WILKES COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — If inflation is getting you down, we’ve got 10 North Carolina counties you may want to give a second thought.
SmartAsset put together a list of the 10 cheapest North Carolina counties in terms of cost of living. To determine the cost of living, SmartAsset looked at the cost of goods, services, housing and other expenses and compared it to the median income, meaning that half of the people in each particular county earn more and half earn less.
By comparing the two cost of living metrics for a single-person household, weighting them based on per capita income and subtracting income taxes, researchers were able to determine each county's "purchasing power." That number is roughly how much money someone would need to spend after covering their living expenses.
North Carolina's #1 ranked county is Bladen County, home of Elizabethtown, where the cost of living is $33,873, the per capita income is $39,264 and the cost of living index is 89.61%.
According to the 2020 Census, the population of Bladen County is just short of 30,000 people, and the county's main industry is agriculture. It shouldn't come as a surprise that it is also home to several protected areas, including Bakers Lake State Natural Area, Bay Tree Lake State Natural Area, Bladen Lakes State Forest and both Jones Lake and Singletary Lake state parks.
Washington County, located off of Albemarle Sound, was the runner-up with a cost of living ($33,987) about $100 higher than the first spot. The per capita income, however, is more than $600 more ($33,912). Still, the cost of living index came out to 89.42%, a hair lower than Bladen County's.
The county is about a third the size of Bladen County at only 11,003 residents as of the 2020 census. Not counting the nearby Albemarle Sound, Washington County is a full 18% water, including Lake Phelps' 16,000 acres.
In an extremely close third place was Wilkes County, just west of the Piedmont Triad at the foot of the mountains. The cost of living ($33,996) was only $9 more than Washington County's, with a per capita income right between our first- and second-place counties ($39,518). The cost of living index is 89.41%, just 0.01% lower than Washington County.
Wilkes County, with 69,340 residents as of the 2020 census, comes in at more than twice the population of Bladen County and more than six times the population of Washington County. The county's largest town is North Wilkesboro, which racing fans will recognize as the home of the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway.
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