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The 8 Cheapest Places to Live in Montana

Montana, also known as Big Sky Country, has a well-deserved reputation as an outdoor adventurer’s dream. Because of it, the state is home to some must-see attractions like Glacier National Park, the Lewis and Clark Caverns, and a portion of Yellowstone National Park.

Montana has a lot to offer. There are many thriving cities, hip college towns, and historic landmarks dating back to the mid-1800s when gold was first discovered.

As housing prices continue to rise across Montana, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find an inexpensive home – in a city you love. It’s a good thing then that the Treasure State still has a lot of spots where you can live a wonderful life on a budget.

Take a look at our list of cheapest places to live in Montana and decide which option is the best for you!

Cheapest Places in Montana Guide

The cheapest places to live in Montana are in Colstrip and Wolf Point. These are two of the eight towns in Montana that offer low gasoline, grocery, and housing prices. Here’s a look at some of the state’s most affordable neighborhoods and what makes them the ideal economical places to call home.

East Glacier Park Village’s rural landscape, across Two Medicine River

1. Colstrip

First on the list is Colstrip, which is also famous for being among the safest and best places to live in Montana. Colstrip may not offer the most affordable houses or the cheapest rentals, but it does boast well paying-jobs and a low unemployment rate.

Colstrip residents make $90,263 per year on average, which is roughly 65% more than the state average. Hence, a property in Colstrip priced at under $118,200 is a wonderful deal.

People in Colstrip invest the least portion of their income on housing as compared to any other community in the state. At $440 a month for a studio apartment, Colstrip has Montana’s second-best rental cost-to-income ratio.

Colstrip’s gas prices are also lower than the national average, at $3.86 per gallon. Similarly, low-cost auto insurance prices range from $316 to $969, with higher charges for young drivers and the elderly.

If you’re looking for some affordable fun in Colstrip, the fishing at Castle Rock Lake is world-class for walleye, pike, and bass.

2. Wolf Point

wolf point

Wolf Point, a small town in north-eastern Montana’s Fort Peck Indian Reservation, is one of the cheapest places to live in the state. It is home to the Wild Horse Stampede, dubbed “the Granddaddy of Montana Rodeos,” so cowboy culture buffs, rejoice!

Wolf Point has some of the lowest housing prices in Montana if you chose to settle down. It also has the state’s fourth-best price-to-income ratio. If you’re unsure whether you want to have a mortgage, a one-bedroom apartment costs around $687 each month.

However, visitors or those looking to move to Montana may also want to be aware that Wolfpoint is one of the most dangerous cities in Montana.

3. Billings

billings

Billings, Montana’s largest city, has a population of around 119,706 people. What is it about this city that so many people love living there? For starters, it is home to the only self-guided brewery tour in the state, and it’s jam-packed with exciting attractions like the Alberta Bair Theater and ZooMontana.

Outdoor recreation is immensely popular in Billings. Hikers and climbers flock to the Rimrocks, a natural wonder with stunning views of the city, while families flock to Lake Elmo State Park for swimming, boating, and fishing. With so many trails around, Billings also enjoys the title of Montana’s Trailhead.

With a home market that varies in affordability and a median family income of $28,364, Billings has a lot to offer at a reasonable price.

4. Bozeman

bozeman

Bozeman has taken on a college-town feel since it is home to Montana State University, which has over 15,000 students. This is great because college students need coffee shops for their daily caffeine fix, inexpensive dining places to grab a bite, and plenty of entertainment.

Even though the median home price in Bozeman is $703,713, the household income of $59,352 means home-owning isn’t a far-fetched dream. Most residents have enough leftover money to enjoy all the community’s exciting local activities.

The city has established itself as one of the best places in America for surviving winter. As a bonus, Bozeman is just 100 miles from popular tourist destinations like Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park.

5. Scobey

main attractions in scobey
Image: Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Eastern Montana can be a little lonely at times, but the small, friendly town atmosphere makes it a great place to live on a budget. Scobey, a simple grain-and-cattle town in northeastern Montana, is the second-cheapest location to live in Big Sky Country. It is a great location to reside in if you like the outdoors, hunting, fishing, and enjoying calm surroundings.

Hunters from all over the world come to Scobey to go big game and duck hunting. Compared to the rest of the state, the average home in Scobey costs just $456,588. Rent in Scobey ranges from $625 to $1,795.

Scobey’s 999 residents live in an enchanting rural setting surrounded by grasslands and meadows. Attractions like Cattle Town may entice visitors, but the affordable housing and low cost of living are what make Scobey one of the best affordable places to stay in Montana.

6. Chinook

As we near the end of our list of Montana’s most affordable cities, we stop in the small town of Chinook. Chinook is a charming little town in Blaine County, not far from Havre.

Living costs are modest, commuting is relatively less time-consuming, and the local schools are top-notch. Rental on a two-bedroom apartment averages $755 and property prices are varied but reasonable, so you won’t have to worry about going broke trying to make ends meet.

The city, however, is particularly notable for its fun activities and outdoor recreation. There’s a city pool, a 9-hole golf course open for all residents, and a wildlife museum with spectacular animal exhibits that rival any museum in a major city.

7. Kalispell

kalispell

Living well on a budget in Kalispell is easy when you consider the housing prices that are on average $355,000 and average incomes at $28,107.

Located between Glacier National Park and Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana’s northwest corner, it is the center of Montana’s Flathead Valley. This makes it the perfect spot for outdoor enthusiasts to settle down.

If you enjoy the arts, Kalispell’s bustling downtown is just the place for you. It is home to chic studios and galleries for local artists, as well as museums and theatres for tourists and residents to enjoy alike. You don’t need to worry about getting bored in this town as a cultural event or festival happens every other week.

The city’s food and drink culture are equally intriguing, due to locally-owned establishments like Kalispell Brewing Co. and 406 Bar & Grill. Lastly, don’t forget to save room for dessert at Sweet Peaks – a local ice cream shop where residents claim that you will never be disappointed.

8. Helena

helena

The city of Helena, Montana’s capital, has a long and colorful history. Dating back to 1864, gold was found in the area that is now Main Street. Helena survived the gold rush and has now developed into a flourishing community, with the state’s only downtown outdoor strolling mall.

Mount Helena City Park is ideal for hikers, and the Helena National Forest is a great spot for nature lovers to explore. History buffs will enjoy the Gates of the Mountain boat excursion on the Missouri River, where they can learn all about the famous Lewis and Clark expedition.

A variety of venues, including the Grand Street Theatre and the Holter Museum of Art, support and entertain the city’s creative community.

Helena’s household income is on average $60,074 – the second-highest of all the cities on our list. And its median home value of $464,989 makes it an affordable alternative for most people.

Montana Living FAQs

Is it Cheap to Live in Montana?

Statistically, Montana doesn’t appear to be one of the cheapest states to live in. In previous rankings related to the affordability of a state, Montana has come in at 32.

These stats come from comparisons between the average cost of living in each state and the available income of each household. Property remains one of the main issues for cost with the average home prices being in the region of $400,000.

What Is the Cost of Living Like?

In this report Montana comes in at around 30 for the cost of living, making it a more expensive place to live in half of the country. Figures like these from the Economic Analysis Bureau show that the average person in the state has annual living costs over and above $42,000 per annum.

These figures are calculated on expenditure for each person related to utility bills for gas, electricity, water, cable, and internet.

What Are the Most Affordable Towns Near Yellowstone?

towns near yellowstone
Image: J. Stephen Conn

Livingston is a small town in the mountains located just 45 miles from Yellowstone National Park. With just 7,500 residents and two hot springs in the area, Livingston offers lots of amenities near Yellowstone at affordable prices. The cost of living in this town is reportedly just over 7% lower than the national average.

Residents can also make major savings on transportation costs which are reportedly 75% lower than the US average. As it’s near Yellowstone there’s ample fishing, rafting, and hiking at hand.

The town is also developed enough to feature museums, parks, restaurants, music venues, breweries, and more while retaining its Western influence through events like the local Rodeo.

Bozeman: Although not always regarded as one of the cheapest places to live in Montana, Bozeman is frequently considered one of the best. The main thing when considering costs is that the cost of living in Bozeman is at least even with the national average.

Again housing costs in the quaint but modern mountain town are likely to be the main issue with prices close to 10 % higher than the US median. That aside, Bozeman is still one of the most affordable towns near Yellowstone.

bozeman
Image: Tim Evanson

Where is it Possible to Find Cheap Homes?

The places with the lowest property tax ratios may bring cheaper housing costs. In places like Great Falls, Butte, and Billings, the rates are generally less than 2%.

What Is the Cheapest City to Live In?

These findings confirm Butte as the most affordable city in Montana. This is typically based on income-to-house price ratios as well as average property taxes in the area. The housing-to-income ratio scores a 4 which indicates comparably lower costs. This is further demonstrated by median incomes below $40,000.

butte
Image: Ken Lund

Final Thoughts

Factors such as the average cost of living and essentials like transportation, housing, food options, and utility costs all combine to add to a city’s appeal.

Montana is home to some of the country’s most picturesque cities and towns, and several of them don’t require high income to live there.

From the great outdoors to rivers and lakes, as well as experiencing history from a new perspective, you’ll find a wealth of options for finding a cheap place to stay in Montana!

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