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Based on Value and Lifestyle, New Hampshire Tops ‘Cheapest Place to Live’ List

In New Hampshire, it may not quite be “Live Free,” but according to a new report, it’s pretty darn cheap.

Moving company northAmerican Moving Services ranks New Hampshire as America’s “Cheapest Place to Live” based on the overall value for Granite Staters compared to residents of other states. Its report says New Hampshire offers a “high quality of life at a lower price point.”

The company looked at average household income, median home price, average housing cost, average grocery costs, average utilities, inflation costs, and state income taxes for the rankings and determined New Hampshire is the best in the nation.

“These states offer a high quality of life at a lower price point, making them an excellent choice for anyone looking to stretch their budget further,” the report states.

Being first among 50 is something New Hampshire is getting used to. Last year alone, the Granite State was named first in overall freedom by the Cato Institute, first in public safety by U.S. News, and first in economic freedom by the Fraser Institute.

In his State of the State address this month, Gov. Chris Sununu touted New Hampshire’s leading economy and free society as a model for the rest of the country.

“Over the last six years, New Hampshire has become an island of freedom surrounded by highly taxed, highly regulated states,” Sununu said. “We are a harbor for citizens fleeing the states they once called home in pursuit of our Live Free or Die way of life … ‘We have provided leadership that puts ‘The Individual’ ahead of ‘The System.’”

Under Sununu’s watch, New Hampshire has become the fastest-growing economy in the nation, with record-low poverty rates and a booming job market. The state also ranks high for raising children, supporting families, and overall access to healthcare.

“New Hampshire is the envy of the nation, the gold standard of states, and number one place in America to live, work, and raise a family,” Sununu said.

South Dakota, Tennessee, Alaska, and Texas made up the top five cheapest states to live based on those metrics. No other New England state landed in the top 10.

That may explain why New Hampshire gained population last year while Massachusetts and Rhode Island suffered losses.

And a new analysis by the National Taxpayers Union released Thursday also named New Hampshire one of the best states for remote and mobile workers. Thanks to the lack of an individual income tax, the Granite State tied for first with other states that have the same tax policy. Massachusetts ranked 39th and New York was 47th.

Sununu attributes much of the success to New Hampshire’s commitment to small government. The Granite State makes sure that people get to make decisions for themselves.

“Big government authoritarianism might be how they do it in 49 other states, but that’s not how we do it in New Hampshire,” Sununu said.

Hawaii is the most expensive state to live in, according to the northAmerican Moving Services metrics, with Oregon, California, New York, and Utah close behind.

And Massachusetts? It was number 44, one of the 10 most expensive states in the U.S.

Granite Staters Have High Credit Scores and Low Unemployment

Two new reports show Granite Staters are on solid financial footing heading into the holidays compared to the rest of the U.S.

New Hampshire residents have the second highest credit scores on average in the nation according to a data analysis by Wallethub. At the same time, the labor market is improving, with New Hampshire experiencing one of the biggest week-to-week drops in new unemployment claims.

Frugal Yankees in New Hampshire hold an average 719 credit score, second only to Minnesota’s 724, Wallethub reports. The national average is 695, which means most Americans are just below the 700-score considered good credit, according to WalletHub’s findings.

Vermont, Massachusetts, and South Dakota round out the top five with average scores above 700. Alabama at 672, Louisiana at 668, and Mississippi at 662 are the three states with the worst average credit scores.

Patrick A. Cozza, who teaches business at Fairleigh Dickinson University, said the best way to build good credit is to pay your bills on time. Minimizing the use of credit cards is important as well.

“The simple answer again is to manage only the debt you can handle, do not overly subscribe to credit by securing additional credit cards,” Cozza said. “People feel more is better than few, but it could lead to real credit problems down the road if you cannot effectively manage the debt.”

The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, with business closures and high unemployment rates, put a lot of people into debt. Those who used credit cards to get by during the pandemic can dig their way out of debt and toward a better credit score, Cozza said.

W.H. “Joe” Knight at Seattle University School of Law said it is important to pay down debt and build savings.

“More Americans are saving more these days because of the fewer opportunities to shop, eat out, etc. Accumulate savings and apply some of those extra ‘saved dollars’ to the largest interest-charging creditor bills,” Knight said. “Slow but sure progress to improving a credit score, reducing the total amount of credit you have outstanding.”

New Hampshire residents are keeping up with their bills, and they are working. The Granite State keeps seeing unemployment rates drop, behind only Kentucky for the most recent unemployment rate report.

The labor market is still experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are more opportunities being created, according to Thomas Kohler at Boston College Law School.

“A large number of Baby Boomers left the workforce during the pandemic while other workers changed jobs, a good example being the hospitality industry,” Kohler said.

With more opportunities for willing workers, the pressure is on employers. Employers who want to find and keep workers have learned they need to increase pay and benefits, given the new realities of the labor market.

“I think it will take some time for the situation to become clearer, but it seems increasingly clear that people are unwilling to perform unpleasant work at poor rates of remuneration with no voice in their working conditions. Hardly surprising, I would say,” Kohler said.

New Hampshire’s 2.4 percent unemployment rate in October was well below the national average of 3.7 percent reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it was not the lowest in the nation. That honor went to Minnesota and Utah at 2.1 percent each. Vermont and North Dakota at 2.3 percent also edged out the Granite State. Those numbers reflect a tight labor market that some economists say could restrict growth.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, New Hampshire is suffering one of the most severe labor shortages in the nation, with just 44 unemployed workers for every 100 open jobs.

However, Jeffrey Arthur, a Professor of Management at Virginia Tech, said while employees have the upper hand now, the economic tide will turn to favor employers.

“Employees are more likely to feel empowered to form and join labor unions at places like Amazon, Starbucks, and other retailers where they have not been able to do this in the past. Employers are also motivated to provide employees with additional benefits such as tuition reimbursement and flexible work arrangements in order to attract and retain them,” Arthur said. “These changes may be short-lived, however. If the economy slows and unemployment increases, I expect to see the balance of power tilting back to employers. These cycles have happened in the past.”