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The Cost of Living in Atlanta, GA 2020

By: Susan Finch
July 29, 2020

Living in Atlanta comes with mild winters, award-winning restaurants and nightlife, and a growing economy. Although the cost of living in Atlanta is less expensive than areas like New York, San Francisco, and Boston, there are still expenses to consider.

Learn more about Atlanta's cost of living and what to expect when moving to the Peach State’s capital.

Atlanta Housing Costs

Your Atlanta cost of living is largely contingent on how much you spend on housing. Atlanta prices are on the rise. However, rents are still reasonable compared to other major cities.

According to our data, apartment rents in Atlanta have decreased by about 1.6% year-over-year. They’re slightly below the national average.

The median rent on a one-bedroom apartment in Atlanta runs $1,024 and a two-bedroom at $1,183. However, the surrounding Atlanta metropolitan area, like Alpharetta, has seen a rent decline of nearly 3.5%.

Where you choose to live can dramatically impact your cost of living in Atlanta. The best Atlanta neighborhoods like Buckhead known for its amenities, safety, and quality schools will be more expensive than an apartment in a less exciting area.

Home prices are also reasonable around the Atlanta area. Although you can find multi-million dollar properties, the average home prices in Atlanta are around $325,000, reflecting a 3% drop over the last year. The city’s home pricing index also makes it easier for renters to make the transition if homeownership is on their minds.

Atlanta Transportation Costs

Atlanta is known primarily as a driving city, despite improvements in public transit and walkability. Traffic also isn't for the faint of heart around Atlanta, with many west coasters feeling like they're right back in Los Angeles.

A study by INRIX shows Atlanta is the 10th most congested city in the country. It’s also the 47th most congested city in the world.

Despite all the heavy traffic, the city's current walk score is 48. They also have a transit score of 47 and a bike score of 45.

It's also possible to live in areas around Atlanta like Old Fourth Ward, Downtown, Midtown, or Buckhead and rely on a combination of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s (MARTA) train and bus service, as well as rideshares.

MARTA train transit isn't quite like New York City, where trains go everywhere. Instead, the trains tend to cut through the city from North, South, East, and West before you need to walk or switch to bus service.

Although using MARTA can lower your cost of living in Atlanta, it also means you’ll need to frequently switch from train to bus and add onto your commute time.

A standard MARTA fare is $2.50 with four free transfers within three hours. However, they aren't valid for round-trips.

The relatively new Atlanta Streetcar runs just $1. It makes a 2.7-mile loop around downtown Atlanta.

It's a fun and easy way to get around the downtown neighborhood for locals and tourists alike. You can connect to the Streetcar from the Peachtree Center MARTA station. However, there are no free transfers between rail or bus.

How much you spend on transportation in Atlanta depends on how much driving you plan to do. According to MIT's Living Wage calculator, if you're single with no children, you can expect to pay $4,322 on transportation. If you're in a household with two adults and one child, the cost rises to $10,689.

Atlanta Food Costs

Atlanta is championed for its thriving food scene with trendy restaurants and James Beard Award-winning chefs. You're guaranteed to find something to satisfy your palate in Atlanta. There are high-end restaurants, casual eateries, food trucks, and even gourmet donut shops to choose from.

The average price for groceries can vary depending on your lifestyle. But overall, you'll spend $3,010 on food if you're single with no children. A family of two adults and one child can expect to spend at least $6,877 on food a year.

Eating out isn't terribly expensive. However, it can raise your Atlanta cost of living when considering the incredible restaurant options.

You should expect to pay $14 for a meal at an inexpensive restaurant, or $50 for two people at a mid-range restaurant for three courses. Add on alcohol and multiple appetizers, and you'll quickly eat your way through your food budget each month.

Atlanta Healthcare Costs

Healthcare is a significant cost consideration when moving to Atlanta. We referenced MIT estimates that rely on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

A single, full-time employed adult Atlanta should expect to pay $2,489 a year in Atlanta on their medical and healthcare costs. A family of two full-time working adults and a child will add up to $7,553 a year for healthcare costs.

The good news is, Atlanta has no shortage of clinics and hospitals. The city is home to premier hospitals like Emory University Hospital, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There’s usually no shortage of jobs in Atlanta's healthcare industry. Not to mention, it's easy to find a medical specialist to meet your needs.

Atlanta Utilities

Atlanta weather is relatively mild. There are some dips and slight snow in winter months, and hot and humid summers. The results are reasonable apartment utilities that fluctuate depending on the season.

According to Numbeo, Atlanta utilities for a 915 sq. ft. apartment run $162.90 for electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage. You'll need to add an additional $74.51 (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) for internet.

Fitness and Entertainment

Atlanta's nickname, City of Trees, makes it easy to get fit outdoors. The best place to start is with jogging, rollerblading, and walking year-round in public parks and areas like the Beltline.

The former railway corridor turned multi-use trail is a beacon for exercise enthusiasts looking for some fresh air or pop-up fitness classes.

If you prefer a gym with more variety, workout equipment, and classes to choose from, plan to spend at least $30.07 for one adult. To compare, a gym membership in Dallas runs $40.62 a month. You may be able to find an apartment in Atlanta with an on-site fitness center or set up a home gym in your apartment to save money.

Other Expenses to Consider in Atlanta

Taxes can also make an impact on the cost of living in Atlanta. The city has a sales tax rate of 8.90%.

That figure breaks down to 7% for either Dekalb or Fulton county in Atlanta and 1.9% tax for Atlanta. The income tax rate in Georgia ranges from 1% to 5.75%, with top earners paying the highest rates.

Getting a breakdown of how much it costs to live in Atlanta is helpful. However, you still need an idea of the recommended salary to live in Georgia's capital city.

The average monthly salary after tax in Atlanta runs $4,953. However, you can undoubtedly earn less and still find an apartment while living a reasonable yet frugal lifestyle. But what if you want to live happily in Atlanta?

According to research from GoBankingRates, you'll need an annual salary of at least $121,170 to be happy in Atlanta. However, they suggest just $69,240 to $86,550 annually for emotional well-being.

The same study says you need $219,765 to be happy living in New York and $190,680 in Boston. A close runner-up to Atlanta is Chicago, where you need $123,690 annually to feel the happy vibes.

So how do those happiness salaries break down when considering median rent prices and the cost of living in Atlanta? As a general rule of thumb, it's wise not to exceed 30% of your monthly income on rent.

Some cities, like New York, make sticking to that 30% rule nearly impossible. However, Atlanta is doable in comparison.

We found that the median rent of a one-bedroom apartment in Atlanta runs $1,024. So, your salary should be at least $3,414 a month, or $40,968 a year.

That number is lower than the happiness standard GoBankingRates suggests. However, it proves you can manage the cost of living in Atlanta.

Regardless of where your salary lies, shoot for a happy medium that allows flexibility while keeping rent affordable.

You can also use our rent calculator to find the best apartments for rent to meet your budget.

Final Thoughts

Atlanta's affordability, entertainment options, and year-round recreational opportunities make it a comfortable place to live, work, and play. With the right approach, you can find a cost of living in Atlanta that meets your needs, whether you’re moving out of state or across town. Ready to find a new apartment? Get started on your Atlanta apartment search with the Apartment List.

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