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Cost of Living in Colorado, 2021

By: Davina Ward
April 9, 2021

Colorado is a nature lover’s dream. The gorgeous mountain backdrop, the famed Great Plains, and a rolling cityscape make Colorado the perfect destination for a variety of prospective residents.

That said, whether you’re an outdoor adventurist or searching for an urban jungle, planting roots in Colorado will take some serious planning.

If you’re looking to plan your move to The Centennial State, this guide can help. We’ve broken down the cost of living in Colorado to help you determine whether the move is financially feasible.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Colorado Housing Costs

Colorado offers a variety of housing options for any would-be resident. Like most other states, it’s difficult to quantify the affordability of the state as a whole. This is generally a result of the city-rural disparity, where city-living is typically much more expensive than living in a rural town.

Colorado is a great example of this disparity. With tons of outdoor spaces and rural communities in addition to some major cities, the cost of living in Colorado is location-dependent.

That said, as a renter, you’re more likely to find your new living quarters in one of Colorado’s major cities. So, we’ve broken down the housing costs for one and two-bedroom apartments in some of Colorado’s major cities: Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Aurora.

CityAverage 1-Bedroom RentAverage 2-Bedroom Rent
Denver, CO$1,280$1,568
Boulder, CO$1,371$1,746
Colorado Springs, CO$1,007$1,278
Aurora, CO$1,193$1,504

Although Colorado is still reeling from the effects of the COVID pandemic, with many of its cities still lagging in year-over-year comparisons, Colorado rent prices are rising.

That said, its most populous city, Denver, is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to rent prices. When compared to other similar cities, Denver isn’t exorbitantly priced, but it’s not known for its low cost of living, either.

If you’re looking to catch a deal on rent, make your move to Colorado sooner rather than later. Renting with roommates can help you cut your costs even more.

Colorado Transportation

While you don’t need a personal vehicle in Colorado, it’s definitely worth the convenience to have one. For one, you’ll need something to haul all your outdoor gear from one gorgeous location to another. Beyond your weekend camping getaways, the public transportation system in Colorado is not great.

Denver, of course, has a serviceable public transportation system, but it’s designed to serve those living within the downtown area best. If you live in a less populated city, such as Colorado Springs, you’ll have a hard time relying solely on public transportation to get around.

Owning a personal vehicle comes with a variety of expenses, including maintenance, fuel, insurance, and a car note.

According to data from the MIT Living Wage Calculator, Colorado residents pay an average of $4,900 annually on transportation costs. For a family of four, including two children, that expense increases to $13,317.

Alternatively, a monthly bus pass costs $114 for a Denver resident, totaling a low $1,368 on the year.

Colorado Food Costs

When making a move to a new state, it’s crucial to understand how that state’s costs will differ from your current state. If you’re a budgeting master, you’ll likely already have a budget line item with your average food costs. If not, spend the next month tracking your food expenditure to get an estimate.

You can compare your monthly average to the average monthly food costs in Colorado. Single Colorado residents spend $316 a month on food, while a family of four spends an average of $925.50.

If these costs are higher than you spend now, don’t worry! You can save big on food costs with the right strategy. When shopping in Colorado, head to your local Sprouts grocery store for sales on fresh produce. Clip digital King Soopers coupons for extra savings on bulk items. This can greatly reduce costs!

If you’re looking to save on restaurant excursions, limit them to once a month or less. They can be quite expensive and eat up over a quarter of your monthly grocery budget.

Here’s what you can expect to pay for a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant in Colorado, including the standard 15% gratuity:

  • Colorado Springs: $63.25
  • Aurora: $69.00
  • Denver: $80.50

Colorado Healthcare Costs

Healthcare is an essential life expense. Unfortunately, healthcare costs have been rising across the country, which can put a financial strain on those seeking health insurance coverage.

The average single Colorado resident spends $2,810 annually on medical costs. While a family of four with two children and two working adults will spend $8,275 on medical costs yearly.

Generally, health insurance policies provided through your work will be less expensive than finding your own private coverage. That’s why it’s crucial to determine whether your job will be providing health insurance coverage before making the move to Colorado.

If you find yourself on the market for health insurance coverage in Colorado, Connect for Health is a private insurance marketplace, Health First Colorado offers coverage for low-income individuals, and Public Health Services are available throughout the state.

Colorado Utilities

Utilities are one of the most variable costs you’ll encounter while budgeting. This is especially true in a state like Colorado, which experiences rapid weather changes.

A significant portion of the state lies at a very high elevation, which results in high diurnal temperature variations (daily highs and lows). As a result, it can be challenging for renters to estimate utility costs.

That said, the average utility bill in the U.S. sits at $240 for basic electricity, gas, and water. In major Colorado metropolitan areas, that number is substantially lower. Denver residents can expect to pay around $202.71 a month for basic utilities, while Colorado Springs residents can expect to pay $213.27.

One of the best ways to standardize your utility payments is to set up a “budget payment plan” to create a consistent monthly payment based on your current usage and avoid seasonal surges. You’ll only experience a price change once a year when your rate is updated to reflect a full year of usage.

In addition to the most common utilities, you’ll have to budget for cell phone and internet service. The average American spends $94 a month for their cell phone service and an additional $30-$60 a month for internet service. Considering bundling your cell phone and internet service to lower your monthly rate.

Fitness and Entertainment

Colorado may fly under the radar when it comes to fitness and entertainment opportunities, but it’s by no means a “boring” locale.

Of course, there’s always something for the outdoor lovers, but there are also a ton of entertainment and recreation opportunities for those who prefer a little less nature in their lives.

We’ve broken down the costs of popular fitness and recreation opportunities in Colorado to help you work them into your budget.

Fitness Costs

Fitness costs vary greatly depending on your location in Colorado. Though you can find cheap fitness facilities and sports available across the state, if you prefer a premium indoor gym experience, you’ll have to spend a pretty penny. Here’s what the cost of a monthly gym membership looks like in Colorado:

  • Boulder: $106.82
  • Denver: $43.25
  • Colorado Springs: $43.17

Head Out to a Park

Yes, parks offer great outdoor recreation opportunities. However, if you’re a fan of frugal, the best thing about parks is that they are usually completely free to visit and enjoy. There are a ton of great state park options to check out in Colorado, but we recommend you get started with Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

With over 28 miles of trails for hiking, biking, walking, jogging, and general getting around, Cheyenne Mountain State Park is more of a weekend activity. Picnic areas, playgrounds, wildlife education, an archery range, guided wildflower walks, and family mystery hikes make for all-day fun.

Make a weekend out of your visit by setting up a tent at the campsite for a couple of days. Just make sure you come prepared.

Head to a Sports Contest

Sports lovers won’t find the Colorado sports market to be lacking. With a major league professional baseball, basketball, football, and soccer team, there are plenty of opportunities to catch a game in Colorado.

That said, most teams are located in Denver, so if you choose another city or town in Denver, you’ll be in for a drive. Here’s a breakdown of the average ticket prices for sports contests in Colorado.

  • Denver Nuggets: $102
  • Denver Broncos: $111.00.
  • Colorado Rockies: $42.00.
  • Colorado Rapids: $39

Visit a Museum

Whether you’re taking your family for a day out or simply wish to spend some time adding a little culture to your life, Colorado has tons of museums to help whet your appetite. Good news for your budget — museums are usually inexpensive and offer tons of discounts. Better yet, some of the museums on this list are completely free!

  • Denver Museum of Art: $10 for Colorado Residents
  • Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum: Free Admission
  • Denver Museum of Nature and Science: $19.85 General Admission (peak times)
  • Aspen Art Museum: Free

Other Expenses to Consider in Colorado

Colorado isn’t without its hidden expenses. Although these costs are known to most long-term residents, many new residents fail to include these costs in their budgets. To help you avoid missing these expenses, we’ve pulled together a list of additional costs to consider in Colorado:

  • Income Tax Rate: Colorado uses a flat 4.63% state income tax rate** **for all residents.
  • Sales Tax: Sales tax varies by location as municipalities add their own taxes to the standard 2.90% state tax rate. For example, you’ll experience a combined 8.81% sales tax rate in Denver and a slightly lower 8.2% sales tax rate in Colorado Springs.
  • Child Care: Regardless of your location, childcare is expensive. Denver, Colorado residents can expect to pay around $1,375 per month for a single child in daycare.

According to data pulled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a Colorado resident is $55,820. However, this number isn’t necessarily the gold standard for those looking to live comfortably in the state.

Generally, living comfortably means being able to afford all you need, while having some funds left over for fun and saving. As housing costs are generally the highest budget item for most individuals, it’s crucial to start with that number to come up with a target salary range.

Colorado residents should make at least three times their monthly rent cost to live comfortably. Using Denver, Colorado as an example, we’ll break this down.

As the average rent price for a one-bedroom apartment in Colorado is $1,280 a month, a resident should earn at least $3,840 monthly in pre-tax income to live comfortably. This translates to an annual pre-tax income of $46,080.

Final Thoughts

Moving to Colorado certainly has its advantages. The state is beautiful, offers an abundance of entertainment opportunities, and isn’t wildly expensive.

If that’s enough to get you pricing plane tickets, then it’s time to start your search for your dream apartment in Colorado. Take the quiz above to get started!

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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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