Spend Less, Enjoy More: 15 Money-Savvy Cities in the U.S.
Updated: 10.27.16 Entertainment

Spend Less, Enjoy More: 15 Money-Savvy Cities in the U.S.

By: Lindsey Carman

America is a melting pot of different cultures, food, lifestyles, and even jargon. From the hippie West Coast to sophisticated Northeast, Americans are as diverse as the areas they live in. While some people think Americans have the impulse to spend more than they earn, there are plenty of folks who enjoy recreational activities for less.

In this list, we compiled the 15 most money-savvy cities in the U.S. By comparing annual household incomes and recreational budgets across the country, we’ve found that these cities are home to smart spenders who enjoy free or cheap activities throughout the year.

15. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Philadelphia, one of the oldest cities in the U.S., is home to the Liberty Bell, the Benjamin Franklin Museum, and awesome Philly cheese steaks. It may come as a shock to some people, but these locals generally spend less on recreational activities compared to residents of other U.S. cities. From free entertainment to cheap sightseeing tours, Philadelphia offers affordable options for locals and visitors.

City Overview of Philadelphia

This city provides a plethora of free and budget-friendly attractions, such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the United States Mint, Edgar Allan Poe House, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and free or reduced admission on certain days at some of Philadelphia’s finest museums. It’s easy to have fun while spending less in Philadelphia.

 Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

Apart from entertainment, bloggers like FrugalPhillyMom.com help locals and tourists enjoy activities, including entertainment and dining out without spending too much money. Philadelphia really does have a lot to offer — and for less.

14. San Francisco, California 

Who says the West Coast doesn’t save as much as the South? In San Francisco, the locals know how to spend less on activities, too. Home to one of the Pacific Ocean’s largest natural harbors, San Francisco is a populous city rich with culture and a worldly lifestyle that offers free amenities and low-cost activities.

Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco

Some of the best free attractions in San Francisco include the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks, the Cable Car Museum, the San Francisco Free Folk Festival, the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, and the Oakland Museum of California. Overall, there are many other affordable options in this bustling city.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

San Francisco proudly offers low-cost alternatives for money-conscious consumers. Americans can enjoy the sights and sounds of the West Coast for less and keep extra change in their wallets.

13. Columbus, Ohio 

Nestled in the northern part of the U.S., Columbus made it onto our list for one important reason: locals love to get more bang for their buck. One of the most prominent cities in Ohio, this thriving city offers a relaxed way of life along with cheap things to do.

Tall buildings in Columbus, Ohio

Tourists can explore free attractions in Columbus, including the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum,  Scotio Downs, Statehouse tours, Thurber House, Wyandotte Winery, and the Riffe Gallery, which are great for the whole family to enjoy.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

Many locals, including a blog called Columbus on the Cheap, keeps natives and visitors up to date on free events throughout the year. Having fun in the city doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot; Columbus provides an array of affordable things to do to help keep recreational costs down.

12. St. Louis, Missouri 

Home to the famous Gateway Arch, St. Louis is a bustling city filled with a booming population, unique attractions, and diverse cultures. This city also happens to be one of the most money-savvy cities to visit and live in, thanks to St. Louis’ free, fun attractions.

Famous architectural structure in St. Louis

Consumers can visit the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Science Center, the Muny, Citygarden, Anheuser Busch Brewery tours, Grant’s Farm, Cahokia Mounds, the Missouri History Museum, and the Cathedral Basilica all for free. Consumers have access to a long list of fun things to do in this city.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

St. Louis is a growing city that offers unique attractions for residents and tourists alike. In this midwestern city, consumers can explore the sights and sounds for a great deal (or even for free!).

11. Indianapolis, Indiana

Ranked by Forbes as one of America’s best shopping cities, it’s surprising that these locals are considered savvy spenders. As the heart of Indiana, Indianapolis is home to car racing, retail therapy, and beautiful architecture, as well as thrifty spenders.

Tall buildings in Indianapolis

Consumers can enjoy free amenities like the Indianapolis Art Museum, the Soldiers and Sailors Museum, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Lockerbie Square, Easley Winery Tour, the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, and White River State Park in this city.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

Bloggers like Frugal Indy are dedicated to finding awesome deals in Indianapolis that’ll help consumers spend less on activities. Indianapolis is one of the most money-savvy cities in the U.S. because of its variety of cheap things to do and affordable restaurants.

10. Raleigh, North Carolina 

The South is already known for being home to amazing savers, and Raleigh proves that to be true. Known as the “City of Oaks,” Raleigh is one of the most populous cities in North Carolina and home to some of the most money-savvy spenders.

Nighttime in Raleigh

Apart from being a great place to visit and live in, Raleigh provides cheap entertainment. Consumers can visit the North Carolina Museum of History, the State Fair, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the State Capitol, Mordecai Historic Park, and the State Legislative building all for free.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

Raleigh Free, a blog that hunts down cheap or free things to do, shows visitors and locals how to have fun in this booming city. Money-savvy consumers should visit Raleigh and discover how great this city is.

9. Denver, Colorado 

Surprised to see Denver here? Known as Colorado’s capital, this city has a diverse population with two things in common: eco-friendly and money-savvy habits. Locals tend to live life with less and watch what they spend in everyday life.

City overview of Denver

Denver offers some of the coolest free attractions like farmer’s markets, Red Rocks Park, the United States Mint in Denver, festivals, museum days, and Four Mile Historic Park. Locals and visitors can enjoy some of Denver’s best entertainment and amenities at a low cost.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

From free hiking trails to downtown sights, Denver is home to cheap activities that help consumers keep costs down while enjoying unique attractions.

8. Kansas City, Kansas 

Located in two states, Kansas City locals have earned our #8 spot for many reasons. Surrounded by farms and city life, Kansas is home to locals who support local businesses and spend reasonably on recreational activities year-round.

A photo of Kansas City, Kansas
Consumers can visit the Boulevard Brewing Co., the Hallmark Visitors Center, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Kansas City Museum, the City Market and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art for free while visiting Kansas City.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

Kansas City’s Friendly, Frugal, Fun Seekers!, a local blog that finds cheap and free things to do, keeps people up-to-date on events happening throughout the year. Overall, Kansas City helps consumers spend less and still enjoy great activities.

7. Cleveland, Ohio 

Cleveland, another populous city in Ohio, is home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, museums, and the Cleveland Orchestra. When enjoying unique attractions in this city, locals know how to keep costs down.

Downtown Cleveland

Cleveland’s free attractions include the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s Learning Center and Money Museum, the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse, historic hike tours, a day at Great Lake, and select concerts. There are many more attractions that residents and tourists can explore for a low fee.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

Cleveland offers plenty of fun and free entertainment for consumers, making this city one of the most money-savvy places in the U.S.

6. Atlanta, Georgia 

Falling from first place last year, Atlanta still makes it into the top of this list. A melting pot of diverse cultures, economic backgrounds and jobs, Atlanta is home to money-savvy spenders who make the most of their budget.

Atlanta at night

Atlanta offers many free attractions such as the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Centennial Olympic Park, World of Coca-Cola, the High Museum of Art, Piedmont Park, the Georgia State Capitol, CNN Studio Tour, and Underground Atlanta. These are just a few of the sights and sounds this southern city offers.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

A bustling, thriving city, Atlanta still offers low-cost things to do for residents and visitors. Having fun here doesn’t have to be pricey when consumers have access to affordable entertainment year-round.

5. Charlotte, North Carolina 

Another Southern town makes it onto this list. As the second-largest city in the southeastern United States, Charlotte is a laidback place to visit that’s easy on the bank account. The locals know how to have a great time while watching what they spend.

Skyline in Charlotte

Charlotte’s free attractions include Fourth Ward Walking Tour, the Reed Gold Mine, Reedy Creek Nature Preserve, the Mint Museum, Concord Mills, farmers markets, and the James K. Polk State Historic Site.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

Even a handful of blogs like Southern Savings and Charlotte Coupon Coach help locals save while enjoying the South’s activities. Home to many money-savvy locals, Charlotte makes it into the top 5 of our list for offering free and affordable ways to have fun.

4. Nashville, Tennessee 

Known for producing some of the best music in the country, Nashville slips into this spot for hosting money-savvy events. Nestled in the heart of the Southeast, this city offers great entertainment and easy living at a reasonable price.

Sunset in Nashville

The music city offers free attractions such as Music City Circuit, Nashville’s Weekly Lawn Parties, the Tennessee Agricultural Museum, the Tennessee State Capitol, Fort Nashborough, George Dickel Whiskey Distillery Tours, and parks to explore.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

Nashville offers many great things to do at little to no cost— and there’s even a wine and liquor warehouse called Frugal MacDoogal that shows how locals love to save.

3. Washington, D.C.

Finding this political powerhouse in the third slot is a bit surprising, especially since the average household income is very high. However, Washington D.C. locals don’t mess around when it comes to being savvy spenders.

The Capitol in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. offers many free and cheap attractions like the National Mall, the National Zoo, festivals, Capitol tours, Arlington National Cemetery, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the U.S. Botanic Garden, and White House tours (just to name a few).

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

Besides the free entertainment, locals know how to save on everyday items while living in one of the country’s greatest cities. Consumers can explore unique attractions in Washington D.C. while keep costs down.

2. Tampa, Florida 

Located on the west coast of Florida, Tampa is a populous city filled with diverse cultures and backgrounds. Locals and visitors can find great deals all over this city and enjoy entertainment and food at a low price.

Tampa at night

Tampa’s free attractions include the Yuengling Brewery, the Dunedin Historical Society and Museum, the Pinellas County Heritage Village, Ybor City Guided Walking Tour, and the Centro Ybor Museum. However, these aren’t the only affordable things to do in this city.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

With a Gulf breeze and affordable recreational activities, Tampa slides into this spot for offering a low-budget lifestyle for residents to enjoy and visitors to explore.

1. Orlando, Florida 

Orlando, home to theme parks, delicious restaurants, and fun activities, scores the top spot for being the most money-savvy city in the U.S. This metropolitan city is bursting with low-cost activities that keep tourists coming back for more.

Orlando in the daytime

Consumers can enjoy free attractions in Orlando like the Winter Park Art Museum, the Grand Bohemian Gallery, the Winter Park Farmer’s Market, the Orlando Brewing Company, the LEGO Imagination Center, and Disney’s Springs.

Average Household Income Per YearAverage Recreational Spending Per Year

When locals and visitors aren’t busy having fun at theme parks and other sightseeing adventures, they’re saving money by exploring all the free and cheap things Orlando has to offer.

Become a Money-Savvy Spender in These 15 Cities

Enjoying the sights and sounds of American cities doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Consumers can relax by the beach or visit attractions in the Midwest without spending too much money. From historical sites to cheap dining, these 15 cities are great for residents and visitors to enjoy throughout the year.

Photo sources: uniqueindoorcomfort.com, healthpsychology.ucsf.edu, usanova.com, netgainit.com, westwoodps.com, encompassihc.blogspot.com, mccormickbarstow.com, thearcherapts.com, gatech.edu, en.wikipedia.org, r2logistics.com, dcnationalguard.com, rideshareapps.com, and hilton.com.