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These Are the 15 Best Cities for Gen Z To Live Well on a Budget

·8 min read
wagnerokasaki / Getty Images
wagnerokasaki / Getty Images

Generation Z is coming of age. The oldest members of this generation, born from 1997 to 2012, are now in their early 20s and striking out on their own. As they move out of their parents’ homes and into the real world, the opportunity awaits for them to choose the city where they want to live.

Find Out: The World’s 20 Richest Millennials

Of course, that decision largely could be influenced by the college they attend or the job they get. But members of Gen Z would be smart to consider cities where they can live well on a budget so they can get ahead financially — and not have to rely on support from their parents as many millennials have.

To help Gen Zers find the best places to live, GOBankingRates analyzed the 100 largest U.S. cities based on several criteria. The study considered the population of 18- to 24-year-olds in those cities to determine whether they would be desirable places to live for young adults. In addition, the average cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment, plus the average price of groceries, healthcare, utilities and transportation were examined. GOBankingRates added up the cost of those necessities then subtracted that amount from $35,578 — the mean after-tax income of Americans ages 25 and younger — to see how much money would be left over each month after covering costs in those cities.

Learn More: Here’s the Average IRS Tax Refund Amount by State

Each factor was scored, with median rent weighted triple, population and percentage of population ages 18 to 24 weighted double, leftover income weighted double and livability weighted double. The higher the score, the less affordable and desirable a city was.

Some clear trends emerged. For the most part, the analysis revealed that cities in the South and Midwest tend to be where Gen Zers can save more money on monthly expenses.

Check out the best places for members of the Z generations to live without breaking the bank.

Last updated: Mar. 5, 2021

Louisiana State CapitolLouisiana State Capitol.
Louisiana State CapitolLouisiana State Capitol.

15. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 17.6%

  • Median monthly rent: $800

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,614.08

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,466.21

  • Annual cost of transportation: $4,388.05

  • Annual cost of utilities: $1,982.90

  • Annual cost of necessities: $20,051

  • Money left over after necessities: $15,527

  • Livability: 63

Learn More: 35 Surprising Cities With Low Costs of Living

Corpus Christi, Texas, USA skyline on the bay.
Corpus Christi, Texas, USA skyline on the bay.

14. Corpus Christi, Texas

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 10.3%

  • Median monthly rent: $850

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,545.50

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,526.61

  • Annual cost of transportation: $3,139.38

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,257.56

  • Annual cost of necessities: $19,669

  • Money left over after necessities: $15,909

  • Livability: 74

Keep Reading: These Are the 50 Best Cities for Renters

Columbia South Carolina Finlay Park Fountain
Columbia South Carolina Finlay Park Fountain

13. Columbia, South Carolina

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 26.5%

  • Median monthly rent: $949

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,633.28

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,617.21

  • Annual cost of transportation: $3,009.40

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,431.74

  • Annual cost of necessities: $21,080

  • Money left over after necessities: $14,498

  • Livability: 60

State to State: From Alabama to Wyoming: The Cost of Living Across America

San Antonio, Texas, USA cityscape at the River Walk.
San Antonio, Texas, USA cityscape at the River Walk.

12. San Antonio, Texas

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 10.6%

  • Median monthly rent: $950

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,507.10

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,408.83

  • Annual cost of transportation: $3,911.43

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,119.12

  • Annual cost of necessities: $21,346

  • Money left over after necessities: $14,232

  • Livability: 77

Check Out: How Far a $100,000 Salary Goes in America’s 50 Largest Cities

High Dynamic Range HDR Photo of Downtown Columbus Ohio.
High Dynamic Range HDR Photo of Downtown Columbus Ohio.

11. Columbus, Ohio

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 11.5%

  • Median monthly rent: $860

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,710.08

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,307.66

  • Annual cost of transportation: $3,549.04

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,279.89

  • Annual cost of necessities: $20,167

  • Money left over after necessities: $15,411

  • Livability: 76

Maumee River and Toledo Ohio skyline.
Maumee River and Toledo Ohio skyline.

10. Toledo, Ohio

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 10.6%

  • Median monthly rent: $595

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,476.93

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,306.15

  • Annual cost of transportation: $3,320.58

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,170.48

  • Annual cost of necessities: $16,414

  • Money left over after necessities: $19,164

  • Livability: 63

Tallahassee Florida dusk skyline
Tallahassee Florida dusk skyline

9. Tallahassee, Florida

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 28.9%

  • Median monthly rent: $800

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,655.22

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,810.49

  • Annual cost of transportation: $3,462.38

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,393.78

  • Annual cost of necessities: $19,922

  • Money left over after necessities: $15,656

  • Livability: 63

Tucson, Arizona, USA downtown skyline with Sentinel Peak at dusk.
Tucson, Arizona, USA downtown skyline with Sentinel Peak at dusk.

8. Tucson, Arizona

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 15.4%

  • Median monthly rent: $730

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,619.57

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,230.65

  • Annual cost of transportation: $3,805.07

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,219.60

  • Annual cost of necessities: $18,635

  • Money left over after necessities: $16,943

  • Livability: 64

Knoxville, Tennessee, USA city skyline at World's fair Park.
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA city skyline at World's fair Park.

7. Knoxville, Tennessee

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 17.6%

  • Median monthly rent: $840

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,666.20

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,445.07

  • Annual cost of transportation: $3,222.10

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,134.75

  • Annual cost of necessities: $19,548

  • Money left over after necessities: $16,030

  • Livability: 71

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Lincoln, Nebraska, USA - July 9, 2013: People in the busy downtown area of Lincoln, the capital city of the state of Nebraska with a colorful pedestrian bridge which is part of the city's effort to make the area more appealing.
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA - July 9, 2013: People in the busy downtown area of Lincoln, the capital city of the state of Nebraska with a colorful pedestrian bridge which is part of the city's effort to make the area more appealing.

6. Lincoln, Nebraska

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 16%

  • Median monthly rent: $790

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,671.68

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,879.95

  • Annual cost of transportation: $2,993.64

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,061.06

  • Annual cost of necessities: $19,086

  • Money left over after necessities: $16,492

  • Livability: 81

Madison Wisconsin
Madison Wisconsin

5. Madison, Wisconsin

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 21.3%

  • Median monthly rent: $1,070

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,685.40

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,303.13

  • Annual cost of transportation: $3,379.66

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,400.48

  • Annual cost of necessities: $22,609

  • Money left over after necessities: $12,969

  • Livability: 75

Lexington-Kentucky
Lexington-Kentucky

4. Lexington, Kentucky

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 14.2%

  • Median monthly rent: $760

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,688.14

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,355.98

  • Annual cost of transportation: $3,446.63

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,029.80

  • Annual cost of necessities: $18,641

  • Money left over after necessities: $16,937

  • Livability: 76

El Paso, Texas, FHA, insurance, real estate, homebuyers, foreclosure, single-family, home median price, mortgage, down payment
El Paso, Texas, FHA, insurance, real estate, homebuyers, foreclosure, single-family, home median price, mortgage, down payment

3. El Paso, Texas

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 11.1%

  • Median monthly rent: $710

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,523.56

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,309.17

  • Annual cost of transportation: $3,619.94

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,168.24

  • Annual cost of necessities: $18,141

  • Money left over after necessities: $17,437

  • Livability: 78

Old Greenhouse Behind A Building In Downtown Lubbock, Texas, USA - Image.
Old Greenhouse Behind A Building In Downtown Lubbock, Texas, USA - Image.

2. Lubbock, Texas

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 18.9%

  • Median monthly rent: $650

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,520.82

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,582.48

  • Annual cost of transportation: $2,879.41

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,087.86

  • Annual cost of necessities: $16,871

  • Money left over after necessities: $18,707

  • Livability: 74

FORT WAYNE, INDIANA, USA - OCTOBER 29, 2018: Panorama of the exterior of the Allen County Courthouse on South Calhoun Street in Fort Wayne - Image.
FORT WAYNE, INDIANA, USA - OCTOBER 29, 2018: Panorama of the exterior of the Allen County Courthouse on South Calhoun Street in Fort Wayne - Image.

1. Fort Wayne, Indiana

  • Percentage of population 18-24: 10%

  • Median monthly rent: $629

  • Annual cost of groceries: $2,507.10

  • Annual cost of healthcare: $1,203.47

  • Annual cost of transportation: $3,210.29

  • Annual cost of utilities: $2,025.33

  • Annual cost of necessities: $16,494

  • Money left over after necessities: $19,084

  • Livability: 80

More From GOBankingRates

Cameron Huddleston contributed to the reporting for this article.

Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the best cities for Gen Z to live well on a budget by analyzing the 100 largest cities in the U.S. along the following criteria: (1) population aged 18 to 24 years old, sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey; 18- to 24 year-olds were used to be representative of Gen. Z based on Pew Research’s age ranges for Gen. Z — ages 24 and under; (2) percentage of the population aged 18 to 24 years old, sourced from the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey; (3) average rent, based on Zumper and ApartmentList.com’s median monthly rent from January to February 2021; itemized costs of living for necessities, sourced from Sperling’s Best Places, such as (4) groceries cost of living; (5) healthcare cost of living; (6) utilities cost of living; (7) transportation cost of living; (8) amount of income leftover after paying for necessary costs of living, which is the sum of rent, groceries, healthcare, utilities and transportation subtracted from $35,578, the mean after-tax income of Americans ages 25 and under, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey; and (9) livability scores, sourced from AreaVibes. Each factor was scored, with average rent weighted triple, population and percentage of population aged 18 to 24 weighted double, leftover income weighted double and livability weighted double. All data compiled on Feb. 16, 2021.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: These Are the 15 Best Cities for Gen Z To Live Well on a Budget