and marketing degrees.

Outdoor recreation is never far away in Amarillo. The city boasts the designation as the gateway to the trail-lined Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Art Deco and Spanish Revival buildings, a historic district, dining, and antiques also provide a backdrop of southern charm with a modern twist. To get in touch with Texas' cowboy roots, the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum captivates equine lovers.

4. Richmond

  • Population: 12,578
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $889
  • Median Household Income: $43,071

Richmond, Texas, was founded when Austin settlers traveled up the Brazos River and stopped near Richmond to build Fort Bend. It was among the first incorporated cities in the Republic of Texas, which quickly dissolved. Today, Richmond is one of the cheapest places to live in Texas and is one of the most successful master-planned communities in the Houston metro area.

Richmond is centrally located about 30 miles from Houston and 50 miles from the coast. You have your choice of work and play with an affordable cost of living. The median age around Richmond is 34 and a haven for millennials and career climbers. It's also an affordable place for students attending nearby colleges, including Houston Baptist University and the American InterContinental University Houston Campus.

Rail lines and roadways make Richmond a central stomping ground for major industries. Locals have their choice of manufacturing, construction, government, retail, and healthcare throughout the area. Richmond's job growth is also predicted to swell higher than the U.S. average over the next 10-years.

With all the money you save living in Richmond, Texas, there's more to spend around town. The Fort Bend Museum and George Ranch Historical Park keep history buffs looking for local flavor busy. Favorite watering holes include Bramon Winery & Brewery and the Texian Brewing Co.

5. Lubbock

  • Population: 258,862
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $894
  • Median Household Income: $50,453

Lubbock was founded in 1876 and was soon home to a railroad that brought more activity to the area and Reese Air Force Base. During World War II, Lubbock was a hotspot for air training and was frequented by England’s Royal Air Force. Lubbock earned its nickname, "Hub City," as the region's economic, education, and healthcare hub.

The median age in Lubbock is 30, making it a welcoming environment for recent college grads, millennials, and families. As one of the cheapest places to live in Texas, Lubbock is also an ideal location for college students. Universities include Texas Tech University, Lubbock Christian University, Vista College of Lubbock. Kaplan College, South Plains College, Texas Tech University, Rawls College of Business, Wayland Baptist University Lubbock Campus, and South Plains College.

Lubbock's job market is on the rise, with a projected 39.8% growth over the next decade. Significant business in the city includes agribusiness, education, food processing, health services, information and technology, and manufacturing. Professors and academic staff have their pick of colleges in the great Lubbock area.

Lubbock is home to a musical and ranching heritage with attractions to match. The Buddy Holly Center, National Ranching Heritage Center, Buddy Holly Statue, and West Texas Walk of Fame. The Triple J Chophouse & Brew Co. hosts live music ranging from soul to folk for a bite and cold drink. Newcomers may not realize Texas is home to wine country, like the High Plains wineries. Whether you want to imbibe or listen to live music, you can find it in Lubbock.

6. College Station

  • Population: 117,911
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $925
  • Median Household Income: $45,820

College Station was settled in 1860 when the Houston and Texas Central Railway came through the region. During the 1870s, the site was chosen as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. College Station is home to the main campus of Texas A&M University. Texas A&M holds a distinct designation as a Land, Sea, and Space Grant institution reflecting projects funded by NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research.

True to its name, College Station is primarily home to college students and grads. The city has a median age of 23. Along with rising college students, staff, families, and millennials also come to College Station for new job opportunities and a college town vibe. As one of the cheapest places to live in Texas and a strong job market, College Station offers stability and opportunity in the Lone Star State.

Lubbock may center around A&M, though it does have some historical and cultural stops. The city is known for the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Museum of the G.I., and Bonfire Memorial. Or get back in touch with nature at the Lick Creek Trail before a glass of wine at Peach Creek Vineyards.

7. Killeen

  • Population: 151,666
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $945
  • Median Household Income: $49,630

When the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railway expanded through central Texas, Killeen grew into a small town with a depot, saloon, stores, and school. Kileen was soon a vital shipping point for cotton, wool, and grain. The establishment of Fort Hood turned the area into a military town with supporting service businesses.

The youth of Fort Hood is evident in Kileen's median age of 29-years old. Families and young professionals also come to the area to live in the fifth-best place to live in Texas, according to the U.S. News & World Report's 2019. Kileen is also home to students attending the Central Texas College, Texas A&M University-Central Texas, and the Vista College of Killeen.

The population and job market around Killeen are growing steadily and drawing newcomers to its home industries. The Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood area is home to growing industries, including aerospace and aviation, materials manufacturing, and financial services. Although Fort Hood is home to military service people, there are also opportunities for civilian workers.

Kileen is home to attractions like the 1st Cavalry Division Museum and Third Cavalry Museum as a military town. Outdoor stops include Stillhouse Hollow Lake and the lakeshore Dana Peak Park. Lions Club Park, a local park for sports and water play, is a major draw for families and locals looking to relax and cool off on a hot Texas day.

8. El Paso

  • Population: 681,728
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $962
  • Median Household Income: $47,568

El Paso, or "the Pass," is a multicultural city in western Texas with a large Hispanic population. The town is situated along the Rio Grande across from Ciudad Juárez and home to the William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Biggs Army Airfield, Fort Bliss, and a five-time All-America City Award winner.

El Paso is among the largest city and metro areas in Texas and the largest U.S. city on the Mexican border. Currently, the median age in El Paso is 33-years-old El Paso's sunny weather is appealing for newcomers looking for year-round warm weather. The family-friendly city boasts Mexican culture and some of the best Tex Mex around.

Although it’s growing slower than other Texas cities, El Paso boasts a strong job market. More than 70 Fortune 500 companies have offices in El Paso, including AT&T and Verizon. Business opportunities include business and financial services, food products, manufacturing, military, retail, and logistics.

El Paso's position along the foothills of the Franklin Mountains makes for stunning attractions like Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site with self-guided ancient rock imagery tours. Rock climbing, bike, and trails wind through Franklin Mountains State Park. To see the area's beauty, the Wyler Aerial Tramway runs a cable car system for a 360-degree view of the city. The El Paso Municipal Rose Garden is also an incredible place for botanical displays.

  1. Waco
  • Population: 139,236
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,006
  • Median Household Income: $40,190

Waco was founded in 1849 on the site of Waco, or Hueco, a Native American village near a ranger fort and plantation. Waco has had its share of racial segregation and violence during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The city also has a military history with The Waco Army Airfield opened in 1949 before being changed to the James Connally Air Force Base. But Waco may be best known as the home to Baylor University.

Renters are in good company in Waco, where much of the locals live in apartments or rental properties. With such a low cost of living, Waco is attractive for newcomers looking to raise families, settle into new jobs, or attend Baylor. The median age in Waco is 29-years-old, and the quality schools attract families and young professionals to settle in for job opportunities.

The job growth around Waco is predicted to rise over 38% over the next decade. Key industries around Waco include advanced manufacturing, aerospace and defense, supply chain management, health care, and professional and financial services.

HGTV fanatics already know Waco is the home to the Gaines Fixer Uppers and Magnolia Market. Two historic silos cover two acres and offer a dizzying amount of decor. Locals sip on cold brews at Bare Arms Brewing or Waco Ale Company before stopping for barbecue or delectable treats scattered across restaurants in Downtown Waco. A stop by the Dr. Pepper Museum is a must, as this is where the popular soft drink was born over 100-years ago. Waco's attractions are unique, including the Marvel at Massive Mammoths.

10. Temple

  • Population: 78,439
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,022
  • Median Household Income: $54,873

Temple was founded as a railroad town in 1881 by the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad. The city took off during the 1920s with new businesses ushering in, including the American Desk Company and Coca-Cola bottling plant. Despite the industry and railroad in Temple, it's also known as the Wildflower Capital of Teas with outdoor attractions and recreation.

Situated in Central Texas, Temple strikes a balance between family-friendly and city bustle. The median age is 34-years-old, attracting millennials, college students, and families looking. Temple is known as a pro-growth city with diverse employment and a relatively low unemployment rate. The area also boasts a small-town feel with big city appeal.

Temple boasts an established business seeker with industries ranging from manufacturing to support services, health and life sciences, and logistics and distribution. Temple boasts an established business center with key sectors ranging from manufacturing to support services, health and life sciences, and logistics and distribution. The median age in Temple is 34, making millennials feel right at home.

Locals have their choice of history, culture, and outdoor fun in Temple. Scenic walking trails wind through Miller Springs Nature Center. Belton Lake provides water activities, camping, and fishing, and the Summer Fun Water Park is filled with slides and pools across a 7-acre park. The Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum provides insights into the local history of the railroad and Central Texas. For a culture fix, the Cultural Activities Center delivers live music, art galleries, and performances to the city.

Final Thoughts - Where Should I Move to In Texas?

There's something for everything in the cheapest places to live in Texas, from college towns to big city living. Ready to make a move to the Lone Star State? Sign up for Apartment List to find an affordable apartment in Texas.

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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