Be Poor for Less in America's Cheapest Town

If somebody ran up to you on the street with a dog and said, "I'll give you this lovable animal right now if you can tell me which town is cheaper, New York City or Harlingen," which town would you pick?

If you guessed "NYC," then you're probably adamantly against owning a dog. But if you said "Harlingen, duh," you are both kind of sarcastic and a proud new pet owner—because that particular Texas town happens to be the cheapest in the US of A. So says the Council of Community & Economic Research, a research organization that analyzed price data in 340 cities and concluded that living the Harlingen lifestyle costs 18 percent less than the average American lifestyle. Other low-cost towns included Pueblo, Colorado and McAllen, Texas—the latter a larger, Democratic Rio Grande Valley city that isn't as cool as Harlingen, because it isn't as cheap.

Do you wonder if maybe Harlingen's the right place for you, because you're frugal or poor or both? Here's a few things you should know about the place:

  • Its average income level is 28 percent less than the national average, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. So you if you move there poor, you'll probably stay there poor. But you won't need much money, so you won't even mind.
  • Speaking of poor, about 30 percent of its residents live in poverty. So you won't be alone.
  • It's often lumped together with Brownsville, even though that place "sucks." Start hating Brownsville immediately.
  • Healthcare's a growing industry. You like healthcare, don't you? Put "I like healthcare a lot" on your resume and apply for those new jobs! They might even pay decent, so you won't have to be poor anymore.
  • It's perfect for growing grapefruits and aloe. You can sell those organic products and supplement your low income while you wait for employers to call back.
  • Some of the local soil is "sandy loam." Which is what you should change your name to, as you embark on your new life.
  • A lot of illegal immigrants from Mexico are deported out of Harlingen, so if sad, government-mandated goodbyes are your thing, it's the place for you.
  • It's in Cameron County, which is named after Kirk Cameron and his sister, Candace. They always fly in for ribbon cuttings.
  • Bread costs 90 cents! Gas is less than three bucks a gallon! It's like living in the olden days, which were better.
  • Some residents swear that English is America's offical [sic] language. If you speak English good, you'll be all right.
  • It has an airport, a regular port, gigantic highways, and railroads. If you decide to leave one day, it won't be too difficult. And you'll have options.
  • There's a parole office and two post offices. Try to use the post offices—they need your business a lot more than the parole office does.

What more could you want from a place? Seriously, choose Harlingen: Where dollars go a long way, where there's lower bills to pay, where your dreams come true today.

[MSNBC. Image via city of Harlingen]