10 Cities with Affordable Cost of Living for Healthcare Travelers

August 21, 2023


Megan Bebout

GettyImages-1561239554-minPart of the allure of being a healthcare traveler is the opportunity to fulfill your wanderlust (and earn top-tier income while you’re at it). But have you ever thought about working in an affordable city with a lower cost of living?

Working in a city with a lower cost of living can help you get the most bang for your buck by allowing you to save more money on affordable housing options, grocery costs, and transportation expenses. Enjoy a higher quality of life with less financial stress and consider a travel job in one of the most affordable cities in the U.S.

10 Cities with Affordable Cost of Living for Healthcare Travelers


1. Decatur, IL

Decatur - Tripadvisor-min

Looking for a city with the perfect blend of Midwestern charm and urban delight? You’ll find it in Decatur, Illinois.

Decatur has much to offer, but the best part about this hidden gem is the low cost of living. For example, you'll find reasonable housing costs with the median home value of $119,000. With a cost-of-living index significantly lower than the national average, working in Decatur makes it easy for you to maximize your earnings.

With several reputable healthcare facilities in the area, you’ll have the opportunity to gain diverse exposure to various medical practices, regardless of your specialty. Less than an hour’s drive from the state’s capital city, you’ll have the time of your life exploring the city’s deep history, vibrant arts scene, and abundant outdoor activities when you’re off-duty. See what the heartland of America has to offer and make your way to Decatur!

  • Cost of living:9% below the national average
  • Metro area population: 102,432
  • Median household income: $59,490
  • Average rent: $850

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2. Oklahoma City, OK

OKC - Getty-minWhether you’re an allied health traveler or a travel nurse seeking your next adventure, you’re sure to find it in Oklahoma City, aka OKC. Dripping in history and culture, OKC is full of modern and traditional experiences at an affordable price.

Compared to other U.S. cities, Oklahoma City offers affordable options when it comes to housing costs, groceries, and utilities. Plus, with a lower cost of living, you can treat yourself to more dining and entertainment while working in OKC.

Not only will you find a low cost of living in Oklahoma City, but you’ll also find an abundance of healthcare jobs across multiple divisions and specialties. And when you’re off the clock, you can venture into the city to take your tastebuds on a tour of the best Southern food, visit top-rated museums, or attend the hottest festivals. Depending on your lifestyle and spending habits, you can thrive in OKC without the high price tag often associated with major cities.

  • Cost of living: 16% below the national average
  • Metro area population: 1,441,647
  • Median household income: $59,679
  • Average rent: $960

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3. Winston-Salem, NC

Winston - Getty-minDrawn to cities with overflowing history, cultural diversity, and natural beauty? Winston-Salem may be the place for you.

Home to one of the largest hospitals in North Carolina, there are plenty of job opportunities waiting for you in Winston-Salem. And when you get there, you’ll have the luxury of affordable living! That means you won’t break the bank when you do things like reserve temporary housing, stock the fridge, or run the air conditioner.

But that’s not all Winston-Salem has to offer. The city’s historic district offers a sneak peek into its 18th-century Moravian settlement heritage, while its galleries, theatres, and music venues serve as a feast for art enthusiasts. If the great outdoors is more your thing, you’ll be captivated by the city’s picturesque parks, vineyards, and gardens. When you work in Winston-Salem, you can nurture both a fulfilling career and an enriched life.

  • Cost of living: 9% below the national average
  • Metro area population: 681,438
  • Median household income: $50,204
  • Average rent: $903

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4. Amarillo, TX

Amarillo - Getty-minMake your way to Amarillo and get your kicks on the historic Route 66. Fondly known as the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” Amarillo draws people in with its spectacular views, vintage shops, and buzzing nightlife.

When it comes to the cost of living, Amarillo stands out as an affordable choice for allied health travelers and travel nurses alike. Utilities, groceries, and housing costs are all considerably less expensive than in other Texas cities, so you can use the money you saved on living expenses for leisurely activities.

From hiking in Palo Duro Canyon State Park (lovingly referred to as the Grand Canyon of Texas) to hitting the shops on Route 66 to soaking up the creative juices from a public art institution, there’s no shortage of activities to fill your free time. Complete with job opportunities, Southern hospitality, and local Texan cuisine, Amarillo perfectly combines affordability with high-quality living.

  • Cost of living: 8% below the national average
  • Metro area population: 270,119
  • Median household income: $55,174
  • Average rent: $939

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5. Knoxville, TN

Knoxville - Getty-min-1Great weather. ✔️ Proximity to national parks. ✔️ Low cost of living. ✔️ Knoxville has what you want.

Working in Knoxville isn’t just about the opportunities for professional growth and cultural enrichment — it’s also about affordable living expenses and housing costs. You'll find both in Knoxville with the median home value at $330,000. Compared to other big cities, such as Nashville, Knoxville’s cost of living is much lower, making it a great destination for travel nurses and allied health travelers. Here, you can live an affordable lifestyle without compromising on quality.

Whether you engage in the wealth of galleries (like the globally renowned Knoxville Museum of Art), drive through the winding roads of the Smoky Mountains, or immerse yourself in the fascinating local history, Knoxville provides ample avenues for relaxation and exploration. Even better, you can see all the city has to offer without putting a strain on your budget.

  • Cost of living: 1% below the national average
  • Metro area population: 893,002
  • Median household income: $56,857
  • Average rent: $1,606

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6. St. Louis, MO

St Louis - Getty-minKnown as the “Gateway to the West,” St. Louis attracts thousands of visitors each year, most of whom come to revel in the architectural wonder of the iconic Gateway Arch. Standing 630 feet tall, the Gateway Arch is the tallest monument in the U.S. 

Although St. Louis is full of attractions like the Gateway Arch and crowd pleasers like live blues music performances, the city remains surprisingly affordable. With both low overall living and housing costs (peep the city's median home value at $524,000), St. Louis is a cost-effective choice for allied health travelers and travel nurses.

Taking a travel healthcare job in St. Louis gives you the chance to hone your skills at renowned hospitals and medical institutions. Outside of work, you can do as the Missourians do and catch a Cardinals game, visit the St. Louis Zoo, or indulge in classic Midwestern fare. With profuse cultural offerings and economic accessibility, St. Louis provides a well-rounded, satisfying experience for healthcare travelers.

  • Cost of living: 7% below the national average
  • Metro area population: 2,806,615
  • Median household income: $44,172
  • Average rent: $1,151

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7. South Bend, IN

South Bend - Getty-minBig sports fan? Into tailgating with friends on your days off? Eager for a seat at a South Bend Cubs game? South Bend is calling your name.

Whether you travel with your family, in a group with fellow healthcare professionals, or by yourself, you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg on basic living expenses. The overall cost of living index in South Bend is well below the U.S. average, with housing costs being the biggest contributor to the lower cost. From renting to buying a home, you’ll get your money’s worth in South Bend.

Aside from being one of the most affordable cities in the nation, South Bend will also dazzle you with its long list of fun things to do. Some of the top activities include walking the historical campus of the University of Notre Dame, catching an off-Broadway show at the Morris Performing Arts Center, and white water rafting on the St. Joseph River at the heart of the city. If you’re looking to further your healthcare career, save money, and relish in a well-balanced lifestyle, South Bend delivers.

  • Cost of living: 5% below the national average
  • Metro area population: 323,695
  • Median household income: $46,002
  • Average rent: $1,194

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8. Pittsburg, PA

Pittsburg - Getty-minYou may know Pittsburg as “the Steel City” because of its dominant role in the U.S. steel industry. Or maybe you’re more familiar with it as “the City of Bridges” because of its 446 bridges. But did you know Pittsburg is not just a big city, but an affordable city to live and work in?

While Pittsburg has all the amenities of a bustling metropolis, it doesn’t have the exorbitant price sticker. With a median home value of $255,000, you can rest easy knowing there are affordable housing options. And since everyday items like groceries, healthcare, and transportation are affordable, you can allocate your money toward other areas of your life.

Related: Philadelphia City Guide for Healthcare Travelers

Home to top-rated healthcare facilities, Pittsburg has a myriad of job opportunities if you’re looking for career growth and skill enhancement. The city’s focus on exceptional medical care offers diverse experiences, from specialized care units to community health centers. When you’re shift ends, spend time in one of the city’s lush parks, one-of-a-kind craft breweries, or mouthwatering eateries. From history buffs to foodies, nature lovers to art admirers, Pittsburg has something for you.

  • Cost of living: 5% below the national average
  • Metro area population: 301,286
  • Median household income: $50,536
  • Average rent: $984

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9. Cleveland, OH

Cleveland - Getty-minWant the chance to work in the second-ranked hospital in the world, the Cleveland Clinic? Maybe you can. (And expand your savings while you’re at it.)

Because Cleveland has a low cost of living, you won’t have to pinch pennies to make ends meet. When you don’t have to pay a nice hunk of change on living expenses like rent and dining, you can use the economic advantage in your favor and spend more on creating memories.

Not only can you find jobs at highly-ranked hospitals and medical facilities in Cleveland, but you can also meet some of the best minds in medicine and broaden your horizons. During work breaks and days off, you can unwind by Lake Erie, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or at America’s first indoor shopping center, The Arcade. No matter what sparks your interest, you’re sure to find something appealing in this cultural epicenter.

  • Cost of living: 6% below the national average
  • Metro area population: 383,331
  • Median household income: $31,838
  • Average rent: $735

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10. Buffalo, NY

Buffalo - Getty-minWhen you think about affordable locations in the U.S., New York isn’t usually quick to spring to mind, especially when New York City, or NYC, has been ranked the most expensive city in the world. But as it turns out, one of the most affordable cities in the country happens to be in New York state. Maybe you’ve heard of it — Buffalo, NY.

Thanks to the lower cost of living, Buffalo gives you the best of both worlds with urban living and affordability. With median home prices well below the national average, coupled with reasonably priced utilities, groceries, and public transportation, you can dive deep into all the thrills of city life without having to empty your pockets.

Nicknamed “the City of Good Neighbors,” a low cost of living isn’t the only thing you’ll benefit from by working an allied health or travel nursing job in Buffalo. The city’s reputation for community warmth and hospitality extends to the healthcare sector, as well as local attractions. Offering a balance of professional opportunity, affordability, and lifestyle, Buffalo is a prime location for healthcare travelers.

  • Cost of living: 5% below the national average
  • Metro area population: 255,805
  • Median household income: $42,186
  • Average rent: $801

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As a healthcare traveler, you can work almost anywhere in the U.S. Why not one of the most affordable cities in the country? With lower living expenses, you can experience more of what the city has to offer while making the most of your money. Plus, with fewer financial burdens, you can focus more on the people and things you love. While a lower cost of living is an obvious perk, it’s not just about working in the most affordable city — it’s also about the quality of life, so consider making the move to a more affordable city and couple once-in-a-lifetime memories with smart economic decisions.