Are you thinking about relocating to the Windy City, but are still not sure whether you’ll be able to afford a comfortable life there? To organize your finances, you need to learn more about the cost of living in Chicago. Only after you get a thorough insight into the prices of housing, food, and transportation can you begin to rough out a plan of your future expenses. That way, you will get a clearer picture of just how expensive the third most populous metropolis in the nation is.
Even though the cost of living index shows that the so-called City by the Lake is more expensive than the national average, that doesn’t mean that moving to Chicago, Illinois is a bad idea. On the contrary. This metropolis has so much to offer, from art and culture to job opportunities, that it will be worth every penny you spend here. Known as the international hub for commerce, education, industry, and technology, it is a fantastic place to call home.
This guide will give you an idea of how much money you should plan to spend once you begin a new chapter of your life there. As housing is probably your primary concern, and we assume that you’re looking through rentals, at least at the beginning, it might be best to start with renting costs.
Save Some Money for Renting Costs When Moving to Chicago, Illinois
Before you get to worry about how to move to your chosen destination, you should take your calculator and check how much money you need to cover the rent. It is crucial to find out more about the housing costs to be sure that you can, in fact, afford to live there. When it comes to some of the best places to live in Chicago, Illinois, it won’t hurt to save a few bucks in advance. According to the data provided by PayScale, the housing prices are 56% higher than the national average.
According to Numbeo, the monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the center is about $1,890, while you’d need $1,230 for a flat of the same size on the outskirts. If you’re moving with kids and you’re looking for a bigger place, you should allocate as much as $3,510 for a three-bedroom apartment downtown, or save some cash by moving somewhere outside of the center, where you’ll need about $2,160 for a place of the same size. So, it might be best to consider moving to a suburb to save some money.
In case you’re not that thrilled about the idea of renting at all and you’d rather buy a house, the Zillow home value index shows that the median home value is $241,561. Let’s see which option is more affordable in the long run, buying or renting.
Would It Be Better to Buy a Place Instead of Renting?
Even though buying a home might seem like too much considering all the moving expenses, doing so in the Windy City is not that expensive. If you like the comfort of your own house, this is an idea worth entertaining. We have to admit that living in a house rather than a rented apartment does come with various perks, starting with greater freedom. And when you feel completely free in your home (which is only fair), your quality of life immediately improves. Another perk of buying is that your mortgage protects you from inflation, which brings higher rental prices if you’re renting. The mortgage helps you save some money on taxes, too, as mortgage interest is tax-deductible.
Of course, renting a place also comes with its share of advantages, including greater flexibility, avoiding local real estate taxes, real estate market risk, as well as unexpected expenses. So, if you like this option more, learn what you need to rent an apartment. Both options have their advantages, so it’s up to you to pick whatever you find more convenient, and you’re ready to start looking through the best neighborhoods in Chicago.
Utilities Are Not Included in the Rent
Just because you’ve found an affordable place, that doesn’t mean that you get to put your calculator away just yet. Do remember that you should add utility costs, too, as these are not included in the price. Let’s see how much you should allocate for these expenses per month.
Add Monthly Utility Costs to Get the Real Idea of the Cost of Living in Chicago, Illinois
As the data provided by Numbeo suggests, the basic utilities are around $130 (these cover electricity, water, cooling, heating, and garbage). Plus, you should add around $65 for the Internet, so the total amount will probably climb to $200. If we take into account individual utilities, it’s evident that Chicagoans pay far less for heating than other US consumers. However, they pay about 8% more for electricity. But all in all, considering the national average of $214, we can see that Chicago, Illinois, is cheaper than many other cities when it comes to utilities.
Don’t Forget to Include Transportation Expenses
Whatever mode of transportation you prefer, this item will also affect your monthly budget when you relocate. You have chosen a major metropolis where you need to rely on a bus, train, or car to go from point A to point B and get around the area. Luckily, there is a well-developed public transport network and the fact that the city has a higher-than-average percentage of households without a car only supports that claim.
If you want to avoid paying for monthly passes or gas, the good news is that you can hop on your bike and get anywhere you want. There are more than 200 miles of protected bike lanes, so biking is both a cheaper and safe option for getting around. If, however, this is still not enough for your busy schedule, let’s compare how much you’d pay for public transport and how much for gas if you decide to employ auto transport services and ship your vehicle to the future address.
Is it Better to Drive or Use Public Transport?
In case you’re planning to use public transport to go to work and get around the area in your free time, the best would be to get a monthly pass, which costs $105. A one-way ticket is $2.50, so it pays off to buy a monthly pass right away and not think about it later. If you’re in a hurry and you want to get a taxi, the normal tariff for taxi start is $3.25, while the tariff for 1-hour waiting is $24.
Naturally, it is always more convenient to enjoy the comfort of your own car than rely on public transport. If you’re counting on professional Chicago movers to deliver your four-wheeler, know that a gallon of gas is $3.23, according to data collected in 2019. But in addition to gas, you should also know that you’ll be expected to pay for Chicago’s City Vehicle Sticker, an annual tax in the amount of about $87 for a regular-size car.
All things considered, there’s no single answer to which mode of transport is better. You just pick what you find more convenient and what fits your budget.
Food Prices Are Somewhat Higher Than the National Average
When it comes to grocery shopping, the data provided by PayScale shows that you should expect prices 8% higher than the national average. For some specific products, here’s what the data on Numbeo shows: a loaf of bread is $2.83, a pack of 12 eggs costs $2.29, 1 lb of local cheese is $5, while 1 lb of oranges is $1.86. Furthermore, 1 lb of potatoes is $1.12, 1 lb of tomatoes is $1.78, and 1 lb of onions is $1.22. So, this is what you should expect when you go to a grocery store, but what about restaurants? Let’s find out how much money you need to eat out.
How Much You Need to Eat out in the Windy City?
Even though you’ve gone through all that trouble to learn how to pack pots and pans for moving, at some point, you’ll probably get tired of cooking. In that case, you’ll want to check out the best restaurants in Chicago and explore its food scene. When you decide to do so, you should be prepared for a steeper price.
For starters, know that breakfast is usually cheaper than lunch and dinner. Now, here are some numbers if you want to get an idea of how much you’ll pay to go to a restaurant. According to Numbeo, a meal in an inexpensive restaurant is $15, while a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant will probably be $60.
Whatever option you eventually go for, be sure you add the taxes, too. If you eat downtown, naturally, the tax is higher (1.25%) than when you choose a place outside of the downtown area (0.25%).
How High Is the Overall Cost of Living in Chicago?
We’ve seen that some items are more expensive than the national average, and, perhaps, some are pricier than what you’re used to. According to Numbeo, a single person spends close to $1,000 without rent.
But that doesn’t mean that the overall cost of living index is that high, after all. Namely, there are plenty of opportunities for a well-paid job here, so you have a chance to earn all the money you need to live comfortably and enjoy everything this metropolis has to offer. You just need to prepare in advance and find out how to get a job in a new city. And when we compare it to some other US cities, we can see that many items are, in fact, more affordable than in other major hubs. Let’s see what the data has to say here.
Chicago, IL Compared to Other Major US Cities
When we compare the cost of living index of your chosen destination to some other major US cities, we can see that it is not that expensive to rent a place or pay for transportation, after all. For instance, Chicago is significantly cheaper than New York, San Francisco, and LA when it comes to rentals.
Not only are there much more expensive cities around the country, but the Windy City has so much to offer that it pays off to invest in a new life there. Even if some prices are somewhat steep, at least you can be sure you’ll get your money’s worth.
In a Nutshell
All in all, considering a great range of things to do in Chicago and a variety of amenities to enjoy, we can say that the cost of living is in proportion. You should take time to plan your budget, but think about how to adjust to a new town and life, too, and look forward to making friends in a new city.