Leiden? With current budget I end up on the third or fourth floor of a 1960's flat without elevator, or at the outskirts of town. Or in a 24 m2 studio.
Schiedam? Affordable apartments, linked to Rotterdam by metro and rail. Too far down south though for my current job.
Zoetermeer? Affordable apartments, linked to The Hague by bus and rail. Little closer to work than Schiedam, but still tricky because of nearby highway traffic bottlenecks.
Hilversum? Bit of both: same old flats like Leiden and also big bottlenecks (A1) from there to Amsterdam
Alphen aan de Rijn? Affordable apartments, but all at the very edge of town, far away from the access to the motorways.
Amsterdam Zuidoost - Bijlmer region? Affordable apartments, close to work but has a bad reputation (crime, deterioration, high unemployment rate). City is trying to invest in everything that helps to improve the area, but word is you still don't want to be out after dark.
So everything has its pros and cons. Then this week I heard some good stories about another part of Amsterdam Zuidoost. Motorway nearby, close to work, affordable, nice area, lake, hospital nearby, subway to city center nearby. Think I'll keep an eye on the area from now on. Which area? Gein/Gaasperdam. See below for visual reference. CLICK TWICE to get the full picture.