15 best places to live if you're trying to save money (and 15 worst)

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Some cities offer higher-paying jobs, but if the cost of living is also higher, a big paycheck still might not go that far. The best combination for your budget would be a city with plenty of high-wage employment opportunities and a low cost of living so you can have enough money after expenses to save for the future. GOBankingRates' study breaks down essential cost-of-living factors to show you the best places to live if you want to save money — and which cities make it almost impossible to save.

The study looked at factors that affect people's finances the most: median income, median home listing price, median rent, unemployment rate, average gas price and average cost of a basket of 15 common grocery items. If you want to improve your finances, click through to check out the cost of living in the top 15 cities that are the best for saving money followed by the 15 worst cities for saving. You might find that you need to reevaluate your living situation along with your budget.

The Best Cities for Saving Money

Most of the best places to save money on list are in the South and Midwest. Cheaper housing costs in these places play a big role in why they rise to the top of the list, said Kristen Bonner, the GOBankingRates research lead for this study. "Gas prices are also relatively cheaper in the South and Midwest compared to the states on the West and East coasts," she said. Click through to see if your city made the list of the best places for saving money.

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15 best places to live if you're trying to save money (and 15 worst)

15. Garland, Texas

  • Population: 235,501
  • Median income: $51,997
  • Unemployment rate: 3.7%
  • Median home listing price: $160,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,350
  • Average gas price: $1.678
  • Average cost of groceries: $36.77
  • Sales tax: 8.25%

This suburb of Dallas is more affordable than its much larger neighbor, which is in the No. 49 spot in this ranking. Although the median income in Garland is slightly below the national median income of $53,482, housing costs are relatively low. Plus, Texas is one of seven states that doesn’t have an income tax, so residents can keep more of their paycheck and stash it in a savings account.

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14. Colorado Springs, Colo.

  • Population: 445,830
  • Median income: $54,228
  • Unemployment rate: 4%
  • Median home listing price: $269,900
  • Median monthly rent: $1,325
  • Average gas price: $1.704
  • Average cost of groceries: $29.41
  • Sales tax: 7.63%

Colorado Springs ranks as one of the best places for outdoor lovers, but it’s also a great place for savers. Just 60 miles south of Denver, Colorado Springs offers a more affordable alternative to Colorado’s capital, which is 69th on GOBankingRates' list of the best places for saving money. The median home list price and median rent in Denver are more than 35 percent higher than in Colorado Springs. That means residents of Colorado Springs have more room in their budgets to save.

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13. Oklahoma Cita, Okla.

  • Population: 620,602
  • Median income: $47,004
  • Unemployment rate: 3.3%
  • Median home listing price: $195,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,195
  • Average gas price: $1.687
  • Average cost of groceries: $33.99
  • Sales tax: 8.38%

Even though Oklahoma City is the largest city in Oklahoma — and the capital — it doesn’t have a big-city price tag. Relatively low housing, gas and grocery costs leave residents more room in their budgets to save.

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12. Austin, Texas

  • Population: 912,791
  • Median income: $55,216
  • Unemployment rate: 3.1%
  • Median home listing price: $359,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,480
  • Average gas price: $1.557
  • Average cost of groceries: $30.91
  • Sales tax: 8.25%

The capital of Texas is known for its live music scene, trendsetting restaurants and South by Southwest festival. But Austin isn’t just a place for music lovers, foodies and techies — it’s a great place for savers. Gas and grocery costs are low, and housing costs are manageable in a city with a median income that tops the national median income.

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11. Arlington, Texas

  • Population: 383,204
  • Median income: $53,055
  • Unemployment rate: 3.7%
  • Median home listing price: $186,560
  • Median monthly rent: $1,395
  • Average gas price: $1.655
  • Average cost of groceries: $33.35
  • Sales tax: 8%

This city makes GOBankingRates' list of best places for savers for the second year in a row. Arlington is another Dallas suburb that’s more affordable than its bigger neighbor. Its relatively low housing costs and daily expenses along with a median income that’s on par with the national median income give the city’s residents a better ability to save.

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10. Tulsa, Okla.

  • Population: 399,682
  • Median income: $41,957
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9%
  • Median home listing price: $136,900
  • Median monthly rent: $975
  • Average gas price: $1.627
  • Average cost of groceries: $32.31
  • Sales tax: 8.52%

Like Oklahoma City, the state’s second-largest city is a great place for savers. Although the median income in Oklahoma City is higher, lower housing costs in Tulsa offset the difference and land it higher in this ranking.

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9. Omaha, Neb.

  • Population: 446,599
  • Median income: $48,751
  • Unemployment rate: 3%
  • Median home listing price: $169,700
  • Median monthly rent: $1,100
  • Average gas price: $1.841
  • Average cost of groceries: $33
  • Sales tax: 7%

Notoriously frugal billionaire Warren Buffett lives in this Midwestern city that ranks as one of the most affordable places to live. It has the lowest unemployment rate on this list. Despite low housing costs, the median income is relatively low, which is why Omaha doesn’t rank higher on this list of best places for savers.

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8. Fort Wayne, Ind.

  • Population: 258,522
  • Median income: $43,994
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4%
  • Median home listing price: $97,900
  • Median monthly rent: $650
  • Average gas price: $1.827
  • Average cost of groceries: $31.64
  • Sales tax: 7%

Fort Wayne returns to the No. 8 spot in GOBankingRates' ranking, the same spot it earned in 2015. It has the cheapest median rent and cheapest median home list price among the best cities for savers. However, a relatively low median income leaves residents with less to save and prevents this city in northeastern Indiana from ranking higher.

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7. San Antonio, Texas

  • Population: 1,436,697
  • Median income: $46,317
  • Unemployment rate: 3.5%
  • Median home listing price: $229,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,136
  • Average gas price: $1.527
  • Average cost of groceries: $31.02
  • Sales tax: 8.25%

Although bigger than Austin and Dallas, San Antonio boasts a lower cost of living, which means residents can afford to stash more in savings. You can even soak up the culture of this city for free by strolling along the top tourist destination in Texas — the San Antonio River Walk.

Read: 35 Secrets to Saving Money in 2016

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6. Virginia Beach, Va.

  • Population: 450,980
  • Median income: $67,001
  • Unemployment rate: 4.5%
  • Median home listing price: $264,900
  • Median monthly rent: $1,600
  • Average gas price: $1.552
  • Average cost of groceries: $32.24
  • Sales tax: 6%

Virginia Beach has the lowest sales tax among the top 15 best cities for savers. Housing, grocery and gas costs also are relatively low in this city on the Atlantic Coast. Plus, a median income that’s well above the national median income helps make it easier to save in Virginia Beach than in many other cities.

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5. Chandler, Ariz.

  • Population: 254,276
  • Median income: $72,072
  • Unemployment rate: 4.7%
  • Median home listing price: $310,990
  • Median monthly rent: $1,495
  • Average gas price: $1.497
  • Average cost of groceries: $34.67
  • Sales tax: 7.8%

Housing costs in this suburb of Phoenix are actually higher than its much larger neighbor. But the median income is more than $25,000 higher in Chandler than in Phoenix, which ranks 31st on GOBankingRates' list. Higher wages help offset slightly higher housing costs, giving residents more ability to save in this city that has a strong high-tech employment base.

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4. Kansas City, Mo.

  • Population: 470,800
  • Median income: $45,376
  • Unemployment rate: 3.8%
  • Median home listing price: $134,900
  • Median monthly rent: $825
  • Average gas price: $1.689
  • Average cost of groceries: $31.98
  • Sales tax: 8.35%

Kansas City is known for its barbecue and jazz, but it also offers affordable living. Fort Wayne, Ind., is the only place among the top 15 best cities for savers that boasts lower median rent and home list prices than Kansas City. But Kansas City’s median income is higher, giving its residents a better ability to stash more in savings.

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3. Lubbock, Texas

  • Population: 243,839
  • Median income: $44,139
  • Unemployment rate: 3.1%
  • Median home listing price: $179,500
  • Median monthly rent: $1,050
  • Average gas price: $1.603
  • Average cost of groceries: $28.34
  • Sales tax: 8.25%

Home to Texas Tech University, Lubbock is called the Hub of the Plains. Although the median income level is lower than the national median income, the unemployment rate is low, as are housing costs. An affordable cost of living makes it easier to save in Lubbock.

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2. Plano, Texas

  • Population: 278,480
  • Median income: $82,944
  • Unemployment rate: 3.7%
  • Median home listing price: $320,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,895
  • Average gas price: $1.678
  • Average cost of groceries: $32.28
  • Sales tax: 8.25%

Plano is a better city for savers than some of the better-known Texas cities on this list. Although Plano has the second-highest median home list price and highest median rent among the top 15 best cities for savers, it also has the highest median income, which means its residents have more to set aside in savings. With several major corporations headquartered in Plano, it’s been named America’s No. 1 city to find a job and the third hardest working city in America by Money Magazine.

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1. Gilbert, Ariz.

  • Population: 239,277
  • Median income: $81,485
  • Unemployment rate: 4.7% (phoenix metro area)
  • Median home listing price: $300,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,400
  • Average gas price: $1.497
  • Average cost of groceries: $34.67
  • Sales tax: 7.8%

Once known as the Hay Capital of the World, Gilbert is now a booming suburb of Phoenix with one of the highest median incomes in the state of Arizona. In fact, nearly 34 percent of the city’s population is characterized as “boomburbs” with a median household income of $105,000, according Gilbert economic development data.

Although housing costs are higher in Gilbert than in many of the other best cities for savers, they’re not the highest. And the high income there helps propel Gilbert to the top of this list.

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The Worst Cities for Saving Money

All but two of the worst cities for saving money are in California. "California is notorious for being one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S.," Bonner said. "Expensive housing, higher-than-average taxes, and one of the most expensive states to fill up your gas tank make it very difficult to have leftover income after the necessities are paid." Click through to see why these cities are the 15 worst places to live if you're trying to save money.

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15 best places to live if you're trying to save money (and 15 worst)

15. Sacramento, Calif.

  • Population: 485,199
  • Median income: $50,013
  • Unemployment rate: 5.5%
  • Median home listing price: $530,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,395
  • Average gas price: $2.223
  • Average cost of groceries: $42.94
  • Sales tax: 8.5%

The capital of California is more affordable than most of the states' major cities. But that doesn’t make it an ideal place for savers. Home prices still are high, and the median income in Sacramento is lower than the national median income of $53,482, leaving residents without a lot of wiggle room in their budgets to set aside money in savings.

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14. Bakersfield, Calif.

  • Population: 368,759
  • Median income: $56,842
  • Unemployment rate: 10.2%
  • Median home listing price: $245,000
  • Median monthly rent: $1,395
  • Average gas price: $2.35
  • Average cost of groceries: $35.68
  • Sales tax: 7.5%

The unemployment rate in Bakersfield is the second highest among the worst cities for savers. However, the median income of those who are employed is higher than many of the other cities on this list. Housing costs also are more affordable, which is why Bakersfield ranks lower than most of the other California cities that are the worst places for savers.

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13. San Jose, Calif.

  • Population: 1,015,785
  • Median income: $83,787
  • Unemployment rate: 3.8%
  • Median home listing price: $725,000
  • Median monthly rent: $3,300
  • Average gas price: $2.38
  • Average cost of groceries: $40.95
  • Sales tax: 8.75%

The median home listing price in San Jose is the second highest among the worst cities to save. It’s also one of America’s most expensive rental markets, according to CNN. But a high median income — as a result of its booming tech industry — helps offset the high housing costs somewhat and doesn’t make it quite as hard to save as other places on this list.

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12. Long Beach, Calif.

  • Population: 473,577
  • Median income: $52,944
  • Unemployment rate: 5.4%
  • Median home listing price: $479,950
  • Median monthly rent: $2,197
  • Average gas price: $2.567
  • Average cost of groceries: $36.58
  • Sales tax: 9%

This city on the Pacific Coast is a slightly better city for savers than neighboring Los Angeles. But the median income in Long Beach isn’t high enough to offset high housing costs, leaving residents with little left over to save.

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11. Stockton, Calif.

  • Population: 302,389
  • Median income: $45,347
  • Unemployment rate: 8.8%
  • Median home listing price: $ 239,450
  • Median monthly rent: $1,300
  • Average gas price: $2.21
  • Average cost of groceries: $45.33
  • Sales tax: 9%

Stockton has two big strikes against it for savers: a median income that’s well below the national median income and a high unemployment rate. The city itself filed for bankruptcy in 2012 because fiscal mismanagement left it unable to pay its workers and fund the pensions of former city employees, according to Reuters. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2015.

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10. San Diego

  • Population: 1,381,069
  • Median income: $65,753
  • Unemployment rate: 4.7%
  • Median home listing price: $589,900
  • Median monthly rent: $2,850
  • Average gas price: $2.488
  • Average cost of groceries: $37.79
  • Sales tax: 8%

National Geographic Traveler magazine selected San Diego as one of the best destinations in the world. It’s certainly a nice place to visit, but it can be a tough place to live if you’re trying to save money. Although the median income in San Diego tops the national median, high housing costs can make it difficult to have money left over to save.

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9. Fresno, Calif.

  • Population: 515,986
  • Median income: $41,455
  • Unemployment rate: 10.3%
  • Median home listing price: $219,900
  • Median monthly rent: $1,250
  • Average gas price: $2.314
  • Average cost of groceries: $33.95
  • Sales tax: 8.23%

The largest city in California’s Central Valley has the lowest house list price and lowest median rent in GOBankingRates' ranking of worst cities for savers. In fact, housing costs are lower here than half of the best cities for savers. The unemployment rate, however, is the highest of all cities on this list. The lower housing costs aren't enough to offset other expenses, so it's still hard to save money in this city.

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8. Miami

8. Miami

  • Population: 430,332
  • Median income: $30,858
  • Unemployment rate: 5%
  • Median home listing price: $459,000
  • Median monthly rent: $2,500
  • Average gas price: $1.874
  • Average cost of groceries: $39.06
  • Sales tax: 7%

Miami has the lowest median income on this list of worst cities for saving money, which means it’s harder for the city’s residents to afford the high cost of living there. On the plus side, though, Florida has no state income tax. And the 7 percent sales tax rate in Miami is the lowest among the worst cities for savers.

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7. Santa Ana, Calif.

  • Population: 334,909
  • Median income: $52,519
  • Unemployment rate: 5.4%
  • Median home listing price: $430,000
  • Median monthly rent: $2,598
  • Average gas price: $2.545
  • Average cost of groceries: $40.42
  • Sales tax: 8%

Forbes named Santa Ana one of the coolest cities in America in 2014 based on a ranking of entertainment and recreational amenities, diverse population and foodie culture. But that cool factor comes with a high cost. The median home list price and monthly rent — as well as average grocery and gas costs — are high, and the median income in Santa Ana is slightly below the national median, all of which can make it a tough place to save money.

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6. New York, N.Y.

  • Population: 8,491,079
  • Median income: $52,737
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4%
  • Median home listing price: $699,000
  • Median monthly rent: $2,700
  • Average gas price: $1.984
  • Average cost of groceries: $46.17
  • Sales tax: 8.88%

Frank Sinatra was right when he sang the following line about living in New York: “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.” If you can manage to save money while living in this city with its exorbitantly high cost of living, then, yes, you can probably find a way to save in most other cities. Not only is it hard to save in New York because housing costs and daily expenses are high, but the median income is below the national median.

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5. Anaheim, Calif.

  • Population: 346,997
  • Median income: $59,707
  • Unemployment rate: 5.4%
  • Median home listing price: $535,000
  • Median monthly rent: $2,500
  • Average gas price: $2.545
  • Average cost of groceries: $47.72
  • Sales tax: 8%

Anaheim is home to Disneyland Resort, which is great for visiting, but the city might not be the best place to call home if you want to save money. This city near Los Angeles rivals its bigger neighbor when it comes to a high cost of living. But a higher median income and lower housing costs keep Anaheim from being ranked as high as LA on this list of worst places to live if you’re trying to save money.

Photo credit: Juan Camilo Bernal/Shutterstock.com

4. Irvine, Calif.

  • Population: 248,531
  • Median income: $91,999
  • Unemployment rate: 5.4%
  • Median home listing price: $847,922
  • Median monthly rent: $3,400
  • Average gas price: $2.545
  • Average cost of groceries: $44.67
  • Sales tax: 8%

Irvine is an affluent city in Southern California that has the highest median income of the 15 worst places for saving money. The city has been included in several "best places to live" lists in recent years because of its strong economy, well-regarded schools, and, as a planned community, thousands of acres of green space. But high home listing prices, rent, and daily expenses such as gas and groceries can take a big bite out of the big salaries in Irvine, leaving little money to save.

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3. Oakland, Calif.

  • Population: 413,775
  • Median income: $52,962
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9%
  • Median home listing price: $480,000
  • Median monthly rent: $4,650
  • Average gas price: $2.373
  • Average cost of groceries: $53.43
  • Sales tax: 9.5%

For years, Oakland has been considered the cheaper alternative to San Francisco. However, it’s by no means a cheap place to live relative to other cities in the U.S. In fact, rent prices in Oakland increased more in 2015 than any other major city — including San Francisco — according to the 2015 Zumper National Rent Report. Considering the median income here is lower than the national median, residents have little left over to stash into savings after covering high housing costs and daily expenses.

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2. Los Angeles

  • Population: 3,928,864
  • Median income: $49,682
  • Unemployment rate: 5.4%
  • Median home listing price: $650,000
  • Median monthly rent: $3,950
  • Average gas price: $2.567
  • Average cost of groceries: $39.01
  • Sales tax: 9%

For the second year in a row, California’s largest city lands in the second spot on GOBankingRates' list of worst places to live for saving money. LA is considered the worst major city for housing affordability, according to a report by Southern California Public Radio. Although places such as San Francisco have higher rents and home listing prices, median income in Los Angeles is lower, making it harder to cover the high cost of living and leaving little room in household budgets to save.

Photo credit: iStock.com/Sean Pavone

1. San Francisco

  • Population: 852,469
  • Median income: $78,378
  • Unemployment rate: 3.9%
  • Median home listing price: $998,000
  • Median monthly rent: $4,650
  • Average gas price: $2.516
  • Average cost of groceries: $58.76
  • Sales tax: 8.75%

San Francisco retains its No.1 spot on this list of worst places to live if you’re trying to save money. Known for being one of the most expensive areas in the U.S., the City by the Bay has the highest median home listing price, highest median rent and highest average cost of groceries on this list. With such high housing costs and daily expenses, a median income of $78,378 doesn’t go far in San Francisco.

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Overall Findings: 100 Cities Ranked From Best From Worst

Here are the top 100 cities for savers ranked from best to worst. See where your hometown or cities near you rank.

RankCityStateRankCityStateRankCityStateRankCityState
1GilbertAriz.26LouisvilleKy.51CincinnatiOhio76ScottsdaleAriz.
2PlanoTexas27MadisonWis.52DurhamN.C.77WashingtonD.C.
3LubbockTexas28NewarkN.J.53GreensboroN.C.78RiversideCalif.
4Kansas CityMo.29WichitaKan.54ClevelandOhio79San BernardinoCalif.
5ChandlerAriz.30Baton RougeLa.55BaltimoreMd.80SeattleWash.
6Va. BeachVa.31PhoenixAriz.56BuffaloN.Y.81Chula VistaCalif.
7San AntonioTexas32ToledoOhio57MinneapolisMinn.82HialeahFla.
8Fort WayneInd.33AlbuquerqueN.M.58IrvingTexas83FremontCalif.
9OmahaNeb.34ChesapeakeVa.59NorfolkVa.84BostonMass.
10TulsaOkla.35RaleighN.C.60TampaFla.85HonoluluHawaii
11ArlingtonTexas36JacksonvilleFla.61PittsburghPa.86SacramentoCalif.
12AustinTexas37MilwaukeeWis.62St. PetersburgFla.87BakersfieldCalif.
13Oklahoma CityOkla.38LexingtonKy.63HoustonTexas88San JoseCalif.
14Colorado SpringsColo.39NashvilleTenn.64HendersonNev.89Long BeachCalif.
15GarlandTexas40St. LouisMo.65RenoNev.90StocktonCalif.
16MesaAriz.41Winston-SalemN.C.66PhiladelphiaPa.91San DiegoCalif.
17St. PaulMinnesota42LincolnNeb.67DetroitMichigan92FresnoCalif.
18TucsonAriz.43Corpus ChristiTexas68OrlandoFla.93MiamiFla.
19BoiseIdaho44AuroraColo.69DenverColo.94Santa AnaCalif.
20El PasoTexas45CharlotteN.C.70North Las VegasNev.95New YorkN.Y.
21Richmond CityVa.46MemphisTenn.71New OrleansLa.96AnaheimCalif.
22IndianapolisInd.47Jersey CityN.J.72AnchorageAlaska97IrvineCalif.
23ColumbusOhio48AtlantaGa.73Las VegasNev.98OaklandCalif.
24GlendaleAriz.49DallasTexas74ChicagoIll.99Los AngelesCalif.
25Fort WorthTexas50LaredoTexas75PortlandOre.100San FranciscoCalif.

Methodology: These findings are a result of a GOBankingRates study of seven factors affecting financial well-being in the 100 largest cities by population according to estimates by the Census Bureau. The study assessed the following: (1) sales tax according to TaxFoundation.org 2012 data and verified against 2015 data and individual city government sites; (2) median home list price and (3) median rent price, both according to Zillow data from January 2016; (4) median household income (in 2014 dollars) according to U.S. Census QuickFacts; (5) unemployment rate according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Unemployment Rates for Metro Areas December 2015 data; (6) average reported gas prices from GasBuddy as of March 3, 2016; (7) grocery costs based on the prices of 15 common items sourced from Numbeo data on March 3, 2016. If data for any factor was not available for a city, then data for the closest major city was used. All seven factors were weighted equally. Each factor was given a rank on a scale from 0 to 1, with 0 being the best and 1 being the worst; a city's total score is the sum of the scores for all seven factors.

Read: 10 States With the Best and Worst Credit Scores

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 15 Best Places to Live If You're Trying to Save Money (and 15 Worst)

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