11 Most Affordable Places to Live in California

People who are living in California’s big cities like San Diego and San Francisco, Berkeley, and Los Angeles earn a minimum average of $101, 1006. The median household income in affordable cities in California is $78,672, excluding taxes. 

For instance, Rentcafe.com estimates that the cost of living in California surpasses the national average by 39%, while housing costs soar to 102% above the national average. Tenants on average pay $1,767 for a 1 bedroom apartment in the city center.

Most Affordable Places to Live in California

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Doesn’t this number look expensive? The fact is, among the 50 states in the USA, California ranks fourth in terms of its rental prices. And, it doesn’t stop there – healthcare, electricity, food, groceries, transportation, and gas is pretty steep.

Finding the most affordable places to live in California is not a matter of joke. Staying in California definitely comes with its perks, like gorgeous weather, sunshine, nude beaches, party beaches, and memorable landscapes. There are also some budget-friendly beach towns, you should check it out!

Also, there are backpackers who go around California on a budget. However, it’s important to be mindful of the expenses, and even “on budget” is a lot for many! 

Factors Affecting Affordability in California

With an estimated population of 38.9 million residents according to US Census data, there is no denying that other states of America see California as a model of diversity in terms of race and ethnicity. 

So, considering this, I’m here to talk about “affordability”, suggesting the best budget-friendly places in California. I want to mention that your expenses in California largely depend on your salary, where you live, and what you eat. Know the prime reasons why CA became so expensive.

Hence, whether you’re a local or a foreigner planning to move here, it’s good to have a clear picture of the financial landscape. However, getting a job is easy but a job that pays well enough to take care of your expenses and standard of living is challenging.

San Francisco is 91% more expensive than the national average in terms of cost of living. International students come here to join the top universities and have degrees in academic programs and cutting-edge research.

The cost of living in Sacramento is 22% more expensive than the national average. On the other hand, the cost of living in Bakersfield is 4% more expensive than the national average. 

things to do in california
Things to do in California

Most Affordable Cities and Regions in California

Affordable Cities in Northern California 

1. Redding

  • Population: 94, 219
  • Cost of living index: 107. 8 (US average of 100)
  • Crime rate: 33.72 (per 1,000 residents)

What if I were to tell you about an affordable mountain town in Northern California that holds the distinction of being the second sunniest city in the United States, just behind Yuma, AZ? 

Redding, located about 220 miles north of the Bay Area in Shasta County, is a dream for many budget-conscious individuals searching for a place to reside. 247wallst.com estimated that the cost of a single adult here is $36,595 a year.

However, the city witnesses a higher-than-average crime rate which makes it one of its biggest cons. Your chances of falling victim to a crime stand at 1 in 33. But, its natural beauty attracts outdoor enthusiasts so much that they cannot resist themselves.

A mechanical engineer or an operation manager earns about $66,000 and $65,000 per month. The economy is diverse and mostly depends on education, healthcare, tourism, and management. Recently, tech companies are shifting here – Shasta Venture Hub is bringing huge growth to the economy.

The city offers numerous education options, providing families with a significant incentive to relocate here. Above all, the smooth traffic flow and a reasonable median home value of around $253,700 make it the ideal budget-friendly place to live in California.

Things to do in Redding:

  • Enjoy a live animal exhibit at Turtle Bay Exploration Park
  • Witness the spectacular clouds hidden behind Mount Shasta
  • A picture with Sundial Bridge
  • Plenty of outdoor adventure at Mount Shasta ski park
  • Explorers, you can start exploring the Lava Beds National Monument and other caves
  • Check out the hiking trails at Lassen Volcanic National Park
family at turtle bay exploration park
Family at Turtle Bay Exploration Park

2. Chico

  • Population: 102, 661
  • Cost of living index: 114.5 (US average of 100)
  • Crime rate: 29.93 (per 1,000 residents)

Chico, a city that highly values education, offers a diverse range of schooling options and is home to California State University, catering family’s needs. It sits just across the Butte Creek Canyon and the outskirts of Sacramento.

Being a university community the city brings entrepreneurs and businessmen to invest and create career paths for fresh graduates yielding a quality life and a prosperous economy. 

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A single adult in Chico spends on average $37,557 a year to lead a standard life – less than the annual cost of living in California of $45,534. Undoubtedly, this hidden gem is the best inexpensive city to raise a family in California 

Mediterranean climate with mild wet winters and dry summers make it ideal for explorers to experience different seasons. Additionally, the bike lanes and trails are ideal for racing. I’m sure, you’ve heard of Chico Stage Race.

The median home price is approximately $305,300, which is indeed higher than the national home value. A single adult spends an average of $3,301 on food annually. By choosing to reside here, you can be in close proximity to both San Francisco and Sacramento.

Things to do in Chico:

  • Visit Bidwell Park for hiking, swimming, or enjoying the scenery
  • Enjoy live music shows in downtown Chico
  • Earn knowledge from the interactive displays at Yo-Yo Museum
  • Indulge in the flavors of beers at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
chico, california, chicoans hanging out
Chicoans hanging out

3. Yuba City

  • Population: 68, 711
  • Cost of living index: 115. 5 (US average of 100)
  • Crime rate: 32.82 (per 1,000 residents)

Nestled at the base of Sutter Buttes and situated 40 miles away from Sacramento, CA, Yuba City emerges as a remarkably picturesque location to call home. The prospect of acquiring a more extensive yard or even a modest parcel of land introduces the opportunity to cultivate your own sustenance.

Its economy is predominantly agricultural. It stands as one of the most affordable small towns in California, catering to individuals who seek solace from the urban hustle and bustle and lean towards a suburban lifestyle. Retirees particularly adore this place. Check out some other affordable places to retiree in CA!

As per the data released by LivingCostorg, the monthly salary after tax of one person is around $3239. You can rent a 40 m2, 1 bedroom apartment in the city center for about $1234 with utility costs around $101.

Locals work at Sunsweet Growers which is considered among the world’s largest processors of dried fruits. Talking about schools, the quality of education is average here but the Yuba College attracts students nationally and internationally.  

For cheap housing options in California – Yuba City, you should check out Olivehurst, Marysville, and north of Yuba City in the Live Oak neighborhood. Due to its proximity to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it has a lot to offer in winter for your fun! 

Things to do in Yuba City:

  • Bring your food and enjoy the lap of nature at Lake Ellis
  • Enjoy a classic beer or a special Sutter Buttes brew at Sutter Buttes Brewing
  • Have you ever tasted top-quality grapes? You should visit Sicilia Vineyards
  • For adrenaline junkies, try MMX Racing
  • Active individuals go for Middle Mountain Foundation hikes
going for middle mountain foundation hike
Going for the Middle Mountain Foundation hike

4. Crescent City

  • Population: 6,789
  • Cost of living index: (US average of 100)
  • Crime rate: 59.47 (per 1,000 residents)

Near the Oregon state line, on the cost of Del Norte County sits Crescent City where a single adult expense is around $37,058 annually – less than the national figure. The place is full of recreational adventure and explorers’ haven.

Apart from low cost, the tales of sandy shoreline and Redwood trees attract residents towards it. The cost of living here is very affordable compared to other Californian cities with a median home value of around $158,200, less than the national value.

However, in terms of safety, Crescent City can be a little challenging. It is 1% safer than the US neighborhood. In 2019, it recorded a total of 334 crimes. Also, the biggest challenge of living here is its economy is not industrial making it difficult for the young population.

If you’re searching for a friendly community in a small town in CA with an affordable cost of living, Crescent City is a good choice. The city boasts unparalleled natural beauty and a plethora of outdoor activities.

I believe it is the best-suited place for digital nomads as they can work remotely and enjoy scenic drives, gorgeous sunrises and sunset views, beaches, and seafood, all at a very economical price. Good house rents start from $802 per month.

Things to do in Crescent City:

  • Come to Pebble Beach to witness rock formations
  • Visit Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
  • You’ll find no better trail than the Boy Scout Tree Trail for hiking
  • The B Street Pier is an ideal spot for crabbing
crescent city, redwood hike
Hike through Redwood Trees

5. Grass Valley

  • Population: 14,038
  • Cost of living index: 126.2 (US average of 100)
  • Crime rate: 35.70 (per 1,000 residents)

For an idyllic mountain escape with a view of Sierra Nevada Mountain, Grass Valley is the ideal place to build a home. You’ll live among evergreen trees, hear the sound of streams, walk around historical downtowns, and have enormous options for outdoor activities.

It is a golden place with opportunities to build your career and also live a life away from the city. From entertainment, media, and high-tech start-up companies to traditional mining, Green Valley is a land of opportunities for its residents. 

You’ll be surprised to know that the average income of a household is $ 64,685 with a single person’s expenses – around $ 37,058 annually. It is one of the most affordable mountain towns to live in Northern California with only $ 880 rent for 1 bedroom flats.

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There are good schools for teenagers and with good air quality. In winter, residents face a huge challenge to move around the city on the icy roads and heavy snowfall. Apart from that, the place is a true gem for retirees and couples.

Things to do in Grass Valley:

  • Explore the town’s architecture – Emire Gold Mine
  • Bring your friend to the Lucchesi Vineyard Tasting Room
  • You can spend time with your kid at 49er Fun Park
  • Go for a picnic or hiking at Condon Park
beautiful murals in grass valley
Beautiful murals in Grass Valley

Affordable Cities in Southern California

6. Redlands

  • Population: 73, 821
  • Cost of living index: 122.6 (US average of 100)
  • Crime rate: 31.15 (per 1,000 residents)

Within the heart of California sits Redlands which is also called as “Jewel of the Inland Empire”. It is just one hour drive from Los Angeles, the desert, the mountains, and the beach. Did you know Redland grows the best-tasting oranges in the world?

With highly acclaimed academic institutions such as Redlands Unified School District, the University of Redlands, and Crafton Hills College, the city has become a hub for numerous students and the young generation.

On the other hand, the economic landscape rests predominately upon education, healthcare, and retail sectors, which could potentially present a challenge for those seeking high-degree employment in the science field.

If you choose to stay here you can enjoy all the amenities without making a hole in your pocket. The average cost of living is $2573, which is 2% more expensive compared to other cities in the USA but yet affordable.

The median selling price is $372,600, greater than the national median home value of $ 204,900. No doubt, the housing market in Redlands, California is much less expensive but affordable compared to any other place. 

Things to do in Redlands:

  • If you don’t mind falling on your butt then drag your friends to Flowstone for rock climbing
  • In the month of March, you can go for a 5K or 10K marathon
  • Come to Redlands Orange Street Alley to click pictures with umbrellas
  • Attend a show at the Redlands Bowl
redlands orange street alley
Redlands Orange Street Alley

7. Clovis

  • Population: 127, 753
  • Cost of living index: 114.5 (US average of 100)
  • Crime rate: 23.78 (per 1,000 residents)

As per safety.com’s evaluation, Clovis, the small agricultural town, secures the 10th spot among the safest cities in California, standing out as the sole Central Valley representative within the Top 10 ranking. 

The median income per household is around $ 84, 119 per year with a median home price ranging around $360,000. Groceries, utilities, and entertainment expenses are all average. The low-cost living in Clovis, California is its biggest drawcards for young as well as aged population.

You’ll see people prioritizing family a lot rather than parting in clubs. The pace of life is slow and there is no way you can dislike this place. Clovis Unified, the old school is academically sound and honored a lot of time.

However, there is no big city around Clovis except Fresno, which makes it difficult during times of healthcare emergencies. Also, the summer temperature can take a huge toll on you. Apart from that, it is one of the most affordable regions of California.

Things to do in Clovis:

  • Enjoy walking tours of Old Town
  • Enjoy breath-taking mountain scenery and the undulating oak-covered foothills of Sierra National Forest
  • Did you try therapeutic riding? Come to Horse Therapy Ranch
clovis, downtown
Clovis Downtown

8. Seal Beach

  • Population: 24,396
  • Cost of living index: 184. 8 (US average of 100)
  • Crime rate: 25. 46 (per 1,000 residents)

At the northern tip of Orange County sits Seal Beach. I’ve lived here for 9 months, I can tell you this town is 5 times friendlier than any place in California. The community is very supportive and it’s just walking distance from Long Beach. 

A significant portion of the city is allocated to the Naval Weapons Station military base, residents still love to explore downtown, and main streets and enjoy the vibrant and enticing atmosphere. 

Financially, buying a home in Seal Beach isn’t an option for many as the median home value is around $358,700, greater than the national median home value. A single adult expense can be around $49, 564 annually.

Seal Beach is not one of the cheapest coastal towns in California but affordable for medium-sized income groups whose income is around $75, 821. The economy mostly depends on cafes, toy stores, historic surfboard shops, and small businesses.

Things to do in Seal Beach:

  • Spend your evening by the Seal Beach Pier
  • Watch migratory birds at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge
  • In the afternoon come to Brita’s Old Town Garden
  • Have Italian dish at Angelo’s Italian Deli

9. Oceanside

  • Population: 170, 13
  • Cost of living index: 146.1 (US average of 100)
  • Crime rate: 23.99 (per 1,000 residents)

Its true cost of living in Oceanside sitting within San Diego is higher with single adult expenses around $46, 834 a year. Compared to the rest of the country, the median home value is $460, 100, greater than the national median home value.  

Renting can sometimes be an economical option compared to owning a home but still, it’s greater than the national median monthly rent. You need to spend at least $1,674 a month on a flat to stay in rent.

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But, do you know what its chick magnet is? The health care costs are far lower than the average nationwide across California. The senior population considers this as the biggest pro. On average health care cost is around $3,574, lower than America which costs $4,266.

Its ideal location and proximity to larger centers, beaches, parks, and other recreational opportunities draw senior populations to settle down here. The coastal winds keep the temperature more pleasant than in other parts of California.  

Tip: Lil Jackson Senior Community in Oceanside is one of the budget-friendly retirement communities in California for seniors 62 and older. 

Things to do in Oceanside:

  • The walk downtown is very chilling
  • Enjoy the spectacular coastal view and the pier
  • Click pictures of eye-catching murals
  • Built your dream sandcastle at Breakwater Way
sunday market in oceanside
Sunday market in Oceanside

Affordable City in Central California

10. Lincoln Village West

  • Population: 3, 503 
  • Cost of living index: 114. 8 (US average of 100)
  • Crime rate: 13.47 (per 1,000 residents)

Lincoln Village West sits along the western fringe of Stockton which is also called “All American City”. The place is a mixture of condominiums, quaint streets, serene lakes, and full of opportunity.

You’ll find houses away from shores that cost around $2000, 000 – 400,000; these are modest ranch-style homes with spacious avenues, leafy branching trees, and well-maintained illuminated street lamps. The place looks no less than a movie set!

However, it is true that its secluded location can be perceived as a drawback by some. Nevertheless, you can conveniently access Marina Marketplace, Ace Hardware, various dining establishments, and a range of entertainment options by simply taking West Benjamin Holt Drive.

MvCandles Charter School, Mable Barron, and Lincoln High School are some high-rated public high schools in the area. Moreover, the education quality is consistent and worthwhile for children’s future.

A median home price here is around $389, 650 with an average median household income around $62,850. Lincoln Village West is undoubtedly the most charming, convenient, and affordable place to live in California for all ages.

Things to do in Lincoln Village West:

  • Come to Fritz Grupe Park for fresh air, fresh sunrays, and peaceful energy
  • Join a gold course in the San Joaquin Valley
  • Have pizzas and kinds of pasta at Market Tavern

Affordable Suburb in California

11. Norwalk

  • Population: 96, 190
  • Cost of living index: 141.7 (US average of 100)
  • Crime rate: 23.47 (per 1,000 residents)

Welcome to Norwalk, a suburban neighborhood brimming with a fantastic school district, close proximity to Los Angeles, and endless recreational activities. This locale offers a plethora of eye-opening real estate options, making it an inviting place to reside for all. 

Furthermore, Norwalk boasts remarkable diversity, enhancing the vibrant tapestry of this community. The median price of homes for sale exceeds $410,400 while renting can entail a cost of around $1,488 per month, aligning with the national median monthly rent.

The city offers solid services with good business opportunities – from agriculture, forestry, and construction to entertainment, arts, music, and public administration. You can take Norwalk Transit, the bus service provider to easily travel around the city.

Note: You can choose Norwalk to reside as this is the most affordable suburb near Los Angeles

Things to do in Norwalk:

  • Unwind with your family at Vista Verde Park
  • Take a fantastic recreational dip at the Aquatic Pavilion
  • Have a good memory of your swing at Golf N’ Stuff
olvera street shopping
Shopping at Olvera Street

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Affordable Place to Live in California

  • Housing – Talk to an affordable real estate agency in California to find the best rentals or apartments for you
  • Transportations – Access public transport facilities like buses, trains, and light rail systems rather than owning your own vehicle
  • Daily expenses – Buy groceries and other utilities after comparing the prices from other shopping centers
  • Job opportunities – It’s always advisable to diversify your income source. You can work full-time as well as work on freelance projects like video editing, web designing, and a lot more
  • Healthcare – Emergencies do not announce their arrival; therefore, it is advisable to choose a place near hospitals or other high-quality healthcare facilities.
  • Safety and crime rate – No way you can overlook this factor. Your quality of life is the first priority over everything

Read More:

FAQ: Most Affordable Places to Live in California

1. Are there any budget-friendly neighborhoods in major California cities?

A. Norwalk and Lancaster in Los Angeles, Blossom Valley and Alum Rock in San Jose, and Huntington Park and Willowbrook in Long Beach stand out as the most budget-friendly neighborhoods in major California cities.

2. Which counties in California have the most affordable real estate?

A. Siskiyou County in California’s Central Valley is the region where you can find affordable real estate.

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