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Cost of Living in Chicago for Renters

The baseline monthly cost of living in Chicago for renters is about $1,500.

Now, that’s considering just the necessities — food, shelter, utilities, internet + phone. And don't tell me that Internet and phone aren't necessities — you'll need to tweet and stream Game of Thrones at the same time, right? Yes.

While these costs will obviously vary from person to person, the goal here is to provide our idea of a baseline cost of living in Chicago. We’ll go into some more depth to help you feel informed and confident. We ride!

cost of living in chicago

Overall, Chicago is about 17% more expensive than the national average.

That’s not the greatest news, but you get what you pay for. In this case, you’re paying for the third largest city in the country with neighborhoods and entertainment to suit everybody. Although it won’t be cheap, there are things you can do to make life in Chicago a bit more affordable and a bit less stressful.

Cost of Living in Chicago, Illinois by Expense Category
Cost of Living in Chicago, Illinois by Expense Category

Let’s take a closer look at how we reached $1,500 per month.

Combining information from a bunch of different sources, the cost comes out to about $1,475/month + transportation, entertainment, etc. Of course your lifestyle expenses will make that price a bit higher once we throw phone bills, gym memberships and nightlife (or any other hobbies) into the mix.

Now for the monthly breakdown of the main expenses (per person) in Chicago – this should help you gauge how much you might spend on each one.

Rent:  ~$900/month

This estimate has been calculated by examining rent data for all neighborhoods and units of all sizes. Rent can obviously vary like crazy depending on location, roommates and other factors. For a better idea of what to expect, check out the average rent prices in Chicago.

You can also get a feel for what rent prices look like across the city with this awesome map visualization from WTTW.

Utilities: ~$50/month

The cost of utility/natural gas in Chicago is about 17% less than the national average while the cost of electricity is roughly 25% higher than the national average. You can save some of that money by turning the heat down a couple of degrees and unplugging electronics when you're not using them.

Internet: $50/month

With a typical Comcast bundle starting at $80/month and an average of 2.4 people living in a Chicago apartment, you can expect to pay $30-$50/month for cable and internet.

Your options are pretty much restricted to the following:

Here's a look at the prices for basic Internet packages from the three providers in Chicago. As far as my research shows, Xfinity seems like "the best" with regard to price, uptime, and connection speeds — but still has a bunch of problems.

cost of living in chicago

Groceries: ~$400/month.

Buying groceries regularly will save you money compared to eating out all the time. 

Total Baseline Monthly Expenses:  ~$1,475/month

Note: There's also a lively local discussion thread on reddit about the cost of living in Chicago, if you're interested! Also, looks like Chicago instituted a "Netflix Tax" on 7/2/2015 that taxes Netflix for providing "electronically delivered amusements"...very weird.

Here's a helpful snapshot of other "daily expenses" you might have as well.

A cool company called Teleport reached out to us and showed us their product, which has exceptionally detailed profiles of cities around the world. Check out this awesome breakdown on their Chicago guide.

cost of living in chicago

So what does it cost to get around Chicago?

By far, the most popular and widely used form of transportation in Chicago is the 'L' Train.

cost of living in chicago

Image source: wikipedia

You can get a monthly CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) pass for both the train and bus for $100/month — pretty sweet deal that starts to pay for itself after a couple weeks of use. Considering the fare to ride the El is $2.25 and bus fare is $2, taking about 22 round trips on the El or 25 round trips on the bus would make the monthly pass worth the investment.

Here's the full fare information:

cost of living in chicago

Speaking of the "L" — here's an awesome look at per-bedroom rent prices around L stops.

Thrillist culled rent data from real estate listing site Trulia for the median monthly rent per bedroom of Chicago apartments within a mile radius of every “L” stop and put it all on an amazing map. Then we put it all into an awesome infographic!

Watch out, Chicago's real estate market is way undervalued.

What does that mean? In theory, the more data + research that comes out supporting the notion that real estate in Chicago is undervalued, the faster prices will increase.

I personally don't want to see rent prices go up, but from a pure economics perspective, the real estate market is seriously undervalued (according to economists at UBS). These economists "crunched the numbers for the world’s major financial centers, building a “global real estate bubble index” from a variety of indicators, including deviations in house prices from long-term trends, local incomes, and rents." Source: Quartz

Check out this graphic.

cost of living in chicago

And I'm sure you know, but roommates hold to the key to saving a boatload in Chicago.

Want to do some more research on moving to Chicago? We've got a few resources that can help you out!

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