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Cost of Living in Boston for Renters

The monthly cost of living in Boston runs around $1,600 for the average renter.

And $2,200/month for renters who live alone.

$1,500 is enough for the average renter to get food, shelter, heat and internet — the four necessities for living in Boston. OK, maybe you don't need internet access, but you're probably going to get it. I mean, how else are you going to HBO GO Game of Thrones?

Heads up though. The "average" renter has a roommate in Boston, which really helps with housing costs. If you're hoping to live alone in the Boston area (i.e. renting a studio or 1-bedroom apartment), your monthly rent will be more in the $1500-1900 range, which will make your total monthly cost of living closer to $2,000-2,400/month.

In all seriousness, we wanted to give you a breakdown of the "baseline" cost of living in Boston, so you can understand what living here might cost you. Obviously, things change depending on housing factors (like looking for roommates, how you commute to work/school, etc.), but we'll provide some context there as well.

cost of living in boston

Image source: CNBC

Everything in Boston is about 28% more expensive than the national average.

Boston also made Forbes Magazine's recent "10 most overpriced cities" list.

The following is an excerpt from a Boston Globe article from March 2015:

"Out of 92 cities ranked by Forbes, the Boston-Quincy metro area was named the third most overpriced, with utilities 23 percent above the national averagemedical expenses 22 percent highergroceries 15 percent more expensive, and everything else 28 percent higher. The areas around Cambridge and Peabody, ranked fifth and ninth, were similarly pricey.

Boston may have lots of universities, top-notch medical institutions, and a host of cultural organizations, but 'the one thing the area doesn’t offer residents is a cheap cost of living,' the magazine said."

cost of living in boston

And here's a snapshot on how Boston compares to the national average by expense category.

Summary: housing = ouch.

Cost of Living in Boston by Expense Category
cost of living in boston

So how does the $1,500/month (living w/ roommates) and $2,200/month (living alone) price tag break down?

cost of living in boston

By our calculations, the baseline cost of living in Boston for renters is roughly $1,462/month + transportation. And unfortunately that doesn't include lifestyle expenses (shopping, restaurants, gym memberships, etc.).

Here's the typical monthly cost of living in Boston for renters (per person), which you can use as a reference point for your personal expenditures:

Rent: $1,100/month (per person w/ roommates) | ~$1,700 (living alone)

Here's a guiding principle: a barebones studio apartment that's an hour drive from Downtown Boston costs about $800/month. If you want to be closer, have more space, have nicer amenities or have off-street parking, the monthly rent will go up — a lot.

Full disclosure, "people who lease apartments in Greater Boston spend on average 34.4 percent of their monthly income on rent" according to a recent report from Zillow.

This rent estimate is a mix between existing rent data and current listing prices in the Boston Metro Area as well as domain expertise from Jumpshell's team.  High-priced luxury apartments throw off (and skew high) rent data in the market, so we've corrected for that. You can also check out information on the average rent Boston.

And check out this interactive map from Trulia that shows that 67% of 1-bedroom apartments in Boston are priced over $2,000.

Utilities: $75/month

Residents of Boston pay about 30% more for gas and about 15% more for electricity than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Note: you can actually save $250 on your Boston utilities simply by unplugging electronic devices when they're not in use and turning the heat down 3 degrees.

Television/Internet: $50/month

Comcast bundles start at $80/month + tax. With an average of 2 people living in Boston apartments, we're looking at $40-45/month on cable/internet.

Groceries: $350/month

TOTAL BASELINE COST OF LIVING: $1,575/month (or $2,175/month if living alone)

Worried? Don't be!

Even though Boston is expensive, your largest monthly expenditure will most likely be your rent. Getting roommates in Boston is a phenomenal way to save anywhere from 25-53% on your monthly rent! More on that later, but if you're dying to know right now, feel free to skip ahead!

cost of living in boston

Heads up, owning a car can add a lot to your personal cost of living.

Luckily, Boston is an awesome place to not own a car!

If you don't have a car in Boston, you've got a pretty sweet resource in the MBTA, which provides a huge public transportation system that can get you anywhere in or out of the city fairly easily (obviously any public transit has some issues that come with it, but Boston is ranked #3 for public transit by WalkScore). The city is also very walkable.

Public transportation (MBTA)

cost of living in boston

Bus — maps & schedules, fares. Also check out Boston Bus Map if you're on Android. The bus is $50/month for a monthly pass if you ONLY use the bus. You might as well get a LinkPass, which will give you unlimited access to the bus and the T. Boom.

Subway — maps & schedules, fares. $75/month gets you unlimited rides on all T (and bus) lines in Boston. At $2.10 per ride without a monthly pass, that means the monthly pass pays for itself after 18 round-trips. That's like two weeks MAX.

Commuter rail (has free WiFi) — maps & schedules, fares.

Boat* maps & schedules, fares.

*Most commonly used by people living on the South Shore.

Other things to note about the MBTA:

Anticipating an unconventional commute? Check out Bridj — a private transit system that covers unconventional routes like Brookline (Coolidge Corner) to Cambridge (Harvard + Kendall) and Back Bay (Prudential Center) to Harvard Square.

Taxis and Ridesharing in Boston

cost of living in boston

There are cabs all over the city and you can check out Uber and Lyft as well.

Here's the approximate price comparison between the three services — example trip is Downtown Boston to Cambridge:

Here's a long Quora thread on whether Uber or Lyft is the better rideshare service — some interesting thoughts.

Biking

cost of living in boston

Boston is bike-friendly overall. Here are some resources you might be interested in if you own a bike:

There's also Hubway – Boston's official bikeshare system. Definitely worth checking out if you want a cost-effective way to get around without having to deal with having your own bike, locks, etc. Some resources on Hubway:

Boston's good for car shares too.

According to Walk Score, if you drive less than 2.5 hours a day, you could save money using a car share as opposed to owning a car.

The annual average cost of owning a car is just under $10,000. Steep.

The average hourly cost of a car share is about $10. Crunch the numbers on your hourage and you might find you can sell your car and save money with a car share at the same time!

The overwhelming leader in car share in Boston is Zipcar. It's affordable and there are lots everywhere. Check it out!

Here's a graphic on where to find the most car share locations in Boston as well.

cost of living in boston

Image source: Walk Score

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