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Cost of Living in Boston, MA 2021

By: Davina Ward
September 3, 2021

The city of Boston has a robust reputation thanks to its place in United States history. Notable events such as the Boston Tea Party, the annual Boston Marathon, and, of course, its dominance in national sports makes the city of Boston one of America’s greatest treasures.

Boston has always been an extremely popular city, so it’s not surprising that so many individuals choose Boston as their final destination when looking for a new place to call home.

While people know cities like San Diego for their high living costs, cities like Boston are often more enigmatic. Boston is considered a high-cost metro area. However, that label doesn’t tell the full story.

That said, if you want to enjoy all the delights that Boston has to offer, it’s essential to have a realistic idea of what it will cost you to make Beantown your home. Here’s everything you need to know about the cost of living in Boston, Massachusetts and whether it’s the right financial move for you!

Boston Housing Costs

Ensuring that you have the right-sized budget to live in Boston is essential. Boston is one of the major cities with a higher cost of living. You should expect to see an increase in your monthly rent.

The current pandemic has greatly affected the housing and rental markets, especially those in major cities like Boston. Rent prices in Boston have seen a steady incline since April

In not-so-great-news for renters, the median price of rent in Boston is up 8.4% from the same time last year. Currently, the median rent price for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,030, compared to $2,163 for a two-bedroom unit.

Boston Transportation

As one of the country's largest metropolitan areas, it’s not surprising that Boston has a robust network of public transportation to support its residents.

Public transportation in Boston is covered by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). You can find your way across the city and metro area via public ferries, the subway, bus, rail trains.

If you have a disability that prevents you from using public transit, the RIDE service, which provides door-to-door transportation at a rate of $5.60 per trip, is available.

Fares vary greatly, depending on the trip you’re planning. If you’re looking to utilize public transit for all your excursions, you might prefer a monthly LinkPass. That grants you unlimited travel for a calendar month via subway, bus, and the Charlestown ferry.

Standard one-way fare varies depending on your travel mode. However, you can expect to pay a minimum of $1.70 for a bus trip. You'll have to pay more for any other mode of travel.

Boston Food Costs

Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the country when it comes to food costs. You can expect to pay around $20 for a meal at a low-cost restaurant, according to Numbeo. You'll pay $85 for a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant. In short, expect to allocate a lot of funds toward feeding yourself when living in Boston.

Boston Healthcare Costs

Boston healthcare costs are tracked and recorded by Boston's Office of Attorney General. The most recent annual health care cost trends report notes rising costs and out-of-pocket expenses for Boston Residents.

The percentage of consumers who signed up for high-deductible insurance policies increased by 7% to 31.5% of all consumers. Working-class families with employer-sponsored insurance policies paid a third of their income to health insurance-related costs.

Many sources note that the average cost for a family insurance premium is set at $7,052 per year or $588.67 per month.

Additionally, residents with employer-sponsored insurance premiums face paying 26% of the premium cost out-of-pocket. Overall, the cost of health insurance in Boston is high. However, the exact amount you’ll pay depends on various factors.

Boston Utilities

The cost of utilities in Boston is another metric that's difficult to pin down. Many different factors influence it. In general, the amount of money you shell out at the end of the month depends on both personal preference and the apartment you choose.

According to data from Numbeo, the average cost of basic utilities for a 915 sq. ft. Boston apartment is $195.85. However, if you want a more accurate number for your budget, you'll have to consider the various factors that’ll influence the cost. Here are some things to consider:

  • Personal Preference: If you don't mind bundling up indoors during the Boston winters, you might save some money. However, if you can't stand low temperatures, you'll probably crank the thermostat. That’ll cause a higher bill.
  • Age of the Apartment: Newer apartments are usually designed to be more energy-efficient. Unfortunately, an older apartment might not be as efficient. You'll end up noticing the difference in your monthly utility bill.
  • Size of the Apartment: It's simple. Larger apartments are usually harder to heat and cool than smaller apartments.
  • Roommates: The major upside of having roommates is that you save money. However, in some cases, a roommate can cause you to spend more on utility costs as they use their share.
  • All-Inclusive Utility Costs: Some landlords bundle the cost of all utilities in the rent price. If that's the case, you can get rid of the utility category in your budget. However, you'll likely have to spend more on rent.

Fitness and Entertainment

It's natural to want to enjoy all the amenities that a major city like Boston has to offer. From professional sports teams such as the Boston Celtics and the Boston Red Sox to the local delicacies of seafood, there's tons of entertainment and fun in the city.

However, all that fun has a price.

If you want to catch a Celtics game post-pandemic, you're in luck! Boston has an affordable ticket price starting at $36. Red Sox tickets are a bit more affordable, at $27 for a ticket in the upper bleachers.

You'll probably want to break a sweat to burn all those extra calories from the delicious ballpark food. Luckily, gym memberships in Boston can be an affordable investment.

After the $61.99 start-up and annual fee, you can get a full membership to your local Planet Fitness for just $22.99 a month and a one-year commitment.

Keep in mind, Boston has a wide range of trails and scenic routes to take for those who prefer a frugal way of exercising. Local parks make for great running spots. Not to mention, their wide expanse makes them the perfect place to get some calisthenics in under the summer sun.

Other Expenses to Consider in Boston

Building a budget is no easy task, especially when you're building one to move to a new city. Beyond the obvious cost categories, there are other expenses that you'll have to account for to create an accurate budget.

Here's an average cost breakdown of some of the other expenses to consider in Boston:

  • Income Tax: 5.05% of all income.
  • Sales Tax: 6.25% of the sales price.
  • Internet Costs: $63.38 for 60Mbps minimum.
  • Childcare Costs: $1,965.23 for one month of full-day childcare for one child.

According to data from the Census Bureau, the average salary for Boston residents is $71,115. However, this isn't necessarily the number you should aim for to comfortably live in the Boston area.

The cost of housing is one of the biggest expenses you'll have to contend with, so it's not surprising that salary recommendations are based on this metric. The general rule is that rent should be no more than 30% of your monthly income.

Let's utilize the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Boston, which currently sits at $2,030. Your monthly income should be at least $9,579 before taxes or a gross yearly income of $73,090.

Budgeting for Boston

The best way to determine whether you can afford to live in a high-cost city like Boston is to create an accurate and detailed budget. However, budgeting for an apartment is easier said than done.

There are numerous hidden costs like renter's insurance and phone bills, which can make it difficult to get an accurate number. This is true regardless of where you move, whether it’s Boston or Los Angeles.

The golden rule of budgeting is to overestimate when you're not sure of something's true cost. This way, you'll end up over-funded with extra money, rather than underfunded and scrambling to make up the difference.

Here are some resources to get you started:

Note: The difference between proactive and reactive budgeting apps is the methodology behind them. Reactive apps make it easy for you to see where your money has gone. Proactive apps make it easy for you to plan where your money will go. What’s right for you depends on your personal preference.

Final Thoughts

If you're determined to make your move to the city of Boston, and, more importantly, you know you can afford it — congratulations!

Boston is one of the largest and most popular cities in the US. It has a lot to offer its residents. However, Boston is also one of the costlier cities, which is why it's crucial to maximize the bang for your buck.

You don't want to miss out on your dream apartment just because you didn't see it in time. That's where Apartment List can help!

Finding your dream apartment in Boston is as simple as telling us what you're looking for in an apartment with Apartment List. We handle the rest! The end result is curated lists of available apartments based on your needs and wants. Get started with our quiz!

But if Boston doesn't seem like the the city for you, check out the best places to live in Massachusetts!

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Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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