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Cost of Living in Cambridge, MA 2021

By: Davina Ward
September 27, 2021

Cambridge is deemed The Intellectual Capital of the World as a result of its wide range of higher education institutions, including the illustrious Harvard and MIT campuses. Beyond brains, the city boasts a bustling nightlife scene, a startup paradise, and a famed garden cemetery.

If you’re looking to make the move to Cambridge, you’ll need to be prepared for the city’s high cost of living by creating an accurate budget. We’ve got you covered!

Here’s everything you need to know about the cost of living in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Cambridge Housing Costs

Cambridge ranks high on the cost-of-living index. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Cambridge is $2,359, while a two-bedroom apartment goes for $2,840.

Data from the Cambridge Rent Report shows that rent prices have increased by 3.2% in the last month and 11% in a year-over-year comparison. The city is still recovering from the pandemic’s effect on the rental market.

Regardless, if you can’t afford to cover a minimum of $3,014 monthly for a one-bedroom, you can opt for a studio at an average of $2,357 monthly. However, if you prefer a little more space, you can choose to split rent with roommates.

Renting with a roommate is extremely common considering it's a college city, so it shouldn’t be too challenging to find a roommate.

If you’re planning on renting in Cambridge, expect to find a selection of modern renovated apartment buildings, apartment communities, and condos. These apartments usually come with access to luxury amenities, including on-site gyms, pools, and more. You may also find rentals in split-level homes further away from the city’s center.

Cambridge Transportation

According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, the average single Cambridge resident pays $4,332 on transportation annually. A family of four with two adults and two children pays $11,773 annually.

These costs represent personal vehicle ownership expenses. However, you can save big by riding public transportation whenever possible. As a major city, Cambridge has a comprehensive public transportation system that can get you where you need to go within city limits.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MTBA) provides rail, bus, and trolley transportation options. With a monthly MTBA Charlie LinkPass, you’ll enjoy unlimited access to the subway, bus, and Silver Line for $90 a month or $1,080 annually.

Cambridge Food Costs

According to data from Numbeo, the average cost of a two-person meal at a mid-range restaurant is $70, plus a standard tip of $10.50.

That said, with the many incredible restaurants lining the city’s streets, it’ll be a meal well worth the cost.

Monthly grocery costs in Cambridge run $307.50 for a single individual and $900.50 for a family of four. However, these numbers only account for those formidable souls who prepare and eat every single meal at home.

If you want to save on your grocery bill, shop at discount grocery stores such as Market Basket and Trader Joes. You might also catch a good deal on produce at the weekly Central Square Farmers Market!

Cambridge Healthcare Costs

Understanding healthcare costs is essential for anyone building a budget that covers all expenses, even those that are difficult to predict. That said, the average medical costs for a single Cambridge resident are $3,048 and $7,192 for a family of four.

However, these numbers apply only to employer-sponsored health insurance. If you retain private healthcare coverage, you will likely experience significantly different costs. If you need to apply for healthcare coverage, head to Healthcare.gov, the federal health insurance marketplace.

Keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to save for medical emergencies. They can be wildly unpredictable, causing financial devastation if you’re not prepared for them.

Similarly moving to a new state can cause a lapse in health insurance coverage. You’ll have to report your move to regain coverage.

Cambridge Utilities

Cambridge is a great city for utilities. Because the average monthly cost for basic utilities in Cambridge comes to a low of $185.46, you’ll save a significant amount compared to the national average of $240 a month.

That said, this number refers only to your basic utilities, including water, electricity, and gas. However, many people have begun to include essentials such as cell phones and internet services in their utility budget line.

So, when you’re estimating your utility costs, you’ll need to include an additional $144 to cover the average cost of the monthly phone and internet bills.

If you’re looking to save big on your utilities, pay attention to your usage. When it comes to basic utilities, the less you use, the less you pay. Of course, saving on your internet and cell service is a bit more challenging.

You could opt for the lowest-tier service package, check out low-cost cell service plans, or simply call in and ask for a better deal. Yes, it’s a lot of effort, but who doesn’t like saving money?

Fitness and Entertainment

Even though Cambridge boasts a reputation for its scholarship, you won't find a lack of fitness and entertainment opportunities. A single Cambridge resident spends an average of $1,702 annually on entertainment, while a family of four spends $3,879 annually.

Wondering what there is to do in Cambridge and how much it will cost you? Here’s what you need to know about fitness and entertainment options and costs in Cambridge.

Fitness Costs

Cambridge is sure to keep you active thanks to its walkability. However, if you’re a fitness enthusiast or simply prefer your workouts to be more structured, you’ll be at home in Cambridge’s gym scene.

A gym membership will run you an average of $64.29 monthly or about $771 annually. If that’s a bit too steep for you, there are other inexpensive ways to stay fit in the city. For example, you could lace up your running shoes and hit the sidewalk.

Visit Mount Auburn Cemetery for a Day

There are plenty of lovely places to visit in Cambridge. However, the city’s greenest crown jewel is Mount Auburn Cemetery. Its 174 acres serve as a resting place for many famous Massachusetts residents and houses thousands of trees in an arboretum.

On a given day, you’ll find birders keeping a watchful eye on the sky for their winged friends. You’ll see people taking guided tours and others simply relaxing among the greenery.

If you choose to visit Mount Auburn, head to the top of Washington Tower for incredible views of Cambridge and quick access to the walking loop. Just be respectful of your surroundings.

Take a Self-Guided Tour Around the City

Cambridge is a city steeped in American history. History buff or not, taking a free self-guided tour of the city is a great way to explore and learn more about the place you’ll call home.

There are tons of tour options, ranging from Women Activists of Riverside 50 Years After Suffrage to Caribbean Community in the Port. Theme your day, lace up your shoes, and get learning!

Catch a Sports Competitions

If you’re a sports fan looking for a bit of live competition, MIT and Harvard’s D1 athletics schedule can certainly deliver.

That said, neither of these schools is pushing out professional athletes each year, and they rarely appear in postseason NCAA competitions in the most popular sports, including basketball, football, baseball, and soccer.

Luckily, Cambridge offers a plethora of sports bar options, so you can enjoy a game with like-minded fans. Keep in mind that drinks can get expensive, as a single pint of domestic beer will run you $7 each.

Other Expenses to Consider in Cambridge

When building a budget to make your move to Cambridge, make it as airtight as possible. Consider all of your moving costs, not just the obvious ones, as these so-called hidden costs can sometimes bust a budget.

To help, we’ve got two additional expenses to consider when moving to Cambridge.

  • Taxes: The state of Massachusetts collects flat-rate income tax of 5% and a sales tax rate of 6.25% across the state. However, there are no additional city or county taxes for Cambridge residents. Because you’ll be renting, you don’t have to worry about property taxes.
  • Childcare: Regardless of where you live, childcare will likely be one of your biggest expenses, especially if you have a child under school age. This fact remains true in Cambridge, as families can expect to pay $15,420 annually for one child and effectively double that rate for two children.

Before making the move to Cambridge, ensure you will earn enough to live comfortably in the city.

Having a comfortable life means that you earn enough to afford rent, necessities, and entertainment, as well as save a bit each month. Generally, one needs to earn at least three times the cost of rent before taxes to live comfortably.

As the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Cambridge is $3,014, your monthly pretax income should meet or exceed $9,042 or $108,504 annually based on the 30% rule.

Of course, this is just a general number to get you started. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average salary in Cambridge as $73,850, you may be able to live comfortably in Cambridge while earning less than six figures annually.

Final Thoughts

If living in a city overflowing with intellectuals and brimming with history seems like a dream, then it’s time to start planning your move to Cambridge.

Take our quiz to find your dream apartment in Cambridge.

If you think Boston is a better city for you, learn about what it's like living there!

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AUTHOR
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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