Don’t mess with Texas when it comes to affordability. Major metropolitan areas in the Lone Star State reign supreme on Kiplinger’s annual ranking of the least expensive places to live in the U.S. Indeed, all of our picks are cities located either in Texas or the heartland of middle America. The cities on our least-expensive list all have housing prices well under $250,000; homes in one city average less than $200,000. Overall cost of living in these metro areas falls 15% to 20% below the national average. We ranked the least expensive places to live using data from the U.S. Census (metropolitan statistical areas only) and the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, which is assembled by the Council for Community and Economic Research. The index measures relative prices in several categories, including consumer goods, housing, transportation, utilities and health care, to come up with a composite score for each city. The national average is 100. So a score below 100 indicates a lower cost of living. Here are the five cheapest places to live in the U.S.

5. Sherman, Tex.
Cost of Living Index: 86 Metro Population: 117,913 Median Household Income: $45,171 Average Home Price: $213,485 Located 60 miles north of Dallas, the Sherman metropolitan area includes Denison and Pottsboro. The population is the lowest of any of the city metro areas that comprise our least-expensive list. Families make up about 70% of the population. Health care is one of the leading industries, providing one of the highest median incomes in our least-expensive rankings. The extra money can go a long way, considering the relatively affordable costs of food and utilities. Monthly apartment rents run just $595, on average.

4. Fort Smith, Ark.

Cost of Living Index: 85
Metro Population: 288,468
Median Household Income: $37,363
Average Home Price: $235,168
Nestled in a bend of the Arkansas River and bordering Oklahoma, the Fort Smith metro area includes Van Buren and Ozark. Low prices for groceries and utilities make it a budget-friendly place, as does a meager average rent of just $456 per month. Owning a home runs a bit higher than some other cities on our least-expensive list, but the average cost of a house is still $320,000 less than in San Diego, the tenth-ranked city on our most-expensive list.

3. Ft. Hood, Tex.

Cost of Living Index: 84.8
Metro Population: 368,682
Median Household Income: $46,183
Average Home Price: $210,383
The Fort Hood metropolitan area, which includes Killeen and Temple, is about 60 miles north of Austin, the capital of Texas. The local economy is anchored in part by a major U.S. Army base. The high concentration of soldiers and military families may help explain why close to 15% of the population is 25- to 34-year-olds. Rent averages $596, and home prices are among the five least expensive in our ranking.

2. Pueblo, Colo.

Cost of Living Index: 84.1
Metro Population: 153,814
Median Household Income: $40,805
Average Home Price: $194,302
Located about 100 miles south of Denver, Pueblo has an enviable combination of decent paychecks and super-low housing costs. Median household income ranks in the top five among the cities on our least-expensive list, yet the average home price is the lowest here. Grocery prices are higher relative to a place like Brownsville, where a T-bone steak, for example, will run you about $8.49. The same cut of beef costs about a buck more in Pueblo. The metropolitan area includes Boone, Avondale and Stone City

1. Brownsville, Tex.

Cost of Living Index: 80
Metro Population: 383,171
Median Household Income: $30,034
Average Home Price: $209,177

This metro area, which includes Harlingen and San Benito, is at the southwestern tip of the Lone Star State, hard against the Mexican border. The Gulf of Mexico and the popular beaches of South Padre Island are just a stone’s throw away. Rents in Brownsville average $659, more than four times cheaper than New York, the most expensive city in our annual rankings, where rents average $2,778. Utilities can be pricey, but costs for groceries and other consumer goods are exceptionally low. An affordable South Texas alternative to Brownsville is the McAllen metro area, just an hour’s drive away along the Rio Grande.


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By most accounts, President Obama gave a fiery speech at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual awards dinner in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, telling blacks to "quit crying and complaining" and support him in the fight for jobs, according to the Associated Press. But was the AP transcription of Obama's remarks racist?

That's the subject currently being debated after the issue was raised on Chris Hayes' MSNBC show on Sunday.

On MSNBC, the African-American author Karen Hunter complained the news service transcribed Obama's speech without cleaning it up as other outlets did--specifically including the "dropped g's."

Via the AP version:

"Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes," he said, his voice rising as applause and cheers mounted. "Shake it off. Stop complainin'. Stop grumblin'. Stop cryin'. We are going to press on. We have work to do."

Hunter called the AP's version "inherently racist," sparring with New Republic contributing editor and noted linguistics expert John McWhorter, who argued the g-less version "is actually the correct one," noting that the president's victory in the 2008 election was due, in part, to how effortlessly "he can switch into that [black] dialect."

Whatever the reason, Hunter found it offensive. "I teach a journalism class, and I tell my students to fix people's grammar, because you don't want them to sound ignorant," she said. "For them to do that, it's code, and I don't like it."

It's worth noting that the same sorts of arguments arose during George W. Bush's presidency, with the White House cleaning up the president's speeches to make him sound smarter, and news outlets sometimes not doing so.

According to Mark Smith, the AP reporter who filed the story, Obama was making a point by dropping his g's, making the transcription a no-brainer.

"Normally, I lean toward the clean-it-up school of quote transcribing—for everyone," Smith told Mediaite. "But in this case, the President appeared to be making such a point of dropping Gs, and doing so in a rhythmic fashion, that for me to insert them would run clearly counter to his meaning. I believe I was respecting his intent in this. Certainly disrespect was the last thing I intended."

"The AP Stylebook counsels against using spellings like gonna or wanna--or in this case, complainin' and cryin'--'in attempts to convey regional dialects or informal pronunciations, except to help a desired touch or to convey an emphasis by the speaker,'" Tom Kent, the AP deputy managing editor for standards and production, said in a statement to The Cutline. "In this case, our reporter, who was there in person, felt the spellings were appropriate to convey a particular touch that President Obama appeared to be intentionally making use of."

Conservative bloggers agree--mainly because the story showed Obama pandering to a black base.

"The first job of a journalist is to report a story as accurately as possible," Howard Portnoy wrote on HotAir.com. "Part of the job of reporting Obama's speech last night was to highlight his obvious pandering, which is borne of desperation. The only element missing from the story is whether any of the listeners were offended by the president's 'blaccent.'"

"The AP did not print the words as written for the president," Mike Opelka wrote on Glenn Beck-owned TheBlaze.com, "instead choosing to transcribe the speech with what might be considered a bit more accuracy."

"He was specifically, and intentionally, using an African-American linguistic style to emphasize his message," a conservative blog called the Last Refuge noted.

"Now that the presidential campaign season has begun," Courtland Milloy wrote in an op-ed column for the Washington Post, "it's okay for President Obama to openly court black people again."