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Cost of Living in Boulder, CO 2021

By: Emily Kho
October 5, 2021

Boulder, Colorado is regularly listed at the top of the happiest and healthiest cities in the country. Enjoy the best features of this city, including the charming downtown, the pleasant climate year-round, breathtaking scenery, and outdoor activities suitable for both novices and activity junkies.

Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder has been focused on health for the last century, originating back in the Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium. Today, Boulder stakes the claim of several different health-related titles and is home to the country’s largest concentration of natural and organic product companies.

If you’re looking to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, moving to Boulder might seem like an excellent option for you. However, before packing up your bags and moving, you might wonder what Boulder’s cost of living prices might look like. Let’s take a closer look at the cost of living in Boulder to better understand how much you’ll need to live there comfortably.

Boulder Housing Costs

While many cities nationwide have experienced significant drops in rent prices due to the pandemic, most are seeing increases once again. Boulder is proving to be right on par with the current rental trends of national averages, with a significantly larger drop in December. According to the latest Rent Report on Boulder, the median rent index is $1,557 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,983 for a two-bedroom.

Although rent prices took a dip starting in August of 2020 with the all-time low in December of 2020, rates have since begun increasing and are trending in that direction. The city's year-over-year rent growth is slightly above the national and state average of 11.3%.

Boulder lies less than 30 miles northwest of Denver’s state capital, though it offers a more compact feel as a small city beaming with cultural vitality. Denver’s median rent index is $1,501 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,839 for a two-bedroom. Another popular Colorado city sitting just 100 miles south of Boulder, Colorado Springs' median rent index is $1,169 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,484 for a two-bedroom.

The Boulder housing market is also seeing steady growth, with median home prices at $885,579. These prices are significantly higher than other competing areas like Denver, with a median price index of $517,766 or Colorado Springs at $392,914.

Boulder Transportation

You can easily get around Boulder without a vehicle of your own by utilizing public transportation. Two main companies operating in the city; the Regional Transportation District (RTD), which operates a majority of Boulder’s Community Transit Network, and Via Mobility Services, which operates the HOP route.

You can purchase tickets through the RTD Mobile Tickets App for local, regional, and airport rates. Choose from 3-hour passes, day passes, or monthly passes. A local pass will cost you $3.00 for 3-hours, $6.00 for a day pass, and $114 for a monthly pass.

Between the RTD and the Via Mobility Services, you can easily access the majority of the city, as well as neighboring regions. However, to fully take advantage of all that Boulder has to offer, you will likely need a vehicle. Having a car allows you to enjoy hiking, camping, skiing, and neighboring cities quickly and easily.

If you're a single adult with no children, you'll spend about $4,900 for transportation in Boulder over a year. Two working adults with two children will pay $13,317 for transportation. Gasoline prices are around $2.63 per gallon, which is on the slightly higher end of the current national average of $3.04.

Thankfully, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are readily available throughout Boulder, perfect for those who prefer not to have a vehicle of their own. Other available transportation methods include taxis, car rentals, and chauffeur services, although these tend to be much pricier.

Another excellent alternative to both public transportation and vehicle ownership is biking. Boulder has 300 miles of dedicated bike paths and has been named the bike capital of the US, with four bikes for every one person.

If you're working remotely from home, you may be able to save money on your commute to work. A 35 minute drive from Boulder will take you to Denver, which is one of the best cities for remote workers.

Boulder Food Costs

Boulder offers countless dining options, from French bistros to traditional diner food to authentic Nepalese cuisine. Eating out in Boulder costs an average of $16.50 for a meal at an inexpensive restaurant. A three-course dinner for two people at a mid-range restaurant will run $75.

Single adults without children can expect to pay at least $3,792 on food per year. If you're a family of four, two working adults with two children, you can expect to pay $11,106 a year for food.

You can anticipate food prices similar to the national average, with some items significantly lower when it comes to grocery market pricing. For example, one gallon of regular milk will run you $3.56 in the grocery store, with the national average being $3.95. Alternatively, one pound of cheese in Boulder will cost you $3.95 at the grocery store, which is well below the national average of $5.54.

Boulder Healthcare Costs

When planning your budget in Boulder, you will also want to account for proper medical care. A single adult without children will pay around $2,810 for medical care over the year. Two working adults with two children will pay $8,275.

Boulder Utilities

The weather in Boulder adds to the appeal of the city, with warm and sunny months from May to August. Winters can be cool or cold, with the coldest months being December through February. The summers stay mostly temperate, with the highs coming in July, rarely exceeding 89°. The colder months can bring snow, with temperatures dropping as low as 22° in January.

To help you get through the colder months of the year, you'll need to account for higher utilities in the winter. Boulder’s basic utilities include electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage, and run $138.08 for a 915-sq. ft. apartment.

Adding on the Internet with 60 Mbps or more with unlimited data, cable/ADSL will cost you an extra $63.33 for a total of $201.41 each month. Get a better idea of how much utilities will cost in an apartment before making your big move so you can be sure to budget accordingly.

Boulder Fitness and Entertainment

If you plan to keep fit, even during the cold winter months, you’ll want to consider a club membership, as well as the costs associated. The monthly fee for a fitness club membership for one adult is pretty high in the city at $101.88.

Thankfully, most of the year stays temperate, encouraging people to get outdoors for physical activity. Enjoy hiking trails all over Boulder, such as the Bobolink Trailhead, Boulder Canyon Trail, or Rattlesnake Gulch Trail.

There are plenty of sources of entertainment throughout the city. A seat at the cinema will cost you $14 without snacks or drinks. Of course, you can save a few bucks by checking out one of the sixty public parks Boulder has to offer, including Harlow Platts Park, Gateway Fun Park, or Foothills Community Park.

Other Expenses to Consider in Boulder

Taxes are often overlooked in the budgeting process. Thankfully, the state of Colorado has a flat income tax rate of 4.63%, which is well below the nation’s highest in California at 13.3%.

Colorado also has the lowest sales tax in the country, which recently decreased in January this year from 3.12% to 3.07%, making it even more appealing for Boulder renters. Homebuyers can also benefit when purchasing in the state of Colorado with extremely low property taxes.

If you are moving out of state, you’ll need to consider costs associated with cross-country movers, storage, hotels, and transportation. Moves sometimes require additional fees that can add up. These may take the form of apartment application fees, security deposits, pet deposits, and other add-ons.

Lastly, don’t forget about furnishing your new place to make it feel like home. Getting settled into your new apartment can be expensive, but luckily, there are ways to do it frugally. Get more tips on decorating your apartment on a budget to help minimize some of your initial move-in costs.

When it comes to determining your recommended salary, it heavily depends on the type of lifestyle you plan to lead.

The living wage in Boulder is $18.53 per hour, which is the basic wage needed to pay for essentials such as housing, food, and other necessities. It’s important to keep in mind that this living wage does not account for any extra costs like entertainment and dining.

The average salary index in Boulder is $74,000 per year, which is roughly $20.37 per hour.

However, remember that living wage, average salary, and recommended salary are all very different things. To determine your recommended salary, you can follow the 30% rule for rent, which recommends never spending more than one-third of your gross income on rent.

For example, if your rent is close to the median for a one-bedroom apartment in Boulder and costs $1,557, according to the 30% rule, your monthly wages should be at least $4,671 a month, or an annual salary of $56,052.

These figures are for basic living, though, and do not account for any additional living costs, such as dining, entertainment, etc. To make sure your budget is effective, you’ll need to anticipate these needs and search for a higher salary, a less expensive apartment, or if you’re lucky, both.

Although the cost of living can be relatively higher in Boulder than in other comparable cities, thankfully, the typical annual salaries of common professions are highly competitive. The three highest typical annual salaries belong to Management, Computer and Mathematical, and Legal positions, respectively.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to move to the happiest and fittest city in the country. If you are looking for a bike-friendly city with some incredible views, Boulder might be an excellent option for you.

If you're interested in learning more about other cities in Colorado, check out the following blogs:


Colorado Springs

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Emily is a professionally trained SEO writer who covers a wide range of topics but specializes in business and hospitality content. With over a decade of professional writing experience in the hospitality industry, Emily comes from a strong background in the field backed with a BS from the world-renowned William F. Read More
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