"California and Cheap are impossible to use in the same sentence!"
I say 'old' because the sub-prime crisis has certainly changed the landscape in California especially when it comes to real estate. Still certainly not the cheapest place to live in America but there are parts that offer some of the best and cheapest (esp. foreclosed) real estate in the country.
Living in California has always been an expensive proposition and today the cost of living is being impacted even more what with the liks of some of the most expensive gas in the country. But California boasts a #1 at the other end of the wealth to poverty scale - its also one of the worst places for foreclosures. Add to that the dismal state of the economy and budget crisis and you've got a negative mix that has driven many Californians to move out. And if all of that isn't enough CA is also one of the top ten states for unemployment. Put it altogether and you've got the impact necessary to bring housing and other costs down and for opening up cheaper places to live in California.
The cheaper cities to live in are more likely to be small with lower populations and they may also be a little further away from major centers like LA or San Francisco. Here are our top picks for
The Cheapest Cities in California
California City is located in the northern Antelope Valley area. It's population is around 15,000 with a median age of 35. In California City you can purchase a home for less than $200,000 which is really almost unheard of anywhere else in California. Rents start at around $650 for a two-bedroom apartment - that is much lower than what you would pay for a one-bedroom apartment in a densely populated part of LA.
You'll find Hesperia in the Mojave Desert area of San Bernardino county. The population here is 80,000 so it's considerably bigger than California City but of course still a fraction of the size of LA which tops 6 million people and that doesn't include all of the other cities in Los Angeles county area. Hesperia also has more to do with a good selection of local shopping centers and a number of unique restaurants. Hesperia is around 2 hours drive from Orange County. Here the average home is also under $200,000 which is very affordable by California standards.
Bakersfield has had a population boom over the past decade with 2009 statistic counting 333,000 people Even with all those people moving in it is still an affordable place to live in California. The are in and around Bakersfield is beautiful but it can get very hot in the summer months. Other challenges include a a high unemployment rate and poor air quality. In fact it has been labeled as one of the most polluted cities in California.
Lancaster is the ninth fasting growing city in California. Population tops 500,000. If you're looking for a cheap place to rent, this is the spot. A two-bedroom apartment runs at around $800 which is exceptionally cheap for California. If you're more interested in buying a home the average price is $300,000, a little higher than the other cheap cities we've examined so far. Lancaster is great for families with plenty of schools and shopping. On the down side crime has been on the rise in some areas. Lancaster is relatively easy to find. It's about a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles.
These are just a few of the cheap places to live in California. There are more but generally they are found in the same areas as these. This is not exactly the best time to move to California, but if you have to for work or other reasons and living on a budget is top of mind than these cities are all worth a look. For those who already live in California but are looking to downsize and hate the alternative of moving out of state these cities are worth a look too.
Editors Note: I know a few people who live in California so asked them to chip into this conversation and offer their opinions on the Best Place to live in California if one is on a tight budget. Here's what they had to say:
- Tough question! Even with all the troubles California is facing the main cities are still pretty pricy - it doesn't seem to matter where you look - Los Angeles, the Bay Area, San Diego or even Sacramento - the housing market and cost of living is still expensive by any American standard.
- A lot of people who are looking for a more affordable lifestyle are checking out of their high end homes in Southern Cal and moving to the smaller towns of the 'Inland Empire' - this is found in the western part of San Bernardino and Riverside. It's cheaper their but these places are still within commuting range of Los Angeles and San Diego.
- For even cheaper places to live in California I suggest you try the rural areas - the farming towns, and the desert or mountain towns are a lot cheaper. Imperial County, which is in between San Diego and Arizona is quite rural but has some nice small desert towns like El Centro.
- The cheapest places to live will typically be in the middle of nowhere but there are obvious negatives which is why they are cheaper! The gas is likely to be more expensive, its tougher to find a decent job and general amenities will be lacking like the variety of shopping, dining and entertainment options.
- I suspect that most people who answer this question won't know what they're talking about! If you ask most people about California they'll say, there are no cheap places to live in california! But of course there are! You're just not going to find them in the popular big cities that's all! But what's wrong with living in a nice place that no one has heard of before? Nothing as far as I'm concerned.
- If you're determined or have to (because of work) live in the San Fran or L.A. you're going to have to suck it up. The reality is its' going to be very expensive. But if you have choices than there are plenty of other places to live in California that are quite cheap. Remember California is very large state, in fact it's the 3rd largest state in the nation so there is plenty of room for everyone regardless of their income.
- The bigger CA cities and their surrounding areas have sprawled creating distant suburbs like Tracy, Stockton, and Modesto which are an easy commute to San Francisco. They have an excellent transit system, BART which makes getting around a breeze. For LA Lancaster, Palmdale, Riverside, San Bernardino are also cheaper and commutable. Of course if you're not on the transit route the price you pay is a long commute of at least 2 hours each way.
California truly does seem to offer it all. We've written about the Happiest Places and found one in San Luis Obispo. We've looked at some of the nicest and best places to live in California like Pleasanton. Now we've even managed to find some cheap places to live! Sure this crazy state is having it's challenges but isn't every state? and after all it is California!