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Cost of Living in Charlotte, NC 2021

By: Susan Finch and Justin Chaplin
April 1, 2021

Charlotte is renowned for its status as a business and financial hub, with university roots shaping well-educated locals. But it also offers sports franchises, entertainment options, and a fabulous dining scene. Whether you want to live in the heart of the action downtown or find a sleepy neighborhood with space and amenities, you can find it in Charlotte.

Perhaps best of all, the price tag for moving to Charlotte is affordable. Salaries are more substantial than the national average. Of course, there are still costs to consider, especially if you want to lead a rich and active lifestyle.

Here's how expensive it is to live in Charlotte and areas where you can save.

Charlotte Housing Costs

Charlotte offers a reasonable cost of living compared to similar-sized cities where a modest income can stretch far. Although rents are still affordable, the city is rapidly growing. Even with rent increases, the city's strong job market still makes Charlotte a desirable place to live.

Like everywhere in the country, Charlotte's rents are more affordable in just about every neighborhood. Now’s the time to look at pricier areas once out of reach as pandemic conditions ease.

More desirable areas central to all of the action like Uptown are likely to be the most expensive, with more apartment applicants vying for a good deal. Come prepared with all rental documents, ID, and paperwork to score the best deal on a Charlotte apartment.

You can judge the cost of living by how much rents cost in the city. A one-bedroom in Charlotte will typically cost you $1,088. A two-bedroom will cost around $1,215. That's above the national average of $1,114.

There's more to the cost of living around Charlotte than housing. You also need to factor in your lifestyle and interests, from gallery hopping to pub crawls and day trips. Charlotte is the perfect location to pack up and head to the mountains for the day or beach for the weekend.

Ensure you have enough money to thrive in your new Charlotte neighborhood by following the 30% rule. Aim to spend 30% or less of your gross monthly income on rent. So if you earn $4,000 every month, you should spend no more than $1,200 on rent.

Charlotte Transportation

Most Charlotte locals drive cars. However, public transportation and rideshare options are available to get around the city.

If you really want to go car-free, you could choose a walkable neighborhood. Then, leverage the buses, train, and light rail around Charlotte.

Charlotte's public transportation is run by CATS, the Charlotte Area Transit System. You can hop on a bus, train, or LYNX light rail system to get around the metro area. Fares on CATS runs $88 for an unlimited adult monthly pass. The express bus option bumps up your fare up to $121 a month for unlimited rides.

Bike lovers are also welcome around Charlotte. Charlotte B-Cycle offers monthly memberships of $50 a month for unlimited, one-hour rides. After an hour, members pay $1 per half-hour.

Uber and Lyft can help make forgoing car ownership a reality. Taxis are also available around Charlotte, although they’ll be the priciest options.

If you're a single adult with no children, you'll spend about $5,133 for transportation in Charlotte each year. If you live in a household with two adults and one child, you'll pay an additional $11,672 for transportation.

Charlotte Food Costs

Charlotte's restaurant scene has quietly earned a reputation for itself. Its chefs frequently make the shortlist of Beard award nominees in the who's who of talent. You can eat on the cheap and cook at home instead.

According to the MIT living wage estimates, a single adult that cooks their meals (including snacks) at home will spend around $3,177 a year on food.

If you moved to Charlotte to sample the culinary scene, expect to spend at least $14 per meal at an inexpensive restaurant without appetizers, alcohol, and dessert. A three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant will run an average of $65.

Charlotte Healthcare Costs

Healthcare is another significant expense to consider when factoring in the cost of living in Charlotte. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality pulled data with MIT to estimate health expenditure.

A single full-time working adult in Charlotte costs up to $2,545 a year. For a family of two adults and a child, that'll increase up to $8,011 a year.

Charlotte Utilities

Charlotte's pleasant weather is another perk of living in the Queen City. However, there are some days where temperatures will drop below freezing.

Summers also aren't as blistering hot as much of the south. Winter months typically see a high of mid-50s and a low of mid-30s. During summer, you'll experience temps in the 90s or high 60s.

Charlotte's essential utility bill including electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage for a 915 sq. ft. apartment will average around $151.29 a month.

If you include internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL), that'll increase the total monthly cost of utilities by around $59.45 on average, totaling $228 a month.

Fitness and Entertainment

Charlotte's greenway trails and pleasant weather make getting outdoors and working out easy. Skiing and snow sports in the mountains are also 25 miles away.

A fitness club will cost at least $43.86 a month. Community gyms will prove cheaper, and there are apartment complexes with on-site fitness centers included in your rent.

You'll need to factor in your nightlife budget when living in Charlotte. Going out on the town every night quickly adds up. That’s especially the case if you add cover charges or drink minimums.

But to give you an idea of what to expect, taking in a flick at the cinema runs $12 for a new release. That figure doesn't include snacks and add-ons.

Other Expenses to Consider in Charlotte

Charlotte sees rapid growth, and as pandemic conditions ease, rents will also likely rise. The good news is, the rents in Charlotte are historically lower than in other urban areas like Atlanta. By comparison, Charlotte's cost of living is almost 6% cheaper than Atlanta's.

Beyond rent, you need to factor in taxes. Fortunately, you'll find Charlotte's taxes are pretty reasonable.

The state of North Carolina has a flat income tax rate of 5.25%. All taxpayers in the state pay the same rate. North Carolina also boasts low property taxes and sales taxes near the national average.

One of the upsides to living in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the flat income tax rate of 5.25%. No matter what you earn, all taxpayers in the state pay this rate regardless of their filing status. North Carolina also boasts low property taxes and sales taxes near the national average.

Here's how it breaks down. The minimum combined sales tax rate for the state, county, and city sales tax rate in Charlotte, North Carolina, is 7.25%.

North Carolina also has a few tax-exempt purchases, like prescription medications and some types of groceries. Property taxes are low and sales taxes are average. In addition, there's no tax on Social Security retirement benefits.

The moving expenses you incur when moving to Charlotte will also make an impact on your budget. Do you need to move from out of state to Charlotte? You'll need a cross-country moving company with possible packing services and storage as you get settled. Or you can look for a furnished apartment in Charlotte at a premium.

Getting all of your furniture and decor set up in your apartment also gets costly. There are ways to decorate on a budget.

If you decided to go with the 30% rule to find your apartment, you learned you'll need $4,000 a month before taxes to rent a $1,200 apartment in Charlotte. That comes out to $48,000 a year or $23.08 an hour.

A more active and trendy lifestyle will require a bigger salary to play with. So does having kids.

You should also consider the living wage, the minimum amount of money needed to live above the poverty threshold, when calculating the cost of living in Charlotte.

According to MIT calculations, Charlotte's living wage is around $15.93 for a full-time employed individual. Those calculations won't include any extra expenses like vacations, eating out, or entertainment.

It's also challenging to save while working a living wage. You're living the bare minimum of expenses you need and won't have enough for an emergency fund.

Costs add up quickly when you live in the middle of a world-class city. Consider the job market and salaries for your industry before you pack up and move to Charlotte.

According to Best Places, Charlotte's median household income is $53,274 a year. The US average is $53,482 a year.

Final Thoughts

Charlotte beckons professionals, students, and sunshine seekers to its city. Begin your journey to the South by finding your dream neighborhood with Apartment List today.

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AUTHOR
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
AUTHOR
Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More
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