The Cost of Living Diaries: Abilene, Texas
How much does it really cost to live in Abilene? We got the inside scoop from a couple of locals.
Abilene, TX, is fast becoming a desirable destination for people who want to get out of the crowds of Dallas-Fort Worth or who simply want to live in a smaller town that’s big on community. The cost of living in Abilene is low thanks to affordable housing and plenty of job opportunities across industries, and it has a thriving music scene and a revitalized downtown.
To find out more about what it’s like to live in Abilene, we sat down with Marshall Morris, a father of four, and Holly Bearden, a young professional.
Bearden grew up roughly an hour away in Stamford, Texas, attended Texas Tech university in Lubbock, and lived in Dallas before settling in Abilene a little over three years ago. Bearden is 26 and recently bought her first home. She loves living in Abilene because it has plenty of opportunities to be involved in the community as well as places to go see live music.
Name: Holly Bearden
City: Abilene, Texas
Occupation: Corporate VP of Sales at Community Broadcast Partners
What was it like buying a home in the area, and how much did you pay?
The housing costs in Abilene are amazing! I purchased a home last year for $128,500 that had recently been flipped, and it’s gone up in value by $25,000 over the past year. I decided to buy because I was making a good, steady income, and renting my apartment cost more than my current mortgage. My house is super cute and I absolutely love it.
What do you like about residing in the Abilene area?
We have three universities and two colleges; we would love for the graduates to stay here. It’s a very community-oriented environment. I’m involved in the young professionals group here, which is very active. When I was growing up and would come here to visit, there wasn’t much to do, but since the young professionals group was founded, they have created a movement, almost a grassroots movement of millennials entering the workforce — people have revitalized downtown, opening up shops and restaurants, breweries. What I love is that there is this young energy here that is very contagious. I’ve met people that are passionate about making Abilene a great place to live. Everyone is Team Abilene and very proud to be a part of what it has become.
What is your favorite place to eat, and how much is dinner and drinks for two?
I go eat by myself at Vagabond Pizza quite often, which does fantastic wood-fired pizza. A couple of beers and an entree is under $25. There’s a neat place in the Allen Ridge shopping center called The Biscuit Bar. You can get two biscuits that are topped with whatever you want (they have sweet or savory toppings) and a mimosa, and you can sit outside by their little pond, and it’s about $20.
What are your favorite things to do in the area?
Part of my job is that at least three days a week I go to listen to live music and hear local artists. I enjoy being in downtown and the SoDA District where there are cool bars and restaurants. As someone who’s young, there are opportunities to do lots of different things: ax throwing, concert venues, the Paramount Theatre has performing arts. There are outdoor opportunities at Abilene State Park — you can kayak, do paddle boarding and take a yoga class. In Abilene, you’re going to know people no matter where you go.
What is a good coffee shop in the area, and about how much is your favorite drink?
I normally go to Monk’s Coffee. They’ve been downtown for more than 10 years. I’m not a huge coffee drinker but I do meet a lot of clients there. I usually get a 16-ounce iced dirty chai and it’s about $5.
Name: Marshall Morris
City: Abilene, Texas
Occupation: Executive Vice President, Senior Lender at First Financial Bank Texas
How long have you lived in Abilene?
I’m a lifelong resident of Abilene — I was born and raised here. My parents are still very active in the local community and myself and my immediate family are, too. It’s a great place to raise kids. My wife Melanie and I have four children: Laney, 12, twin boys Parker and Brooks, 10, and Georgia, who is 2.
How are the housing prices in Abilene?
We compete from an affordability standpoint with larger markets, and even smaller ones like Lubbock, Midland and Odessa. You can find a three-bedroom, two-bath house in a good school district for under $2,000 a month. Abilene is still a very affordable place to live whether you’re buying a home or renting.
What does a night out with dinner typically cost?
One of the great things about Abilene over the past several years is that our downtown has had a Renaissance and has really taken off in regards to restaurants, bars and retail space. For a casual date night out, we might go to The Local, which has a patio, and get tacos and a margarita for under $50. We love Vagabond Pizza, a woodfired pizza place that serves craft beer and wine and is a favorite date night spot or family place, and we probably spend about $50. We love Cypress Street Station, an American upscale restaurant; The Beehive, a modern saloon that has great burgers and craft cocktails; or Perini Ranch, a historic ranch with a steakhouse right outside of town that has a true Texas feel; we’d expect to spend about $100 at any of those places.
What do you pay for childcare?
Childcare here in Abilene is really affordable, I’d say around $600 per month per child for full-time daycare. We do a three-days-a-week program with our youngest and that’s still under $200 a month. We have three colleges here in Abilene, so if you’re looking for a part-time nanny or a babysitter, it’s easy to get plugged into some of the students who enjoy working with young kids and are looking to earn a little extra money. We pay them about $15 an hour depending on if they have to do bedtime or bath time, or if they have more kids then it would be higher, like $20 an hour.
What are some activities you do as a family?
We’re involved in a lot of youth sports, and they don’t break the bank and aren’t inaccessible. We have soccer and baseball for about $80 a month. The Grace Museum in downtown Abilene has a really fun space for kids and we love to spend a Saturday morning there and then grab lunch nearby at Front Porch Coffee. A latte costs $4.50 and a BLT sandwich is $9.25. The Abilene Zoo is also one of our favorite spots. Our kids range in age from 2 to 12 so sometimes it’s hard to find something for everybody, but the zoo is always a winner. We also go bowling and get pizza or do putt-putt golf and some arcade games for between $60 and $80.
How about outdoor recreation?
If we’re looking for a little exercise as a family, the Abilene Youth Sports Authority has open gym hours six days a week and we love to go shoot hoops or play volleyball and let our youngest burn off some energy. Entry is $5. Abilene has some great golf courses that hosted PGA events a few years ago; it’s a $50 greens fee at the public course. We have lots of free things to do, too! We have a great park system with splash pads all over town, a frisbee golf course. Our main local pool has a water park with a lazy river and fun water slides and it’s like $6.
This article was sponsored by the Abilene Chamber of Commerce.